27 things to do in Sandgate, Brighton and Shorncliffe

Remember when you’d step out of the car barefoot in that beachside village as a kid, the sound of the ocean shifting in the air and a sea breeze washing over your skin? Me neither, we were in Toowoomba a lot. 

But if you do crave that feeling, the bayside stretch made up of Shorncliffe, Sandgate and Brighton on Brisbane’s northside, a 25-minute drive from the CBD, has the seaside village thing down pat.

The sleepy vibe remains but new bars and cute cafes have popped up and some pretty great events dot the calendar, making it well worth a visit. You’ll want a day to explore, so reserve your weekend and tick these off your list. 

Sunrise at Sandgate

The mix of purples, pinks, oranges and yellows and the mirror image that springs from the water when the tide is in ensures there’s an army of keen snappers lining up with their tripods to catch the perfect Sandgate sunrise. You should too. Best vantage points are anywhere along Flinders Parade from Sandgate to Brighton, and beside Shorncliffe Pier.

Walk or ride along the waterfront

Go early morning or early evening and you’re guaranteed to get stunning skies, bay breezes or a combo of the two. Also it’s completely flat and play areas abound, so the kids can cut loose while you stroll.

Drink coffee and ponder why you don’t live in Sandgate

Well, are you pondering yet? There are plenty of great cafes popping up but we’d recommend the coffee at Satori Organics (it also does turmeric lattes for those skipping the caffeine), Cypher, Mug Shots Espresso, Baaia and Wild Manna at Sandgate; The Wired Owl, Matthew Thomas and Café on the Park at Shorncliffe; and Eclectea and Blume at Brighton. Special mention goes to Wes’ in Brighton, which opens its doors at 5am daily.

Crawl around the local bars

Eclectea

There’s only a few but the small bar scene is healthy with the alley way-style Cardigan Bar and Mr Henderson both killing it with locals and visitors. Eclectea at Brighton packs out on weekends with craft beers on tap and solid eats. For pub seekers, the Full Moon Hotel is a local institution with a more than solid pub food offering and cracking water views.

Eat all the fish and chips

Sandgate Fishmonger

The Sandgate Fishmonger

Along the Sandgate waterfront you have the Sandgate Fishmonger with its critically acclaimed calamari and gluten-free batter (crispy, crunchy, not greasy), Doug’s with its huge portions (careful, it’s cash only) and the popular Fish on Flinders. Just around the corner at Shorncliffe is Shelley Inn, which has cracking calamari and a lovely view of Cabbage Tree Creek. 

Get fresh seafood at Shorncliffe

I’m not even going out on a limb when I say the fishos selling straight from their trawlers along Sinbad St (lol) at Shorncliffe deliver some of the freshest, sweetest and best value prawns in Brisbane. Get down there early. Take cash. Buy in bulk. Win at life. 

Seek thrills and go kitesurfing or windsurfing

Surf Connect

When the winds pick up, the sky at Sandgate fills with kite-surfers taking advantage of the grouse gusts. Get in touch with local company Surf Connect for lessons and gear hire. 

Or seek chills and go paddling

Surf Connect also does stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking if your vibe is more chiller than thriller. 

Play golf at a genuine 1920s golf club

Sandgate Golf Club is flat, straight, has nine holes and the schooner prices are on the right side of a fiver. Tee it up.

Let your pooch go mental

The off-leash dog area at Decker Park in Brighton is hugely popular, and it’s right by the water if you fancy a swim at high tide.

Eat food, including Brisbane’s best pizza

Food trucks often frequent Mr Henderson and the Cardigan Bar, but Il Forno pizzeria has the Italian goodness you need. It was named Brisbane’s best pizza in 2015, with the duck and hoisin pizza dominating orders. Also try Viet Street Eat (really good pho), the Full Moon Hotel, Eclectea for Friday night burgers and beers, and all the fishos. 

Get a goat pie and a craft beer, together at last

The Goat Pie Guy has long been a favourite at markets across Brisbane but he’s also set up a shop in Deagon. There you can sit, grab a slow-cooked pastry treat and knock back a craft beer on tap. #GOAT

Op shop your face off

If you check out Google Maps, the area’s op-shop game is strong. They dot the streets across Sandgate and Brighton, and half a day could easily be spent browsing and buying.

