Interested in a lunch-hour swim in a large open air pool with warm sand between your toes, palm trees swaying in the wind as well as a cool beverage close at hand? Or reaching a large city that does not feel like a huge city, filled with great coffee areas, pubs and dining choices that are adequate?

If the answer’s yes to both or either, consider Brisbane, Australia, among the planet ‘s most livable cities, based on an 2014 Monocle Magazine index.

Exceptional among the leading cities in Australia, bright Brisbane has a beach right on the doorstep of its own central business district.

Australia’s setting is cultural precinct that — as the name suggests — sits on the south bank of the Brisbane River, the exciting entertainment and South Bank.

This really is the point where the city comes for diversion and amusement, to eat and drink at casual riverside eateries and pubs, listen to impromptu music shows, ride a giant Ferris wheel, take a look at road artists and nighttime light shows, take in an official concert in the performing arts center and visit art galleries as well as the state museum and library.

South Bank

Within South Bank the Gallery of Modern Art Restaurant (Stanley Place, Cultural Precinct, South Bank; 61 7 3840 7303) is usually among the greatest lunch places.

For dinner it is difficult to overcome Stokehouse Brisbane (on the river in the opposite end of South Bank at South Bank on Sidon Street; 61 7 3020 0600), near the maritime museum.

Next door to the convention center on Grey Street is among the city’s most exciting new beer factory outlets, The Enticing Squire (133 Grey St., South Brisbane; 61 7 3077 7254).

Two other excellent places in South Bank are The Sangria Pub (Store B12 Little Stanley Street, South Bank, Brisbane; 61 7 3846 1201), rated this year’s “Greatest Pub with Food” by the Brisbane Times Great Food Guide, and Bacchus (corner of Grey and Glenelg Streets, South Bank; 61 7 3364 0837), rated the eatery with this particular year’s finest wine list.

Southbank, Brisbane

Southbank, Brisbane

Southbank, Brisbane

Southbank, Brisbane

Central Business District

Across the river in the CBD, there is no lack of high end diners, headed by chef Ryan Squire’s amazing Esquire (145 Eagle St,, Brisbane; 61 07 3220 2123).

In line with the eatery, “the degustation menu evolves daily, driven by the access to the finest local produce that day and hand picked by the team of skilled craftsmen, the chefs, who work quickly in the kitchen.”

Other can’t-miss options contain the exceptionally creative Alejandro Cancino’s Urbane (181 Mary St., Brisbane; 61 07 3229 2271) and the classy Aria Brisbane (1 Eagle St., Brisbane; 61 7 3233 2555), the northern version of star chef Matt Moran’s first Aria in Sydney.

Power brokers on a small budget locate Moo Moo (Stamford Plaza, 39 Edward St., Brisbane; 61 7 3236 4500) delivers the goods.

Among the city’s best-beloved seafood restaurants is Gambaro’s (33 Caxton St., Petrie Terrace, Brisbane; 61 7 3369 9500). The eatery site has been totally reconstructed and now contains a Gambaro’s Hotel.

Across the street, the family that possesses Gambaro’s has added steak to its repertoire, with all the smart new Black Hide Steakhouse (36 Caxton St., Petrie Terrace, Brisbane; 61 7 3369 9500) winning accolades for the quality of its cuts.

Central Business District

Central Business District

West End and Fortitude Valley

Past the CBD as well as South Bank, a number of the city’s finest cafes, nightclubs and pubs are found in Fortitude Valley and West End, locales that come alive during the night.

Gordita Bar & Restaurant (11b/100 McLachlan St., Fortitude Valley, Brisbane; 61 7 3666 0605) is a Valley favored serving “wholesome Southern Spanish food along with a wine list so fat with artisanal wines from around the world you can almost feel it groaning in your hands.”

For Asian noodles of any description, Kwan Brothers (43 Alfred St., Fortitude Valley, Brisbane; 61 7 3251 6588) is the clear alternative.

Craft beers are the call at Yard Bird Ale House (6/24 Martin St., Fortitude Valley, Brisbane; 61 7 3852 6413) and Archive Beer Boutique (100 Boundary St., West End, Brisbane; 61 7 3844 3419).

Aerial Photo of Brisbane West End

Aerial Photo of Brisbane West End

Brisbane Fortitude Valley

Brisbane Fortitude Valley

Away from the city

When it is time for sunshine, a city-side option to South Bank is the City Botanic Gardens, which link a Queensland University of Technology campus together with the city and government buildings proper.

Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

Getting around on bike or foot is not difficult.

Buses work from a few crucial points in the city, including below the Queen Street Mall, from the Brisbane Transit Centre on Roma Street and from the bus facility in South Bank.

Determined by where you are headed, the ferries make for a nice journey.

Brisbane is the gateway to two well known tourist destinations: the glitzy Gold Coast an hour to the south, with its multiple theme parks, canals, long expanses of shore, highrise flats, casinos and shopping malls; as well as the Sunshine Coast an hour to the north, a more casual and less developed array of canals and shores, with elegant Noosa at its northernmost point regarded as the ideal place to stay.

Two secret natural jewels could be seen east of Brisbane, among the islands of Moreton Bay that protect the river mouth from the huge swells of the Pacific Ocean.

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

One is Tangalooma on Moreton Island, a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane’s Holt Street Wharf at Pinkenba, the other is Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, about 60 minutes from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland by water taxi or vehicular ferry, then isle bus.

Tangalooma offers whale watching from June until late November as well as the opportunity to feed dolphins in the wild.

Tangalooma

Tangalooma

Point Lookout not only is among the finest whale watching places on the Australian east coast, it is house to a magic surf rest that simply keeps on delivering wave after wave.