Potted History of Brisbane

My beloved and I find the history of Australia fascinating, largely because it’s so recent yet so impressive. We’re always amused by the names of places. I love the Aboriginal names which I think are so evocative,  onomatopoeic even. But, of course, many places are named from whence the settlers came and we noted many Scottish and Irish names along the east coast.

Before European settlement in 1824, Aboriginal clans, namely Jagera and Turrbal, lived along the Brisbane River. It is not known how long they resided in this area but it is believed Aboriginal tenure in Australia dates back about 40,000 years.

A river curving and curling its way around the landscape makes Brisbane one of the more unique regional capital cities in Australia. Brisbane came into being long before the state of Queensland was established, when intrepid Surveyor General John Oxley named the river he discovered after the Governor of New South Wales – Thomas Brisbane – in 1823.

On Governor Brisbane’s instrictions, Oxley was looking for a suitable site for a penal colony, initially selecting one in 1824, called the Moreton Bay Settlement, with a further site finally selected by Captain Miller a year later. This was a triangle of land bounded on two sides by the Brisbane River and the escarpment (now Wickham Terrace), considered defendable as well as providing a natural barrier against convict escape.

The colony was originally established as a “prison within a prison” – a settlement, deliberately distant from Sydney, to which recidivist convicts could be sent as punishment. It soon garnered a reputation as one of the harshest penal settlements. In 1828 work began on the construction of the Commissariat Store, still intact today which, with The Old Windmill on Wickham Terrace, are the only remaining convict era buildings still standing in Queensland.

Civilian occupation of the area began in 1842, and by the late 1880s Brisbane had become a busy commercial hub, and the capital-to-be began to develop distinct architectural features and culture.

One of my favourite buildings from this era is Wynberg in New Farm. Named after the South African town, this grand residence was built in the 1880s and acquired by stonemason G.C Willcocks who had made his fortune in diamond mining in South Africa. He transformed Wynberg into the stately house it is today which is now occupied by the Archbishop of Brisbane.

With an abundance of sunshine and a laid-back lifestyle, Brisbane quickly drew people eager to settle in its environs. The city grew steadily over the years and a turning point in its advancement was during World War II when it housed the main allied headquarters in the South Pacific for Australian and American service personnel.

The post-war population boom brought a spurt in industry and Brisbane staked a claim as the third-largest city in Australia. Despite its rapid progress, Brisbane was often seen as lagging culturally behind Sydney and Melbourne. But two landmark events in the 1980s brought about major change and accelerated Brisbane towards Australia’s new world city it is today.

The Commonwealth Games came to Brisbane in 1982, and this resulted in a massive injection of new infrastructure and sporting facilities. Then the eyes of the world turned to Brisbane again in 1988 when thousands of visitors flocked to Expo 88. The subsequent birth of the South Bank on the Expo site has resulted in a thriving cultural hub and Brisbane is more than matching it with its southern counterparts.

We were surprised that Brisbane was so hilly but once we learned about the frequent flooding of the  river, we appreciated why one might wish to live atop a hill. Floods over the past couple of hundred years (1841, 1893, 1931, 1974, 2011 and 2013) have caused havoc for Brisbane’s population but also resulted in the depth of the river both decreasing and deepening with the creation of new shoals and sandbanks.

Today, Brisbane is an energetic and exciting city jam-packed with cultural experiences, adventurous outdoor activities, entertainment and shopping precincts and a distinct laid-back vibe. Furthermore, its rapidly growing global reputation as a city of opportunity was affirmed by its selection as the host of the G20 Leaders Summit in November 2014. Make sure it’s on your itinerary for any visit Down Under!

Must-see and do list for Brisbane

You didn’t think I’d finished with Australia, did you? I’ve got a couple more posts this week and then I’m going to cover our Thanksgiving Stateside. I do however reserve the right to return to Australia later in the year.

I consider we were most fortunate to spend two glorious weeks in the Sunshine State’s capital Brisbane but if you weren’t as lucky as us, what should you focus on if you have less time available?

