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Brisbane Botanic Gardens

  • 600067
  • 147 Alice Street, Brisbane City


Also known as
Walter Hill Fountain; Queen's Park; Botanic Gardens Brisbane
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
3 February 1997
Parks/gardens/trees: Garden—botanic
2.6 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Managing flora and fauna
2.7 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Experimenting, developing technologies and innovation
6.3 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Developing urban services and amenities
Tiffin, Charles
Construction periods
1828, Surveyed and horticulture began
1867, Walter Hill Fountain
unknown, Grounds extended (by 1866)
Historical period
1824–1841 Convict settlement
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


147 Alice Street, Brisbane City
Brisbane City Council
-27.47574745, 153.0300258


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are historically important as the most significant, non-Aboriginal cultural landscape in Queensland, having a continuous horticultural history since 1828, without any significant loss of land area or change in use over that time. It remains the premier public park and recreational facility for the capital of Queensland, which role it has performed since the early 1840s.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

Plant collections date to the 1850s, many having been planted by Walter Hill, the first Director of the Botanic Gardens. Many of the specimens are either rare in cultivation or of great maturity or both. Many important plant introductions to Queensland, of both an agricultural and ornamental nature, can be traced directly to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and the work of its early curators.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

These gardens are important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of an evolving public and botanical garden dating from the mid-19th century, containing the most extensive mature gardens in Queensland. There are a number of historic structures in the gardens, including the Walter Hill Drinking Fountain (1867), the former band pavilion (1878), the boundary stone walls, gates and cast iron railings (1865-85), the former bear pit shelter (1905), the former curator's residence (1909) [now the kiosk], the riverwall from Edward Street to the Domain (1918), the southern stone staircase on the riverbank (1918-19) and the middle and northern stone staircases (both 1923-24). The place also contains a number of historically significant early engineering projects, including the stormwater drainage system (1865 onwards), reticulated water supply from Enoggera Dam (1867) and underground electricity supply for lighting purposes (1907).

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are significant as a Brisbane landmark and for their visual amenity and natural wildlife values as the major verdant landscaped area in the city's central business district.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Many important social events have taken place within the gardens, and the place is generally held in high regard by the local community and is a popular destination for visitors to Brisbane.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

The place has a special association with the pioneering work of curators Walter Hill (1855-81), Philip MacMahon (1886-1905), JF Bailey (1905-1917) and Ernest Walter Bick (1917-1939).


Much of the present-day Botanic Gardens was surveyed and selected as the site for a Public Garden in 1828 by the NSW Colonial Botanist Charles Fraser. During the convict period, part of the land was used for growing crops.

In 1855 a portion of several acres was declared a Botanic Reserve. In the same year Walter Hill was appointed Curator of the Botanic Reserve, and began an active planting and experimental program. He made a major contribution to the development of commercial crops in Queensland including tobacco, sugar, grape vines, wheat, tropical fruits, fibrous, dyeing and tanning plants and tea, coffee and spices. He encouraged the work of the sugar pioneer John Buhot which culminated in the first production of granulated sugar in Queensland in April 1862. Hill also supported the work of the Queensland Acclimatisation Society which was formed in 1862, and the Botanic Gardens was the propagation and distribution point for the Society's imports.

By 1866 Hill had succeeded in having the extent of the Botanic Gardens enlarged to approximately 27 acres (11 ha). A 10 acre (4 ha) strip along Alice Street was not part of the Gardens but served as a park and sporting field known as Queen's Park.

Early building work in the area included a Superintendent's cottage in the late 1850s, a platform for a battery of cannon in the early 1860s, a stone and iron fence around Queen's Park in 1865-66 [utilising stone from the old gaol on Petrie Terrace], and a drinking fountain in 1867. The fountain, designed by Colonial Architect Charles Tiffin, was erected only a year after reticulated water from the Enoggera reservoir was introduced to Brisbane. It later became known as the Walter Hill fountain.

Scientific activity was complemented by public recreational use of the Gardens, along with the Domain (on the southern boundary of the Gardens) and Queen's Park. By the 1880s, some of the scientific work previously performed by the Botanic Gardens was being carried out by the Queensland Acclimatisation Society at Bowen Park. The Herbarium and Botanic Library were moved from the Gardens for a period but were returned in 1905 when John Frederick Bailey was appointed Curator of the Botanic Gardens.

Extensive dredging of Gardens Point in 1915 removed about 9 acres (3.6 ha) from the Domain and Botanic Gardens but in the following year the amalgamation of the Gardens, Queens Park and part of the Domain resulted in a new Botanic Gardens of about 50 acres (20 ha).

The City of Brisbane Act of 1924 transferred responsibility for the Botanic Gardens to the Brisbane City Council, but the Herbarium remained as part of the Department of Agriculture and Stock.

Since the opening of the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens in the mid 1970s, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens has become principally a recreational venue. Re-development of the Gardens in the late 1980s saw the introduction of new recreational structures and restoration work on the former Queen's Park fence.


The Brisbane Botanic Gardens, occupying 20 ha, is bounded by George, Alice and Edward Streets and the Brisbane river. They comprise three major sections: the former Queen's Park along Alice Street, the Botanic Gardens proper [adjacent to the river], and the former Government Domain at the rear of the Queensland University of Technology [formerly part of the grounds to Old Government House].

Set in undulating grounds, the gardens are bordered by mature shade trees which also create avenues and groves. A lake and formal lawns, gardens and structures provide a diversity of passive recreational activities. A series of interconnecting paths link a riverside concourse with other perimeter paths.

The gardens contain an avenue of Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwilli) planted in the 1850s and an avenue of Weeping Figs (Ficus benjamina) planted in the 1870s. It also contains a number of other rare plants, particularly palms and figs - some in formal planting arrangements within the lawns, others within mass planted gardens - and an avenue of Cook Pines (Araucaria cookii).

A low stone wall (1860s) surmounted by an iron railing fence runs the length of Alice Street and extends into George Street. Large iron gates provide entry at George, Albert and Edward Streets. A cottage c1900s, with Arts and Crafts decorative elements, is located at the southern end of the gardens on a hill known as Residence Hill. This building is surrounded by trees and shrubs, some of which are survivors of late 1850s and early 1860s plantings.

In a hollow to the north of Residence Hill, is the Walter Hill fountain. It stands on a stepped octagonal base of three tiers. The body of the fountain continues this shape but tapers towards its top. The lion shaped drinking fountains, presently not functioning, and basins are of white marble in contrast with the freestone of the rest of the structure.

To the south of Residence Hill is a 1980s grassed amphitheatre facing a stage beside the river. Other structures for public convenience and recreational use are dispersed throughout the gardens.

Image gallery


Location of Brisbane Botanic Gardens within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022