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 recent upgrade 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 are 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. There is no danger of getting bored when you visit South Bank in Brisbane. Everything mentioned below is less than 10 minutes walk from the hotel.
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 are travelling with kids, the dinosaurs at the museum are sure to be a hit.
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. Shows include everything from Les Miserables to Little Shop of Horrors. Nearby restaurants specialise in pre-theatre dining but beware when it comes to parking. If you aren’t staying at South Bank and there are multiple events on it can be wise to pre-book your parking or you could be driving around in circles instead of enjoying the show.
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. Little Stanley Street plays host to the Young Designers Market from 10am to 4pm on the first Sunday of the month. Everything at this market is handmade by the stall holders. 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. South Bank Surf Club overlooks the lagoon and gives an inner-city twist to the traditional Australian surf club. 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 are planning a trip to South Bank, you had better bring your appetite.
Disclosure: The writer pays for her many visits to South Bank.
If you’re after some things to do in Brisbane, try some of our favourite activities along the Brisbane River, take a Brisbane Greeters free tour of West End, or buy unique handmade souvenirs at Brisbane’s best markets.