I’ve had two fleeting visits to Brisbane prior to my time there earlier this week. The first was in 2007 when I saw little more than the inside of a casino (and its allure of $2 daiquiris) and the second was in 2010 when I travelled to the Flight Centre head office and saw the inside of a conference room. But it really was a case of third time lucky with this recent trip to Brisbane as I took to the streets to discover the city’s art, shopping and cake scene and absolutely loved it.
So for when you visit Brisbane I’ve put together a little guide on how to spend the perfect day – seeing, eating and shopping the best of it.
Brekkie at Harveys in Fortitude Valley
I know Sydney is great at breakfast but Brisbane certainly delivers on that front too. Kickstart your perfect Brisbane day with a meal at classy Harvey’s Bistro and Bar. If it were me I would go for the ricotta flourless pancakes with caramelised banana but it is totally up to you. You might be more of a savoury person and that’s fine, they have tempting tricolour dishes with avo, bacon, eggs and haloumi too.
Shopping on James Street
Chic James Street is a place to shop and be seen. With a host of high-end fashion and home stores in the area (my particular favourites are Camilla and Sass & Bide) as well as upmarket eateries and cocktail joints, you could spend a whole day (and a lot of money) here if you were so inclined.
To gain a unique perspective on the area’s once less-than-salubrious past, arrange to meet a Brisbane Greeter. Brisbane Greeters are locals who offer their time and expertise to visitors free of charge. We were lucky to be paired with ex-broadcaster and author AnneMarie White who told us about the evolution of the St James area interspersed with titbits of her inspiring work. AnneMarie is the author of Women Who Win, profiling 10 internationally successful Australian women and (although she was too humble to tell us at the time) was awarded a Prime Ministerial Award for “Outstanding Media Coverage” for her contribution to women in sport. It was such a privilege to see her city through her eyes.
Coffee at Jamie’s or Campos or Merlo
If all the shopping and chatting leaves you in need of a pick-me-up you are in the right part of town. One of the most popular coffee joints in town (if the queue and the fact they won the title of Australia’s Favourite Coffee twice in a row anything to go by!) is Merlo Coffee, who offer a drive through service that is known to block lanes. Sydney favourite Campos Coffee have a little green area out the back of Centro on James, but my favourite spot has to be Jamie’s Espresso Bar. Not only is the coffee here really good but their crate seating in a graffiti covered laneway gives you a little taste of Melbourne. One glimpse of that portrait of Audrey Hepburn and I knew I was at home!
For sweet treats you need to get to Jocelyn’s Provisions. Loved nationwide, Jocelyn’s Provisions is a Brisbane-born business and at their Fortitude Valley flagship store you can see the bakers hard at work producing the goodness for the shop’s glass cabinets.
Lunch at the Gasworks
For lunch its time for a change of scenery and a pretty unique venue – the city’s old gasworks. The Gasometer from the 1800 has been preserved and provides a focal point and play area at the Gasworks Plaza. Cafes, restaurants and shops including Lorna Jane’s Active Living Room (a combination of the Brisbane brand’s retail store, heath café and workout space) have reinvigorated this part of town. Book a table at Buzz for a view of the gas ring and some excellent risotto.
Drinks and live music at the Powerhouse
Not only has Brisbane’s gasworks been given a new lease of life but the Brisbane Powerhouse has undergone a pretty impressive revival too. The old brick Powerhouse building is now a hub for artists, creatives and curious visitors. Offering live music, free wifi and good value cider, it’s a great space to work or relax in. Boasting an outdoor terrace with river views and graffiti strewn across the interior walls, you should come for a look around if you have no time to watch a performance.
If you come on a Sunday you might be lucky enough to come across the Suitcase Rummage. Vendors grab a spot on the footpath and set up shop out of their gorgeously battered vintage suitcases. Items on sale range from homemade cushions, to vintage ornaments and upcycled fashion.
Eat, drink and shop merrily at Eat Street Markets
As the light begins to fade on your day in Brisbane there is one last place you need to explore. Over 60 shipping containers on Hamilton Wharf have had the ultimate makeover, as Eat Street Markets has turned them into mini restaurants and boutiques. The rainbow-coloured cubes offer almost any cuisine you can think of – Malaysian, Italian, Greek, Mexican – and the area comes alive with their aromas. Add live music, fairy lights and a few strategically placed bars and you have the perfect weekend hangout.
To make this place even better the food vendors are interspersed with some cool shops and vintage retailers and there is one whole truck (The Chocolate Komberry) dedicated to the joy that is the Cronut. Not just any old Cronuts though, these are Aussie ones, with Tim Tam, Milo or peanut butter toppings. (I literally died and went to dessert heaven.)
Come with a full appetite and be prepared to eat for hours.
So that’s how I would spend my perfect day in Brisbane. What would you do in yours?