Ferry Services to Kangaroo Point 1860 – 2018

Laurie Cordingley,  ferry master for fifty years gives us a summary of the ferry services from the beginning.   

Laurie Cordingley at the helm of a ferry. (supplied: L. Cordingley)

On the 22nd of November, 1844, the Colonial Secretary’s Office in Sydney announced in the Government Gazette that a ferry had been established between Kangaroo Point and North Brisbane. Tenders will be called to hire the service for one or more years from the 1st of January, 1845.

The first recorded ferry service to Kangaroo Point was a row boat from Edward Street to what must have been Thornton Street in 1860 and in 1866, a punt operated between Customs House and, no doubt, Holman Street.

The first steam powered passenger ferry was launched on the 22nd of September 1883 and in 1884, the cable operated steam punt Transit was introduced between Charlotte Street, City and Bright Street, which was then called Ferry Road.

Ferry from Edward Street approaching Thornton Street ca.1895. (State Library of Queensland)

In 1887, the 50 passenger steam ferries Emu and Kangaroo replaced the rowing boats on the Edward Street to Thornton Street run and from the 1st of November to the 4th of November 1888, 20,037 (???) passengers were carried on the three Kangaroo Point ferries.

Vehicular ferry locally known as the horse ferry in the 1890s. (State Library of Queensland)

During this time, an unofficial ferry began operating between Ferry Street and either Merthyr Road or Sydney Street at New Farm. This will almost certainly be Hughie Moar’s ferry. He also had a slipway at Ferry Street.

The steam ferry Ena was launched in 1909 for the Brisbane Municipal Council. It operated on Town Reach.

Jump ahead to 1921 and Kangaroo and Emu cannot meet demand when Ena has to undergo overhaul.

People coming off the ferry at Thornton Street ca 1928. (State Library of Queensland)

The passenger steam ferry from Holman Street to Customs House, the vehicular steam ferry from Bright Street to Charlotte Street and the Passenger steam ferry from Thornton Street to Edward Street were declared free ferries by the Ferries Committee in February 1925. Fares were reinstated in 1928.

Motor Ferry arriving at Thornton Street in 1936. (Brisbane City Council Archives)

In February 1926, new motor ferry Balmoral replaces Ena on the Edward Street – Thornton Street service. Ena sold to Riverside Coal Transport Company and began conversion into a tug. She was registered as a tug in November 1928.

Charlotte Street – Bright Street run closed and the steam vehicular ferry Brisbane withdrawn from use on the 31st of December 1927.

Brick ferry shelter at Thornton Street 1950. (Brisbane City Council Archives)

During Expo ’88, a service ran from Edward Street, City, crossing the river to Thornton Street Kangaroo Point and then on to Expo. Lucinda operated the service until Mermaid became available in July.

On the 31st of May, 1989, the Thornton Street to Edward Street service was extended to include Eagle Street Pier.

On the 5th of December, 1990, the Riverside to Dockside service was commenced. The service was extended to Sydney Street and Mowbray Park when Golden Mile Ferries ceased operating in February 1992.

At the present time (2018), the Inner City services, operated by five monohull ferries are a reshuffle of what used to be these services.

  • The Thornton Street – Edward Street service which developed into a triangle.
  • The Holman Street service.
  • The Riverside to Dockside service.

Currently (2018)  three monohull ferries operate the Sydney Street to Dockside, Holman Street, Eagle Street Pier, Thornton Street, River Plaza, Southbank 3 and North Quay, providing a 30-minute service.

Two ferries operate the Thornton Street – Eagle Street Pier – Holman Street run to provide a 10-minute service in conjunction with the Sydney Street – North Quay service.

Holman Street Ferry Terminal Waiting Shed


The Holman Street Ferry Terminal Waiting Shed in 2010. (supplied: John Gerard)The waiting shed leading to the Holman Street ferry terminal  at 116 Holman Street, Kangaroo Point, is located on the bank of the Brisbane River at the end of Holman Street and adjacent to Captain Burke Park.  The now one-hundred-year-old shed was built ca. 1919 (probably mid-1918) and is therefore a significant remaining example of a purpose-built ferry terminal of a style no longer built today.

