The early roads from Brisbane.

Roads during the convict period

The only stretch of ‘made’ road during the convict era was roughly a mile long on the river embankment to the government’s wharf. The rest were simple cattle or dray tracks both in town as well as to the outer stations.

Even after the settlement was opened to free settlers, the government did not spend any money on infrastructure. This was mostly left to the settlers. Occasionally the government participated with some money towards the bridges that needed to be built over the numerous creeks traversing the settlement.

During the 1839 survey on paper at least the streets in town were designed. They were planned to link the various buildings and activities within the town centre. The convict barracks to the military quarter and the administrative centre. The road to the windmill and to the government garden (agriculture gardens now Botanic Garden). Shortly thereafter the road to the Female Factory (Goal Hill), from here to the agriculture area beyond Breakfast Creek and via what is now Hamilton Drive to the new Female Factory.

These tracks were nearly impassable when it rained, let alone when the river flooded the flats along the Brisbane River and when the many creeks overflowed.

The first bridges over the creeks were simply made from wooden logs which often washed away during floods and or collapsed because of lack of maintenance. The first of such bridges dated from the convict era and were over Wheat Creek on the track from the convict barracks to the windmill, roughly where Albert and Adelaide Streets intersect. Two more appeared over this creek further towards Creek Street and one where the creek ended in the Brisbane River.

The bridge over Breakfast Creek was the next to be build, most likely most of the work here was done by the female convicts as this bridge and track was needed to connect their prison at Eagle Farm to the main settlement. A few years later the bridge was mostly washed away. Also, here the Government refused to come to the party and the residents of the northern districts had to fix the crossing here themselves.

Breakfast Creek Bridge 1840

Breakfast Creek Bridge 1940 – Source Brisbane City Council

River crossings

The crossing over Brisbane River was outsourced to private enterprise and the first ferry for people, horses and carriages started to operate in 1842 (until that time the crossing was done by rowing boat, now replaced by a punt).

A second ferry crossing between Kangaroo Point and North Brisbane (Edward Street) started in 1844. The more industrial site of Kangaroo Point started to compete with South Brisbane as the major port for produce coming from the Darling Downs. A ferry between Customs House and Kangaroo Point was established in 1844.

The western end of Turbot street abutting the Brisbane River also had ferry steps, towards the then-Stanley Street, South Brisbane.The ferry point was closed in May 1875, and within a year the old shed was harbouring ‘idle and disorderly people.

 It was until 1865 that the first bridge over Brisbane River was built between North and South Brisbane (Victoria Bridge). However, it collapsed a few years later and a new one was built in 1874.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge 1874 Source: State Library of Queensland

The convict road from Brisbane to Ipswich

Rather rapidly outlaying stations (LINK) were established Limestone (later Ipswich) and Emu Point (Cleveland) earmarked as a port.  Cattle stations appeared at Red Bank (Redbank) and Logan. Two main tracks one from Cleveland and one from Brisbane both to Limestone intersected at Cowper’s Plains (Coopers Plains).

The major way of transport was by river, as South Bank provided the easiest access to the river for transport purposes it was here that the first primitive wharf was built, basically logs placed next to the riverbank. Here they were tied to the ‘famous’ Macintyre Gum Tree. After a dispute with the owner, the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company built, in 1845, close to that spot a river wharf and stores.

As the convict-built tracks were of a poor quality there is nothing left of it.  Mark Baker in a paper: A twisted tale: the many roads to Ipswich (published in volume 24, No .8 Feb 2021 in the newsletter of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland) traced – based on a map from surveyor Granville Stapyltonfrom 1839 – the original 41 km convict build track to Ipswich.

Map Convict Road Brisbane - Ipswich

Selected portion of the map by surveyor Granville Stapylton. Survey of Limestone to Brisbane Road. 1839. Lands Museum.

From the south bank of the river at Brisbane Town, the track followed a chain of waterholes: One Mile Swamp (Woolloongabba), Burnett’s Swamp (Stones Corner), and Four Mile Swamp (Moorooka). It proceeded south crossing Rocky Water Holes Creek and Stable Swamp Creek to reach Cowper’s Plains where the Limestone track branched to the south-west. From here it crossed Canoe (Oxley) Creek and skirted Blunder Creek and McGuire’s Blunder (waterholes), proceeding over a ridgeline to cross Bullock Head Creek and Wolston Creek before fording Woogaroo Creek about three km upstream from its confluence with the Brisbane River. To the west was the Red Bank outstation (Redbank) on Goodna Creek. From here, Six Mile Creek was crossed before ascending the Iron Bark Ridges from where it descended to cross Bundamba Creek and then headed west to reach Limestone (Ipswich).

