How Northshore Hamilton Evolved from 19th-Century Fishing Ground to Premier Waterfront Precinct

Northshore Hamilton
Photo Credit: Northshore Brisbane

Some of the best places in the world stand out because it’s ever-evolving to keep pace with the needs of their inhabitants and Northshore Hamilton exemplifies this evolution very well.  

Northshore Hamilton is currently a premier mixed-use urban renewal precinct with a first-rate waterfront neighbourhood.

Centuries ago, this site was the fishing and camping ground of the First Nations people given its location near the mouth of the river and proximity to Breakfast Creek, with its abundance of fish and wildlife. 

A decade from now, it will become the site of the Athlete‚Äôs Village for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The Busy Camping Ground of Yerrol

The First Nations called Northshore “Yerrol,” which refers to strong vines used as ropes. In the 1830s, Northshore was already a busy area as the site was a dense riverine rainforest pocket, offering different food sources for both humans and animals. Historians said that the First Nations people often caught large quantities of fish from this area to supply Brisbane’s fishing trade from the 1830s to the 1860s.

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The Northshore-Breakfast Creek site was once a large Aboriginal campsite with different groups settling down to hunt and interact with other groups. This was the home to thousands, especially during hunting season.

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After the 1860s, horse-drawn wagons filled the streets, establishing a travel route between Hamilton Hotel to Breakfast Creek. In fact, Hamilton was one of the first places in Queensland to have its own horse trams. 

Yet moving by water was still the quickest way for the Aboriginal people with Northshore as an important crossing point. Access to waterways was located at the area where Brett’s Wharf stands, a corner between Bulimba and Newstead, and a section in the east that has the Gateway Bridge today. These access points had shallow water, making it easier to wade across destinations.

Camping grounds in Hamilton Reach
Photo Credit: Northshore Brisbane

Following the colonisation and settlement, the First Nations people continued to camp in Northshore until the end of the 19th century when their populations were routed out of urban centres. Not far from their camps on Kingsford Smith Drive were several institutions that took in the Aboriginal people. By 1910, the campgrounds disappeared in Northshore. 

The Progressive Northshore Port

In the 1870s, the Hamilton Wharf (Portside Wharf) was a growing shipping area and served as the landing site for ferries connecting to Bulimba. As activities in the wharf increased with the development of several estates in Hamilton and Ascot, chief engineer of Harbours and Marine, Ernest Alexander Cullen planned to improve and expand the port with the construction of training walls and more dredging. His idea gave birth to Northshore. 

Ships docking at Northshore Hamilton
Photo Credit: Lost Brisbane/Facebook

Mr Cullen also urged the government to capitalise on Northshore for its industrial future. For the next 20 years, active development of the precinct continued. After the First World War, the government built the Cold Stores Wharf for exporting products like butter and cheese to Britain. This ushered the progress of Northshore as the vital export centre of Queensland. 

Brett's Wharf construction
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1920s, plans to build Brett’s Wharf were laid out by E A Cullen for commercial shipping. During the Second World War, this area was commissioned by the Allied Forces to stage and load military equipment. Millions were spent to add more facilities as Hamilton became the chief base for naval repairs. The Northshore Port developed rapidly during this period.

Naval ship leaving Northshore Hamilton
Photo Credit: Queensland Maritime Museum/Facebook

After the war, Northshore remained the hive of activities for shipping industries exporting wheat, sugar, and livestock to other countries, especially in war-torn areas of Britain. By the 1970s, the Port of Brisbane Strategic Plan was established to erect a new container port for more commercial endeavours.

Northshore Hamilton: Ambitious Urban Renewal

After Brett’s Wharf was closed to commercial shipping in the early 1990s, Northshore’s urban renewal was hatched. The focus of the redevelopment was to turn the precinct into a mixed-use public site with high-rise units, restaurants, retail outlets, supermarkets, cinema, and a public plaza. 

In 2007, the State Government approved the Urban Development Authority Act to tackle housing issues. This served as the catalyst for what Northshore Hamilton provides today. 

More than 64 hectares of land in Northshore were set for infrastructure projects that delivered a residential and commercial precinct with new parks and cycleways. The old ports and wharves were also repurposed into riverfront public sites like Eat Street Northshore. 

Northshore Hamilton urban development plans
Photo Credit: Queensland Government
Northshore Hamilton present-day
Photo Credit: Northshore Brisbane

In the next 10 years, Northshore Hamilton through Economic Development Queensland will see through the development of training venues that will host more than 15,000 world-class athletes for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. After this monumental event, Northshore Hamilton has been earmarked for more residential accommodation, aged care facilities, and hotels.