Categories > Guides and Tips

15 Interesting Facts About Brisbane

15 Interesting Facts About Brisbane

When people think of Australia, they often think of Sydney or Melbourne. But Brisbane, the city that we love and know deserves its own spotlight! 

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland or the Sunshine State, has the third biggest population among the cities in Australia and is a favorite among tourists as well. 

Beyond its amazing scenery and year-round sunshine, you’ll find that it has a rich history, culture, flora and fauna, plus some surprising quirks, too! 

So let’s check out these interesting facts about Brisbane!

1. Brisbane – what’s in a name? 

Brisbane was named after the Brisbane River, which is the longest river in Southeast Queensland. The name originated from Sir Thomas Brisbane who was the New South Wales governor from 1821 to 1825. 

1. Brisbane – what’s in a name
Image Source: Picryl via State Library of Queensland

“Bris” means “to break or smash” from Scottish Gaelic origins, and “ban” came from an Old English word that means “bone.”

Locals call the city “Brissie” / “Brizzy”, “Brisvegas,” and is also popularly known as “River City” because of the Brisbane River. 

It’s also a good thing to take note that Australians pronounce it as “Briz-buhn.” 

2. Everyday’s a Sun Day! (well, almost)

We love that Brisbane has 283 sunny days in a year! The city enjoys a sub-tropical climate with warm weather averaging 21 to 30°C most of the year. 

2. Everyday’s a Sun Day! (well, almost)
Image Source: Flickr via Wayne Williams

So we like to make the most out of this great climate to do outdoor activities such as hiking, visiting national parks, going to nearby islands and beaches, and more! A walk in the city’s parks is also a perfect way to enjoy the sunny days. 

3. Brisbane has the largest koala sanctuary

3. Brisbane has the largest koala sanctuary

One of the most popular things about Australia is that it’s home to the most adorable marsupials, the koala bears! But many don’t know that the first and largest koala sanctuary can be found in Brisbane at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. 

This serves as a habitat to more than 100 koalas as well as 70 different species of Australian native wildlife. If you want to see these furry friends up close, then Lone Pine is the perfect place! 

It’s great that it’s very accessible from the Brisbane CBD as it’s just 12 kilometers away. It’s also good to know that Lone Pine is accredited for positive animal welfare by the Zoo and Aquarium Association. 

4. Brisbane has a man-made beach

4. Brisbane has a man-made beach
Image Source:

Queensland boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, and having a mini oasis in the heart of its capital city showcases what the Sunshine State’s all about! 

Streets Beach is the country’s only inner-city, man-made beach and it’s located within the South Bank Parklands. You can take a dip in the blue lagoon surrounded by palm trees, white sand, and a view of the Brisbane River and city skyline! 

Who would’ve thought that you can go for a quick swim, work on your tan, or spend some quality family time – all in this little piece of paradise in the heart of Brisbane?

And the best part? It’s free! 

5. Brisbane has an Underground Opera in Spring Hill Reservoir

5. Brisbane has an Underground Opera in Spring Hill Reservoir
Image Source: Underground Opera Company Facebook Page

From a beach within the city center, we go underground to an opera house in the Spring Hill Reservoir. Yes, it’s literally underground! 

The Spring Hill Reservoirs were built in the late 1800’s and served as Wickham Terrace’s water reservoirs. They’re now heritage-listed sites as well as the most unique entertainment venue! 

The founder of this unlikely opera space, Bruce Edwards, used to be a miner for 20 years. One day when he was down in the mines, he thought of testing out the acoustics and discovered how amazing the sound was – and the rest, as they say, was history! 

He’s now the director of the Underground Opera Company and continues to search for the most unique venues to stage operas and musicals. 

They hold performances in the Underground Opera at the Spring Hill Reservoir every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

6. Brisbane’s Aboriginal History

6. Brisbane’s Aboriginal History

Before English colonization, Aboriginal people occupied the Brisbane region and surrounding areas, primarily by the Turrbal, Yugara, and Quandamooka people. 

Brisbane was known as “Meanjin” by the Aboriginal people, which means “place shaped like a spike.”

The earliest record of human occupation in the southeast region of Queensland was in North Stradbroke Island, known as Minjerribah in Jandai (Aboriginal language). 

7. The Brisbane Naval Base was a major US Navy base during World War II

7. The Brisbane Naval Base was a major US Navy base during World War II
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A major US Navy base was built in Brisbane during World War II and started operations on April 14, 1942 until the end of the war in 1945. 

The base initially served as a post for patrol and convoy escort aircraft and eventually expanded into a submarine port, seaplane base, repair depot, and others. 

About 800 US service personnel were stationed at Capricorn Wharf at New Farm (Teneriffe). While the submarine bases in Brisbane and Fremantle played an important role in the war led by Admiral James Fife. 

8. There used to be convicts’ barracks on Queen Street 

8. There used to be convicts’ barracks on Queen Street
Women’s Prison / Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Queen Street is known to be a popular shopping destination in the Brisbane CBD, but it was a totally different place in the 1800’s. 

From 1824 to 1859, Queen Street housed convicts and prisoners in a building where the Brisbane Square now stands. A few years later, a new building was constructed at the corner of today’s Queen Street and Albert Street. 

The convicts’ barracks housed approximately 900 prisoners and by 1837, only 150 male prisoners remained. 

