Rewind to the second half of the 19th century, and the city of Maryborough was Queensland’s main port, handling anything from timber to wool, meat, alcohol, tobacco and even opium.
More than 20,000 people from all over the world began new lives at this very place.
The city takes a lot of pride in its heritage, in particular the preserved riverside architecture at the Portside Heritage Gateway, and gives free tours of its historic streets six days a week.
It was also here in 1899 that the creator of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers was born.
Her birthplace at a former bank building has become a museum infused with all the whimsy you’d want from this famous nanny.
1. Queens Park
One of many heritage-listed spots in Maryborough, the city’s main park was planted in the last decades of the 19th century.
A lot of the giant mature trees at Queens Park go back to that period, as do the dainty rotunda and the Melville fountain close by.
Other beautiful details to keep on your radar are the wrought iron entrance gates, the war memorial, the double-domed fernery, the lily pond and a whole tapestry of individual gardens.
One of the larger plantings is the magnificent Cocos Palm Avenue, running north to south through the park.
Queens Park is just the place for a gentle ramble, with views along the Mary River and down to Maryborough’s old wharves.
2. Gallipoli to Armistice Military Trail
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, a remarkable, multisensory Anzac memorial was set up in Queens Park in 2018. Designed by Brisbane architecture firm, Brandi Projects, this ensemble combines audio, museum-style interpretive panels, architectural elements and landscaping to help explain how the Great War affected Australia and its people.
There’s a statue of the Maryborough-born Duncan Chapman, who was the first man to step ashore at the Gallipoli Landing on 25 April 1915. The trail takes you across the continent, from Gallipoli to the Western Front, with the help of an interactive map, sensor-activated audio boxes, QR codes, multimedia story boxes and an embedded soil sample from Gallipoli.
3. Mary Poppins Story Bank Museum
Pamela Lyndon Travers (1899-1996), the woman who wrote the Mary Poppins series, was born in the heart of Maryborough at the former Australian Joint Stock Bank building.
Raised in 1882, this imposing Neoclassical construction has been turned into a one-of-a-kind museum.
Travers’ birthplace is an upstairs bedroom, and there’s lots of info about her life, career, family and what influenced her work.
You can interact with scenarios and characters from her Mary Poppins stories and discover a trove of photographs and documents from the Travers estate.
The Story Bank Museum also aims to inspire the next generation of authors with creative and whimsical activities in the Mary Poppins spirit.
4. Mary Poppins Statue
The statue in front of the museum at the corner of Kent and Richmond Streets is a touching tribute to the Maryborough-born P.L. Travers, and a popular photo opportunity around the CBD and Portside Heritage Gateway.
This bronze monument was put up in 2005 after a community fund-raising campaign and generous donations.
The stuccoed wall of the Story Bank behind gives you a period-appropriate backdrop for your picture.
Mary Poppins is also celebrated with a festival in and around Queens Park on the first weekend of July, staging fun family activities, street theatre performers, a tea and tiffin party, storytelling, a kite display, a costumed parade and much more.
5. Guided Maryborough Heritage Walk
A lovely way to get acquainted with Maryborough and its heritage is in the company of a costumed guide on this free tour.
Normally lasting for two hours, the heritage walk sets off from the City Hall at 09:00, Monday to Saturday.
Your guide will take you on a journey back to when Maryborough was a bustling port, and the place where some 22,000 free settlers set foot on Australian soil for the first time.
6. Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary
Just outside the city, off the Maryborough – Biggenden Road is a not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary giving a humane habitat to a whole variety of native Australian species.
The sanctuary is run by volunteers and allows you to interact safely with a range of animals.
You can feed and touch kangaroos and wallabies, get up close to dingoes, feel the skin of a blue tongue lizard and, if you’re feeling brave, allow a black-headed python to wrap itself around your neck.
Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary also has a wealth of birdlife, from emus to playful cockatoos.
Feeding time for the kangaroos, wallabies and emus takes place at 14:00.
7. Brennan & Geraghtys Store Museum
Now in the care of the National Trust of Queensland, this large grocery store dates back to 1864, and from 1871 to 1972 was managed by a single family.
The National Trust took over in 1975, preserving the building and its cottage next door as an invaluable piece of commercial heritage.
What makes the store so special is that the final owner George Geraghty hadn’t disposed of old stock or the store’s records.
By that time, many of these items were no longer manufactured, and some dated back as far as the 1890s.
You can go past the elegant facade and verandah in to see products and containers from a bygone age on the shelves, walls adorned with vintage signage and wooden boxes at the back bearing their old stamps.
8. Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum
This museum in a historic warehouse in Maryborough’s Portside Heritage Gateway has more than 10,000 pieces of military and colonial memorabilia in its collections and specialises in military medals.
Among the most important exhibits is the largest set of Victoria Crosses of any private museum (the highest military award in the Australian and previously Commonwealth honours system). This includes the only VC from the Gallipoli campaign that is on show outside the Australian War Memorial.
Also on display is the only Cross of Valour on public display in Australia, awarded to Senior Constable Timothy Britten for his response to the 2002 Bali Bombings.
9. Bond Store Museum
Part of the Portside Heritage Gateway, the heritage-listed Bond Store on Wharf Street goes back to 1863. There are lots of details left over from the buildings earliest days, including earthen floors, barrel rails and hand-fired bricks.
The Bond Store was used by Her Majesty’s Customs Service, and among the taxable goods kept in this building were rum, spirits, wine, tobacco and even opium! Now this restored building holds a collection of artefacts from Maryborough’s time as an inland port, as well as smart interpretive boards relating different strands of local history.
And as a link to the past, the Bond Store is also the place to buy goodies from the region like macadamia nuts, olives, preserves and a variety of alcohol.
10. Customs House Interpretive Centre
Just across the road, Customs House is another imposing and heritage-listed colonial site.
This was designed by the prolific John Smith Murdoch and completed in 1899. There are two buildings in the complex, the former customs house and its associated residence.
You can step inside every day of the week to admire the historic details and delve into the history of immigration in Maryborough.
There are fascinating profiles of people who travelled half the world for a new life, as well as information about the families who were here at Maryborough’s foundation.
11. Mary Ann Steam Locomotive
If you’re in town for the Maryborough Heritage City Markets, or come on the last Sunday of the month there’s a steam engine chugging through the city centre and beside the Mary River.
This is the Mary Ann, a replica of the first steam engine to be built in Queensland, right here at John Walker and Co’s Union Foundry.
The modern replica runs along tracks that were laid in the 19th century for the foundry and Maryborough’s wharves.
You can take a ride between 09:00 and 12:30, and drop by the accompanying Whistle Stop Museum, which has a raft of artefacts from the golden age of Australian railways, including tools, lanterns, telegraphs, clothing and even the original knock off whistle from the Walker foundry.
12. Anzac Park
This restful urban park, anchored by the Ululah Lagoon has a history that goes way back to before Maryborough’s European settlement.
This had long been a location for Aboriginal corroborees, but in the mid-19th century the lagoon was excavated to become Maryborough’s first water supply.
The initial land sales for the town also took place at this very site in 1852. Nowadays you can walk or ride around the lagoon via a trail, and the park is furnished with a host of facilities.
There’s a skate park, children’s playground with a fort and flying fox, abundant barbecue facilities as well as the 18-hole Maryborough Golf Club on the west side of the lagoon.
13. Maryborough City Hall
Maybe the most prominent of Maryborough’s surfeit of heritage buildings is the City Hall, easily spotted for its tower and portico at the corner of Kent and Lennox Streets.
Ready in 1908 and composed of local Meredith bricks, this building was designed in an American Colonial style by the Brisbane architects Hall and Dods, and houses a grand auditorium.
The bulk of the clock tower was actually a later addition, in 1934. The auditorium meanwhile can hold 800 people and has a barrel vault, with rich ornamentation on the proscenium arch and the Corinthian columns that frame it.
The City Hall is the location for Maryborough’s Visitor Information Centre, so you can go in and inquire about a tour.
On Thursday at 13:00 the Time Cannon is fired on the City Hall Green by the Town Crier and Mary Heritage.
14. Original Maryborough Town Site
Maryborough is one of those rare places where you can pinpoint with certainty exactly where the first settlement was located.
Now a peaceful archaeological park, the original site is set on the south bank of the Mary River, around four kilometres north-west of the CBD.
Known then as Wide Bay Village, this place was occupied between 1848 and 1855 before being abandoned for a deeper port a little way downstream.
The 30-hectare creek-side area has graves belonging to pioneers, trails, interpretive boards, picnic tables, barbecues and toilets.
15. Maryborough Heritage City Markets
Thursday is a great time to be in Maryborough, when the city centre is taken over by market stalls and lots of little events paying tribute to the city’s rich history.
The market trades along Adelaide and Ellena Streets from 08:00 to 13:30, accompanied by live music and entertainment and selling anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to handmade arts and crafts, jewellery, fashion and a choice of hot food and snacks.
You’re sure to see the Town Crier and Mary Heritage around town, and, as we’ve mentioned, they’ll be firing the Time Cannon at 13:00.