Head to Sandgate Historical Society and Museum

Did you know the Sandgate Hotel opened in 1858 and was started by a bloke named Charles Davie? And that there was a soft drink factory in the suburb back in the day? All these facts and more are on show at the Sandgate Historical Society & Museum. It’s open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm. 

Swim in or by the sea

Sandgate Aquatic Centre is right by the waterfront and has plenty of family-friendly areas for the kids to splash their minds out. You can also take a dip at high tide down at the Brighton end of Flinders Pde, opposite Decker Park. There’s even a little beach there, so bring the plastic bucket and spade.

Get fresh organic fruit, veg, meat and pastry treats

The Satori Boutique Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Sundays have people lining up to get their organic fruit and veg. The sourdough loaves and fruit danishes available on Sundays are epic. Also check out Sandgate Village Markets on the third Sunday of the month at Einbunpin Lagoon, the Deagon Sunday Markets and for 100 per cent certified organic meat, head to Jason’s Quality Meats on Queens Parade.

Mark these festivals in your diary

Music By The Sea Festival 2015

Einbunpin Festival celebrates the lagoon lifestyle in the centre of Sandgate; Bluewater Festival takes over the waterfront each Easter with music, food and fireworks; Music By The Sea sees a stack of artists take over venues throughout the area; and Shakespeare By The Bay is all about the Bard ... by the bay. See here for festival dates.

Gawk at historical houses

Sandgate and Shorncliffe are full of them and they just happen to mostly be along the waterfront, which is a cracking stroll in its own right. Check out this awesome guide on the best route to take from Everywhere History.

Picnic everywhere

Parks, barbecue facilities and shaded tables abound across all three suburbs but our picks include along the waterfront at Sandgate, Decker Park in Brighton, next to Shorncliffe pier and next to Einbunpin Lagoon. 

Hook a whopper

You can wet a line nearly the whole way along the waterfront at high tide, but generally keen anglers prefer the Brighton end opposite Decker Park and off Shorncliffe Pier.

Wander along Shorncliffe Pier

Shorncliffe Pier

The pier re-opened in 2016 with a full refurbishment and is now an absolute stunner. It’s well worth a stroll out to take in the sea breezes or even cast a line. For foodies, The Long Table Dinner each year is a chance to wine and dine on the landmark. Go on, give in to pier pressure (groans).

Catch a show at Sandgate Town Hall

The heritage-listed hall was built in 1912 after the old one burned down. It’s a lovely little slice of Brisbane history with its clock tower and adjoining library. It also hosts music and theatre, so try to line up your visit with a show.

Stargaze at one of the best vantage points in Brisbane

Brisbanites flock to Sandgate when astronomical events are in full flight (think eclipses, full moons, stargazing) and the clear skies, low light and high vantage point in front of the Full Moon Hotel (it’s not just a clever name) attracts plenty of folks and their telescopes. 

Register a team for the Sandgate Sunset Run

It’s a full-on festival atmosphere when teams of all different running levels and abilities do relay-style laps around the main roundabout in Sandgate for the Sandgate Sunset Run. There’s food, entertainment, music and the runners don all sorts of costumes. 

Browse cute boutiques and knick-knack shops

Old Favourites

Just behind The Wired Owl coffee shop is Old Favourites, a highly addictive and cute little antique and furniture store in which to lose yourself. Also try Atrium for boutique fashion and Hello Duckie for bespoke homely knick-knacks.

Sail (or watch it)

Sandgate Yacht Club, at Allpass Parade in Shorncliffe, has races every second Sunday but if you prefer to keep your feet dry, Sandgate is an awesome place to watch the boaties hit their straps for Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race each Easter. It’s a majestic sight watching them jostle for a prime position as they leave Moreton Bay. Even more so when you can do it with a wine and hunk of cheese in hand safely on shore.

Bonus: Pat all the dogs

There are lots of dogs walking, playing and just being awesome throughout Sandgate (this fellow here is pictured at the Brighton waterfront) so those who feel the compulsive need to pat every doggo they see will find themselves in paradise.

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