Five days isn't quite enough time to explore everything the vibrant arts and culture sector of South East Queensland has to offer, but it's a terrific place to start. Here's how to make the most of your stay in Brisbane, from immersive indigenous experiences to eclectic art galleries to leisurely lunches by the lake.
Day one: take a deep dive into Brisbane’s art history
Kick off your culture break with a morning stroll along the winding river that runs through Brisbane - or Meanjin as it’s known to the region’s Traditional Owners. Follow up your walk with an al fresco breakfast on South Bank’s Little Stanley Street, then it’s time to meet your local guide from Blackcard Cultural Tours.
Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes - because you’ll spend the next three hours journeying through Brisbane’s Indigenous history on an eye-opening Aboriginal Art Walking Tour. In the hands of your Indigenous guide, explore the world-class galleries, exhibitions and art installations of the city’s cultural precinct. Uncover the deeper meanings behind public sculptures, muse over thought-provoking works by First Nations artists and discover the vital role art plays in Aboriginal culture.
Wrap up your tour with lunch in the tranquil Sculpture Courtyard of the Queensland Art Gallery Cafe (if you’ve got a sweet tooth, order the homemade scones.) That leaves just enough time to explore the other collections at GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) and Queensland Art Gallery before checking into your room at boutique hotel The Emporium.
QAG Cafe, Stanley Place, South Brisbane QLD, ...
Ever gone for a swim in a 23 metre long rooftop infinity pool, 21 storeys above street level with panoramic views of the city skyline? Well, now’s your chance. Towel off and treat yourself to a sundowner next door at the Terrace Bar (the retractable roof and floor to ceiling vertical garden are a bit special) then make your way to nearby Fish Lane for dinner. Take your pick from woodfired pizza at Julius Pizzeria, vegetarian Mexican eats at La Planta or pan-Asian street food at Chu the Phat.
Emporium Hotel South Bank
Emporium Hotel South Bank, Grey Street, South...
Day two: discover your new favourite artist at Birrunga Gallery
Grab breakfast at the hotel, then catch the ferry across the river to reach your first stop of the day: Birrunga Gallery & Dining. Named after its owner, First Nations artist Birrunga Wiradyuri, the gallery is Brisbane’s first and only Indigenous owned-and-operated cultural hub.
Birrunga Gallery & Dining
Birrunga Gallery & Dining, Adelaide Street, B...
Meander through the gallery space and immerse yourself in stories from the past and present. Discover works by emerging artists like Stevie O’Chin, whose intricate paintings are inspired by her surroundings and the stories told by her parents and family elders. Learn about formerly-incarcerated Indigenous artist Wayne Weaver, who campaigned to make art therapy accepted within the prison system and whose work is sought-after globally.
Then there’s the work of Birrunga himself: rich, organic and evocative narrative paintings that tell difficult stories about First Nations people and their place in history.
Support local artists by investing in an original artwork, or visit on market day (the second Saturday of the month) to pick up handmade crafts by Meanjin artisans. Think quirky jewellery, patterned ceramics and woven treasures.
Don’t leave without checking out the Indigenous bush flavours on the menu at the gallery’s cafe and wine bar. Lemon myrtle barramundi, crocodile tail with curry myrtle mayo and panko-crumbed emu burger are just a few of the authentic Aussie eats on offer.
After lunch, head east to the stylish shopping enclave of James Street and while away a few hours in the precinct’s upmarket boutiques, paved piazzas and chic wine bars. Ready to eat again? It’s a toss up between classic Greek dining at Hellenika and contemporary Thai food at Same Same.
(Photo by: @buccibrisbane)
James Street, Fortitude Valley QLD, Australia
Day three: journey back to colonial times in Beenleigh
Today you’re packing your bags and heading south to the Gold Coast. On route, stop off at Beenleigh Historical Village, the setting for Aboriginal cultural show Spirits of the Red Sand.
Prepare for a confronting and emotional experience as you take an immersive journey back in time to a dark period of Australian history that’s rarely talked about. Part historical reenactment, part gritty docudrama, the story is based on shocking true events that occured at the turn of the twentieth century.
