Why this Queensland city is the king of cool

Brisbane's got it all. City slicker high-rises and old town timber houses. Gourmet restaurants and street food to write home about. Richly cultured South Bank and party-loving 'The Valley'. Plus the nearby surfer-friendly seas and its own city-centre sandy bay make this the ultimate beach-within-reach urban hangout. Here are the ones not to miss:

THE 'IT'S GOTTA BE DONE' ONES

While half the fun of exploring Brisbane is seeking out its lesser-known spots, there are a few much-loved places you simply shouldn't miss. And many of them are in South Bank.

It's here you'll find the Gallery of Modern Art (or GOMA, to those in-the-know), ultra-cool West End and Parklands – an urban beach, swimming lagoon and gardens hosting open-air film screenings. With some of the city's loveliest shops, bistros and bars too, it ticks lots of boxes. And the Piazza is perfect for catching performance art under the sun – or stars.

Then again, if you can't bear to be inside, Brisbane has some fantastic public art. The Cultural Heritage Public Art Trail and World Expo 88 Trail are ideal.

For electrifying theatre, comedy acts and performance pieces, go straight to The Powerhouse in New Farm. This atmospheric theatre was once a power station.

Parklands

THE 'MAXING OUT THE CREDIT CARD' SHOPS

Dior. Burberry. Tiffany & Co. Brisbane plays host to the highest of high-end fashion houses. For designer icons – as well as up-and-coming names – take yourself to QueensPlaza. Or for indie, boho and vintage boutiques, it has to be Fortitude Valley's James Street.

If you're more foodie than fashionista, there are field-fresh markets from Somerset to the Scenic Rim. The Jan Powers Farmers Markets is the place for picking up picnic-friendly goodies and meeting the growers. And Eat Street Markets is hip, buzzy and brimming with everything from pop-up passion projects to cocktail bars – with live music on weekends.

THE 'JUST ONE MORE DRINK' BARS

Wine tasting. Cocktails and conversation. Small plates and craft ale. There's a bar for every taste – and every night – in Brisbane.

For Gatsby-era glitz, Salon de Co is set in a 1930s building and mixes creative cocktails. It also hosts the unique rock'n'roll high tea where bold, edgy patisserie is laced with spirits.

For more heritage glamour, go on to The Gresham. Rich wood panelling, vintage lights and twinkling glassware set the scene for some of the best dark spirits and wines in Brisbane. Yet its relaxed vibe means you could turn up in anything from a three-piece suit to a jeans and t-shirt combo and would feel perfectly at home.

If you've come to Brisbane in search of craft beer however, hop to Newstead in Fortitude Valley and tick off the 'Beermuda Triangle' craft crawl – including the IPA icon Tippler's Tap. You'll also find a tempting selection of brewpubs in West Brisbane, particularly Milton and Paddington.

Brisbane by night

THE ONES TO WRITE HOME ABOUT

For #nofilter sunsets and beautiful views, catch the ferry to little-known Coochiemudlo Island. While Brisbane's other islets attract more attention, this one is pleasantly relaxed. Come by day for kayaking and beach walks, then stay for sunset – the ferry runs almost until midnight in summer.

For those who prefer wheels to oars, the New Farm Riverwalk cycle path skirts little markets, parks and excellent BBQ spots. Parts of the route hover over the water, so you can walk the 'river city'.

One of the best ways to see Brisbane is by the retro red CityHopper ferries – they're hop-on hop-off, and completely free.

But, if you only have cloud space for one photograph, it has to be from Mt Cootha. Take in the bay with the bright lights of the big city in the background – or rise early and climb it to see the sunrise. The hike up will be worth it, promise.

For cracking insights into what the in-crowd are going to in Brisbane and beyond – from arts exhibitions to music concerts – check out the Silver Egg. It's boutique hotel Ovolo the Valley writes a witty, whimsical blog on the hottest happenings across the world.

Ovolo The Valley