A separate barracks for approximately 70 women prisoners was constructed in 1829 where the post office on Queen Street is currently located. In 1837, the women’s prison relocated to Eagle Farm due to security issues. 

But the problems didn’t involve women breaking out of prison. Instead, it was because of men breaking in! 

9. The City Hall in Brisbane is the largest city hall in Australia

9. The City Hall in Brisbane is the largest city hall in Australia
Image Source: Brisbane City Council

The Brisbane City Hall is a heritage-listed site constructed between 1920 and 1930 and is the largest city hall in Australia! 

If you want to explore Brisbane’s history, the City Hall is the perfect place to visit with guided tours available daily. The tours feature the Father Henry Willis Organ, the Main Auditorium, and the iconic Clock Tower. 

The Museum of Brisbane can also be found here that showcases the City of Brisbane’s collection of artworks and exhibits by some of the city’s leading contemporary artists. It’s open seven days a week and is located on Level 3 of the City Hall. 

The rest of the City Hall also serves as venues for various free or ticketed events and is open to the public seven days a week.

10. There are 15 major bridges that cross the Brisbane River

10. There are 15 major bridges that cross the Brisbane River
Goodwill Bridge – a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists connecting South Bank Parklands and Gardens Point / Image Source: Wikimedia Commons 

The Story Bridge might be the most “storied” bridge in Brisbane but there are actually a total of 15 major bridges that cross over the Brisbane River. 

The bridges were planned in a way that diverts vehicle and foot traffic from the Brisbane CBD. 

Most of the bridges accommodate vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, while some are part of the railway system. 

11. The Brisbane Story Bridge has a twin! 

11. The Brisbane Story Bridge has a twin!
Jacques Cartier Bridge / Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you think the Brisbane Story Bridge is kind of familiar, then you’re most certainly right! The bridge was inspired by the design of the Jacques Cartier Bridge that crosses over Saint Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. 

The Story Bridge is a heritage-listed steel cantilever infrastructure serving pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles crossing from the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane. It is named after a prominent public figure in the early 1900’s, John Douglas Story. 

The bridge started operations on July 6, 1940 and provided a lot of people jobs during the Great Depression. It’s also the largest steel bridge designed and built in Australia by Australians. 

Today, visitors can experience the Story Bridge Adventure Climb where you can climb the steel bridge and get a bird’s-eye view of Brisbane and its surrounding landscapes! 

12. Australia’s famous dessert was first made in Brisbane

12. Australia’s famous dessert was first made in Brisbane

Just like many great things, Australia’s famous lamington dessert was made by accident! 

First invented in Queensland between 1896 to 1901 in Toowoomba, it was created during the time of Queensland governor Lord Lamington, from whom its name originated.  

Historical accounts say that sponge cakes were the governor’s favorite dessert and one of the servants accidentally dropped the cake into chocolate syrup. 

They didn’t want to waste food so Lord Lamington suggested covering it in coconut so it wouldn’t be too messy to eat. The governor was really delighted by this accidental concoction and deemed it a sweet success! 

There’s another account wherein Lord Lamington’s chef, Armand Galland, was asked to prepare food for some unexpected guests. With leftover sponge cake, chocolate, and coconut, Galland impressed the guests and they even asked for the recipe.

Today, the lamington cake remains to be a popular Australian delicacy and there’s even a day dedicated to it every July 21st (National Lamington Day). 

13. Ekka is the biggest annual event in Queensland

13. Ekka is the biggest annual event in Queensland
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Ekka is a widely celebrated agricultural show in Queensland and it’s held every year at the Brisbane Showgrounds! 

The event is organized by the The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. While the event title, “Ekka” is simply short for “exhibition”, and it’s formally called the “Royal Queensland Show.”

The event showcases the best that Queensland has to offer. From award-winning food and wine, live entertainment, and carnival rides, to 10,000 animals, giant vegetables, activities for the whole family, and more! 

The first ever Ekka show was held in 1876 celebrating traditions that have been passed down by families for generations. Locals also regard it as the most important event since 1859, when Queensland was separated from New South Wales. 

14. Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are two of the largest sand islands in the world

14. Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are two of the largest sand islands in the world
Moreton Island

Did you know that the three largest sand islands in the world are found in Australia? And more specifically, they’re all located within Queensland! 

Two of which, North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island, are just off the city of Brisbane and are the second and third biggest sand islands in the world. 

The biggest one is Fraser Island located in the Wide Bay-Burnett region in Queensland and is about 250 kilometers north of Brisbane. 

All three islands are popular tourist destinations each with its own charms and an array of activities to enjoy in the water or on sand!

15. Jackie Chan’s movie ‘Jackie Chan’s First Strike’ was shot at Chinatown in Fortitude Valley

15. Jackie Chan’s movie ‘Jackie Chan’s First Strike’ was shot at Chinatown in Fortitude Valley
Image Source: Flickr

Fortitude Valley, typically called “The Valley” by locals is a must-visit area in Brisbane as it’s brimming with the hippest bars, finest restaurants, and coziest cafes. It’s a go-to shopping and dining destination, and entertainment hub in the River City. 

Brisbane’s Chinatown is also located in the Valley where it was featured in the film, “Jackie Chan’s First Strike” as one of its filming locations. 

The filming began in August to November 1995 and the movie was released in February 1996. 

Related topics