Australia: Our Guide to Brisbane

Brisbane was the last stop on our Australian adventure and an absolute food heaven. We spent three full days and four nights in Queensland’s capital city, exploring Southbank, eating everything in sight and throwing in a day trip to Surfers Paradise for good measure.

Now, we have to say Sydney is still our favourite Australian city, with Melbourne closely behind in second, however with its top food spots and culture Brisbane definitely left a good impression – who can say no to a city with great food eh?!

During our time in Brisbane we stayed in Hotel Jen located in the heart of the city and next door to Roma Street Station – a great link to Surfers Paradise and the rest of the Gold Coast. The rooms were spacious and clean with a great view over the skyline.

Plus, Hotel Jen has a lovely bar and restaurant called The Nest, a great place to grab a drink in the evening or read a book if the weather isn’t too good outside – we found ourselves here on a few occasions as the weather man wasn’t always kind.

After our flight from Hamilton Island we landed in Brisbane quite late in the evening. Leaving us enough time to jump in a taxi to Hotel Jen and head out for dinner. We were seriously craving a curry so we headed to Taro’s Express just a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Although Taro’s Express is most well-known for its ramen we opted for the vegetarian curry and we have to say it was delicious – and from what we saw the ramen looked pretty darn good as well.

Next, we walked back to the hotel, of course picking up some TimTams from the local shop on the way, and rested our heads before our first full day exploring.

Top Tip: When in Australia if there is one thing you do get the TimTams. Forget Sydney Opera House, forget Whitsundays, even the Great Barrier Reef can wait – get the TimTams. They’re like Penguins but better – we don’t joke about food – they’re better than Penguins!

Day 1

Now, Australia does a good brunch and Brisbane definitely didn’t let the side down. We headed to 321 Water Street in Fortitude Valley for breakfast and we can highly recommend it. It has an adorable outside seating area perfect for those sunny mornings.

There is so much to choose from it was a pretty difficult decision, but in the end, we opted for the Chow Breakfast (smoky bacon, free range eggs, chorizo, potato rosti, cherry tomatoes, confit field mushrooms, toasted sourdough) and the Fresh Green (smashed avocado, fresh tomato, basil, balsamic glaze, toasted sourdough), all polished off with a delicious banana smoothie with honey and cinnamon… dreamy, right?!

Once we’d stuffed our faces and were full to the brim we headed out to explore Fortitude Valley, slowly. Fortitude Valley is full of boutique shops, China Town and much more. We spent the rest of our morning shopping in the adorable boutiques and markets which cover this area – making our weight allowance for our flight a little bit too close for comfort! You’ll also find some great street art spots that you can wander round.

Next, we decided we wanted to spend some time in the City Botanic Gardens, around a 30-minute walk along the river from Fortitude Valley. The City Botanic Gardens are beautiful and a great place to go for a long walk or relax with a good book. If it’s a sunny day we’d suggest leaving plenty of time to explore but unfortunately, we didn’t have that luxury. Cheers weather man.

Afterwards, we felt like we needed to put our feet up with a chilled glass of wine, obviously. Therefore, we headed to South Bank, around a 20-minute walk from the gardens. South Bank is full of great bars and restaurants next to the river, it’s a brilliant place to spend early evening with a drink, or two, in hand and watch the world go by. You can also see the Wheel of Brisbane, although we have to say it’s got nothing on the London Eye – we have to say it, we’re Londoners!

Later that evening we walked back to Fortitude Valley for dinner, there are so many great restaurants around China Town and the valley we found it hard to choose. But, we had read brilliant reviews about Fat Dumplings so we couldn’t resist, and we have to say the reviews were not wrong! Fat Dumplings has so much variety we decided to order lots of different dishes to share. From Salt and Pepper Squid, to Chicken Skewers and Chicken and Asparagus Dumplings we were in foodie heaven. However, the best part of the night was the Stir Fried Green Beans – so simple yet so delicious!

Day 2

On our second day in Brisbane the beach was calling our name and you can’t really go to Australia without seeing Surfers Paradise, right? Brisbane has great train links to Surfers Paradise meaning you can be there in under two hours!

First, we grabbed a quick takeaway breakfast from Wanderer Coffee, a container located directly outside Hotel Jen on Roma Street. The coffee and food here is delicious – we highly recommend the cream cheese bagels.

Then, we jumped on the train at Roma Street Station to Helensvale and from Helensvale we caught the TRANSLink to Cavill Avenue where, after a short walk, you’ll find the famous Surfers Paradise beach and sign. For this trip we would highly recommend getting an Opal Card and topping it up with around $40 – it’s the easiest way to travel compared to buying individual tickets.

For the rest of the morning/early afternoon we relaxed on the beach, read our books and caught some rays. Now, we would have loved to have surfed at Surfers Paradise but unfortunately to sea was too rough. Therefore, we had to make do with paddling by the shore. Might as well have whacked out the bucket and spade too but it has a slightly different vibe to Cornwall.

