Brisbane South Bank Park
I left Brisbane which had been my home for thirteen years and brought my two young children back home to England to start a new life by ourselves in April 1989. We had spent the previous year enjoying the wonderful Expo 88 which was on the South bank of the Brisbane River. As we had season tickets I must have taken the children at least three times a week as there was always something new to see or do there.
After Expo finished there was a lot of discussion as to what should be done with the area. Some eco conservationists wanted in returned to natural parkland whist others wanted something a bit more exciting that would be used by more people than dog walkers and joggers. Finally after a lot of fuss the plans for the South Bank Parkland were published and it looked like Brisbane was going to get a really lovely missed area with some rainforest areas, some cafe and restaurants and some play areas and pools all alongside the river and next to the museums and art galleries that were already there.
I left before this was finished and so when we returned to Brisbane in 2010 I was very interested in seeing this new area by the river known to locals as the South Bank. Unfortunately the one thing that Brisbane has learned to do in the last 30 years was to charge exorbitant fees for parking the car anywhere near the city. We parked a little way away from the South Bank but a walk able distance and for 3 hours parking we paid nearly $25 which is London prices and a totally outrageous price. The same is charged at the Airport and other places in the city. The idea of this being they want you to use the public transport, buses, the River Cat (wasn't running when we were there because the river was dangerously high) and trains. That is all very fine and jolly if you know where and how to get this transport and if you are not making your way from one area, passing through Brisbane briefly before driving on to the next place. You have to leave your car somewhere secure as it is full of all your luggage so a car park is really the only option. My husband was NOT impressed.
Anyway, to the park which we walked to through the South Bank railway station and then just under the end of the Victoria Bridge which crosses the river from the South Bank into the city.
It has been very well done and we enjoyed walking through the lovely rainforest area on the wooden walkways and seeing the tropical flowers and huge trees. If you looked carefully you could spot the odd tiny frogs but they were pretty well hidden, unfortunately the mosquitoes were not quite so shy and they were plentiful in this area which spoilt it a little. Sadly, I understand from my friends that this area was pretty well washed away in the floods at the start of this year.
The one exhibit that remained from Expo was the Nepalese Pagoda which was a gift to Brisbane from Nepal. It is very pretty but a little out of place. However this was another feature that suffered in the recent flood but hopefully it will be restored to its former glory as it was pretty and a reminder of Expo 88. It was also somewhere peaceful to sit in the shade which is always a bonus in the hot summer days.
There were a number of pools including a huge beach area which had paddling areas and some deeper pools. There was a lot of controversy over the deeper areas as some people felt they were dangerous. Recently pool laws and fencing regulations for private pools have been tightened but this beach area and pool is to remain unfenced. Many are concerned as a lot of young people do drink and then hang around the area but my view is they want to drown themselves then they will. This area is right beside the huge Brisbane River so people are just as likely to fall in there and drown if they are drunk. The river edge has a wall but it is not that high and then there are rocks and then the river. The walk way goes all along the river from the Captain Cook bridge to the Story Bridge with a break in the middle which was being done up when we were there.
Apart from these pool areas and sandy mock beaches there are playgrounds with swings, slides and climbing things for younger children. They have tried to provide shade by planting trees and having large umbrellas type sail covers which keeps some of the sun off in summer.
The part I was most impressed with was the beautiful bougainvillea arch which was a long tunnel of purple and green that went for some distance along the inner part of the park near the cafes and restaurants. We sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee at a cafe and were immediately joined by three enormous ibis which wander round the park a bit like pigeons in Trafalgar square. You can't turn your back on your food as they are very cheeky and just hop up on the table while you are there eating They stand about two foot high and have huge long pointed beaks about 10 inches long so they are a force to be reckoned with. You are not meant to feed them but they don't wait to have food offered they just help themselves.
There are, or were prior to the big flood, at least twenty cafes and restaurants in the park but don't think this is a cheap place to eat. Nowhere in Australia is cheap it seems. We paid nearly £10 for a couple of coffees and when we looked at the rather smart restaurant the prices were easily English prices if not a bit more. We had made some sandwiches in our hotel at the Gold Coast and so we ate these sitting like a couple of oldies on a bench watching the river rushing by and the seagulls perching on posts enjoying a bit of sunshine which we had not seen much of at all while we were in Queensland, the so called 'Sunshine State'.
I enjoyed the chance to wander around the park and thought that it was a good use of the area but I know many people in Brisbane do not like it. So sad that so much of it was washed away in the big floods in January this year 2011 and it has taken a lot of money and effort to get it back and running again. A lot of the park is open again and the main pools are open and have been since Easter week end although the big lagoon pool is still being repaired.
According to the website these parts of the park are now open; the children's play park the Boat pool and all the retailers bar two are trading. The markets are running again as normal on Friday evenings from 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays during the day. The South Bank CityCat and City Ferry terminals have re-opened as well so one more option to save you paying exorbitant car parking in the car parks. If you are visiting in the near future you will still have part of the park fenced off while repairs continue to the main lagoon, the rainforest walk and the rainforest, and the riverside restaurants. So it will be a while before it is fully restored to the lovely park and entertainment area it was.
Although it was sad that so much of Brisbane was destroyed and I really felt for all my friends and relatives out there, it was a huge relief that in the main it was only property that suffered. With a lot of hard work and money the people of Queensland will get back to normal in time unlike those poor souls in Japan.
So if you are visiting Brisbane take a walk down to the South bank area. I would suggest trying another way other than taking the car. There are buses from various parts of the city and suburbs and there are trains as well as the River cat which normally runs up and down across the river except when the river is dangerously full and fast flowing.
The South bank area is also the home of the Brisbane Museum, theatre and art Gallery complex where exhibitions are held and you can see plays and performances so this part of the city is a good place to be near. If you are staying in the actual city then it is simply a matter of walking across the Victoria Bridge and you are there.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.