The riverside area to the south from the city is now known as “Southbank”. In former days, it was simply “South Brisbane” and was a sleazy run-down area with rotting old timber wharves, tired looking warehouses, ugly industrial developments, and drunk-infested old pubs. Now it is one of the jewels in Brisbane’s crown.
What brought about the dramatic change? The World Expo of 1988, Brisbane’s contribution to Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. In a flash of inspiration a large expanse of South Brisbane was cleared, with the exception of a few historic pubs, which were restored. Roads were diverted, massive landscaping undertaken, and the 1988 Expo achieved more than anything before or since to put Brisbane on the international map.
Very little remains of the Expo developments – after it had finished nearly all the buildings were removed, most of the roads torn up, and the area was redeveloped again: this time mainly as parkland. As you wander through the forested areas, with substantial trees and water features, it is hard to imagine that the parklands have not been there for far longer! Fortunately, the planners have recognised that people need some shelter from the blazing summer heat, and have provided shelter over many of the main walking paths. But it’s far more than parks, as you will find in the next two tips.
Main photo: Southbank ornamental lake and banyan tree
Second photo: Southbank paths and palms
Third photo: Southbank covered walkway.
As you wander through Southbank, you encounter a quite extraordinary sight (well, I think so, anyway). Before you is a sandy beach area surrounded by subtropical parkland and with the city skyline directly across the river. Should you venture there on a sunny summer weekend, you will find what seems a goodly proportion of Brisbane’s population enjoying a swim or just lying on the sand soaking up the sun. The use of the beach is free.
When we visited, not only was the artificial beach extremely busy, but it seemed that another large extension to the pool and beach is well on the way to being completed (it was concreted but empty). Yes, there even is a lifeguard service!
Not far from the beach are numerous restaurants (prices when we visited were reasonable and the food and coffee quite good). Close by them was an open air market and beyond that an old pub restored for Expo – if I hadn’t been so busily involved in doing VT research, I’d very possibly have slipped in for a cold beer! (Oh the sacrifices I make to keep you informed! :-) )
Main photo: Southbank beach (NB “Rivercat” ferry to right in background)
Second photo: Southbank beach.
Nearly all the national pavilions built for Expo have been removed (Nepal’s delightful hand-carved timber Pagoda is the exception). Come to a point, to demolish the Pagoda after Expo would have been a crime, for the quality and workmanship in the carved stone and timber is superb. You will find it between the “Rainforest Green” and the “Cultural Forecourt”, not far from the river.
Should you head west from the Pagoda, you will reach the Performing Arts Centre and the Queensland Museum and Art Gallery. A shortage of time on this trip dictated that my cultural development must await another trip – as will the VT tips on these facilities. I have not even touched on the accommodation, convention centre, or cinemas which are to be found in this area. Maybe other cities somewhere have a parkland precinct offering such diverse choices, but none comes to mind. You can find out more about the Southbank development at the website below.
Main photo: Nepalese Pagoda
Second photo: Nepalese Pagoda
Third photo: Detail of carvings at Nepalese Pagoda.
The Maritime Museum is at the eastern boundary of Southbank, adjacent to the (pedestrian and cyclist only) Goodwill Bridge. It is located in and around the historic South Brisbane Dry Dock and is sure to appeal to those with a maritime interest.
Here you can inspect the old Frigate “HMAS Diamantina” built in 1945, look at ship models, ship engines, details of shipwrecks and lighthouses. If you time your visit for the right day (check the website below), you may be able to take a tour down the river and back on the retired 1925 steam-powered tug “Forceful”. I had visited the Museum previously (sadly without a camera) and did not have time for a visit on this trip – but it is worthwhile if you have any historical or maritime interests. The entry charge is $7 for adults.
Open 0930 – 1630 (entry until 1530) except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday.
We were told the night market was a must visit, so we set off early evening with rain threatening. As soon as we reached the market light rain commenced but we continued to wander through the large colourful market, there were numerous stalls selling all things you expect at markets and more. The crowd was down, but we had a good time and there are many other interesting attractions within the Southbank area.
Southbank is a lovely recreation area on the banks of the Brisbane river. It is situated where Expo was once held.
There are all sorts of things to do here, lots of people enjoy the man made lagoon area. The walks around are nice, the Bouganvillea arches just beautiful when in bloom. There are Markets on the weekend! Plenty of nice outdoor eating areas, whether you bring your own for a BBQ or have a meal at a Restaurant or an outdoor Cafe.
Parking is available if you come by car, but its very expensive [$14]
You can walk to Southbank from the city centre, the bus service is good, or catch the Train and get off at Southbank or South Brisbane Stations and there is the City cat river ferry that will drop you off right there!
All up, its an enjoyable place for the whole family.
The site of the original settlement, this area of Brisbane was damaged in the floods of 1893. The CBD was moved to the north side of the river and the area became industrialised and run-down. It was given a new lease on life when used for the World Expo 88 site. After Expo the area was transformed into parkland.
