Go for the heat, stay for what’s hot. Queensland’s city hubs are as vibrant as ever, with their breweries, shops and galleries abuzz.

The sun-soaked cities of Queensland might be known for their beaches and riverside appeal, but they offer plenty of cultural and scenic attractions, too. 

While the capital, Brisbane, might be home to eclectic suburbs, culinary gods and bohemian museums, the Gold Coast and Cairns are growing into their own with unique offerings. 

Spend time in the Sunshine State exploring all three cities on a longer holiday encompassing Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and visiting the Gold Coast for great eats and artisanal brews. 

Starting in Brisbane, the beautiful snaking river offers activities from walking trails to abseiling and picnic spots. In the city centre, there’s a renaissance of good food and modern cultural projects, including digital interactive learning space The Cube and the Museum of Brisbane.

The bustling city is home to an ever-increasing number of luxury hotels. In the city centre, a new Hyatt Regency combines comfort with a great location opposite Queen Street Mall, plus it has an infinity pool.

The city’s biggest art drawcard of 2021 will see the works of Rembrandt, Renoir, Cezanne and Monet visit the Queensland capital. GOMA (the Gallery of Modern Art) will host European Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York from 12 June-17 October.

But the cultural kudos of Queensland stretches right up and down the coastline, with events, art fairs and quirky shows held in Cairns and the Gold Coast.

Brisbane

See

Start your exploration with an art and design tour led by Walk Brisbane that visits works ranging from cool street murals to historic sculptures and iconic architecture. 

The Brisbane River is a piece of (natural) art in itself. Join a Riverlife kayak tour past sunken ships and steep cliffs, or climb to the top of Story Bridge for panoramic views.

The beautiful shopping area of Brisbane.

Stay

Luxury and style rule in Brisbane and it doesn’t get much more luxurious or stylish than Hotel X. At this glamorous new boutique hotel in Fortitude Valley, artworks grace the rooms and cool rooftop bar.

Eat and drink

Head to Fortitude Valley to try Middle Eastern-inspired dishes at Gerard’s Bistro (pictured) or the Japanese menu at the moody Honto. In South Brisbane, Fish Lane has delicious street eats. For craft breweries, Green Beacon and Newstead Brewing Co are popular.

Out and about

Get dropped off in the wilderness by helicopter, and then test your mountain-bike skills against the extreme terrain of Hidden Vale Adventure Park, an hour’s drive west of Brisbane. Or just ride the easy trails to the pub at nearby Spicers restaurant.

This time of year, the whales are migrating up to warmer waters and whale-watching cruises are a popular activity. 

The Brisbane Comedy Festival (16 July-8 August) presents hilarity across the city centre and Fortitude Valley. 

History buffs should take the Americans in World War II tour, a guided walk presented by the Museum of Brisbane.

Gold Coast

Eat and drink: Head to the Gold Coast for a brew-and-bar-snack crawl of Balter Brewery, Black Hops Brewing and Burleigh Brewing Company.

Do: For a high-altitude experience with views scale the outside of the soaring Q1 Building at SkyPoint Climb, 270 metres up. 

What’s on: An art show with a twist will be held from 12-22 August. The Bleach* Festival uses the region’s natural landscapes as unconventional venues to create artworks and visual galleries connected to the coast. 

Where to stay? The new JW Marriott Resort & Spa has just opened, offering a new level of luxury with easy access to the beach.

Cairns

Do: Connect with Country on a Walkabout Cultural Adventures tour through Kuku Yalanji Country around the Port Douglas Daintree region. 

Then, test your affinity for the water after dark at Cairns Aquarium. On the new twilight experience an ecologist guides you through 10 tropical ecosystems and introduces you to the nocturnal wildlife, before a three-course dinner. 

Eat and drink: After a big day on the Great Barrier Reef, slip out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini. In Cairns, Three Wolves is a cool new laneway bar that serves specialty gins and whiskies alongside build-your-own grazing boards of nibblies. 

What’s on: At the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (17-22 August) the diverse cultures and artistic talents from all across the state will be on display.

Sumptuous food and feasting at Gerard’s Bistro.

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