On a recent dive trip in Australia, I spent a couple of days in Brisbane. There’s so much to eat and do that two days didn’t really do it justice, but it was a great opportunity to hit the highlights.
If you aren’t afraid of heights and are keen for a bit of a thrill, consider doing the Story Bridge climb. The Story Bridge spans the Brisbane River and is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia. Its summit is nearly 243 feet above ground, similar in height to a 22-story building and, with a guide, you can climb it. The views are unparalleled and the bragging rights are well worth the price of admission. Should you want to push the adrenaline boundaries even further, you can rappel down instead of taking the stairs.
To feed your cultural side, don’t miss Brisbane’s museum scene, including the science museum and the art museum. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to explore the Gallery of Modern Art, which recently acquired Heritage by Cai Guo-Qiang, a massive installation that fills an entire gallery with 99 life-like animals drinking at the edge of small lake. Breathtaking.
And whatever you do, if you have even the least bit of affinity for wildlife, rent a car or grab a cab or bus and head out of the city to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. There you can cuddle a koala for a photo op, one of the few places where that’s permissible, and hang out with a bounty of kangaroos who will happily pose for your camera, eat from your hands, and even allow you a peak of their pouched joeys, should one be in tow.
For more adventuring, you can kayak along the river, rock climb right in the city, or take a Segway tour of the sights, including the Brisbane Wheel and the Botanic Gardens.
Now to the eating — Brisbane is full of hot spots. Here are three of my favorites.
This modern bistro offers a dish that reminds you how beef is supposed to taste: fresh, rare, and full of flavor. They offer a Chargrilled Wagyu rump cooked rare, sliced, and served with lemon, rocket, grilled artichoke, and Donnybrook Parmesan that absolutely melts in your mouth.
And, if you can save room, their dessert menu features a chef’s selection allowing you to try all of the decadent selections, including tiramisu; bombolini, which are Italian doughnuts with spices, sugar, peach and basil conserve, and clotted cream; Chocolate Nemesis del “The River Café,” chocolate cake with vanilla mascarpone and crushed raspberries; and cannoli, house-made and filled with rosemary ricotta, dark chocolate, and Frangelico.
Fat Noodle is the brainchild of Luke Nguyen, one of Australia’s leading celebrity chefs and owner of award-winning Red Lantern restaurants in Sydney. The food at Fat Noodle is an inventive mix of Vietnamese, peppered with Chinese, Thai, and Malay.
Nguyen’s signature dish is Fat Pho Noodles, a 20-hour beef broth, with thinly sliced Angus sirloin and brisket, bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, fresh chili and rice noodles. I couldn’t resist ordering the prawn and pork rice paper rolls with fresh herbs and hoisin dipping sauce. As a huge fan of pho, and all foods Asian, in fact, I fell in love at first bite. And by the looks of the crowds at Fat Noodle, I certainly wasn’t the only one.
You will definitely feel like you’re in Europe in this tiny, atmospherically lit restaurant that serves a mean steak and dangerously good shoestring fries with aioli for dipping.
But what made my culinary heart stop was the Mandarin parfait with local “Bee One Third Neighbourhood” honeycomb. It’s not something I ever would have ordered. But it was so sweet and fresh and delicious that I would have ordered another one if I could have figured out some sort of surreptitious way to do it!
Guess I’ll just have to go back. If two days held as much adventure and cuisine as I experienced, I can only imagine what a few more days might offer!