With a lack of Government action, the squatters formed. In 1844, Moreton Bay District Association and put some money on the table to fix some of the worse parts. It was decided to bypass the swamps at McGuire Blunder, but required a bridge over Canoe Creek at Oxley, about 2 kilometres above the crossing at the swamps. The costs were estimated at £40, Police Magistrate Wickham organised convicts to do the work and Commissioner for Crown Land Dr Stephen Simpson provided the logs.

The tracks did not follow the ridge line (as once assumed), but rather skirted over to Norman Creek, and only joining the rise at what is now the Chardons Corner end of Annerley.

I have used that map and Mark’s information to try and trace the old convict road. In tracing the road, I am using a few speculative clues such as the indication that it followed waterholes, the fact that often old tracks are transformed into roads. As the track followed the river, creeks and waterholes, there was never one track rather several of them depending on which one could be used at the time. Most certainly certain parts of this road would follow existing track used by the local Aboriginal people.

However, as the track was unsuitable for coaches a new road to Ipswich was surveyed and build between 1860 and 1864. Parts of the convict track were incorporated in this road.

With the increase of new settlers new areas were occupied by housing and to access the new plots new tracks were established. One of the more important ones was Boggo Track, a more direct road that the convict track in this area a bit further to the east.

As mentioned, all these tracks started in South Bank, here the ferry departing from the wharf at the Commissariat Store in North Brisbane crossed the river and arrived at what is now Russel Street. You can still follow this street where it ends at the river.

Starting from South Bank

Here the track was followed most likely the river, as the land was flat and easy to traverse. Once wharves got build the road moved further land inwards so there is nothing left of the original track here. Perhaps the only clue is the position of the Shipp Inn. Part of the original road could possible still have been here when this inn was built in 1864, if that is the case it would have followed the bend in the river following what now is Stanley Street.

Stanley Road Woolloongabba

Stanley Street South Brisbane  towards Woolloongabba – 2021

Woolloongabba (then known as One Mile Swamp).

Before it reached what was known as One Mile Swamp it turned east. A bypass of the convict track was built in the 1850s starting at what now is Clarence Corner through the Boggo Scrub (see later).  However, the old track turned east pas Clarence Corner.

Clarence Corner - Woolloongabba

Clarence Corner – 2021

One Mile Swamp which was roughly situated between what is now Vulture and Stanley Streets, and Wellington and Merton Roads. There was still a drays camp in 1840s and 1850s. The Gabba is built on part of the old swamp.

Perhaps a small part of this part of the track is now incorporated in Ipswich Road. Once that road was built – in the 1860s – it bypassed the old track along Burnett’s Swamp.

Ipwich Road - Woolloongabba

Ipswich Road at Woolloongabba – 2021

At what is now Stones Corner the old track turned south skirting Burnett’s Swamp along the Norman Creek.

Stones Corner (Burnett’s Swamp)

It most likely followed the first part Slacks Track and skirted the swamp on the eastern side.

Slacks Track developed later (Logan Road) was an Aboriginal pathway and was later on used by the Slack family to drive their livestock to the Brisbane market from the Albert and Logan River settlements.

Much later, in 1875, James Stones bought the triangle of land here (the corner) and opened a hotel in 1888.

Stones Corner Hotel

Stones Corner Hotel – 2021

From here also the Old Cleveland Road starts. This was the track from Brisbane to Cleveland.  The road from Limestone (Ipswich) to Cleveland used by the squatters (Squatters Highway) was further south and crossed the convict road at Cowpers Plains (see later). The squatters preferred a port at Cleveland rather than at Brisbane.

Not sure where the name Burnett’s Swamp comes from, James Burnett was a surveyor in the 1840s, but the adjoining Norman Creek was first surveyed by James Warner in 1839. Th track followed the creek.

Burnett's Swamp Bridge - Logan Rd

Burnett’s Swamp Bridge – Logan Road – 2021

Four Miles Swamp (Moorooka).

From Burnett’s Swamp the track continues south to Fourth Miles. Perhaps roughly where now Duke Street, the M3 and Ekibin Rd East are. Ipswich Road via a more direct road over the ridge would also skirt this swamp.

The swamp was roughly situated where the current Ipswich and Beaudesert Roads split.

Four Miles Swamp

The remnants of Four Miles Swamp – 2021

The old convict road most likely followed the Beaudesert Road roughly till what is now Acacia Ridge to turn east towards Rocky Water Holes Creek and Stable Swamp, where it crossed the creek to arrive at Cowpers Plains (Coopers Plains).

Four Miles Swamp - Moorooka

Four Miles Swamp – Moorooka – Ipswich and Beaudesert Roads -2021

This became an important intersection with the squatter’s road to Cleveland (Riawena Road, Beaudesert Road?)

From here the convict track turned east towards the Brisbane river. Perhaps it went across Archerfield (west of the aerodrome) to end up around Beatty Street/Bowhill Rd to cross Canoe (Oxley) Creek.  ‘Canoe’ refers to the canoe used by four lost convicts in 1824 when Oxley found him. Mark Baker mentioned that the old track here skirted Blunder Creek and the McGuire’s waterholes (I have unable to locate the latter).