Follow your storyteller around the village as the action and drama unfolds all around you. Gain an understanding of the resilience and survival of the First Australians as you see the impact of colonisation through their eyes. Go with an open mind and leave with a whole new perspective. (Note: for an even more dramatic ambience, opt for the flame-lit evening experience).
Beenleigh Historical Village & Museum
Beenleigh Historical Village & Museum, Main S...
Before you hit the road again, fill up on more Indigenous flavours at the Tin Cup Cafe. Then, continue south to the pine-tree lined foreshore of Burleigh Heads on the Southern Gold Coast. Kick off your shoes and get some sand between your toes on Burleigh Beach before driving across the creek to Tallebudgera. Check in to Tallebudgera Beach House, your home for the next two nights, and watch the waves roll in from your private beachfront deck.
Tin Cup Cafe Beenleigh
Tin Cup Cafe Beenleigh, Main Street, Beenleig...
Tallebudgera Creek, Queensland, Australia
Day four: feed your mind, body and spirit in Burleigh Heads
There’s more walking in store today, so fuel up with a hearty breakfast at retro cafe Palm Springs in Burleigh. Tuck into an authentic Cali breakfast burrito and sip on coffee courtesy of local roasters Therefore Coffee as you soak up the laidback, Southern California vibes.
Burleigh Heads QLD, Australia
Next stop is the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, tucked in at the southern end of Burleigh Headland. Here, you’ll listen to thousand-year old Dreamtime stories and walk among sacred spaces on a two hour tour of Burleigh Heads National Park.
Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Gold Co...
Get a deeper understanding of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices as you explore Jellurgal, the ‘dreaming mountain’, in the hands of your Yugambeh guide. Watch a traditional smoking ceremony, have your face anointed with ochre to connect with Jarrah (Mother Earth) and pick up a few Indigenous nature hacks (who knew tea tree leaves doubled as insect repellent?) Remember to pack plenty of drinking water - it’s a decent hike to the top of the headland but the views (and of course the stories) make it more than worth it.
Cool off with an afternoon dip or paddleboard in the gentle waters of Tallebudgera Creek (you can hire a SUP or kayak on the southern side of the creek). Then head south to neighbouring Currumbin for a late lunch or early dinner on the deck overlooking the water at Currumbin RSL.
Currumbin RSL, Duringan Street, Currumbin QLD...
Day five: go behind-the-scenes at a Southern Gold Coast brewery
Another day, another amazing breakfast. Today’s eats are provided by The Plantation House Cafe - a hidden gem on Tallebudgera Creek Road. Fill up on the all day breakfast menu or, if you’re eating later, head straight for the lunch options (the Thai chicken salad and the baked nachos both come highly recommended). After breakfast, wander the homeware stores and independent boutiques of Burleigh Heads and pick up locally-made gifts.
(Photo by: Balter Brewery)
The Plantation House Cafe
The Plantation House Cafe, Tallebudgera Creek...
(Photo by @thevillagemarkets)
The Village Markets
The Village Markets, Gold Coast Highway, Burl...
(Photo by @jyrgenh)
74 Seaworld Drive
74 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach QLD, Australia
In the Yugambeh dialect, Currumbin means ‘place of wallaby’ - and this afternoon you’ll be feeding them by hand at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. You’ll also encounter countless species of exotic birds, including the thousands of resident rainbow lorikeets who flock to the sanctuary daily to be fed in a spectacle of colour and birdsong.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Tomewin Street,...
While there don’t miss the Aboriginal Cultural Show: an intoxicating mix of live music, storytelling and live dance performed by local Yugambeh people in ceremonial dress.
Wrap up your arts and culture tour with a schooner or two on an afternoon tour of Balter Brewing, co-founded by surfing champion and Tally local Mick Fanning. Learn all about where your drop comes from and taste a variety of beer styles as you go behind the scenes. After you’ve quenched your thirst, filly your belly with tasty street eats: from Wednesday to Sunday the brewery plays host to a revolving list of the Gold Coast’s best food trucks.