Brisbane best new hotels and restaurants 2021

We check into some of Brisbane’s coolest new hotels and hottest restaurants in the fast-growing, riverside capital.

It’s shaping up to be another sun-filled day in Brisbane. I’ve already climbed the Story Bridge at dawn, catching glimpses of Brisbane’s outdoor lifestyle while standing 80 meters above the river. People are charging along Howard Smith Wharves on Lime electric scooters; others hop on river cat ferries; cyclists and pedestrians are tracking along the Riverwalk. 

Later, I am driven through Brisbane by car, passing people enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning outdoors, strolling the promenade in yet another of the city’s accessible recreation spaces. 

“Just 15 years ago, you could almost lie in the center of the road here on a Saturday morning and not get run over. But look at us now,” my driver says with pride. “The rest of Australia used to laugh at us – but no one is laughing now.”

It’s true that Brisbane has emerged in recent years as one of Australia’s fastest developing cities. Great for locals, it’s equally as exciting for visitors now looking to Brisbane as a true lifestyle city and destination in its own right – with swanky hotels, bars, and restaurants popping up at breakneck speed. 

A new $3.6 billion Queens Wharf Development project is underway and will add 1000 more hotel rooms to the city in 2022 and 2023, including a Ritz Carlton and 6-star Rosewood Hotel. And yet, despite its rapid growth, ‘Brisvegas’ appears to have seamlessly retained its down-to-earth, ‘big-country-town’ ambiance. 

Checking in at W Hotel one evening, music is cranking from the Living Room bar. “Is there a party going on?” I curiously ask Ryan at reception. “No, on Friday and Saturday nights, we like to dial it up a notch,” he says with a grin. I like it already. 

It’s the little touches that turn the ordinary into the funky here – from the ‘Whatever/Whenever’ concierge; a lift floor that lights up with a neon ‘good morning sign’; mood-lit corridors and vibrant artworks throughout. 

To chill like a rock star, head to the Wet Deck and a bar overlooking the river, a live DJ by night and an eye-catching, black and white geometric hand-painted ceiling above the rooftop pool. In 2018, W Brisbane was the first five-star hotel to open in the city in 20 years – and there has been a stream of new arrivals since. 

The snazzy Emporium Hotel South Bank has an enormously bold, black glass ‘E’ at its Grey Street entrance. Its foyer is saturated in color with an arresting, bright red, back-lit shard wall. I pass a huge, gilt-framed mirror in my River City Suite to take in striking views over South Bank Parklands and the river. 

Whether you’re staying here or not, don’t miss the chance to have a drink at The Terrace Rooftop Bar, arguably one of Brisbane’s top spots to watch the sun go down. 

A retractable roof opens to a balmy Brisbane night sky and the luminescent floor illuminates and glows. Atmospheric tunes are pumping as people on the deck snap the pretty skyline. The hotel’s 23-metre infinity-edge rooftop pool is another reason to check-in. 

It’s a more muted color palette of soft pastels and blonde brick at The Calile Hotel in fashionable Fortitude Valley. Conveniently positioned on James Street, The Calile is an urban resort taking its inspiration from Palm Springs and Las Vegas.

By the pool terrace sits the hotel’s modern Greek restaurant Hellenika, where dishes arrive on pale pink plates and groups of friends dine in alcoves. 

My hotel room balcony overlooks the pool and surrounding mint-green and white umbrellas, the central heart of the hotel; while inside, pared-back interiors create a sense of warmth drawn from honey-colored oak timber finishes and brass fixture accents. In the downstairs Lobby Bar sits a custom-made and wow-factor raspberry and cream swirled marble bar. 

Nearby on Wandoo street, you’ll find City Winery Brisbane– an urban, micro-winery in the heart of the valley where you can taste wines at the cellar door or dine at Fireside restaurant. The team makes wines here using fruit transported from premium Australian wine regions. Try the city winery tour, tasting, and lunch or test your aromatic senses in a wine-blending workshop. 

Until recently, the Howard Smith Wharves tucked beneath the Story Bridge was a run-down site first built in the 1930s. In 2018, the wharves were totally reinvigorated to include public playgrounds, a string of waterfront bars and cafes and The Fantauzzo, an Art Series Hotel that is adorned with the works of celebrated Australian artist, Vincent Fantauzzo throughout its six floors. 

Order a beer at Felons Brewing Co from an app as you sit perched at a riverside bench and your drink arrives without you even leaving your seat. 

For dinner, try Stanley, a fine Chinese and Cantonese restaurant located in the former headquarters of the Water Police. Although you can be seated indoors, request a table outside beneath the Story Bridge, watching the twinkling city lights as you tuck into lush dishes such as the painted tropical crayfish ‘lo mein’ noodles with garlic butter and roe. 

From South Brisbane to West End in Brisbane’s cultural hub, the buzzing Fish Lane runs across three blocks. But don’t be fooled by the name – this is no humble alley. The precinct is home to no less than 17 public art installations, including several Aboriginal murals, alongside vibrant bars, restaurants and cafes. 

The ‘Town Square’ complex is a particular highlight. Currently shortlisted in the urban category of the 2021 World Landscape Architecture awards, the development, once nothing more than a concrete car park beneath a railway line, now resembles a subtropical rainforest – with more than 3500 plants adorning industrial grey walls and flanking timber walkways. 

Within, dine at Southside, an uber-cool East Asian restaurant that sits open to the lush greenery of this urban oasis.

This article originally appeared on Escape

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


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