Canoe (Oxley) Creek

Canoe (Oxley) Creek and bridge – 2021

There are a few options of where the track went from here.

The track could have roughly followed of what is now Kings Avenue/Poinsettia/Progress Road in Inala and Richmond. Or more northerly as Baker mentioned it followed a ridge line. This could be from Bowhill Road via Azalea Street and Pine Road joining Progress Road to cross Bullock Head Creek and Wolston Creek.

However, a paper published by the Richland, Inala and Suburb History Group Inc. “Ipswich Road 1839 to 2005. The History of the Brisbane to Ipswich Road” provides

Picking up the road from Beatty Road, crossing the Oxley Creek and following Bowhill Road. The paper indicates the track skirts on the northern side of the Blunder Creek, it crossed the creek 200 meters downstream from Serviceton Avenue. It went through what is now the Inala Civic Centre towards Homestead Park. It followed Centaurus Street down the ridge to cross Bullockhead Creek to Tile Street then to Waterford Road, coming to Dingo Hill (current Gailes Golf Course).

The information from Mark Baker indicates that before it reached Dingo Hill the track went through a ford at Woogaroo Creek at approx. three kms upstream from its confluence with the Brisbane River. Here it meets the Ipswich Rd again, it looks like the new road uses the same spot to cross this creek as the old convict track.

From here it looks like the old convict track follows the Ipswich Road – but more to the south of it – to the Red Bank outstation on Goodna Creek and via the Six Miles Creek crossing and ascending the Iron Bark Ridges from where it descended to cross Bundamba Creek and then headed west to reach Limestone. From Redbank It followed most likely what is now the Old Ipswich Road and the Brisbane Road into Ipswich. The Coach Road was built over this stretch of the old convict trail.

On the Brisbane side of the convict track it was the Boggo Track that bypassed this section. Boggo Track joined the convict track again in Annerley where the track followed roughly the Beaudesert Road.

There seems to be another road from South Brisbane to the north. This is mentioned in a paper published by the Richland, Inala and Suburb History Group Inc. “Ipswich Road 1839 to 2005. The History of the Brisbane to Ipswich Road”. This road appears on a survey plan from J. Galloway dated 24/11/1855. This road went from the ferry (Russell Street) via what is now Musgrave Park over Highgate Hill following current roads such as Hampstead Road, Dornoch Terrace and Gladstone Road. Here it joined with the newly developed Boggo Track at the current Gair Park close to the Boggo Road Gaol.


The same comments as applied to the tracks in town also applied to this track, impassable in rain.

Coach Road

Road building became more serious when Governor Bowen started to complain that he and his wife could not travel to Ipswich in their coach, the convict track was simply too bad. This led to a realignment of the old convict road, with most sections bypassing as there was no longer need for waterholes and bridges would be used to cross the various creeks were needed. In short, the road was now being made suitable so it could have a regular coach service between the two towns, which was launched in 1860.

The start of Ipswich Road (a diversion from the earlier convict track) began with the development of the early five-way Woolloongabba intersection: Ipswich Road had been extended down the eastern side of the Boggo ridge to link up with the start of the road to the Logan district. The other road, Main Street, which met both roads, became the entry to the small township of Kangaroo Point.

From here the new road basically bypassed the convict track all the way to Goodna. From there onwards it looks like that it either was built here over the track or perhaps slightly north of it. From Riverview it looks like it followed the convict track into Ipswich, what is now the Old Ipswich Road and the Brisbane Road.

The following overview from Mark Baker of the early pubs that were established along this coach road gives a good indication of the trajectory of the road. It is not the most direct route between the two cities as various commercial and pastural interests had to be considered.

Oxley Creek (1862); Crown Inn at Rocklea (1863); Bundamba (1863); Woolston at Darra (1863); Commercial at Redbank (1864); Royal Mail at Goodna (1864); Victoria at Four Mile Swamp (1864); Clarence at Woolloongabba (1864); Buffalo at Woolloongabba (1864); Junction at Annerley (1866); Woolloongabba at Woolloongabba (1868); Rocky Waterholes at Rocklea (1874); Norman at Woolloongabba (1890) and Chardons at Annerley (1892).

In 1873 the licensing of cabs and omnibuses commenced. The largest omnibus company in the area belonged to the John Soden and his family who lived just below Chardon’s Corner with their workshop.

As with any form of communications infrastructure it attracts business and soon land were sold along the route, which resulted in the arrival of new townships.

Village of Waverley, Annerley (1862); Queenstown Estate, Annerley (1864); Village of Egremont, Moorooka (1864) Township of Charleston, Darra (1864); Village of Melrose, Four Mile Swamp (1865); Township of Holmes, Goodna (1866); Township of Middleton, Ebbe Vale (1866); Oxley Township (1868).