Holman Street Ferry Terminal and Waiting Shed as seen from the river with Story Bridge in the background on 3 November 1978. (Brisbane City Council Archives )

It is part of the Holman Street Ferry Terminal which comprises a pontoon for river access, a ferry landing area and the covered waiting shed. The original ferry terminal was built for what was then the Municipality of Brisbane (formed in 1859) which was responsible for cross-river ferry services.

The heritage-listed Holman Street waiting shed in 2010. (Brisbane City Council Archives)

The shed is a square timber building with chamfer board cladding built in the classical style. Two distinctive terracotta finials stand out on top of the terracotta-tiled hipped roof.  Arched openings lead to the river and the street and there are timber bench seats against the walls on the inside.

The waiting shed in July 2019. (supplied: C.Gerard).

While there have been many changes and upgrades to the ferry terminal and pontoon over the years, the waiting shed has remained basically the same. A major improvement was the installation of electric lights in 1919 after electricity had replaced gas for street lighting in Kangaroo Point in 1918. In July 1925 control of all ferries passed over to the newly-formed Greater Brisbane City Council (now BCC).

In recognition of its important role in the history of Kangaroo Point and its vital relationship with the river the waiting shed was entered on the Queensland State Heritage Register on 1 November 2004.(source: State Heritage Register/BCC).

During the 2011 floods the pontoon was partially submerged and was eventually rebuilt.

View of Holman Street ferry terminal under water during the 2011 floods. (Brisbane City Council Archives).
Holman Street ferry terminal submerged in 2011 floods. (Brisbane City Council Archives)

The history of Kangaroo Point ferries in pictures.
1893:  Kangaroo Point Punt Ferry
Kangaroo Point Punt ferry 1893. (State Library of Queensland)
1898:  Customs House to Bright Street horse ferry. 
Customs House to Bright Street ferry in 1898. (State Library of Queensland)
1890s:  Vehicular ferry known as the ‘horse ferry’ approaching Thornton Street

1893:  Edward Street steam ferry in the 1893 flood
Edward Street steam ferry in the 1893 flood.
1895:  Ferry approaching Thornton Street
Ferry approaching Thornton Street ca. 1895
ca. 1908:  Creek Street Ferry Terminal
Creek Street ferry terminal ca. 1908. (State Library of Queensland)
ca. 1916:  New Farm Rowing Boat ferry at Kangaroo Point
New Farm ferry at Kangaroo Point ca. 1916
1925:  Steam ferry at Thornton Street
Kangaroo Point ferry ca. 1925 (State Library of Queensland)
1936:  Edward Street ferry arriving at Kangaroo Point
Steam Ferry arriving at Thornton Street in 1936.
1991:  Edward Street ferry with Story Bridge in the background.

This was in the days before they became CityHoppers. Boarding was a simple step from pier to boat – no ramp needed.

Edward Street ferry 1991. (Queensland State Archives)
1994:  Kalparrin near Riverside
Kalparrin ferry near Riverside 1994. (Queensland State Archives)
1995:  View to Kangaroo Point and Dockside Terminal from Sydney Street ferry terminal 
View across to Kangaroo Point and Dockside from the original Sydney Street ferry terminal as it was in 1995. The wharf was destroyed in the January 2011 floods. A temporary wharf was opened on 18 April 2011 and closed in January 2015 so that a new permanent wharf could be built. The new wharf opened on 6 May 2015. (Brisbane City Council Archives )
2011 – City Ferry Otter at Maritime Museum

 City ferry Otter at Maritime Museum ferry terminal 2011. (Wikimedia)

A nostalgic look at the city ferry Otter at the old Maritime Museum ferry terminal in South Brisbane. The photo was taken in August 2011 which is not really long ago (now 2024) yet it’s already part of ‘Lost Brisbane’ history!

In the background is the CityCat Yawagara approaching the Captain Cook Bridge. (photo: John R McPherson/Wikimedia)

The description will now have to be put into the past tense, here’s the original:  CityFerry Otter is a monohulled ferry operating on the Brisbane River that provides CityHopper services between Sydney Street ferry terminal in New Farm and North Quay ferry terminal in the Brisbane CBD.