Sophisticated city galleries and rooftop bars, desolate subtropical beaches, cool-climate vineyards: the greater Brisbane region deals in Queensland's most gasp-inducing contrasts. Star of the show is Brisbane itself, a lush, sultry metropolis with flourishing restaurant, bar and cultural scenes that attest to its coming of age. Lapping at the city's eastern fringe is Moreton Bay, home to low-lying sandy isles that beckon with their turquoise waves, sparkling forests and passing parade of whales, turtles and dolphins.
Head west from Brisbane and you'll hit lofty Toowoomba, an underrated university town where heritage architecture and well-pruned gardens share the streets with smashing street art, specialist coffee shops and a growing number of fashionable eateries and bars. Things get even cooler (literally) further south in the vineyard-laced Granite Belt, a corner of the state where surf clubs, mojitos and palm trees are ditched for elegant reds, crackling fires and the occasional mid-year snowman.