With the Sunshine Coast to the north and the Gold Coast to the south, Brisbane has long been a natural waypoint for visitors seeking a slice of South Pacific paradise on Australia's eastern shores. But the country's third-largest city deserves to be a destination in its own right. Fans of fine art and live music will revel in the diversity of the city's offerings, and nature lovers will delight in discovering the local wildlife sanctuary filled with arguably the cutest creatures on the planet -- koalas. Some new bars and restaurants have recently introduced big-city sophistication to this subtropical metropolis, but you needn't trade your flip-flops for formal footwear just yet. The warm and welcoming capital of Queensland, Australia's Sunshine State, is still as casual and easygoing as ever.
3 p.m.1. Bank on the Arts
A good introduction to the city begins in the South Bank district, which hugs the south bank of the Brisbane River. The area brims with attractions -- a curious artificial beach, riverside parks, a spinning Ferris wheel -- but most notable is the culture-rich complex that houses a pair of the city's finest art venues: the Queensland Art Gallery, or QAG, and the Gallery of Modern Art, or GoMA (Stanley Place; qagoma.qld.gov.au). The two galleries, separated by about 150 yards, are co-hosts of the seventh Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, an event that highlights works by artists from across India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and other traditionally underrepresented nations. Later this year, the three-story GoMA will present "My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art From Black Australia," which is being billed as the largest-ever exhibition of contemporary indigenous Australian art (June 1 to Oct. 7).
7 p.m.2. Going Public
Come quitting time, office workers are quick to exit the central business district. But Public (Upper Level 1, 400 George Street; lovepublic.com.au), a restaurant that opened there last year, has been luring people back after dark. Although its location on the second floor of a nondescript office building would suggest otherwise, this attractive restaurant is a stylish spot to dine. Pendant lamps with amber-hued filament bulbs hang above the bar, and the dining room is filled with wood-topped tables and tall leather banquettes that create an intimate atmosphere despite the soaring ceilings. The restaurant's menu of sharing plates draws inspiration from around the globe, and the beautiful dishes -- wagyu tataki with sake and sesame, Hawaiian potato curry with coconut and litchi -- look as good as they taste. Dinner for two, about 80 Australian dollars, about the same in U.S. dollars.
10 p.m.3. Brilliant Brewpubs
A spate of recent bar openings has dramatically improved Brisbane's drinking options. The city imported a bit of Melbourne-style cool with the 2011 opening of Super Whatnot (48 Burnett Lane; superwhatnot.com), a small, chic bar tucked on a narrow service road downtown. This bi-level spot has a gorgeous interior with exposed brick walls, polished wood floors and a cozy nook of black banquettes downstairs. Upstairs, the denlike loft overlooks a bar that boasts a fine selection of craft beers from around Australia, including Tasmanian Moo Brew Hefeweizen and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale from nearby Byron Bay. Another watering hole that opened in 2011 is the Scratch (8/1 Park Road; scratchbar.com), an unpretentious craft beer pub that rotates the brews on its four regular taps and one hand-pump tap daily. The location is a hike from downtown, but beer aficionados will find the trek worthwhile because the excellence of the tap offerings is exceeded only by the passion and knowledge of the friendly bartenders.
10 a.m.4. Down by the Riverside
The Brisbane River, which wiggles through the center of the city, is a source of both riparian delights and disasters. In 2011, flooding wreaked havoc on low-lying homes and businesses, and this past January, floods struck again. But when the river is behaving, the promenade that hugs the water's edge is a lovely location for a morning stroll. Start on the north bank near the towering Story Bridge and saunter southwest, passing bobbing boats and the botanic gardens. A mile into the walk, detour along the boardwalk that loops through the mangrove swamp for an up-close perspective of the fragile habitat's birds and trees. Along the way, you might also spy fearless rock climbers scaling the 65-foot sheer face of Kangaroo Point Cliffs on the opposite side of the river.
Noon5. The Wheel Thing
The Bun Mobile truck (thebunmobile.com.au; Twitter: @TheBunMobile) serves some of the most satisfying food in the city -- on or off wheels. Helmed by Harold Fleming, the year-old truck specializes in steamed buns overflowing with tasty fillings; the bun with twice-cooked pork, hoisin sauce, pickled cucumbers and shallots (8 Australian dollars) is particularly delicious. If the dessert bun laden with banana, drizzles of caramel sauce and salted peanut praline is a special, don't dare pass it up. After lunch, wheel around the observation deck at the top of Mount Coot-tha (Sir Samuel Griffith Drive) for sweeping views over the city and bushland beyond.
