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Woolloongabba Suburb Guide - 24 Places to Eat, Shop & Play

Home > Brisbane > Cafes | Restaurants | Shopping | Sport
by Julian Groneberg (subscribe)
Freelance copywriter and blogger. Avid dog owner, living in Brisbane's bayside. If you like my articles please hit subscribe or 'like' at the end of the post!
Published March 26th 2015
Woolloongabba Suburb Guide - 24 Places to Eat, Shop & Play

Woolloongabba is a suburb most people in Brisbane and even from further afield of are aware of, mostly thanks to it being the home of the Brisbane Cricket Ground – or as it's more commonly known 'The Gabba.' It also holds an important place in the history of Brisbane and today is one of the city's most culturally diverse neighbourhoods, with around 40 per cent of the population born outside of Australia.

Even if you haven't spent time much in the suburb, nearly everyone living in Brisbane has driven through it. Woolloongabba traditionally has been the central crossroads to the city, connecting Logan Road, Ipswich Road, Stanley Street and Main Street as well as the south eastern busways and M1 motorway, all major arterials that dissect the suburb.

As a frequent visitor, someone who worked in the suburb, and someone who regularly walks, eats, shops in and around the Gabba, I can attest there is much to discover along some of the Gabba's busiest arterial roads, and between some of the industrial back streets.

Woolloongabba's central commercial district of Logan Rd from the rooftop of the Gabba Central Apartments

History of Woolloongabba

Once known as 'One Mile Swamp' because of low lying and swampy areas around Norman and Kingfisher Creek, Woolloongabba formed one of Brisbane's first settlements. The section of Stanley Street, between the Mater Hospital and the Riverside Expessway on-ramp was a early shopping precinct of Brisbane and home to several pubs. Only the Morrison and Brisbane Brewhouse still longer stand, as well as the Red Brick Hotel, further up Annerley Road.

Long term residents of Woolloongabba will also remember the famous trams and trains that ran down Logan Road culminating in what was a rare 5 way intersection. Main Street ran to the north, Stanley Street to the west and east, Logan Road to the south-east and Ipswich road to the south, making it one of Brisbane's busiest intersections in the mid 20th century. Today traffic entering Logan Rd is filtered through a turning lane along Stanley St, leaving the intersection four ways. During the morning commute, I can attest firsthand with the short traffic lights, it still feels like it has to be one of Brisbane's busiest.

For those who bemoan traffic around this area today, even until 1969 when the last tram services were wound up, traffic was held up along Stanley Street and Logan Road, as a signalman had the unenviable job of directing trains and trams through the thoroughfare. The old Woolloongabba rail yards are located where the Woolloongabba busway now is, with the Ipswich Road tram depot located at what is now the Buranda Shopping Centre.

The Gabba Fiveways intersection (1929) with a staffed flagman and signal box to manually direct trains and trams through the busy thoroughfare. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Woolllongabba was also the site of Brisbane's epicentre of the bubonic plague in 1900, with outbreaks traced to timber shacks along Hawthorne Street, residences that have long been demolished.

Cricket Games have been played at the Gabba since 1896, but the first Sheffield and test matches were not played until 1931. The stadium also became the official home of the Brisbane Lions AFL team in 1993.

Orienting Yourself

Located 2km to the south east of the CBD, Woolloongabba is bordered by Kangaroo Point to the north, East Brisbane to the east, Annerley and Coorparoo to the South and Highgate Hill and Dutton Park to the west. Woolloongabba also includes the locality of Buranda. As the crow flies, the centre of Woolloongabba is located directly south of the CBD at Garden's Point.

Getting to Woolloongabba

Woolloongabba is especially easy to access by public transport from Brisbane CBD. The railway stations of Buranda and Park Road along the Cleveland Line are located within the boundaries of the suburb. The most central place to disembark from public transport is at the south-east busway, located adjacent to the major intersection of Stanley Street and Ipswich Road. More than 10 different bus routes running inbound and outbound from the CBD stop here. There are many signed buses running outbound from the CBD along Adelaide Street that will travel via the Woolloongabba busway.

Woolloongabba Fast Facts:

- Population: 4789 (2011)
- Median Age: 31 years old
- 60.66 per cent of residents born in Australia, approx. 3 per cent New Zealand, 3 per cent India, and 2.7 per cent Korean.
- Median House Price – $655,000 (3 Bedroom detached house)
- Median Weekly Rent $468.00 (3 Bedroom detached house) source: March 2015

Places of Interest:

• Broadway Hotel. Built in 1889 but gutted by fire in 2010, luckily the turrets and spectacular fairy tale castle facade and structural integrity of this old hotel remain in tact. Since I've lived in Brisbane it's been boarded up and would be an awesome place to take abandoned building photography. It's just a matter of time until this heritage-listed beauty is restored and reopened with a new story to tell.

