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Kangaroo Point Cliffs

  • 602400
  • Lower River Terrace, Kangaroo Point


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
28 February 2003
Mining and mineral processing: Quarry
Natural feature: Geological formation
2.2 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploiting natural resources
2.9 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Valuing and appreciating the environment and landscapes
5.4 Moving goods, people and information: Using shipping
7.6 Maintaining order: Defending the country
Construction period
1826–1976, Kangaroo Point Cliffs (1826c - 1976)
Historical period
1824–1841 Convict settlement


Lower River Terrace, Kangaroo Point
Brisbane City Council
-27.48197844, 153.03170106


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

The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are important in demonstrating the pattern and evolution of Queensland's history, in particular for their association with the development of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. The cliffs were a major source of stone for Brisbane buildings, roadworks, wharfage and marine walls for a period of 150 years from the commencement of the penal colony at Moreton Bay in the mid-1820s.

Accommodating important coal wharves from 1884 to 1960, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are significant in the development of Brisbane as the principal port of Queensland.

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

As a rare resource of Ignimbrite and containing an unusual dyke-like structure, the cliffs of the former quarry have the potential to yield technical information that will contribute to an understanding of the geological development of the Queensland landscape.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

As a rare resource of Ignimbrite and containing an unusual dyke-like structure, the cliffs of the former quarry have the potential to yield technical information that will contribute to an understanding of the geological development of the Queensland landscape.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

A dramatic presence in the riverscape and townscape, floodlit at night, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are an important visual landmark forming a backdrop to many views and vistas of the City.

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

The Cliffs are valued as a public vantage point offering expansive views north and west over Brisbane. The park reserve to the river edge and ridge of the cliffs is important as a place of informal recreation, a sheer hewn cliff face accommodating a vantage point to its ridge and a landscaped public recreation reserve incorporating lush vegetation, sculptures, follies and a walking path. The cliffs are particularly popular for abseiling and rock climbing. The cliffs are valued as a riverside walkway, picnic area and vantage point. Scout Place on River Terrace is important in commemorating the contribution of the Scouting movement to the local and wider community.

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.

Accommodating an early naval defence station and other defence force activities from 1888 to 1984, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are important for their association with Queensland colonial defences and with the Australian Defence Forces.


The Kangaroo Point Cliffs below Main Street, River Terrace and Lower River Terrace, Kangaroo Point, are the remnant evidence of extensive non-indigenous quarrying over 150 years [c1826-1976]. They have played a significant role in the development of the city and port of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, since the 1820s. They are a distinctive landscape feature which, along with the Story Bridge and the Brisbane City Hall, has acquired iconoclastic status in the Brisbane townscape. The cliffs contain the best known outcrop of Brisbane Tuff, the distinctive pink and green building stone used in some of Brisbane's earliest [1820s and 1830s] public buildings; in base courses, retaining walls, side walls and cellars of 19th century free settlement buildings; and in later municipal and government works such as roadmaking, kerbing, wharfs and marine walls.

The Kangaroo Point 'Cliffs' which Aborigines knew prior to European settlement, were steep rocky slopes with boulder outcrops and vegetation. The earliest identified historical reference to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs was made by NSW Surveyor-General John Oxley, during his exploration of the Brisbane River in early December 1823, when he noted in his field book a "high, rocky bank" below what is now River Terrace, Kangaroo Point. On 1844 survey plans prepared by surveyor James Warner, the high ground of Kangaroo Point was described as a "bold rocky ridge", much of which is still evident in late 19th century photographs of Kangaroo Point.

Following the removal of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement from Red Cliff Point to the Brisbane River [North Brisbane] around May 1825, the river flats at the northern end of Kangaroo Point were cleared and planted with wheat and maize to supply food for the new settlement, and c1826 Commandant Logan opened a quarry at the base of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, to supply stone for his building works at North Brisbane. According to Allan Cunningham's August 1829 survey of Brisbane Town, this early quarry was located opposite the Botanical Gardens, at the "highest point of a wooded ridge", in the vicinity of the later Naval Stores. The rock was punted across the river to Stone Wharf, about 150 metres upstream from the present Edward Street ferry landing.