Most of the city’s main attractions lie along its river, so initially head on down to the Brisbane river.

Story Bridge

A monstrous mass of steel, Brisbane’s cantilevered Story Bridge is perhaps the most imposing of the city’s 16 river crossings. The 777metre (approx. 1/2 mile) long structure reaches from the dramatic Kangaroo Point cliffs to the vibrant Fortitude Valley precinct on the edge of the CBD (central business district). Designed in 1934 by Brisbane-born Dr John Bradfield, who was well known for his role as the chief engineer on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was opened on 28 October 1939.

A toll booth was established on one side to recuperate construction costs which were lifted much earlier than authorities expected, largely thanks to the increased traffic from US troops during WWII (the city was the Allied Forces’ headquarters for the South West Pacific campaign). The only reason you’d have to pay to cross the bridge these days is if you decide to do the Story Bridge Climb. I didn’t because I don’t like heights.

City Cat Ride

For only a few dollars, take a magnificent joyride along the Brisbane River to witness the entirety of Brisbane. From ferris wheels, skyscraper buildings, magnificent architectural bridges, historic properties and luscious parks, the City Cat is easily one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see Brisbane.

South Bank

What should probably be one of the first stops for any tourist in Brisbane, the South Bank is located perfectly in the city centre. The parklands here boast a beach, gardens, museums, galleries, library, restaurants, cafes, a movie theater and the Brisbane Eye, which is perfect for viewing the city lights in the evening. What’s more, regular theatre and performance events take place in the area, along with free fitness classes, children’s art workshops and open-air cinema showings. With stunning views across the river and onto Brisbane’s CBD, South Bank offers a selection of activities and some of the city’s best restaurant and bars.

While you’re there, don’t forget to visit:-

a). QAGOMA

The combined Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art is surely the jewel of the South Bank, if not Brisbane itself. Both galleries are housed in a single institution on the riverside, with a shared vision of being the leading institution for the contemporary art of Australia, Asia and the Pacific. Its collection comprises over 16,000 works of historical, modern and contemporary art, along with its supplementary programme of Australian and international exhibitions. The majority of exhibitions are free plus QAGOMA also has enough to entertain younger visitors too such as its permanent Children’s Art Centre which engages children with activities themed to coincide with current exhibits.

b). Nepalese Peace Pagoda

A relic of the World Expo ‘88 and now one of the South Bank’s most esteemed attractions, the Nepalese Pagoda was originally brought to Brisbane as the Kingdom of Nepal’s contribution to the Expo. The structure had been handcrafted over a two year period, using 80 tonnes of hard-carved Terai timber from the southern jungles of Nepal and employing the services of 160 Nepalese families. The Peace Pagoda now resides in the Southern Parklands, inviting quiet reflection and contemplation amidst the bustle of modern Brisbane.

c). The Arbour

The South Bank is an urban rambler’s dream with the Parklands and Cultural Precinct serving up a cornucopia of pleasing architecture and greenery. Both are wonderfully expressed in the Arbour, a kilometre-long pedestrian walkway connecting the Griffith Film School on the corner of Dock and Vulture Streets to the Cultural Forecourt and QPAC. The award-winning structure is comprised of 443 curling, galvanised steel posts, canopied over with eye-catching magenta bougainvillea flowers. A ribbon of yellow steel running through the structure fortunately makes the Arbour all-weather proof for walkers.

City’s Botanic Gardens

Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens are lush and tropical, thanks to the city’s warm climate. Positioned on the edge of the Brisbane River, the heritage-listed City Botanic Gardens, provide tranquillity next to Brisbane’s bustling CBD and include mature gardens with many rare and unusual botanic species. The Queensland Heritage Register describes the Gardens as:

The most significant, non-Aboriginal cultural landscape in Queensland, having a continuous horticultural history since 1828, without any significant loss of land area or change in use over that time. It remains the premier public park and recreational facility for the capital of Queensland, which role it has performed since the early 1840s.