With the arrival of the railway line between Ipswich and Brisbane during the early 1870s, the road system again had to take a back seat and maintenance budgets were severely cut. It was not until the arrival of the motor car that roads again received the appropriate attention and again it was the road between Ipswich and Brisbane that became the first to become a main road.

Boggo Road

With settlers started to arrive in the early 1850s, at the Boggo Scrub (Fairfield and Yeronga) the Boggo track started to emerge (now Annerley Road). It formed, most probably upon an Indigenous track, and linked the One Mile Swamp with a pathway up to the top of the Boggo (Annerley) ridge; connecting it with the convict road (soon to become the Ipswich Coach Road).

It rapidly also started to function as an alternative (and drier) route (set of tracks) to Ipswich, via de South Brisbane Cemetery at Dutton park.

From here it went to Moorooka and used a new bridge at Rocky Waterhole, it went over a new bridge over Canoe (Oxley) creek towards Woogaroo and here it connected somewhere with the old convict road. It looks to me that it followed Blunder Street and linked in with the Old Convict Rd

Separately we also describe the various crossing from NSW via de Darling Downs into Brisbane (LINK).

Squatters Highway

After the convict settlement was opened to free settlers there was more demand for land-based roads, especially from the squatters in the Darling Downs. We now see the same politics playing out as in other parts of the emerging Queensland society. The squatters tried to undermine Brisbane becoming the main town in Queensland and instead favoured Ipswich and Cleveland (the latter as a port). In the end they failed but it meant decades of trouble regarding road building. To facilitate the squatters Chambers and Petrie in 1842 built a store wharf on Brisbane River in Red Bank, but this was boycotted by the squatters and the venture collapsed.

The squatters organised a road (the squatters’ highway) from Ipswich via Cowper’s Plains to a new port at Emu Point. However, while the township of Cleveland was established and a wool store erected in the end this settlement faced the same problems as the initial convict settlement at Red Cliffe, Moreton Bay was too shallow, direct sea transport used the north passage with direct access to the Brisbane River, where dredging had started to be undertaken. Nevertheless by 1861 the squatters’ highway was surveyed from Cowper’s Plains via Rocky Crossing and Tingalpa Creek to Cleveland (the current Mount Gravatt – Capalaba Road).

Another route from the Upper Brisbane River Valley to Brisbane started to emerge after the squatters Edmund Uhr and John Ferriter (River Station later Wivenhoe Pocket Station) paid for a route bypassing Ipswich and in 1846 blasting a crossing on the D’Anguilar Range near Nebo to Brisbane. (Current Waterworks Road).

Moggill Road

It was not until 1849 before a road was surveyed from North Brisbane to Ipswich (the current Moggill Road). This would have been a far more direct road, be it for the lack of a bridge over the Brisbane River. It followed the riverbank on what became known as River Road and later Coronation Drive. For a short time, there was a toll house at where is now the Regatta Hotel, however strong protest from the farmers saw a quick end to this.  From Toowong onwards the name retains its original name of Moggill Road linking it to the farming and forestry areas of Kenmore, Brookvale, Fig Tree Pocket and Pullen Vale.

A planned bridge over the Brisbane River never eventuated and from 1873 till this day the crossing is serviced by a ferry. Here – at Redbank – it was connecting to the convict road to Ipswich.

Without a bridge or a proper ferry crossing the road was mainly used by the farmers in the northern district who drove their cattle over this road and delivered their wool on the bullocks pulled drays to Brisbane. Sawyers used it to transport their timber alternatively it was rafted over the Moggill Creek to Brisbane. The land here was one of the earliest surveyed outside the CBD and was subdivided for farmers, sawyers and early immigrants who came from Scotland, Ireland, Germany and of course England.

As was the case with all the other roads in Brisbane, maintenance was often non existing, and this road was often impassable. While drays could be pulled through the mud and the ruts. Horse traffic was often not possible.

In 1850 a separate track was built through the hills via Mount Crosby to College’s Crossing. This was the first spot where the Brisbane could be crossed, before the Victoria Bridge was built in town. At this crossing it was possible to wade through the river to the other side and eventually end up in Ipswich. Low level bridges followed later.

Burnett Swamp Bridge

The bridge was built in 1928 to carry tram and other vehicular trac across Norman Creek to Stones Corner. It was first called the Buranda Bridge. It is one of Brisbane’s oldest, reinforced concrete, creek crossings. Its configuration without longitudinal girders indicates an early approach to provision for waterway maximisation at a flood-prone site. It was designed by eminent engineer C.B. Mott. He was the first Designing Engineer of the Greater Brisbane City Council, later to become Chief Engineer and Manager of the Council’s Department of Works.

Squatters take possession of the Darling Downs