The Conscious City Guide: Brisbane
Brisbane is largely overshadowed by Australia’s bigger cities of Sydney and Melbourne, in much the same way a younger sibling struggles to find his/her own identity. It has a population that is nearly half that of both Sydney and Melbourne, giving way to more of a “big town” feel. While show-stopping Sydney is a launching pad for most visitors to Australia, and Melbourne has made its name as a hipster’s haven, Brisbane does its own thing. Rather than catering to tourists, Brisbane has turned into a beautiful place to live, with a rich culture, upstanding restaurants, and tight-knit community that has turned into its own breeding ground of creativity.
We had our fair share of avocado toast and riverside walks throughout our short, 3-day stay in Brisbane. And while I would have loved to spend another several days (ok fine, I’d really love to just move there), I was beyond impressed by the places we had the opportunity to visit during our short stay.
Keep reading to learn about my top picks for sustainable shops, farm-to-table restaurants, and cultural centers in Brisbane City.
Brisbane is a very walkable city, and is truly best seen on foot! The boardwalk paths lining the river are dotted with cool cafes, local shops, water-front breweries, and beautiful city views. If you want to check out some sites that are a little off the beaten path, I’d definitely recommend getting a go card which you can actually use all over Queensland (we used it to take the train from Gold Coast up to Brisbane). There are bus stations all over the city which are safe and clean.
Another fun way to get around is to take the ferry. The CityHopper is free (what what!) has 8 terminals throughout the city, and runs every day from 6 AM to midnight. It’s a great way to both sightsee and get around the city.
For: Eating & Drinking
CBD | 300 Elizabeth St
South Bank | Shop 65 Grey St
When your body wants green juice, but your brain wants donuts. NODO you are quite the conundrum. With a bright and airy interior that will have design enthusiasts drooling, NODO offers a playful approach to healthful living. They serve cold pressed juices and smoothies, plus the most decadent donuts and desserts, which are all naturally gluten free. If you’ve never had a caramel slice (a famous Australian dessert) this a great place to try one (without the guilt).
Since opening their first brick & mortar, they have since expanded their menu to one that is in line with Brisbane’s notorious brunch culture. Avocado toast, acai bowls, and savory waffles are just a few delicious options to choose from. Just make sure you save room for dessert.
Penny Coffee Co.
Dutton Park | 109 Annerley Rd
We stumbled upon this adorable cafe just outside the train station near our AirBnB. On our last morning in town, we decided to grab breakfast there, and it ended up being one of my favorite meals of our entire trip. I ordered corn & zucchini fritters topped with mango salsa, diced avocado, and poached eggs. We (of course) had cold brews to go with our meal (when in Australia). The cafe had a Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic, with local art embellishing the walls.
Located inside W Hotel, level 3
This popular farm-to-table restaurant was also featured on the Sydney City Guide. While the restaurant has its roots in Sydney’s low-key beach neighborhood of Bronte, it has since opened its doors at 3 new locations- Byron Bay, Sydney’s suburb of Rosebery, and Brisbane. Three Blue Ducks was founded by 3 friends who share a love of travel, food, and sustainable living. They take pride in each and every one of their partnerships- from the farmers who provide their produce, to the wineries who provide natural, biodynamic wines, to the bakers who bake their bread. This community-mindedness and collaborative spirit is part of what sets Three Blue Ducks apart. While you can certainly find plant-centric dishes on the menu, the restaurant as a whole doesn’t abide by any dietary labels. They focus on what’s fresh, what’s in season, and what can be gathered or cultivated in a way that respects the planet and its inhabitants.
Three Blue Ducks Brisbane is set on the 3rd floor of a building overlooking the Brisbane Wheel, also housing the gorgeous W Hotel. The ethos of the company shines through every phase of service. Immediately upon greeting our table, our waiter gave us an overview of the mission and values of the company, with a brief explanation of the menu, which is mostly served family-style. I started off with an Aperol spritz (one of their signature cocktails), while my boyfriend enjoyed a local beer.
We split three different menu items- roasted and herbed potatoes, a roasted cauliflower dish, and mussels which were prepared in a spicy coconut sauce and served with bread. You get a lot of food for the price, and our waiter assured us we would not leave hungry (we did not). From the service, to the setting, to the food and drinks, this was truly a 5-star experience.
South Brisbane | The Melbourne Residences, Shop 1
There’s truly nothing more satisfying to me than an ice cream cone on a hot day after walking miles upon miles. This gelateria, located in the South Bank district, has some valiant sustainability initiatives and sources from their very own dairy farm (though they have several vegan flavors as well!). With 40 flavors to choose from, there’s truly something for everyone. Its close proximity to some other major cultural points of interest- like the Art Gallery of Queensland, the Wheel of Brisbane, and the Queensland Museum- make it the perfect place for a mid-day pick-me-up.
For: Sustainable Shopping
CBD | 33 Adelaide St.
Located in the CBD (Central Business District) just a couple blocks off of Brisbane’s main shopping street is this lovely low-waste living store. They sell all kinds of eco-friendly goodies including bulk beauty products, package-free soaps, bamboo toothbrushes, and metal food containers.
The Common Thread
Bulimba | 24 Oxford St.
The Common Thread stocks a consciously curated assortment of women’s and children’s clothing, natural beauty products, and handcrafted gifts for the home. The shop is located in Brisbane’s suburb of Bulimba, and has become a gathering space for its close-knit conscious community. You can find internationally recognized brands, like Veja shoes, plus some smaller independent brands. In 2016, founder Safa and her sister Desta teamed up to create their own private label called THE M|N|ML, which features organic cotton basics and luxurious linen pieces.
CBD | Queens Plaza, Level 1
Lisa Gorman, the founder of the independent fashion label Gorman, is nicknamed the “Queen of Green” for her use of organic textiles and her commitment to ethical manufacturing. The Gorman label is easily identifiable by its bright colors and abstract patterns, which people can’t help but pay attention to. She recently worked with Indigenous artists through Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency to create a collaborate collection of clothing which was showcased at the Museum of Contemporary Art in NSW and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Gorman is regularly found digging her hands into an array of social and environmental causes, using the notoriety from her fashion label as leverage.
For: Arts & Culture
Brisbane Botanical Gardens
The Brisbane Botanical Gardens are situated just south of the CBD, and are open and free to the public. The climate of Queensland supports a tropical environment, and you almost feel like you’re in a rainforest within certain sections of the botanical gardens. Its quiet and serene setting is perfect for planning a picnic or people (or bird, or iguana) watching. I was particularly enamored by the Banyan Fig trees, a special type of tree whose branches form entirely new root systems.
Queensland Museum / Queensland Art Gallery
Sharing the same block in Brisbane’s South Bank are the Queensland Art Gallery and the Queensland Museum, which both offer free admission to the general public. The Art Gallery features an eclectic mix of artwork from Australian, Indigenous, and international artists. In house is Goma Restaurant, where you can dine on artful and locally sourced cuisine. Inside the Queensland Museum you’ll find artifacts from the Dinosaur days, plus a huge collection of Australian wildlife taxidermy. Both great fun for both adults and children.