There you can find rainforest, grassy areas, a beach, the riverside promenade and a beautiful avenue shaded by an arbour of bougainvillea. There are also shops and restaurants, a covered auditorium, a Nepalese pagoda gifted by Nepal after Expo and the more recent addition - the Wheel of Brisbane. South Bank is also the home of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
This beautiful recreational area covers 17 hectares of parklands in a wider 120 hectare precinct. This side of the river was developed for 1988 Expo, the dream of our then long term Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen. Once the site of pavilions, displays, restaurants and international country showcasing, this is now a beautiful and well used recreational site for locals and visitors - with roughly 5 million people visiting this site every year. The ony remnants of Expo are some of the utility buildings and a pub, and a 2 story pagoda, handcrafted for the event, and left as a gift from the Nepalese people.
The parkland runs for roughly 1km along the south bank of the Brisbane River - and now an attractive arbour runs along the stretch as a colourful bougainvillia covered shelter.
The range of activities are extensive, and I really like the fact that you can use the parklands for such a wide range of activities, and spend little or a lot - making it truly accessible for everyone. You can bring a picnic or BBQ, and guaranteed to find your own secluded spot amongt the meandering grassy areas. You can have a fish and ship or variety of other takeaways, or enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants dotted throughout the park.
There is a created and extensive beach area, complete with lifeguards, catering to a range of swimming and cooling needs - all adjacent picnic and supervision areas - looking over the Brisbane River and city.
At the southern end of the parklands is the Queensland Maritime Museum - where there are a range of memorabilia from our maritime past, including an old frigate, Diamantina, and steam tug, Forceful.
You can access the parklands from the city by either walking across the Goodwill Bridge or the Victoria Bridge, at either ends of the parklands.
The Queensland Museum, Art Gallery and Performing Arts Complex are also part of the Southbank precinct, access from the Victoria Bridge.
Southbank in Brisbane is one of a kind.
This is actually the site of the Brisbane World Expo back in the 1990's
There are many walks, formal gardens, rain forests, cafe's, restaurants, pubs etc, and on public holidays and at weekends, a huge market.
The most prominent feature though has to be the Beach, complete with Surf Lifesavers in the middle of the city. This is a hugely popular place for families and kids (both young and old).
When I lived close by, I would walk to work through here and there would be office workers swimming before work there.
On public holidays like Christmas day, you have to be there really early like 6am to be able to get one of the free public BBQ's provided by the Brisbane City Council for the day. Many Many families do this.
There are Showers provided free.
Southbank is a definate 'must see'. This was all new to me :o) How unusual,.... a beach right in the city!! And it's only a short walk across the bridge from the CBD. We really enjoyed our wander through this lovely place. Don't think I'd like to swim there though,....bit crowded for my liking :o)
This is a beautifully carved Pagoda that was left over from the World Expo of 1988. It is only one of three Nepalese Peace Pagodas outside of Nepal.
To build it required over 80 tonnes of Nepalese timber and over 150 Nepalese families to build the components which were then shipped to Australia.
There are three levels, one being for meditation, another, the Tea House, and the other area now has a small display of pictures and artifacts from the Expo '88.
Originally, the plan had been to remove the pagoda once the Expo was finished however, the people of Brisbane loved the pavilion so much they petitioned to keep it in the city.
It is a MUST SEE when in Southbank, the carvings are so beautifully done!
This is what I try to do at least once a week or once a fortnight.
It is great to throw on your blades or skates and spend the day skating along the Brisbane River at Southbank.
It is free (unless you do not have blades). But you can hire them from locations along the River from $4.00 (depending how long you want them etc).
The paths are all flat and it is such a beautiful and relaxing way to see the city.
Here is a real local tip:
If you are driving into the city it can be really expensive to park there all day, so what I do is go pay for a $5.00 movie ticket at Southbank Cinema and I get to park all day for free :)
Or you can park in the actual Southbank Parking for free if you spend $30 or more at lunch in Southbank (dont forget to validate your ticket!! lol)
We visited the Southbank Friday Night Market on a wet night and found the beach next to the market. The man made beach was deserted but I could imagine it being the place to be on a hot summer's night. The view of the city lights was spectacular.
Not much left of the "old girl!' but some interesting history.
In 1918, during the celebrations marking the end of the Great War, an 11 year old child, Hector Vasyli, of Greek ancestry, was struck by one of the vehicles in the parade and killed. A marble tablet was erected to his memory and a memorial service has been held at the site on Anzac Day ever since.
In 1969 when the bridge was being demolished, to be replaced by the present one, the tablet was removed for safe keeping. Brisbane City Council decided to retain that portion of the abutment which had originally held the memorial tablet and so it was returned to its original location on April 24, 1970. During storage the bronze relief head of the boy which decorated the tablet was lost, the young boy's sister provided a photograph of the boy from which a replacement likeness was cast.
On South bank end, by the river's edge, next to the "new" Victoria bridge is the Abutment. You can walk to the top, and just be that little higher up to view South Bank, the Brisbane River and CBD.
When visiting Southbank take your bathers and enjoy a swim at the beach by the river. There are pools for small children and deeper pools for adults. If you do not wish to swim just sit in the sand and enjoy the sun.