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  >  Attractions   >  What to see, do and eat at South Bank in Brisbane

It is early evening at South Bank in Brisbane and things are hotting up. The sound of people having fun mingles with soft jazz from a nearby restaurant and the heady scent of frangipani fills the air. Elegant fashionistas share the streets with those wearing t-shirts and shorts and there is no cut-off age limit for enjoying a night out. South Bank in Brisbane has an excitement all its own and some of the best shopping, drinking and dining in town. With charming markets, excellent restaurants, alfresco bars and cultural activities, there has never been a better time to check-in and check it out.

Best South Bank hotels

Mantra South Bank leads the way for leisure travellers thanks to its prime location and large balconies. It is located in the heart of the action but windows are double glazed so the rooms are whisper-quiet. It seems almost strange to look out at the hustle and bustle when it is so peaceful inside the hotel. If you’re after some suggestions for things to do, ask the staff on the front desk as they have a wealth of knowledge on the surrounding area. Don’t miss the in-house restaurant, Ovello Bar & Kitchen, which has a delicious Mediterranean menu that’s a perfect fit for Brisbane’s climate. Everything mentioned below is less than a 10 minute walk from the hotel.

Dessert at Ovello Bar & Kitchen
Strolling through South Bank
Strolling through South Bank

South Bank things to do

South Bank is well known for its swimming lagoon but there are plenty of alternative activities for those who prefer to stay dry. The Gallery of Modern Art, or GoMA as it is affectionately known, has an international reputation for hosting exhibitions that are the envy of other galleries with the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Warhol drawing record crowds. Culture aficionados can also explore the more traditional Queensland Art Gallery or Queensland Museum which continues to evolve with the addition of high tech installations. If you’re travelling with kids, the dinosaurs at the museum are sure to be a hit.

GoMA
GoMA

Across the road from the museum you will find the Queensland Performing Arts Complex. Brisbane has embraced the arts and is developing a reputation as one of Australia’s most culturally exciting cities with a string of musicals set to hit the stage, and spectacular shows like Aida by Opera Australia. Nearby restaurants specialise in pre-theatre dining with plenty of delicious options on offer.

Aida by Opera Australia

If you have an appetite for the unusual and like to browse, visit the Collective Markets which take place on Fridays at the Stanley Street Plaza from 5pm to 9pm, Saturdays from 10am to 9pm and Sundays from 9am to 4pm. Here you can pick up handmade fashion, vintage collectibles, jewellery, homewares and furniture at affordable prices. For many of these creative entrepreneurs, showing their work at the market is the first step towards the commercialisation of their designs so you will also be helping a talented up-and-comer get a head start in the industry. Chatting to the creators is one of the pleasures of shopping at this colourful market.

For those who like to get active, scootering or cycling is another enjoyable activity with a choice of picturesque riverside trails, most of which are completely flat. You don’t need to own a scooter or a bike to enjoy riding around South Bank and beyond – it is easy to rent one through Brisbane’s bike and scooter share program. Simply register using the app, collect a bike or a scooter and off you go! If the weather is less than perfect, you can always catch a free movie at Australian Cinémathèque, GoMA’s onsite art house cinema. There are also plenty of fun tours and other things to do in and around South Bank such as a Segway tour, scenic boat cruise or walking tour.

Best South Bank restaurants

South Bank is home to an impressive selection of restaurants and cafes, many of which capitalise on Queensland’s love of alfresco dining. Southbeach overlooks the lagoon and alongside the river there is River Quay, a collection of sleek dining options like rustic Italian share plates at Popolo. There are few better places to enjoy a glass of wine or bite to eat on a perfect Brisbane day. If you’re planning a trip to South Bank, you had better bring your appetite.

River Quay dining precinct
River Quay dining precinct

Disclosure: The writer pays for her many visits to South Bank and highly recommends spending time here.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Brisbane, we have reviewed the Treasury Hotel, The Calile, Ovolo The Valley, W Brisbane, Capri by Fraser Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane, The Johnson, NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Sage Hotel James Street, The Westin Brisbane, Oaks Brisbane Festival Suites, Royal on the Park, Ibis Styles Elizabeth Street, Sofitel Brisbane, Crystalbrook Vincent, The Inchcolm by Ovolo, Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments, and Pullman Brisbane Airport.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.