New Farm Park Area

New Farm positively encourages an outdoor lifestyle, with tree-lined streets and unique spaces such as Brisbane Powerhouse and the heart of the suburb, New Farm Park. The park attracts visitors from all over with its perfect riverside picnic spots, cycling loops and tree house-style adventure playground. Nearby Teneriffe, once a farming area and industrial and commercial hub, has undergone an urban resurgence. Around the river’s bend, is greater Newstead, bursting with restaurants, bars and the iconic Newstead House. Now hit up James Street, which sits just a 10 minute stroll away. The veritable nerve centre of Brisbane’s shopping, loaded with outlets and high-street regulars, perfect for picking up Australia’s best in fashion, design and the latest trends. If you’re feeling peckish, the street also has plenty of restaurants and delis.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

We didn’t visit the sanctuary which was a big mistake as I didn’t get to see, let alone meet, any cuddly koalas.  Brisbane’s favourite native animal sanctuary, Lone Pine is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Here you can meet more than 130 koalas, hand-feed kangaroos and encounter other Australian wildlife.

Brisbane CBD

Between the many heritage buildings, some of which have been repurposed, and sleek glass skyscrapers, Brisbane City is a veritable treasure trove of things to see and do. Plus, it’s so easy to explore everything on foot from busy shopping streets and arcades, through to chic high-end restaurants and laid-back laneway spots for a craft beer or two.

And don’t get me started on Brisbane’s delightful suburbs!

Great Barrier Reef

When Sir David Attenborough refers to something as an “unforgettable and revelatory” experience you know it’s got to be good. Sir David himself classes the first time he donned scuba gear and dived on a coral reef as “the single most revelatory moment” of his life.

If the world’s most famous biologist isn’t convincing enough for you – he was for us – these fun facts will have you diving into a Great Barrier Reef holiday:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system made up of five distinct precincts each with their own characteristics and endemic wildlife:-
    • The wild north – A marine wilderness experience that is unspoilt and remote. For intrepid marine adventures from bountiful fishing, exploring untouched coral cays and meeting indigenous locals.
    • Cairns and Port Douglas Precinct – Where world heritage rainforest and reef meet. You can snorkel with Minke Whales, go diving or game fishing.
    • Townsville Precinct – Surround yourself with historic shipwrecks and unspoilt Islands.
    • Whitsundays and Mackay Precinct – Explore stylish Islands with a sailing adventure in the area known as the sailing mecca.
    • Southern Great Barrier Reef Precinct – Experience the beauty of an uncrowded getaway, explore laidback coastal towns and watch turtles nest and hatch from November to February.
  • It stretches 2600km (1625 miles) along the Queensland coast, so large, it can even be seen from space
  • Tourism to the reef generates approximately AU$5-6 billion per annum
  • It’s home to over 1,500 species of fish, abundant marine life and over 200 types of birds, it’s also one of Australia’s greatest conservation successes
  • A World Heritage Area since 1981 (the world’s first reef ecosystem to be recognised by UNESCO), it is highly protected and one of the best-managed marine areas on Earth
  • There’s more than 900 islands made for hammocks and long walks on the beach

Like most natural wonders, timing is everything. Although the reef never sleeps – like us, it’s best visited between June and October when temperatures are still warm enough for swimming but rainfall is minimal.

If you visit the reef between November and May, you can still swim, but you’ll have to wear a stinger suit – aka lycra from top-to-toe, including mittens, booties and balaclava – to protect you from jelly fish stings.

Aside from obvious weather factors like hot vs cold, seasons dictate the movements within the animal kingdom. Time your Great Barrier Reef holiday to see the following:

  • November/December – turtle nesting
  • January-March – turtle hatching
  • July-October – humpback whales
  • June/July – dwarf minke whales
  • Winter – manta rays

We visited just a couple of the precincts and were fortunate to see humpback whales from the air.

