In Travel

Urban Legends: A Guide To Brisbane’s Most Surprising Experiences

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Is there any Australian city that lends itself to surprising encounters quite like Brisbane? Over the last few years, the metropolis that was once considered a pit-stop for holidaymakers bound for the Gold Coast has emerged as a growing cultural player.

The Queensland capital’s lower rents and proximity to South Asia have set the stage for a fast-growing culinary scene, world-class exhibitions and a wave of design-conscious hotel openings — The Calille, The W — that are sealing its credentials as a global city.

But Brisbane’s sprawling topography and unassuming nature means that it’s also home to left-field, under-the-radar experiences that you may not expect.

Here’s a guide to the Brisbane experiences you never knew existed — and why they’re worth exploring over the course of a weekend.

Watch a classic movie at the Tivoli Drive-in


Image: Tivoli Drive-in / Facebook

Local drive-ins have fast become urban relics, along with neighbourhood milk bars. But in Brisbane, the tradition of taking in a new film from the comfort of your private automobile has never really lost its charm.

A forty-minute drive from Brisbane, you’ll find the Tivoli Drive-in, a Queensland institution that screens Hollywood blockbusters and family-friendly movies. The cinema, which recently underwent a one-million-dollar development and is of the state’s six remaining drive-ins, also traffics in retro cinema treats. Think burgers with beetroot, dagwood dogs and meat pies — at ’70s prices. It’s one of those Brisbane experiences you won’t regret.

Explore the city’s underground art scene at Metro Arts


Recent exhibition Love Me, Love Me, explored romance and pop music from Queensland artist Olivia Lacey and Reagan Kelly. Image: Metro Arts / Facebook

Sure, Brisbane has GOMA, the game-changing cultural institution that showcases artistic trailblazers like Yayoi Kusama and Gerhard Richter. But Brisbane’s underground art scene also deserves a closer look. Enter Metro Arts, an avante-garde series of performance spaces that occupy a heritage building on Edward Street.

Here, the focus is on cutting-edge work from homegrown artists across a range of art forms. Recent shows include Love Me, Love Me, an exhibition that explores romance and pop music from Queensland artist Olivia Lacey and Reagan Kelly, a play written by emerging Brisbane playwright Lewis Treston. Don’t miss The Lumen Room, an upstairs space that hosts screenings and cabarets and regularly plays vintage movies to a live piano score.

Browse second-hand books in a suburban shed


Image: Logical Unsanity / Facebook

There are few urban pleasures quite like losing yourself in a well-curated bookshop. But Logical Unsanity turns this inner-city ritual into an adventure in and of itself making it one of the most surprising Brisbane experiences. Since 2006, this literary lair, which sells antiquarian, non-fiction and counterculture titles from a tin shed in suburban Bardon has served as the unofficial hangout for book lovers, writers and night owls.

This is thanks, in part, to its 24-hour opening hours and the sharp curatorial eye of its owner and founder Yarran Jenkins, who catalogues every book in the collection. Jenkins, who treats the book shed as a social experiment and runs a second warehouse in the Brisbane CBD, also swaps recommended retail pricing for an honesty system. Visitors are invited to pay whatever they can and leave payments in a box near the back gate.

See an up-and-coming band in an old World War II hangar


Image: Triffid / Facebook

Regurgitator. The Grates. The Go-Betweens. Brisbane has long been home to some of the most influential voices in modern Australian music, especially when it comes to rock n’ roll acts. But it plays host to one of the country’s most unusual music venues as well. Enter The Triffid, a bar and beer garden that unfolds in a converted World War II hangar in Newstead, an industrial neighbourhood by the Brisbane River.

The space, which was founded by former Powderfinger bassist John Collins, feature a roster of performances by homegrown bands along with global icons such as Led Zeppelin and The Magic Numbers. Here, you can also order a banh mi or burger from an upcycled shipping container or retreat to the courtyard for a cocktail or local brew.

Brush up on pan-Asian cooking techniques at The Golden Pig


Image: The Golden Pig / Facebook

Brisbane has no shortage of Asian culinary influences. But few establishments sum up the experimental spirit that’s currently shaping dining out in the city quite like The Golden Pig.

Housed in a suburban motorcycle warehouse, this pan-Asian restaurant, which was founded by chefs Katrina and Mark Ryan, serves up coconut-poached spatchcock with sambal, scallops with miso butter and cardamom panna cotta alongside a light, well-edited wine list and cocktails like the Bangkok Lychee Cooler. It also offers an exemplary roster of cooking classes, where you can learn to make dishes like Vietnamese savoury pancakes, Lion’s Head meatballs and betel leaf appetisers — entirely from scratch. One to definitely get on your Brisbane experiences list.

If you’d like to experience some of the best-kept secrets in Brisbane for yourself, Jeep Compass can help you create your own urban adventure. Learn more here.

(Lead image: Metro Arts / Facebook)

Published 07 June, 2019