The stone quarried from the Kangaroo Point Cliffs was known as 'phorphyry' [later Brisbane Tuff], a consolidated volcanic ash or rhyolitic ignimbrite deposited during the late Triassic age following a Nuee Ardent (glowing cloud) eruption. These eruptions are generally violent and voluminous and the erupted body moves with great speed for long distances, up to 100km if the relief is sufficient. The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are made up of such a flow or of two almost consecutive flows. These volcanic rocks are of the same age and chemical composition as the more coarsely crystallized Enoggera Granite and other granite bodies north-west of Brisbane. All may have originated from the same parent meltrock and magma in the final stages of consolidation of the eastern Australian mountain belt, 230-220 million years ago.

During the 1820s and 1830s stone from the Kangaroo Point quarry was used to construct a number of government buildings at the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, including the Commissariat Store (1828-1829) and its William Street retaining wall.

Following the closure of the penal colony and the opening of Moreton Bay to free settlement in February 1842, Brisbane's earliest suburb, Kangaroo Point, was surveyed into suburban allotments, auctioned in December 1843. The lower areas of the Point, which had been cleared during the convict era for cropping purposes, and which had easy access to the river, attracted various early industries, including a boiling down works, a soap and candle factory, ship building, foundries and sawmills. By the 1850s, there were some 80 to 90 houses on the peninsula, including several fine residences along Main Street.

From 1842 the Kangaroo Point Quarry was rented to private builders, including John Petrie, until placed under the control of the newly established [September 1859] Brisbane Municipal Council in 1860. By this date, however, only two small quarry faces had been opened - one below St Mary's Church and the other below the later TAFE college. The Municipal Council continued to sub-lease the quarry to private builders, under whom the quarry mainly supplied stone ballast to ships. This wasteful use of the stone and the manner in which it was quarried was of particular concern to the Rector of St Mary's Church located on the cliff above, resulting in the Colonial Government resuming control of the quarry in 1864. By the mid-1880s the quarry face extended a little over 100 metres, or about one-eighth the length of the present worked-out quarry face.

In 1880 the entire length of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs below River Terrace from Leopard Street to St Mary's Church was placed under control of the Brisbane Municipal Council as a Temporary Reserve for Public Purposes subject to the right of the Government to use it for works in progress and to resume any land it might require for wharfage, railway and quarrying purposes (QGG 26 June 1880). This heralded Government construction in the early 1880s of new coal wharves at the foot of the southern end of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, adjacent to the South Brisbane Dry Dock. The new wharves were serviced by a branch rail line and siding, which necessitated the cutting back of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs below Lower River Terrace.

Until the mid-1880s the export of coal from the West Moreton district was frustrated by a lack of direct access to deep water wharves for bunkering of coal onto ships for export from Brisbane. Coal came into Brisbane and was loaded onto drays for transport to the wharves. To facilitate the more efficient handling of coal for export, various extensions to the railway system were proposed and in 1880 an extension to the Ipswich-Brisbane lin,e branching off at South Brisbane Junction [later known as Corinda] between Sherwood and Oxley, and coming around to Woolloongabba and South Brisbane via Yeerongpilly, was approved. The project included a sidings branch to new coal wharves adjacent to the Dry Dock at South Brisbane. The contract for the wharves and sidings branch was awarded to Acheson Overend & Co. After a number of delays, the line was finally opened in 1884.

After construction of the wharf, it was found necessary to remove a bar of rock in the river which prevented the proper use of the two 4.5 tonne (10-ton) steam cranes installed on the wharf. Overend & Co. undertook the removal of the rock bar and constructed an additional 18mx12m (60ft x 40ft) jetty with a 6.8 tonne (15-ton) steam crane for coaling large ocean vessels. Coal traffic from the wharf at South Brisbane flourished and in 1900 additional siding accommodation was constructed and a travelling crane installed replacing crane number 4. This travelling crane dominated the South Brisbane vista along the river for many years. By the mid-20th century oil fuel was replacing coal and the bunkering of coal declined. In 1960 the rails were removed from the wharf and the wharf was demolished in 1974.