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After doing pretty much nothing but having a nap we’d really built up an appetite! Luckily, the area around Surfers Paradise beach is full of restaurants and bars to choose from. For a late lunch we decided to head to Guzman Y Gomez, a Mexican restaurant with a pretty delicious Grilled Chicken Burrito Bowl, of course with extra Guac – do they even have to ask?! Of course we’ll pay the extra dolla! Followed up with a delicious Margarita, or refreshing Corona in Natalie’s case.

Now, we have to admit the beach gets covered in shade pretty early in the afternoon, therefore we suggest spending as long as you can on the beach in the morning then heading for a late lunch around 3pm.

After we’d eaten our body weight in Guac we decided it was time to jump on the TRANSLink, head back to Brisbane and get ready for dinner – because of course we had to eat even more…

Once we’d washed the sand out of our hair, grab a refreshing cocktail at The Nest and watched the sun set, we ordered an Uber to take us to Reef located in Newstead, an amazing restaurant for any seafood and sushi lover. The food portions here are huge, and we mean huge! The sharing platters look absolutely incredible, the only reason we didn’t order one was due to the fact we generally didn’t think we would be able to finish it.

Therefore, we ordered two Grilled Salmon Don Sets with a side of Edamame. The Don Sets were incredible – grilled salmon with cumber on a bed of white rice, with a salad, miso soup and pickled ginger on the side. Of course, finished off with a crisp bottle of white wine.

Day 3

On our last day in Australia we headed to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary located in the suburb of Fig Tree Pocket in Brisbane. The sanctuary costs $36 per day for an adult and $25 to hold and have a photo with a Koala.

Now, although cuddling the cute Koalas was the main attraction for visiting the sanctuary there is so much more on offer. From Freshwater Crocodiles, Dingos and Tasmanian Devils, there is a whole park to explore, as well as the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat which we have to say looked a lot like Natalie’s French Bulldog – the resemblance was uncanny!

Our first stop was to book our time slot to hold the Koalas and pay for our photo, this is also where you can pick up some food for the Kangaroos. Then we headed over to the Kangaroo enclosure where you can feed these beauties for free. The enclosure is pretty big so you may have to walk a little bit until you find your first kangaroo. However, once the others notice their mate is being fed they’ll all soon be hopping over.

One thing we realised pretty quickly about these animals is that they’re just as greedy as us! Once you feed one of them then they’ll be your best friend for life – we literally had a pack of them following us around, but how can you say no to their beautiful faces. At one point Natalie even had a Kangaroo holding onto the bottom of her dress until she dished out the food!

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Top tips while feeding the Kangaroos…

  • Keep the food bag out of reach as they will steal it! We saw one very unhappy little boy when a kangaroo stole his bag right out of his hand.
  • Take off your rings! The Kangaroos eat directly from your palm but often find it hard to differentiate between food and jewellery. So, unless you want teeth marks in your rings we’d suggest taking them off.
  • Wash your hands afterwards! Outside the Kangaroo enclosure you’ll find a sink and some hand sanitiser – use it and use it well.

After we’d finished feeding the Kangaroos it was time to head to see and hold the Koalas. The Koala encounters starts at 10am each day, however we suggest getting there as soon as possible so you don’t miss out – the sanctuary only lets a handful of people hold Koalas each day in order to not overwhelm them.

Once it came to our turn we were both surprised by how light the Koala was, as well as its soft fur. First off you’ll have you photograph taken by the sanctuary’s professional photographer, then you’ll be able to ask whoever you’re travelling with take a few more on our own camera – of course Natalie and I were straight in there getting as many angles as possible.

Afterwards, we spent the rest of the morning exploring the sanctuary before jumping in an Uber back to Brisbane City. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Hotel Jen the weather had taken a turn for the worst. Therefore, we had to swap relaxing and reading our books in the City Botanic Gardens to reading our books with a drink in hand at The Nest – although we have to say we weren’t complaining.

Later in the evening once the weather had cleared, we went to Eat Street Northshore, a former containers wharf which has been transformed into lots and lots of food stalls, bars and boutique shops. Think of a combination of London’s Borough Market and Winter Wonderland and you’ll end up with Eat Street Northshore.

We absolutely loved it here, it has a lively atmosphere with live music, lots of people and communal tables. There is so much food to choose from, from sweet to savoury, and classic dishes from all over the world.

As we wanted to try everything we decided to take little bits and share. Our favourites were; Jake & Elle’s Mac and Cheese with Maple Bacon, Don’t Worry Eat Curry’s Chickpea Curry, Marinade’s Lamb Wrap, and for something sweet Locomades’ Honey Puff Bar – you’re welcome! Although, we do suggest walking around at least once before diving in and making your decision – you wouldn’t want to make the wrong one now would you?! Food is an important desision and not to be taken lightly.

After we’d stuffed our faces it was time to grab a beer and enjoy the live music. There was a variety of live performances throughout the evening. Some to our taste and some not so much – however, there was a brilliant atmosphere and a great way to spend out last night in Australia! Next, we headed back to our hotel to get some shuteye before our flight home the next day.

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We absolutely loved our holiday to Australia, from Melbourne to Sydney, Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach the country has so much to offer – most of it we didn’t get a chance to see! However, don’t you worry Australia we’ll be coming back.

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