A Guide to Brisbane’s Famous Howard Smith Wharves

Howard Smith Wharves is the last surviving dock in Brisbane
Howard Smith Wharves is the last surviving dock in Brisbane | © Tourism and Events Queensland
Megan McIntyre

This heritage-listed wharf, built in the 1930s, is one of Brisbane’s most popular spots and the last surviving dock in the city. A wide selection of restaurants and a river walk that joins New Farm and the City make it great for families in the daytime. By night, it turns into a lively dining and entertainment mecca.

The history of Howard Smith Wharves

Howard Smith Wharves, seen here in March 1938, was conceived during the 1930s Depression

The wharf project was conceived to relieve high unemployment during the 1930s Depression, but during World War II, Brisbane City Council switched plans to build air raid shelters near the cliffs, so the work was never finished.

The port was moved to the mouth of Brisbane River in the 1960s. Some buildings were washed away in floods in 1974; others collapsed in 2000. The remaining offices, wharves and sheds are the first site in Brisbane to be awarded the National Trust’s Heritage Hero Status, in recognition of their status as one of the city’s earliest developments.

The Green House is part of the Howard Smith Wharves

Following a refurbishment project in the 2010s, today the wharf is reminiscent of New York’s Pier 17, swapping the East River and Brooklyn Bridge views for the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. The latter dominates the area, while river views are almost guaranteed from every restaurant and bar in the area.

Where to eat and drink

1. Felon’s

Bar, Australian, Beer

© Tourism and Events Queensland

Have a pint at Felon’s, a modern-day brewery with a fascinating history. The venue was named after the four felons that found themselves shipwrecked on Moreton Island in 1823 en route to Illawarra and ended up on the Brisbane River. The venue became the first business to open its doors in the newly revamped Howard Smith Wharves. A selection of beers is on offer, ranging from tropical Australian Pale Ale to crisp lagers and IPAs that are brewed on site in the old wharf shed. The brewery also offers daily tours with up to 10 people.

3. Betty’s Burgers

Restaurant, Australian

Betty’s Burgers
Courtesy of Betty’s Burgers

This burgeoning chain offers a familiar, comforting menu, with an array of burgers –take the Crispy Chicken Supreme, or Classic Surf – but it’s the Concretes that will weigh you down – and have you returning for more. A delicious blend of frozen custard ice cream and your favourite sweets, treat this as three desserts in one – the Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake has vanilla custard, lemon curd, lemon zest, raspberries, New York cheesecake and ginger crumble and is enough to satisfy even the sweetest of teeth.

4. Goodtimes Gelateria

Ice Cream Parlour, Australian

Goodtimes Gelateria
Courtesy of Goodtimes Gelateria

If you’re strolling along the riverwalk between the city and New Farm, a stop at Goodtimes Gelateria is a perfect halfway point. They offer 22 flavours of ice cream, ranging from fresh and fruity (pineapple, sourced from the Sunshine Coast, or mango from North Queensland) to more Italian tastes such as tiramisu and nocciola. Supporting Queensland, the team’s dedication to local ingredients produces some of the smoothest scoops in Brisbane.

5. Greca

Restaurant, Greek

Courtesy of Greca

It’s stylish and relaxed, and will entice you with the promise of something special. Don’t be fooled by the kitsch names of dishes on the set menus – Full Greek, Almighty Aphrodite, Apollo Feast – these taste as if they’ve come straight from the Mediterranean. Whether tasty taramasalata or the surprising BBQ quail, the menu transports you with its heritage-inspired dishes perfected with modern twists. Island-style Mooloolaba tuna, anyone?

6. Stanley Restaurant

Restaurant, Australian

Courtesy of Stanley Restaurant

One of the largest restaurants in the area, Stanley Restaurant’s Australian-Cantonese dishes are exquisitely prepared, so bring your appetite and sample a variety of dishes from one of the banquet menus. Intimate evening lighting complements a sultry interior design of murals and hanging lanterns, setting the mood for romance. On weekdays, the express lunch menu is ideal for business meetings where you need to impress.

7. Yoko

Restaurant, Japanese

Courtesy of Yoko

The team behind Greca opened Yoko as the new kid on the wharves in November 2019. Inspired by Tokyo, the riverside bento-box booths are perfect on a sunny afternoon. Step inside and you’ll be welcomed to a space that is split across two levels. The upper floor is where to head for a special occasion with a bar full of Japanese whisky and sake, plus DJ decks to liven up late nights. The cocktail menu is just as likely to energise your evening. For a unique taste, try the Tommy-son, comprising tequila, yuzu, lime, agave and togarashi salt.

8. Fiume

Bar, Snacks, Australian

Fiume Bar at The Fantauzzo
© Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’re visiting Howard Smith Wharves for a drink, grab a seat at Fiume, in the Fantauzzo hotel. Owner and artist Vincent Fantauzzo and his wife have curated an impressive art collection that you can enjoy on your way up to the classy rooftop. Take in stunning views over the Brisbane River as you sip innovative cocktails such as the Pink Koala, made from eucalyptus vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and lemon. End your evening by enjoying a refreshing drink while watching the sunset over the city.

9. Mr Percival’s

Bar, Australian

Mr Percival’s
Courtesy Mr Percival’s

You need to scrub up well if you’re coming to Mr Percival’s. Named after the pelican in the Australian movie Storm Boy, the brightly coloured venue is Monterey chic by day and New York club by night. Perched over the water, the elegant bar is manned by bartenders who mix cocktails to the tunes of the resident DJ, who performs in a raised octagonal booth with bottles lining its ascension to heaven. Guests are as manicured as the decor; ask the bar staff to pair champagne and other tipples with their caviar and sashimi menus.

10. Ciao Papi

Restaurant, Italian

Papi press
Courtesy of Ciao Papi

Close to the New Farm end of Howard Smith Wharves, this Italian eatery is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Knock off work early to make the most of its aperitivo afternoons (Mon-Fri, 4-6pm), with free bar snacks to devour alongside a drink.

11. Polpetta

Restaurant, Italian

Courtesy of Polpetta

For delicious diverse Italian food, Polpetta at the Fantauzzo hotel is worth a visit, although it’s the Aussie-style breakfast that’s the main draw. Tuck into toasted rye, crushed peas, fava beans, mint, avocado, poached eggs and buffalo ricotta, accompanied by a signature juice. The Immune Booster – orange, lemon, green apple and ginger – and Sunny Queenslander – watermelon, pineapple, mint and lime – are guaranteed to give your day a boost, as is a chat with their sunny staff.

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