At the suggestion of my lovely friend Theresa, I recently took part in a Brisbane Greeters Tour. Launched in early 2012, the Brisbane Greeters program is part of a Global Greeters Network. In fact, it is one of 66 Greeters programs operating around the world.
HOW DO GREETERS TOURS WORK?
Brisbane Greeters Tours are conducted by volunteers who are locals and really know their stuff. They are passionate about the city they live in and love sharing that knowledge with visitors from both Australia and overseas.
When you book a Greeters Tour you can either choose a tour surrounding a particular topic of interest such as art, history or churches or you can choose a Greeters Choice Tour. As I come from NSW originally I really don’t know a lot about the history of Brisbane so that is what I chose as the focus of our tour.
Generally most Greeters tours meet in King George Square just outside the Brisbane City Town Hall. We were assigned Greeter Elizabeth and while we were waiting for her we chatted with another Greeter. Philip was taking his two overseas visitors on a bicycle tour utilising the city’s pushbikes that are available for hire but are available free of charge for Greeter tours.
When our Greeter Elizabeth arrived we were joined by another overseas visitor. Stephanie from Spain who was in Brisbane for three weeks and thought the Greeters Tour would be a great way to learn about the city.
BRISBANE TOWN HALL
Our first stop was the Brisbane City Town Hall. Officially opened in 1930 it is an imposing sandstone building covering an area of about 2 acres. It underwent extensive restoration work between 2010 and 2013 as it was literally sinking.
I was most impressed by the beautiful marble interior of the King George Foyer and the amazing 4300 pipe Father Henry Willis Organ which is located in the main auditorium. For a more in-depth look at Brisbane Town Hall you can book a guided tour on line. Brisbane Town Hall is also home to the Museum of Brisbane.
From there we walked up into the Brisbane Arcade. Built in 1923 it is one of the oldest shopping destinations in Brisbane and features lots of stained glass windows and timber and iron work. Coming out into Queen Street Mall, which is the main Brisbane city shopping precinct we popped into the Brisbane Visitor Information and Booking Centre, which I must have walked past a dozen times without ever noticing it. Housed in the historical Regent Theatre it is your one stop shop for all your information on Brisbane and the surrounding areas.
Another thing I had never done when in Queen Street Mall was to look up. When I did, I realised how many of the original old facades of the buildings have been preserved and incorporated into the new buildings, cleverly blending the old and the new together.
TREASURY CASINO AND HERITAGE HOTEL
At the top of Queen Street Mall you will find the Treasury Casino and Hotel. Opened in 1995 this very clever restoration has seen a modern facility – the casino – built inside one of Brisbane’s oldest buildings – The Treasury. Just across from the Casino in what was formerly the Lands Administration Building is the Treasury Heritage Hotel. Both are very regal looking buildings and it’s wonderful that they have been preserved and used as well.
Continuing our walk along William Street we came to the Commissariat Store. The bottom two floors were built by convict labour between 1828 and 1829 with the third floor being added in 1913. Originally, it was the supply store for the then fledgling colony of Brisbane however it is now a museum and opens from Tuesday to Friday. Entry costs just $7.00 for adults.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE AND OLD GOVERNMENT HOUSE
We then continued walking along William Street and then turned into George Street until we reached Parliament House which is located right opposite the City Botanic Gardens. Another historic building it was commenced in 1864 but wasn’t completed until 1889. Tours are available or you can enjoy a monthly High Tea in the Strangers Dining Room.
Just next door to Parliament House is the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Built in May 1862, Old Government House is located in the university grounds. Following it’s restoration it was opened to the public in 2009. Entry is free and the house is open every day except for Saturday’s. There is a lovely cafe located in the Courtyard area of the house which looked very inviting.
ST STEPHENS CATHOLIC CHURCH
Our final destination of our tour was St Stephens Catholic Church in Elizabeth Street. Taking several years to complete it is not as large as the original plans envisaged it would be. But what I found more remarkable than the church itself was the smaller St Stephens Chapel which houses a shrine to Mary MacKillop.
At the end of tour we enjoyed sitting down with our Greeter for lunch and some more chatting.
I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and as a result I learnt so much about Brisbane and it’s history. I am really looking forward to exploring some more of our destinations.
If you think a Brisbane Greeters Tour might be for you, you can book your free greet on-line. Make sure you wear some comfy walking shoes and bring a camera, hat and water.