The Broadway Hotel is a famous hotel that remains closed since 2010 after a fire. Hopefully soon the castle like building will be given a new lease on life
The Broadway Hotel is a famous hotel that remains closed since 2010 after a fire. Hopefully soon the castle like building will be given a new lease on life

• Moreton Rubber Building. Peeling and faded in an almost intentional way, the Moreton Rubber building is an old dame of architecture and standing as an icon and seemingly looking better with age. It's seen floods and both World Wars, and today is home to the BirdCage Restaurant and other neighbouring restaurants and cafes. The basement level of the three-storey building offers a dimly lit stone world below the street, and is what I imagine a prohibition era cellar during the 1920s would have felt like.

The Moreton Rubber building is a three storey 'old dame' of Brisbane architecture with a cavernous underground cellar used by restaurants for function rooms
The Moreton Rubber building is a three storey 'old dame' of Brisbane architecture with a cavernous underground cellar used by restaurants for function rooms

• Logan Road Cul de Sac. The trendy Logan Road precinct is the commercial and dining heart of Woolloongabba and includes antique stores, bridal and gift stores stores as well as more than 10 cafes and fine dining restaurants. The attractive gentrified streetscape with traditional building and glass lamp shades help cemented Woolloongabba to be so much more than the industrial suburb is was once primarily known for.

The Logan Road Cul-de-sac and the streets surrounding the precinct make it the Gabba's dining and retail heart

• Clem 7 Tunnel Ventilation Stack. Ugly or modern beauty? That's the common debate between the Jacaranda coloured ventilation tower for the Clem 7 Tunnel, on the corner of Logan Road and Jurgens Street. While arguably more attractive than the Telstra Exchange building up the road in Main St, Kangaroo Pt, the unique purple and white brick pattern make the ventilation stack a landmark in it's own right. The park benches and tables within the green space surrounding the building makes a good place to sip a coffee or eat a takeaway sandwich purchased at the surrounding cafes.

Some say ugly, other appreciate the modern colours - either way it's an important landmark and funnels pollution from the Clem 7 tunnel, running underground Woolloongabba's streets
Some say ugly, other appreciate the modern colours - either way it's an important landmark and funnels pollution from the Clem 7 tunnel, running underground Woolloongabba's streets

• Princess Theatre. One of Australia's oldest surviving 19th century theatre and the oldest in Brisbane, the Princess Theatre (1888) is another heritage listed icon in the Gabba. The theatre was home to silent movies during the 20s and during the second world war functioned as a entertainment and rehearsal space for American forces. Today the venue can be hired for weddings and other events, with the Little Prince Espresso Coffee shop on site.

The Princess Theatre is one of Australia's oldest surviving theatres and was a popular meeting place to watch silent movies during the roaring twenties

• Woolloongabba Post Office. This richly decorated post federation post office (1905) sites proudly on the corner of Hubert and Stanley Street up from the Chalk Hotel. Ceasing operations as a post office in 1994, the impressive two storey building was heritage listed in 2003.

Woolloongabba's post office (closed since 1994) is a classic example of post federation in Australia

Places to Shop

Most of the Gabba's best shopping is focused around the Logan Road and Gabba Central precinct opposite the busway and the streets around the Antique Centre on Wellington Road. There are also shops and another major places to eat worth checking out further up Stanley Street and Annerley Road which is 10 minutes walk from the busway.

Woolloongabba Antique Centre, Pennisi Cuisine and Absolutely Fabulous all offer varied and unique shopping experience for those visiting the Gabba.

• Gabba Fruit Market. Forget supermarket prices and even waiting until weekend for farmers Markets, the Gabba Fruit Market at 86 Annerley Rd, is the place to go for fantastic priced produce. Despite the worn and tired looking entrance, this place has been recommended by multiple friends, one who picks up major supplies of fruit at wholesale prices for her cold pressed juice business.

• Pennisi Cuisine. If you need an ingredient from Europe whether it's Gruyere cheese, a duck liver pate or delicious and hard-to-find smallgoods and fine foodstuffs, chances are Pennisi's will have it. Established in 1977, the Pennisi family sell to restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Inside the humble entrance at 17 Balaclava Street a gallery of gourmet deliciousness awaits your discovery. Its the perfect place to stop on a gourmet food crawl around the Gabba.

• Absolutely Fabulous. I've needed to pick up gifts on quick notice and Absolutely Fabulous almost always delivers, especially for the women in my life. From cushions, throws, kitchenwares, and quirky books, and lamps (who doesn't like lamps?) there's always seems to be something random and unique which you may not need, but you most certainly want.

• Clarence Corner Bookshop. Packed walls of second hand books await you in a slightly derelict 19th century building. There's also a charming courtyard to enjoy a coffee and a toastie while your pore over serious literature and escapist fiction.

• Woolloongabba Antique Centre. Not always the cheapest, in fact IMO many pieces are often overpriced for what they are, however if you have money to splash, you can still find some beautiful antiques and statement pieces to add a signature piece for your home. While prices may seem high, bargaining is welcomed and sometimes lower prices are even offered without asking for a discount. If you're after a certain look from a bygone era, the showrooms have curated an impressive collection and worth a poke around.

