As I check into my hotel, dubbed Brisbane’s first ‘urban resort’, I think back to my years in this city two decades ago.
Back then, Brisbane was a place you left every weekend for the Gold and Sunshine coasts. Why stay? There was nothing to do – it was as deserted as any country town.
What the hell happened? Now, big chunks of inland Brisbane have become Beverly Hills. My hotel, The CalilÃ©, is located in the James Street neighborhood of Fortitude Valley. I used to get my car fixed here, now the streets are full of designer showrooms, upscale fashion boutiques and trendy bars. Even the trees seem to overflow with understated Calvin Klein style, and no one wears cheap chambray button-down shirts and blue jeans anymore.
On the Calile’s pool terrace, guests stretch out in cabanas under the shade of palm trees while the waiters bustle around them, serving cocktails and Greek-style snacks. Hellenika, the hotel’s signature restaurant.
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Above, guests of the house gaze at the pool as they sit on the balconies of the rooms in pink hues that remind me of Palm Springs. I would go swimming, if only I had spent the last four weeks locked in a gym, living on protein shakes and sugar-free Gatorade, as most of my other guests seem to have done.
Outside, along the alleys of shops and bars, I dine at Steak and Oysters SK, a restaurant that would not be moved to New York. The service is smooth.
For years people have sarcastically called Brisbane “Brisvegas”, a reference to the little to do; these days it could be another cooler American city. Over the past five years, around A $ 2 billion has been invested in the city’s central business district. This includes five-star hotels and new entertainment districts such as the A $ 110 million Howard Smith Wharves project, a cluster of bars, restaurants and cafes overlooking the Brisbane River.
But don’t limit yourself to the city. Early one morning I take a helicopter with Go fishing in Australia to the second largest sand island in the world, North Stradbroke, to fish off the beach with a native guide, who then cooks my catch in an underground oven. It’s barely 15 minutes away, so I’m back for lunch by the pool in Hellenika.
The next day, after being picked up from a dock just around the corner, I take a 9 mile boat trip with River To Bay to Moreton Bay. There are over 350 islands in the bay – including North Stradbroke – and I spend the day traveling between them, snorkeling in sunken shipwrecks, and swimming with dolphins and turtles (I don’t. have never seen so many).
These islands are often overlooked in the rush for large resort islands. But here, there are fewer people – and no irukandji jellyfish in summer, which will have to be watched further north. There are other boat cruises as well, from luxury yachts to ferries packed with locals who live on islands with names that seem made up, like Coochiemudlo.
An underrated bay with hundreds of subtropical islands, located near a resort town reminiscent of Beverly Hills, Palm Springsâ¦ someone in the Calile’s lobby bar even suggested Miami in the 1950s.
Maybe the next Queensland resort you’ll stay at doesn’t have to be this far north?