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!

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.

 

Moochin’ around Mooloolaba

After spending two weeks in Brisbane we finally headed up the coast towards Port Douglas but first, on the recommendation of friends, we spent a couple of nights on the Sunshine coast in the wonderfull named Mooloolaba, a mere 97 kilometres (60 miles) north of the state capital.

Mooloolaba derives from the Aboriginal word mulu, meaning snapper fish or mulla meaning red-bellied black snake – I hoped it’s the former as I certainly didn’t want to meet any of the latter. The land was originally owned by the Gubbi Gubbi nation of indigenous people but the area’s  timber resources attracted attention and by 1864, the first land was purchased at the mouth of the Mooloolah River by William Pettigrew who dominated the timber trade here for the next thirty years until he transferred his activities to Maroochydore, which offered better transport facilities, meaning less development of the coastal areas.

Originally the name ‘Mooloolah Heads’ was given to the area from the mouth of the Mooloolah River to the site of the present Charles Clarke Park on River Esplanade but its importance declined when Pettigrew transferred his activities to Maroochydore, establishing a sawmill there in 1891. Throughout 1898-1908 there was little development in the coastal areas. By 1919, Mooloolah Heads was more of a fruit growing and fishing area than a seaside resort.

In 1921 the first allotments of Pettigrew’s land which extended along the river frontage from the surf beach to Tuckers Creek were held. At the same time the name ‘Mooloolaba’ was adopted to differentiate between this developing area and the Mooloolah township on the North Coast Railway.

Always a popular destination for nearby Buderim settlers, holiday cottages and houses were built along the river and the narrow spit. These, and boarding houses, catered to growing number of visitors. Boat hire and fishing were also very popular. As public amenities and trafficable roads improved, Mooloolaba continued to develop as both a premier residential and holiday location.

Our friends are keen surfers. Looking at these pictures you can appreciate the allure of this resort. Just look at the cleanliness of its water. The photos below show that much of the accommodation along the promenade is relatively new.

The eagle eyed among you will have spotted a sculpture on the grass in the first picture. It commemorates Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”. Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series of the same name. Sadly, the native Queenslander Irwin died in 2006 after being fatally stung by a stingray barb while filming on The Great Barrier Reef. And you wonder why I don’t go swimming!

We spent the afternoon wandering along the promenade and beach, quickly exhausting Mooloolaba’s charms. Consequently, we decided to spend the following day further up the coast in Noosa which turned out to be more to our liking.

Postcard from Brisbane V

Much as I love my better half, it’s sometimes nice to have time on my own. Friday morning I decided that my poor benighted feet deserved some pampering and booked a luxury pedicure and foot massage. It was sheer bliss – money well spent!

Afterwards I pottered around the CBD doing a spot of window shopping, door and building spotting before enjoying lunch at a restaurant in Queen’s Plaza, an upmarket shopping mall in the CBD. I strolled back up the hill to our hotel, admiring the historic properties littering Spring Hill.

It’s one of the oldest residential neighbourhoods in Brisbane, with many houses dating from 19th century, including quaint workers cottages and terrace houses, along with beautifully restored heritage-listed buildings. The Windmill in Wickham Park was built by convicts in 1827 and was one of Queensland’s first stone buildings. Of equal historical significance are the Spring Hill Baths, built in 1886, much updated and still in operation today.

While I enjoyed a quiet night in, my beloved went to a Gala Dinner over near the river in some renovated and repurposed buildings in Howard Smith Wharves, by Story Bridge. He managed to miss the speeches, though not the dinner, by inadvertantly gatecrashing a lawyers’ champagne reception in another part of the building!

Saturday was a day of total relaxation spent sunning myself around the pool in the hotel until my beloved returned, worn out from a hectic but successful exhibition – early night!

Sunday we enjoyed brunch at a restaurant over in Paddington, before heading out to view Mt Tamborine in what’s known as The Scenic Rim. Tamborine comes from the local Yugambeh language and may refer to the native fruit, finger lime. It’s a volcanic plateau about 550 metres (344 feet) above sea level and you can see for miles, even as far as the Gold Coast!

Narrow, verdant country roads meander around the mountains which are home to some lovely property porn and quaint villages with boutique wineries and an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. We drove around the area but could equally have visited the Tamborine National Park with its spectacular Falls probably best viewed from the elevated Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk – not for those of us who dislike heights – and the Botanical Gardens.

On Monday we enjoyed an early breakfast in the same restaurant I’d eaten lunch in on Friday before ambling along the Broadwalk which runs on the city side of the Brisbane River, walking all the way to New Farm, Newstead and Teneriffe: three adjacent areas fronting the Brisbane River, northeast of the CBD, that have been subject to significant, successful urban renewal.

These areas formerly played significant roles in the industrial life of Brisbane from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, with much of the activity clustered around the river which was an important transport corridor. Brisbane Gas Company’s gasworks opened in 1887 with the Colonial Sugar Refinery constructed in 1893. These were followed by timber yards, coal yards and wool stores which were disused and neglected 100 years’ later.

Many of these industrial buildings are now listed and have been beautifully renovated to “create sustainable livework communities in the inner city, revive local economies, deliver affordable housing and reverse the exodus of residents and businesses.”

Tuesday lunchtime I had arranged to meet with fellow blogger Lyn Douglas not far from where she works as a volunteer, over in New Farm. Lyn had just returned from what sounded like a really fabulous trip to North America, don’t forget to check out her blog for details. It was so lovely to meet with her and thank her for all the useful tips she’d provided me with while planning our stay in Brisbane.

Meeting Lyn in New Farm gave me an opportunity to further explore Fortitude Valley, particularly the shops over in James St, a tree covered promenade studded with jewel-like, largely upscale boutiques.

It’s just a two minute stroll from the heart of Fortitude Valley where we spent Wednesday morning and is without a doubt the place to be seen at one of the chic bars and cafes that line the street. In addition, the James Street Market has a fabulous selection of edible goodies.

James St is also home to an array of fashion and homeware retailers that has earned it a reputation as one of Brisbane’s most stylish strips. I was so taken with the area that I dragged my beloved back there that evening for dinner in a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant.

Wednesday and what do you know it’s time to move on to Mooloolaba. But before we said good bye to Brisbane we ate a leisurely lunch in nearby Paddington again. We’d had a wondeful time in Brisbane and if you want to know more about this city don’t forget to check out Brisbane resident Lyn’s blog (link above) and that of Sam, who spent time working in Brisbane. It’s a fabulous place and well worth an extended stay.