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The Queensland capital’s beckoning with new hotels and an exhilarating vibe – a must-do holiday destination for NSW north coasters

Hotels – for too long, impersonal corporate edifices. Brisbane’s changed that with two of its newest offering a refreshing take on holiday accommodation, in the most happening locations. The Fantauzzo and The Calile, both named for individuals, both striking: “urban resorts” edging the city centre; amid the action, yet peaceful, relaxed havens.

First, The Fantauzzo. Pictured centre is the view from my bed, beneath exciting Story Bridge at the Howard Smith Wharves (HSW) on the northern bank of wide, buzzing Brisbane River. It’s named for Archibald People’s Choice portraitist Vincent Fantauzzo, an Art Hotel showcasing acclaimed painters (others: The Olsen, The Blackman, etc.), their works influencing the style of each distinctive property, not stuffy or high-brow, just desirably different to the run-of-the-mill. (Fantauzzo is often recognised for his wife, actress Asher Keddie). Only six storeys tall the hotel, on the riverbank backed by impressive cliffs soaring above its open-air bar deck and classy infinity-edge heated pool, hosts just 166 open-plan contemporary suites with magnificent bathrooms, from studio to twin (two sleeping areas suiting two couples), two-bedroom apartments with kitchen, and deluxe with balcony. Does it matter the in-room teabags are delicious, the supplied slippers black to match the restful subdued decor instead of routine white, behind-door coathooks fashioned to resemble dripping paint, like Dali’s melting clocks? Yes, when it shows attention to detail beyond the humdrum usual: barbecue terrace, on-site Italian restaurant Polpetta, fresh a la carte breakfasts as standard rather than regular stewed bain-marie offerings, terrific gym. Rent one of the hotel’s baby Fiats, hire electric scooters or bikes. It’s a short boardwalk stroll westward to popular Eagle Street Pier, ferries, entrance to the city proper and major attractions, or turn east and enjoy the broad meandering scenic “floating” Riverwalk. You’re right amid the HSW’s outstanding new multiple dining, brewery, bar and lawns precinct running 200m alongside the water. Attractions include Qld’s no. 1 restaurant Arc; Greek specialist GrecaMr Percival’s overwater casual eatery with lofty central octagonal bar, topped by a DJ; family-friendly Felons on-site specialty brewery and indoor-outdoors dining for beer, cider, wines, fresh seafood, fish and chips, steaks, pizza, burgers, with picnic rugs for hire. Two towering outdoor lifts, some six or seven storeys high, carry pedestrians from the HSW riverside to the top of the cliffs and thence to Fortitude Valley.

Onto The Calile, located in The Valley’s elegant James Street district, also delightfully low-rise, also just six storeys tall and a comfortably uncrowded ambience of just 175 suites. It’s named for Khalil (anglicised to Calile) Malouf, a Brisbane business identity who arrived from Lebanon in the late 19th century. The name Calile’s been inherited down the generations, the family instrumental in developing the James Street precinct, the city’s chic shopping mecca (homewares, fashion, boutique stores, cafes). The hotel’s architecture, archways, cobblestone porte-cochere, neutral decor of white brick, travertine and towering palm trees remind me of unspoiled pre-war Beirut. Its spacious balconied rooms are reminiscent of Ottoman empire grandeur (soft-underfoot pale cork floors imitate travertine too) yet with sleek simplicity and ultra-mod accoutrements of a cloudlike king bed, marble bathing chamber, divan day bed, living greenery. Here, in-room refreshments include organic Love Tea, the slippers – and linen robes suitable for poolside – are desert-sand coloured; again, breakfasts a la carte. Guest rooms overlook the hotel’s feature, its big beautifully-tiled swimming pool set among the palms, luxurious sunbeds and exclusive draped cabanas. Waiters ferry drinks and snacks poolside, adjacent to Queensland’s no 2 best restaurant (for me, it’s no 1), Hellenika. Greek cuisine is despatched from a top-class open kitchen; a menu for all tastes: fresh seafood, succulent lamb, sharing plates: exceptional execution, presentation and drinks.

Essential download/hardcopy from the Glasshouse VIC: Brisbane Visitor Guide. Orient: book a Brisbane Greeters tour. Check qagoma.qld.gov.au (Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art) and search its breathtaking family-friendly exhibition Water with multiple animals, snowman. Museum of Brisbane: amazing pop-rock extravaganza High Rotation. Walk, cycle, scoot. Cocktail and gin culture. Gather at rooftop bars, in parklands. Live music. Plan a Sunshine Coast day trip. 

 Susie was hosted courtesy of Brisbane Marketing.

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