• Reverse Garbage. For creative types who make their own good and for that love to salvage things that would otherwise be thrown out Reverse Garbage offers recycled scraps of almost everything at bargain basement prices, many for silver change. From unused hospital gowns, plaster casts and other unwanted items from the PA hospital up the road, some see Reverse Garbage as filled with junk. For others however it's a treasure trove of reusable delights. The on site gallery shop gives inspiration of what can be made from junk including computer chip earnings, braclets made from rubber tyres and much, much more. Located at 20 Burke St.

Place to Eat

From fine dining, and excellent coffee stops, Woolloongabba has an array of diverse offerings, historic pubs and many restaurants concentrated along the Logan Rd precinct.
From fine dining, and excellent coffee stops, Woolloongabba has an array of diverse offerings, historic pubs and many restaurants concentrated along the Logan Rd precinct.

• Moose and Gibson. One of the best places for breakfast and brunch in Wooloongabba, Moose and Gibson is located out of the way on Jurgens Street, but still not far from the Logan Rd cul-de-sac. Polished concrete floors, timber wall panels and a rustic moose antler chandelier await your admiration as well as consistently good coffee.

• Crosstown Eating House. Hit-and-miss service on the 3 times I have visited, despite the some less than stellar service the Crosstown Eating house is undeniably a impressive place to visit with it's rustic and hearty pub food.

• Green Papaya Restaurant. An absolute favourite restaurant of mine for their fresh twist on Thai and Balinese cooking. From duck and lychee curries served in a carved out pineapple plus coconut rice to die for, it's a battle just deciding what to order on the Indochinese menu.

• Enoteca 1889. Probably the Gabba's most awarded restaurant, Enoteca offers a beautiful fine dining experience and has had critics from the Courier Mail and the Good Food guide raving. I've yet to visit, but every time I walk past, the enticing venue practically begs me to make a booking. Expect top notch Italian dishes, venison, and a very long list of red wines.

• The Baker's Arms. The baked goods cabinet is a revolving door of deliciousness and changes daily with sweet and savoury treats, salads, sandwiches, cold pressed juices and great Campos Coffee. With no set menu, despite being a bakery first and foremost, the Bakers Arms for visitors is more of a trendy café. The glass window to the bake house allows visitors to see firsthand the breads and baked treats being made each day.

• Desmond and Molly Jones. Located 200 metres east of the Mater Hospital is a charming hole in the wall café along the heritage shopping nook on Stanley Street. Fare is fuss free, but with yummy menu items like pear and gorgonzola wraps, and delicious coffee it's definitely a cute place to linger.

• Ben's Vietnamese and Chinese. Consistently rated as one of Brisbane's most popular inner city Vietnamese restaurants, I've been for birthday feasts here and can attest the authenticity and mega menu. The large upper level restaurant facing Annerley road and is heavily booked on weekends. BYO is recommended.

For more of the best cafes in the suburb read my write up of Woolloongabba's 5 Best Cafes

Place to Play

• Morrison Hotel. Considered by many to be home to Brisbane's best steakhouse, the Morrison is an iconic watering hole along Stanley Street. The Naked Whisky bar offers one of Brisbane's best selections of whisky with more than 200 varieties of blended and single malt scotches on offer.

• Brewhouse Brisbane. For craft beer connoisseurs, the Brisbane brewhouse has been given a major makeover selling beers brewed by the Brisbane Brewing Co. in Albion. Go there on Sunday for their Roast of the Day with generous slabs of roast meats, 3 vegetables, a pot of beer and a dessert all for $16.

The Brisbane Brewhouse offers a wide selection of locally brewed ales, lagers and stouts for the craft beer connoisseur

• Laserforce Tag. Perfect for parties of restless kids or jaded teens, Laser force tag is like a real life video game inside a labyrinth of alcoves where you shoot down your competitors through infrared laser. Even for the not-so-young a $30 package offers 3 separate missions each taking around 20 minutes.

• Brisbane German Club. Before a match at the Gabba, many head to the Brisbane German Club for a pork knuckles and a mug of traditional Weizenbier (wheat beer) Its also a great venue for traditional polka music and live music performances.

• The Gabba Cricket Ground. Undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Woolloongabba, Test cricket matches, games of the Brisbane Lions and Twenty20 Brisbane Heat matches can all be seen in the 42,000 seat stadium throughout the year. Public tours of the venue run every Thursday from 11am for $16.00 for adults and $6.00 for concession tickets.

The Gabba packed during a game day. Throughout the year there are cricket and AFL matches played here as well as tours of the venue every Thursdays

Are you familiar with Woolloongabba? Where are you favourite places to eat, shop and play in this suburb? Share you local knowledge with a comment!

Check out the East Brisbane Suburb Guide -19 Places to Eat, Shop & Play Here.

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Why? For a great day out and a glimpse into one of Brisbane's most interesting early suburbs
When: Anytime you feel like discovering on of Brisbane's oldest and interesting suburbs
Where: Woolloongabba of course!
Cost: Depends on what you want to do
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