The ultimate hotel guide to Brisbane for 2021
With mammoth regeneration projects underway, change is afoot in Queensland’s capital — and a stylish crop of new hotels, restaurants and cultural spaces means it’s never looked better.
Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride — travellers in search of a city break have often overlooked Brisbane in favour of Melbourne or Sydney, while those making the visit have often stayed only as long as it took to escape to the beaches of the Sunshine Coast. But that’s history. Confirmed as the host of the 2032 Olympics, Brisbane now has its sights set on the future, and a wave of new hotels, restaurants, bars and cultural venues have all helped transform Australia’s third-largest city into a destination that rivals its southern siblings. There’s the Galley of Modern Art, the eye-popping street art on Fish Lane and the nightlife of Howard Smith Wharves, plus Fortitude Valley’s heady mix of rock, queer, glam and pub culture. As for the hotels, the choice has never been better, ranging from New Age razzle-dazzle to the quieter charm of refurbished historical stays. But the city’s reasonably compact size means no matter where you rest your head, you’ll never be far from the action.
1. The Calile Hotel
Best for the stylish set
A lack of beaches in Brisbane hasn’t stopped The Calile Hotel from introducing its own subtropical vibes to the city. Every detail — from the pink granite to the geometric lamps — has been carefully selected, resulting in rooms that feel warm and elegant. Drag yourself from the poolside cabana and you’ll find Ada Lane, where global fashion brands are squeezed between local boutiques and gelaterias. Book a table for Greek-inspired fare at the in-house restaurant, Hellenika. Rooms: From A$329 (£180).
2. W Brisbane
Best for design afficionados
The diamante-studded pineapple in the foyer tells you all you need to know about W Brisbane. It’s flamboyant and fun, with the interior design a visual love letter to the serpentine Brisbane River: carpets inspired by light-dappled water, floodwater marks etched onto walls and nary a straight line to be found. The 312 guestrooms are kitted out with wacky Australiana, from boomerang-shaped coffee tables to golden crocodile skulls styled as light pendants. The hotel’s prime location on North Quay means the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art are within easy walking distance, and the three onsite restaurants will keep visitors well-fed. But the highlight? The zebra-patterned pool and bar, which converts into a floating cinema. Rooms: From A$369 (£201).
3. Brisbane City YHA
Best for sports fans
With Suncorp Stadium just across the road, the Gabba cricket ground a short ride away and breweries and distilleries scattered all around, Brisbane City YHA is a hub for fans of cricket, rugby and Australian football. The rooms come with a choice of shared bathrooms or private en suites, while reduced occupancy during the pandemic means guests can maintain a safe social distance. Families or groups can stay together in private rooms. Eye-catching murals from Drapl, one of the artists who painted Victoria’s famous regional art silos, add a pop of colour to the rooftop pool and bar, which offer five-star views of the CBD, Brisbane River and Mount Coot-tha. Rooms: Private rooms from A$70 (£38).
4. Hyatt Regency Brisbane
Best for location
The sleek, newly refurbished Hyatt Regency Brisbane has an enviable central location, leading right onto the hustle and bustle of Queen Street Mall. While the mall’s big names may be irresistible to shopaholics, a sneaky back entrance onto Brisbane’s oldest laneway reveals a world of street art, hideaway cafes and heritage-listed cocktail bars inspired by the underground bars of London and Paris. After a day beating the pavements, the hotel’s mezzanine-level infinity pool and bar await. Alternatively, retreat to the comfort of your room with comfy bed, large TV and walk-in shower. Rooms: From A$259 (£141).
5. Ovolo The Valley
Best for rock 'n' rollers
Mix two parts whimsical with one part nostalgic, add a sprinkle of Ziggy Stardust and you end up with Ovolo The Valley. Set on the edge of Brisbane’s live music district, the hotel frequently hosts musicians and their entourages. An obsession with David Bowie means it has references to the icon at every turn. The rooftop pool is the place to nurse a hangover after a night at nearby venue The Zoo, and foodies will delight in the onsite vegetarian restaurant Za Za Ta. Unleash your inner Ziggy with a stay in the Rockstar Suite, featuring ’70s-inspired decor and art. Rooms: From A$253 (£138), B&B.
6. Adina Apartment Hotel, Brisbane
Best for history buffs
Built in 1922, and having variously served as the state bank, tax office and the national radio broadcaster, this heritage-listed dame of Brisbane’s hotel scene is looking grand for her age. You’ll find plenty of nods to her storied past, from the Queensland Coat of Arms mosaic at reception to the giant musical notes suspended over the pool. Each of the 170 rooms feels stately yet modern, with kitchens, in-room laundry and separate living areas that make them ideal for families, too. Nearby Queen Street Mall is perfect for exploring on foot, but be back in time for an evening cocktail in the Boom Boom Room, housed in the building’s original bank vaults. Rooms: From A$215 (£117).
7. Sage Hotel
Best for night owls
Rubbing shoulders with the historic QA Hotel pub, Sage Hotel is a gateway to Fortitude Valley’s boho cafes and restaurants, boutique fashion outlets and fine art galleries. Guests are welcomed by a towering vertical indoor garden, with black-and-white streetscapes adding a tinge of urban grunge. A complimentary chauffeur is on hand, but the hotel’s prime position on James Street means walking is a great way to explore. Pop into Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers, enjoy a pint at Sixes and Sevens or join a wine tasting at City Winery. Rooms: From A$140 (£76).
8. The Johnson
Best for art-lovers
Set in the heart of heritage neighbourhood Spring Hill, and named for Australian artist Michael Johnson, the Johnson hotel is chock-full of the abstract artist’s colourful creations. Aesthetes can join the in-house art tour, browse the art library, watch the dedicated art TV channel or make use of the hotel’s bikes to ride to South Brisbane’s art precinct. Each of the 97 family-friendly suites comes with kitchen facilities and neighbourhood views, while the sprawling three-bedroom penthouses offer spectacular 180-degree views of the skyline. Rooms: From A$179 (£98).
9. Sanctuary by Sirromet
Best for naturalists
Wake to the sound of cockatoos and whistling ducks before stepping out onto the deck of your private tented pavilion to see wallabies hopping past. Located at Mount Cotton, a 30-minute drive from Brisbane Airport, Sanctuary by Sirromet is a winery glamping experience set on 560 acres of natural bushland. Visitors can sample wines at the Cellar Door, take a behind-the-scenes winery tour, dine al fresco at its Tuscan-inspired terrace restaurant or book a tour to the nearby islands of North Stradbroke and Moreton. Rooms: From A$237 (£129), B&B.
10. Hotel X
Best for fashionistas
It seems fitting there’s a little black book of quotes from Karl Lagerfeld on the bedside table at Hotel X. Brisbane’s newest hotel — the architectural embodiment of the late master of couture — landed on the scene decked out from head to toe in casual glamour, from the foyer’s marble-and-gold-trimmed opulence to the outrageous, glitter-bombed fashion photography in each room. Guests are encouraged to be equally bold: indulge on caviar at the in-house French bistro, sip curious gem elixirs (sparkling water positively charged in the moonlight) by the rooftop pool or stroll to the nearby hubbub of Howard Smith Wharves for a seafood banquet by the river. Rooms: From A$214 (£117).
Published in the September 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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