River city serves up a cultural feast
Spring has officially sprung and in Brisbane that means lots of colour.
From blooming jacarandas to sunny days that are warm, but not too warm, the sparkling frocks of Priscilla the musical and the annual Riverfire fireworks display, there's plenty to see and do as we break free of the winter blues.
For three weeks in September, the South Bank cultural precinct becomes a hive of activity during the Brisbane Festival.
Featuring a mix of free and ticketed events, which overlap with the September school holidays, the festival has something for all ages and tastes.
Treasury Brisbane Arcadia is the central hub and its crowning jewel is the River of Light - The Story of Maiwar water fountain, light and laser spectacular.
The free show, which takes place daily at 6.30pm, 8pm and 9.30pm, uses water jets and lights to tell the traditional story of the dreaming serpent that created the river that is the lifeblood of the city.
A collaboration of Oracle Liquid and the Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dance Company, the display is a visual marvel.
The nearby Courier-Mail Spiegeltent is home to saucy cabaret shows including Life.
The creatives behind Blanc de Blanc and Limbo Unhinged deliver a night of theatrical anarchy themed around life's milestones.
Life is a somewhat chaotic, adults-only mix of clowning, acrobatics, dance and live music courtesy of a band led by jazz vocalist Fantine and saxophonist Blaise Garza.
The Spiegeltent's theatre-in-the-round experience means there's no bad seat in the house. You're close enough to see every muscle as an acrobat swings from the rafters and to appreciate the subtle details of Goos Meeuwsen's (of Cirque du Soleil fame) physical comedy.
A short walk along the river brings me to Stokebar Q, an open-air restaurant and bar with stunning views of the city skyline across the Brisbane River.
Situated just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the festival, it's a peaceful spot to enjoy a few nibbles from the hand and fork menu and one of the signature cocktails either before or after a visit to Arcadia.
Combining botanical vodka with thyme, cucumber and lemon oil, the Diamantina cocktail is a refreshing partner to the grilled haloumi with burnt honey and fresh mint.
Back at Arcadia, the House of Mirrors is a mind-bending labyrinth of seemingly endless mirrors. The giant walk-through experience is one of several interactive installations that challenge the senses.
The Brisbane Powerhouse is another cultural hub worth visiting during a Brisbane stay. Situated in the leafy riverside suburb of New Farm, the power station is now an arts centre hosting more than 1000 performances and events each year.
Currently showing is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Founded in 1964 and organised and produced by the Natural History Museum, it is one of the longest and most prestigious photography competitions in the world.
Now in its 53rd year, the competition received nearly 50,000 submissions from amateur and professional photographers from more than 92 countries.
Boasting 100 award-winning images across six categories, the free exhibition features intimate and awe-inspiring shots. Acting as a window into the natural world, they range from cute clownfish and frogs to fierce predators and remote landscapes.
While the exhibition is suitable for all ages, there are some confronting images in the documentary category.
I wrap up my weekend with a long lunch at Blackbird Bar & Grill at Eagle Street Pier.
This award-winning eatery boasts yet another stunning view of the Brisbane River, this time of the Story Bridge.
If you love surf and turf then you'll be in seventh heaven here. The seafood platter showcases the best seafood southeast Queensland has to offer, from Mooloolaba prawns to Moreton Bay bugs and Hervey Bay scallops.
The impressive steak menu boasts black angus, wagyu and shorthorn, all of which are cooked on the restaurant's Inferno 96 wood-fired grill imported from the US.
The heirloom beetroot salad and dutch cream potato baked in clay are two tasty side dishes contrasting the fresh with the decadent. If you're after something even richer, there's a young spring vegetable salad dressed with an olive oil containing 24K pure gold.
It really doesn't get any better than eating the freshest seasonal produce while enjoying one of the best views in Brisbane.
The writer was a guest of Oaks Festival Towers and Brisbane Festival.
The Brisbane Festival runs until next Saturday, September 29. For more information go to brisbanefestival.com.au.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is on at the Brisbane Powerhouse until November 4.
Sunsuper Riverfire takes place next Saturday, September 29. Entertainment starts at 4pm and fireworks start at 7pm. South Bank is an alcohol-free space for the event.