Site Explorations: A tour of Streets Beach in Brisbane, Australia

Photographer and designer Charly Nelson takes us on a tour of some of her favorite landscapes around the world. Previously, she visited Parc Trinitat in Spain and BP Park in Sydney. Today, she takes us to Brisbane’s “Streets Beach.”

South Bank Parklands: A tour of Streets Beach in Brisbane, Australia

In the heart of Brisbane is a wonderful public amenity: a free public resort-quality beach. With temperatures oppressing and hot in the humid summertime, a public beach for a coastal city on an inland river is a much-needed and well-received park for Brissies and tourists alike.

The park was established on the grounds of Brisbane’s 1988 World Expo. While it includes remnants of the worlds fair, I will focus my commentary on my jaw-droppingly unexpected encounter with Streets Beach, designed by Desmond Brooks.

(It’s important to note that while Brisbane is coastal, it’s still over 10 miles inland from the ocean. Streets Beach is a completely fabricated beach. To maintain this pristine beach along the inland waterfront, 70 tonnes of sand are hauled in every year to maintain the beach.)

This is more than just a beach. This public amenity includes small lagoons for little ones to play in safety, water spigots for added fun, tropical plantings to create intimate spaces, and even a lifeguard staff to ensure safety.

Admittedly, I was unaware of what I was in for. A friend who grew up in Brisbane led me around the city and I was astounded by the fact that a city would create such a lavish and pivotal–and notably, FREE–public amenity. In the states, I’d only seen things like this in amusement water parks or at 5-Star resorts.


Exploring further, the beach is at least partially fed through a shallow pebble creek area.

I’m impressed. What’s your take on it? Do you think public amenities like this should be a centralized process? Should they be the result of for-profit institutions and corporations instead? Here’s what I’d say: Great work, Queensland Government for having the wherewithal to create and maintain this amazing amenity for the past 20 years!

Charly Nelson is a photographer and designer with a master’s degree of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. She works in San Francisco as a writer and designer and continues to explore international landscape architecture in theory, practice and photography.

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  1. Site Explorations: A tour of Streets Beach in Brisbane, Australia

    Having visited Brisbane recently after 30 years , I must say I agree with you – the large Southbank precinct ‘makes’ the city, without a doubt. It’s absolutely fabulous. I was there well after the summer, and the area is very well utilized. There were people exercising, strollling, biking, mums with babies in prams, older people, young adults sitting on the grassed areas (texting of course!), students with their laptops. The area is very well serviced by a great variety of cafes and restaurants. At night, there are musical groups etc and the whole area abuts the river on one side and Brisbane’s concert, arts, museum and exhibition venues on the other. The landscaping is beautiful and colorful but the foliage is not too dense to pose any security problems. Even at night, it feels safe. Your photos are excellent and accurately represent this lovely area.

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