In 1886-88, as part of Queensland's marine defence strategy, the Colonial Government constructed a depot for the Queensland Marine Defence Force at the foot of the northern end of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, on the floor of the earlier Kangaroo Point Quarry. Established to provide storage, repair and training facilities for the colony's modest but growing fleet of marine defence vessels and newly established Naval Brigade, the Depot originally comprised two two-storeyed timber buildings roofed with galvanized corrugated iron and resting on stone foundation walls with concrete footings. These buildings contained lecture rooms; a gun battery for training; store rooms; carpenters' shops; workshops for ship repairs; and a torpedo storeroom/workshop. A wharf was erected in 1887-88, and a flight of timber stairs was constructed c1890 to provide access up the cliff to Amesbury Street and St Mary's Church, which served as the Naval Chapel for many years. A concrete boatslip was constructed c1900.

The Depot remained the operational base of the Queensland Marine Defence Force until the formation of the Royal Australian Navy [RAN] after Federation in 1901. The Kangaroo Point Depot remained the principal training facililty for Queensland naval reservists until the construction of a depot at Alice Street in the 1920s. On 31 October 1959 the RAN handed over the Kangaroo Point Depot to the Australian Army, which used it to accommodate its 32nd Small Ships Squadron. In 1984 the Army removed its Small Ships Squadron to Bulimba, and the Kangaroo Point Depot was vacated. In 1986/87 the site was transferred to the Brisbane City Council.

Only one of the former Naval Depot buildings [No.2 Store] survives and this now accommodates the Naval Stores Museum, a Brisbane City Council Social History Strategy initiative developed to allow visitors to gain an understanding of the histories of Brisbane's naval defences, the Brisbane River, Kangaroo Point and Australian Federation. The former Naval Brigade Depot was entered permanently in the Queensland Heritage Register in October 1992 (QHR 600239).

In 1898 the Marine Department opened a new quarry south of the Naval Depot, about halfway along River Terrace, to supply rock for river walls at Hamilton. This was the start of the scheme of dredging and training walls devised by EA Cullen, appointed Engineer of Harbours and Rivers in 1902, to complete the development of the river port of Brisbane. The Department of Harbours and Rivers (later the Department of Harbours and Marine) used the Kangaroo Point Cliffs quarry for marine work until 1976. In the period 1898 to 1919, this work included: the training walls or revetments which contain the dredgings of the reclamation of the tidal flats for industry at Hamilton [1898-1900], Doughboy [1900], Coxen Point, and Lytton; the training walls which regulate tidal flow and link Parker, Bulwer, Gibson and other estuarine islands with the mainland; and the stone pitching of the river banks at the City Botanic Gardens. By 1919, more than half a million tones of stone for these walls had been removed from the Kangaroo Point Quarry. In 1928, stone from the Kangaroo Point Quarry was used to double the height of the Lytton training wall and to shape and maintain other early 20th century training walls. Other Harbours and Marine projects utilising stone from Kangaroo Point included the Manly Boat Harbour and the new port at Fisherman Islands in the 1970s.

The rock for these projects was loaded onto punts at the quarry and towed to the work sites. Extensive quarrying by the Marine Department opened the rock face of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs between the Naval Stores at the northern end of the site and the coal wharves at the southern end, creating the dramatic length of perpendicular drop that distinguishes the Kangaroo Point Cliffs today. By 1976, when control of the Brisbane River passed to the Port of Brisbane Authority, most of the available Kangaroo Point rock had been exploited and the quarry was closed.

Brisbane Tuff is now exposed along the cliff face, providing an important source of geological information. The quarry floors and ridge of the cliffs are now important public park reserves and enjoyed as places of informal recreation. The cliffs are popular for abseiling and rock climbing, and are valued as a riverside walkway, picnic area and vantage point - especially for Brisbane River and Southbank festivities.