2 p.m.6. Marsupial Madness
About seven miles from the summit of Mount Coot-tha is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (708 Jesmond Road; koala.net; entry, 33 Australian dollars), a zoolike haven that is home to a huge array of marsupials including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and Tasmanian devils, as well as other unusual creatures, among them emus and a platypus. But the main attractions are, of course, the more than 130 sleepy-eyed koalas slouching in trees, nibbling eucalyptus leaves and dozing in hilarious poses. You can even cuddle one of the docile koalas in your arms. Fancy petting and feeding a kangaroo too? Visit the field where scores of kangaroos laze in the shade; many will be happy to munch pellets right from your hand before bouncing -- boing, boing, boing -- away.
6 p.m.7. Cheers Two Ways
The Brisbane Cricket Ground, the city's sports stadium known to all as the Gabba (411 Vulture Street; thegabba.com.au), hosts cricket matches and, this time of year, Australian rules football. If there is a match scheduled, try to decipher the supposed rules of this rough-and-tumble sport in person. Otherwise ask for an explanation of the game over a cocktail at Canvas (16B Logan Road; canvasclub.com.au), an inviting bar that opened across the street from the stadium in 2010. The bar's eclectic furniture and dreamy murals (done by local street artists) create an air of vintage sophistication, and the thick cocktail list is filled with refined concoctions like the Guerrilla Warfare, made with Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, passion fruit and wormwood syrup, and a tea-infused dehydrated orange slice (18 Australian dollars).
9 p.m.8. Tiki and Tunes
After an aperitif, you might be in the mood for a burger. Or a banana split. Or another cocktail. Whatever your inclination, it can be satisfied at Alfred & Constance (130 Constance Street; alfredandconstance.com.au), a boisterous eating-and-drinking spot that opened in November. A carnivalesque atmosphere pulses through the themed areas spread around this rambling place, which spans a pair of Queenslander cottages. Start at a picnic table on the wooden deck, where the Vanguard Beer Garden serves up nibbles like chorizo Scotch eggs (9 Australian dollars) and filling platters of bangers and mash (15.90 dollars). Then duck inside to the living room-style Tunes Bar for a seat on a saddle stool and a jug of garden punch (vodka, strawberry and blackcurrant syrup, lemon and soda; 30 dollars). For a soft serve sundae (or that banana split), swing by the counter of the dessert cafe. Or head upstairs, where the White Lightning Tiki Bar slings all your favorite umbrella-crowned cocktails.
11 p.m.9. Lodge Music
The Fortitude Valley neighborhood is the epicenter of Brisbane's hard-partying night-life and live music scene. Around thumping Brunswick Street, there are scores of streetside pubs and clubs, but many are of dubious merit. Pass them by for the more laid-back atmosphere at the Black Bear Lodge (Level 1, 322 Brunswick Street; blackbearlodge.com.au), a second-floor live music club that opened in 2011. In the early evening, local jazz singers and indie bands often take the stage, but up-and-coming international acts and vinyl D.J.'s also make regular appearances. If you miss the show, you can still grab a drink at the bar; like most places in this area, it's open late.
11 a.m.10. Cafe Cravings
Just northeast of Fortitude Valley in the Newstead area is Shucked Coffee House (9 Creswell; shucked.com.au), an unlikely breakfast spot hidden amid car dealerships. The cafe, decorated with mismatched chairs and retro wallpaper, is a pleasant place to start the day slowly. Read the paper over a long black and, if you crave something sweet, order the French Kiss: brioche French toast under a pile of caramelized banana, toffeed nuts and salty bacon (18 Australian dollars).
1 p.m.11. Aussie Design
Shopping sites, like farmers' and flea markets and sidewalk suitcase rummage sales, surface around the city on Sundays. One of the most interesting spots is the Young Designers Market (Little Stanley Street; youngdesignersmarket.com.au), which invades Little Stanley Street in South Bank on the first Sunday of the month. Here you'll find the handiwork of Brisbane's creative class in the form of breezy handkerchief dresses, children's books from local authors, pairs of printed bloomers and artful necklaces created from vintage silk ties. The rest of the month, you can still get your fix of domestic design at (m)art (Shop B13, 166 Grey Street; artisan.org.au), a nearby store stocked with everything from art prints and amber glass vases to adorable ceramic marsupials, all from Australian designers.
IF YOU GO
The 21 snug rooms in the boutique Limes Hotel (142 Constance Street; limeshotel.com.au) start at 229 dollars.
The 224 units in the riverside Meriton Serviced Apartments (485 Adelaide Street; meritonapartments.com.au) start at 125 dollars.travel
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.