Whitsundays

In the Whitsundays there are plenty of day trip options leaving from Airlie Beach. We took a flight over the island and the Great Barrier Reef which was fantastic. A day or so later, we visited both again on a boat trip where we stopped at Whitehaven beach and my beloved snorkeled on some of the reef. I would say, don’t miss seeing the world’s most famous love heart and visiting at least one of the Whitsunday islands.

Townsville

Here you don’t even need to leave the mainland to see the reef. Townsville is home to the world’s largest living reef aquarium, Reef HQ, where you can see the creatures of the deep without donning the swimwear or mask to see them. If you want to go further afield, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.

Tropical North Queensland

This is possibly the epicentre of reef activity with everything from sunset sails, island adventures and week-long live aboard trips. However, we were reefed out at this point, happy to chill and enjoy the many charms of Port Douglas, though I suspect my beloved might have been happy to go snorkeling again!

If you ever get the opportunity to visit, grab it with both hands, it’s a truly magical place and one we’ll never forget.

Places from our #adventuredownunder we’d visit again

If it’s difficult to whittle down the highlights of our vacation, it’s just as challenging to choose where we’d happily visit again. Our previous vacations in Australia had covered Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide but while we’d investigated much of South Australia and Victoria, there was still plenty for us to still see in New South Wales and we’d yet to visit Queensland. This vacation sought, in part, to remedy that oversight.

We’re unabashed urbanites who love living on the beach which is why we live near Nice on the Cote d’Azur. We never like to be too far from all the amenities. However, we’re not really beach people. I rarely sit on a beach though I do love walking along a sandy beach. I could spend hours looking at the sea and love being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves.

Given that my beloved has already driven pretty much of the length of Australia’s east coast, any further trips to this region will be by plane or train. And we’d certainly love to visit certain parts and places again. Our next trip to Australia is scheduled for winter 2021/22 and we want to take in Western Australia, particularly Perth and the Margaret river. So it remains to be seen how many more trips we’ll take to this wonderful country.

In no particular order, here’s the places we’d happily visit again and I’m going to let my photos do the talking for me.

Noosa

Byron Bay

Brisbane

Sydney

Wolgan Valley

Port Douglas

Road trippin’ Down Under Part II

Driving around Australia has often turned into much more than driving from A to B as quickly as possible. It’s given us a fine appreciation of the varied and beautiful landscapes, land use and crop cultivation, the rigours of life in the Outback, distances, and how difficult it must have been for those early settlers – convicts or otherwise.

I spend hours researching where to stay and for how long and it was satisfying that as the trip unfolded I’d largely been proved correct. I say largely because there’s always places where we could have tarried longer or towns en route where I would have happily stopped and further investigated their charms.

In Airlie Beach we met a couple of retirees from Tasmania who were spending four months touring NSW and Queensland – now, that’s a holiday! I was suitably envious. What a great way to escape the rigours of a Tasmanian winter. In fact we met so many holiday makers from Tasmania that I suspected the island was closed for winter!

After two weeks in Brisbane, we were heading for possibly the most famous stretch of Australia, the north-eastern coast between Brisbane and Cairns, a must-see corner in the Land Down Under. From Brisbane in the South of Queensland right up to Cairns in the tropical North, we were advised that this mega road trip is a feast for beach lovers, sun worshippers, adrenaline seekers and adventurists. Mmmm, not sure we fit into any of those descriptions. We’ll just have to see!

This narrative covers our road trip spent partly on the M1 Motorway and thereafter on the A1, often referred to as the Bruce Highway, 1679 km (1,043 miles) via Cairns to Port Douglas. The highway was named after a popular former Queensland and federal politician, Harry Bruce who was the state Minister for Works, in the mid-1930s.

