The walk wends its way along the the streets of South Bank and down to the river and then back up along the streets again. You can also incorporate some of South Brisbane's artworks into the walk as well.
The guide published by the Brisbane City Council recommends that you start at the Maritime Museum. If you are looking for a longer walk you might want to combine this walk with the Art and the River Public Art Trail. Either doing the South Brisbane Heritage Trail first in reverse order and then continuing along the path to Kangaroo Point or Do the Art Trail first and then continuing onto the South Brisbane.
This trail has some very lovely highlights as well as locations that were obviously just included so that there is a string of dots on the map. The starting point of the remains of the old warves and the dry docks reminds that up until the 1980s South Bank was a working port and West End had a reputation as a very rough neighbourhood.
In contrast to this, the South Brisbane Town Hall is a reminder of the time that Brisbane was split into North and South Brisbane with separate councils. There was, and still is, a rivalry between the different sides of the river with South Brisbane vying for status as evidenced by the lovely former South Brisbane Town Hall.
The walk will take you past several elegant buildings, including Cumbooquepa, Byanda and the Alan & Stark Drapery. All of which shows how South Brisbane was previously competing successfully with the north for social status back in the 19th Century. The final building in this section is the Plough Inn, which has been preserved but has been mostly hidden by a modern add on. Both the Drapery and the Plough are good places to stop and wet your whistle on a hot day.
The next stop on the walk is a far more recent building but still of historical important. Walk through South Bank's little rainforest and the very end you will find a Nepalese Pagoda. This was part of the Nepalese pavilion during Expo '88 and is the only surviving building from the expo. Expo '88 was a turning point in the history of Brisbane and in Particular South Bank starting the transformation of that part of the city.
The next interesting stop is at Victoria Bridge. What you see there now is the third Victoria Bridge and the remaining abutments from the second Bridge. The first Victoria Bridge was important in the development of Brisbane. When it partly collapsed during a flood much of the focus of Brisbane's development moved away from South Brisbane to the North. Which is why you have beautiful historical shops like the Drapery yet South Brisbane is not known as a shopping precinct.
From here you have two options as to which path is best for you. If you are focusing on history then head up to South Brisbane Train Station. This small but well preserved train station still gives you that feeling of a different pace of travel.
Alternatively as you walk your way to the William Jolly Bridge you may want to detour to view some of the public artworks outside of the Queensland Art Gallery and GoMA. You can also pop into the Art Gallery. There is a wonderful painting that is part of their permanent collection that shows Brisbane during the 19th century
The famous or infamous elephant artwork outside of GoMA
While the guide focuses on the William Jolly Bridge the Kurilpa Bridge is far more interesting. This bridge was inspired by old images of sailing ship masts on the river. Glimpsing the bridge spars between trees you can imagine for a moment that you have stepped back in time.
Kurilpa Bridge was inspired by the masts of the old tall ships
I would end the trail at the Coronation Hotel which now is renamed The Joynt. This great little cafe and bar has live music on many evenings and Sunday afternoons. It is also a popular place to chill with friends and attracts a very diverse crowd.
Walking the streets of South Brisbane with the Brisbane City Council heritage trail guide in hand you can see the city as you have never it before and step back in time. While we have lost a lot of Brisbane's heritage, what has been preserved is being well looked after.