You could use the TripAdvisor ‘must-do’ list as your go-to guide when planning your time in Brisbane, but you’ll have a much more fun and authentic experience if you stray a little from the tourist trail. Live like a local and sample some of the lesser-known (but super delicious) food trucks, sip a latte at a secretive artisan coffee shop and attend some of the coolest events that beautiful Brissie has to offer, with our guide to the best hidden gems in Brisbane.
1. Play Quidditch
You weren’t expecting this one, were you? Well, Brisbane is actually home to a very active Quidditch group! Open to all ages and abilities, QUT Lycans Quidditch Club has weekly training sessions, socials, tournaments and even a Yule Ball. The society meets in the City Botanic Gardens, so select your broom, grab a quaffle and keep an eye out for the golden snitch!
2. Wandering Cooks
Head down to South Brisbane to experience the city’s most exciting revolutionary culinary movement. Wandering Cooks is a collective of local, experimental chefs and farmers, celebrating and supporting ethical start-ups and top-notch artisan produce. The street food kitchens are open every day, featuring different small food businesses serving everything from Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired eats to organic granola, and plant-based dishes.
3. John Mills Himself
What might not sound like one of Brisbane’s trendiest (and hidden) café-bars at first, this tucked-away spot is great for securing your morning caffeine buzz in the morning and catching up with friends over a glass of wine in the evening. Despite having two entrances, John Mills Himself can sometimes be a little tricky to find, but those who persevere are rewarded well. Here local, artisan coffee blends are best accompanied by the fresh-baked pastries and cakes.
4. Underground Theater
Six meters underground, below Albert Park, the Spring Hill Reservoirs were constructed in the late 1800s, originally to hold the main water supply for the city. After 80 years they were decommissioned and drained of water. But in 2014, after renovation, these large underground spaces reopened. Thanks to their excellent acoustics, the Spring Hill Reservoirs is now one of Brisbane’s most unique theater, opera and performing arts venues. Culture vultures: don’t miss a performance in this amazing space!
5. The Pancake Manor
Since 1979, The Pancake Manor has been serving up everyone’s favorite breakfast food in one of the city’s most beautiful historic buildings. Once better known as St Luke’s Cathedral, the elegant brickwork, tall arches and old wooden-beamed roof make this charming eatery stand out from all the other brunch spots in town. They even serve a range of gluten-free and vegan pancakes accompanied, of course, by all manner of toppings – from fresh fruit and chocolate sauce to bacon and egg. Pass the maple syrup!
6. North Stradbroke Island
Just a short ferry ride from Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island (known by the locals as ‘Straddie’), is the perfect place for a day-trip or weekend getaway when based in the city. The warm waters surrounding the island are home to an exciting array of marine life, making it a hub for scuba divers and snorkelers. During the winter months, boat excursions often spot whales and dolphins. The island is also home to a rich aboriginal history.
7. The Blue Room Cinebar
The Blue Room Cinebar offers Brisbanites a super cool cinema experience. Here you don’t have to smuggle sweets and chocolate into the theatre; this picture house has a bar and restaurant and actually encourages you to order food and drinks to your seat. Enjoy the latest blockbusters with a hot pizza and a cold beer, followed by a hot chocolate brownie or an ice cream sundae.
8. Spring Hill Baths
If you’re looking for somewhere to cool off in the city, these historic baths are just the spot for a chic, urban dip. Built in 1886, the Spring Hill Baths are one of the oldest swimming baths in the southern hemisphere. This charming, enclosed pool has of course been renovated since it’s initial opening but remains surrounded by traditional Victorian-style changing rooms with brightly colored doors.
9. Tan Thanh Vietnamese
Reportedly serving some of the most authentic Vietnamese food in Brisbane, at reasonable prices, Tan Thanh is the place to go to get your pho fix. A firm favorite with locals for its speedy service and superb sizzling soups, you can find this little restaurant in Inala suburb, just a stones’ throw from the area’s Asian supermarkets and bustling markets, booming with specialist imported ingredients.
10. West End Fire Festival
Bring a picnic blanket and head to Orleigh Park on the banks of the river to celebrate the arrival of the full moon with the monthly West End Fire Festival. This free, community-led evening is filled with great eats from local food trucks and entertainment from fire twirlers, drum circles and electronic music.