In some ways, the second half of our journey was more interesting as it wasn’t spent on a motorway with service stations. Instead we relied upon small restaurants, some little more than shacks beside the road, for snacks, lunches and comfort breaks. We’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. On the drive to Rockhampton, we stopped at a particularly unprepossessing establishment which was run by an elderly couple. Inside was spotless and my beloved ate his best scone ever! Sadly, I couldn’t get her to part with the recipe which she said was a closely guarded family secret. I knew I should’ve gotten the pliers out – only joking!

As the map above shows, there’s plenty to see and do along the way and we’d certainly have liked to spend more time visiting and exploring this part of the coast – maybe next time!

Our first stop was just a couple of hours up the road from Brisbane in Mooloolaba though we probably spent more time in Noosa, another spot famous for surfing. We enjoyed its beaches, lunched there, wandered around its national park and perused its shops and open-air markets.

Two hours further on from Noosa is Hervey Bay, famous for whale watching and an ideal jumping off point for Fraser Island. An exceptional UNESCO-listed island formed by great wind and oceanic currents which carried a vast amount of sand from Antarctica. It’s now home to diverse natural vegetation and wildlife which we didn’t have time to see.

Next up is Bundaberg home for over 100 years of the legendary Bundaberg Rum – gotta find another use for all that sugar cane! It’s only an hour’s drive from Hervey Bay and is the southernmost gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The town is flanked by captivating lagoons, coral cays and white beaches. Close by is Mon Repos Park, the largest home for nesting sea turtles on the Australian mainland.

En route to our overnight stop in the cattle town of Rockhampton, we swept through the beautiful historic town of Childers. Then we swooshed past Yeppoon, another coastal town known for its peaceful tropical vibe, near to Great Keppel Island renowned for its wildlife and magical sunsets. It’s nearby Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary takes care of orphaned, injured and sick wildlife. Sadly, most of the wildlife we saw on the side of the road was beyond caring for. It was roadkill.

As we drove further south, the vivid green sub-tropical became lush, dense totally tropical countryside. This included substantial tracts of cattle country with plenty of verdant green pastures though the earth frequently changed colour from a rich red to a sandy yellow-ochre.

We were heading for a few days in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. No road trip from Brisbane would be complete if you didn’t stop in this picture perfect spot.

 

We saw plenty of sugar cane fields being burnt prior to harvest and massive long trains carrying the harvested cane to the refineries as the railway often runs alongside and criss-crosses the Highway. The scenery was now totally tropical with avocados, mangoes, peanuts, afore-mentioned sugar cane, sweet corn and still more cattle as we headed to Townsville, an army town and the largest city in north Queensland. Townsville has always been a military town due to its strategic coastal position but it has a delightful old town to walk around, particularly along the Strand.

All too soon we were onto our last port of call, Port Douglas, an hour’s drive from Cairns. We hit the coast at Caldwell, famed for its crabs and lunched at the charming Art Deco town of Innisfail before turning off the highway and driving the last stretch alongside the ocean.

Port Douglas offers plenty of fun-filled activities and opportunities to relax thanks to its bustling beach life and the Great Barrier Reef. The nearby Daintree rainforest is arguably the oldest and one of the most scenic rainforests on earth where you can swim in mint green waters. Just watch out for the crocs – only kidding!

Hard to imagine that our six week #adventuredownunder was over. The time had just flown past but I now had time to reflect on all that we’d seen and done. Plenty of fodder for further posts!

Thursday doors #41

Here’s my last few doors from Australia. As I mentioned two weeks ago, I didn’t have a particularly large selection to choose from.

Brisbane beauty
Gold Coast shiner
Bangalow door, and no that’s not mispelt!

Four doors from Sydney’s CBD

A trio of doors from Townsville CBD

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Thursday doors #40

Here’s a few more doors from Australia. As I mentioned last week, I don’t have a particularly large selection because most of the wooden doors on older buildings appear to have been replaced with metal ones.

A rather elegant entrance in Brisbane
Art Deco block in Spring Hill
One from Townsville
A door in Sydney though probably not the original one

And finally, a trio from Brisbane’s beautiful City Hall

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Thursday doors #39

Finally, here’s some doors from Australia. I don’t have a particularly large selection because most of the wooden doors on older buildings appear to have been replaced with metal ones. I guess the problem is quite possibly termites.