Scout Place, the lookout on the top of the cliffs adjacent to River Terrace, between Llewellyn and Bell Streets, was erected in 1982 to designs prepared by the Brisbane City Council's Landscape Architecture Section, to commemorate seventy-five years of scouting in Queensland.


The Kangaroo Point Cliffs extend south from just north of the former Naval Brigade Depot to the former South Brisbane Dry Dock, west of the Captain Cook Bridge. After 150 years of quarrying the site now comprises a vertical rock face approximately 25m high which extends most of the length of the site. The base of the cliffs and quarry floor are accessible to pedestrians via steps leading down from Scout Place on River Terrace and vehicular and pedestrian access is provided along Lower River Terrace.

Floodlit by night, the rock faces are a spectacular backdrop to the City Botanic Gardens and are a distinctive feature in the riverscape and in the townscape.

The cliffs expose an ancient bed of Brisbane tuff, known locally also as porphyry. The stone outcrop at Kangaroo Point is part of a belt of Brisbane Tuff generally less than one kilometre wide, extending from Chermside to Dutton Park, with a branch through New Farm and Norman Park towards Belmont. The distribution of Brisbane tuff is very sporadic, for it is underlain by the old metamorphic rocks which underlie the central business district and form many of Brisbane's hills. Other tuff quarries were located at Leichhardt Street [now St Paul's Terrace], Spring Hill; Skyring's quarry near All Hallows' Convent, Fortitude Valley; and at O'Connelltown, but the Kangaroo Point Quarry is the most extensive and most illustrative of this rock formation.

The Kangaroo Point Cliffs show continuous thick exposure of massive welded tuff, the major rock type of the Brisbane Tuff. At the northern end of the former quarry, a dyke-like structure occurs in a zone of alteration, and may represent a former vent or site of escape of fumerole gases. The 'dyke' is an uncommon feature and the only one so far recorded from the tuff.

The ridge of the cliff along River Terrace is an open grassed terrace with a stone retaining wall to the cliff edge. A lookout shelter, Scout Place, stands within the terrace and overlooks the City Botanic Gardens and offers expansive views across Brisbane City, Southbank, up and downstream of the Brisbane River and beyond to Mt Coot-tha.

The quarry floor varies in width and accommodates a range of facilities and vegetation. A pedestrian walkway and bicycle path threads along the length of the site sometimes to the water's edge and at times winding closer to the cliff face. There are a number of platforms projecting over the river providing resting and viewing opportunities. Open grassed and landscaped picnic areas are scattered along the way and accommodate tables, benches and BBQ facilities. The site is dotted with colourful and distinctive sculptures, follies and pavilion shelters. A number of the sculptures contain elements associated with the various activities that have occurred along the river. In particular, sculptures adjacent to the former South Brisbane Dry Dock incorporate items of ship fabric and a series of river buoys stands beside the former Naval Stores.

Along the site there is remnant fabric from the various former activities associated with the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, including timbers from the former coal wharves and, near the Captain Cook Bridge, a number of concrete piers, some with metal casings, which supported the cranes that hoisted coal from the wharves.

The cliff face has dense vegetation in parts including the area northeast of the Captain Cook Bridge. The quarry floor below the Kangaroo Point TAFE College accommodates a small inlet with distinctive rough hewn rock edges and a dense mangrove clump with a timber boardwalk winding through. There are a number of old timber piles with copper bands scattered through the garden beds in this area. There is also a distinctive lower ledge of rock along the cliff base at this point.

The river edge varies; at times it is a battered stone retaining wall, at others a rocky edge with mangrove clumps. There is a range of debris caught up along the edge including chunks of concrete, pieces of steel and lengths of timber.

The northern end of the cliff base accommodates the former Naval Brigade Depot. Surviving elements include No.2 Store [a timber building recently refurbished as the Naval Stores Museum]; the wharf; the concrete boatslip; and the timber stairs [now closed] leading up the cliff face to St Mary's Church.

Image gallery


Location of Kangaroo Point Cliffs within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022