Dive into the past: Historic tours around Brisbane
Get a real taste of Brisbane’s Aboriginal culture with a bush tucker tour; live the little-told stories of famous Brisbane women from history; or learn why island life was no paradise for the convicts and prisoners held during the city’s colonial beginning. Take a historic tour to discover the people, ghosts, stories and decisions that have shaped Brisbane into the city it is today.
These walking, coach and boat tours take a deep dive into the past with theatrical storytelling used to retell the true tales of tragedy, darkness, crime, war, love and death. Have a read and see which historic tour around Brisbane spikes your interest.
Join a local Aboriginal tour guide and walk in the footsteps of their ancestors through the heart of Meeanjin (Brisbane City). Black Card offers a few tours, including a three-hour art tour, looking at practices from the oldest continuing living culture in history; a 90-minute cultural precinct tour looking at public artworks; and a parkland and riverside tour where you wander a bush tucker trail of native species.
Go on a journey with Aboriginal culture at this evening theatre experience. Head back in time to the 1800s and watch two very different cultures learn to live alongside each other. The story is told through song, dance, effects and live interaction as you walk through the Beenleigh Historic Village. Afterwards, you get to sit down to a barbecue feast.
Dive into Aboriginal culture and food with an experience at the Nudgee Waterholes, 25 minutes north of Brisbane. These appointment-only tours offer a connection to this culturally significant place through stories, bush tucker tasting and performance.
Crime and ghost tours
The stark red brick walls of Boggo Road Gaol have plenty of stories to tell. Opened in 1883, over its 109 years as an active prison the Gaol was once a place of execution and held killers and violent offenders in its cells. Now you can drop by seven days a week for the 11am history tour, or come once a month for the Prisoner Tour (guided by a former prisoner), Escapes Tour, or the Officer Tour (guided by a former officer). More importantly, drop by Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights for thrills and chills with the two-hour Ghost Tour.
Get up close and personal with Australia’s dark colonial past. Perhaps the state’s most historic island, St Helena Island became Queensland’s maximum security prison for men from 1867 to 1932. Just 5km from the mainland, and with a fascinating and colourful past, a historical tour is the best and only way to access and see the island's many features including the gaol, blacksmith shop, punishment yard, sugar mill, lime kiln, olive grove and museum.
Cat O Nine Tails Cruises take tours all year long, offering day trips or night ghost tours with the St Helena Theatre Troupe. Brisbane Cruises also offer day tours of the island, plus a night tour using lanterns, torches and theatrics.
Are you a sucker for those true crime podcasts? Relive Brisbane’s dark past IRL with historian Jack Sim on one of Australia’s longest-running crime tours. He combines historic sites with storytelling, sharing the tales of Brisbane’s worst criminals through tales of tragedy, crime, murder, mystery, magic, love and death. The 90-minute walking tour is a great spot to start, then there are a heap of different tours by coach.
The people behind Brisbane Crime Tours also run ghost tours through five of Brisbane’s oldest cemeteries plus four ghost tours. Join crime researcher and storyteller Jack Sim for a night of classic local ghost stories, urban legends and myths and true tales of tragedy, crime and murder.
History and historic architecture tours
Sure, you can walk through the halls of Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence in your own time – but joining one of the three weekly tours will provide countless more insights. Tours through the grand old homestead run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11.30am. Learn about the history, the collection and the real people who made this landmark their home.
One of Australia’s most prolific writers, famous Brisbane novelist Rosa Praed (1851-1935) is here to show you around town sharing HerStory. This theatrical tour offers deep insights and an enriching perspective on the lifestyle and life choices of women in Brisbane through the ages. Known for her quick wit and social commentary, Ms Praed was ahead of her time and is here to tell you about the city’s extraordinary female characters from the past.
Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of wartime. History comes alive through the story of local lad and decorated war hero Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Augustus Stanley at 7pm about once a month at Fort Lytton. Professional actors bring lost stories from the Great War to life through light, projection and sound at the heritage-listed Fort Lytton, which acted as Brisbane’s front line of defence from 1881 to 1930. Email [email protected] for more.
On the first Sunday of even months (February, April, etc) two field guns and one 64pdr garrison gun are fired in a re-enactment. It’s loud. It’s spectacular. The Fort Lytton Historical Association also run guided tours most Sundays.
Learn about the art, architecture and history of Brisbane City Hall. "The People's Place" was built between 1920 and 1930 and acted as the backdrop to many cultural, social and civic events. The heritage-listed building in the heart of Brisbane is still active to daily city life – free and ticketed concerts happen in the main hall, and the Lord Mayor’s office is on the upper floors. Accompanied by a professional guide, free tours provide further access to different parts of the building as possible. Free guided tours are available inside City Hall seven days a week starting at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm.
Imagine living in the pylon of a bridge? See where and how the tollmaster and his family lived on a free tour of the historic Walter Taylor Bridge near Indooroopilly. It’s one of many historic "Greets" the Brisbane Greeters run throughout Brisbane. Since the Greeters are a group of volunteers, bookings are required at least seven days ahead.