This pair were being used for decorative purposes in Paddington

 

This is a church door in Townsville

 

These were the doors of a music venue in Fortitude Valley

 

Another church door on the walk back to Spring Hill from CBD

 

This door was in Noosa

 

This butcher’s shop was near New Farm in Brisbane

This bright blue door was also in Fortitude Valley, along with the wrought iron gates with cocktail glasses below.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Trottin’ round Townsville

There are so many lovely places in Queensland, it’s often hard to decide where to stop and for how long. Usually our destination determines where we stay along the way, othertimes it’s the most logical place to take a break. An overnight means we have relatively little time to explore, two nights gives us a whole day to look around.

Just over three hours from Airlie Beach is Townsville, another major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and Magnetic Island. The name may ring a bell as earlier this year the town received its entire annual total rainfall in a week! There was over a metre (4 feet) of rain, eclipsing records set in 1998 during a flood known as the “Night of Noah.”

To make matters worse for the terrified Townsville residents fleeing their homes, there were numerous sightings of crocodiles and snakes being swept along with the floodwaters. I’m pleased to report that I had no such sightings while I was there, but I did steer clear of storm drains – just in case!
On arrival we checked into our hotel where I scored another upgrade (and another spa bath!) and having dropped off our bags we headed out for lunch. Fortunately, we didn’t have to travel far as the hotel is situated on a road positively stacked with a great selection of restaurants. We headed to the busiest and were not disappointed!
After lunch we strolled around town looking for inspiration as to how we might spend the following day. My beloved said he’d love to go snorkeling again – sold. That meant I could have a day of peace and quiet further exploring this town.
After an early night, the following day my beloved headed out before sunrise for his day in a wetsuit (pictures here).He was fortunate to find himself on a large boat with a documentary crew, a marine biologist and another lady who kindly took the photos. He had a fabulous day out – result!
I had a much more leisurely start with my usual smashed avocado on toast and coffee while I planned how to spend my day. The weather was so lovely I settled for a walk along The Strand, which  learned had to be redeveloped after being heavily damaged by the afore-mentioned “Night of Noah”.
The Strand has plenty of facilities, plus loads of those colonial buildings I adore which indicate the town has some history. Indeed it’s Australia’s largest garrison town with Australian Defence Force bases and a fascinating military history.

Townsville – named after Robert Towns –  was founded in 1864 as a port for the fledgling pastoral industry in North Queensland. Following the discovery of gold in the immediate hinterland at Ravenswood and then Charters Towers, the town developed into the principal centre and de facto capital of North Queensland.

Given the town’s strategic location and importance it was logical to make it a military base. On commencement of WWI in 1914, the town’s Kennedy Regiment was sent to Thursday Island to protect it from attack by German forces in the Pacific.

Post-war, expansion continued particularly once further minerals were discovered nearby. Its first airport opened in 1939 and the Garbutt airfield became a Royal Australian Air Force base.

Between 1942 and 1945 Townsville played an important part in the War in the Pacific, becoming a major military base, accommodating up to 90,000 Australian, American and other allied service personnel. It was bombed on three occassions by the Japanese, and was used as a major offensive launching base during the battle of the Coral Sea.

Post-WWII, the town continued to serve as a strategic military post with the opening of the Jezzine Barracks (now transformed into an Aboriginal and military commemorative heritage site) at Kissing Point in 1964 and the establishment of the Lavarack Barracks for the transfer of the Australian 3rd Task Force in 1967. This occurred alongside the town’s commercial and educational expansion. 2016 saw the town celebrate its 150th anniversary.

It’s fair to say, Townsville exceeded our expectations but all too soon we were heading for our final stop in Queensland, Port Douglas. After re-fuelling at breakfast, we resumed our place on the Bruce Highway pointing the bonnet of our hire car northwards.