Brisbane River Ferries

Ferries have operated in Brisbane from the earliest times of European settlement.  One of the earliest ferries was the Customs House to Kangaroo Point ferry which first operated in the 1840s.  A ferry also operated from the early 1840s, at the present Victoria Bridge site (John William’s “Time Killer”) but this became obsolete with the construction of a permanent Victoria Bridge.  This ferry was also known as the Russell Street ferry. 

Kangaroo Point ferry approaching the terminal, Brisbane, ca. 1936. Negative number: 108243, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland 

A number of other ferries have operated in the past and some continue to do so, including: 

  • Kangaroo Point Ferry
  • Indooroopilly Ferry
  • Bulimba Ferry
  • Moggill ferry

One of the worst river disasters involved the sinking of the ferry PearlThe Pearl had been put into service carrying people across the river to South Brisbane due to flood damage to the Victoria Bridge.  At about 5pm on 13 February 1896, the Pearl passed in front of the government yacht Lucinda with the flood waters carrying the Pearl onto Lucinda’s anchor chain.  The Pearl sank within thirty seconds, with substantial loss of life. 

The steamer Pearl 1896. Negative number: 9320, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Today Brisbane is serviced by a fleet of fourteen distinctive high speed citycat ferries.  The first citycats were introduced in 1996 with four vessels in operation.  Due to the high level of demand a further two vessels were added later that year and another two in 1998.  The modern citycats have a maximum speed of 25 knots and can hold up to 162 passengers.  They provide a comfortable and relaxing journey for both commuters and tourists alike.


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Just checking that Pearl sank on 13 Feb 1896 -have read 1893?thanks, Margaret

Hi MargaretYes, it was defintely 13 Feb 1896.

The lady {Mrs Harper} with her children was infact my husbands' great- grandmother Mrs Ellen Harper.

Dear Sonja, I has just finished a book whose main title is: '1896 "Pearl" Ferry Capsizing Near Victoria Bridge, Brisbane River', with the help of the SLQ Librarians. There is now a copy on John Oxley Library (SLQ). An commemoration of this tragedy will be held on Sunday 12th February 2012, at the Queensland Maritime Museum, Sidon street, South Brisbane, at 3.00pm. This is also where Mrs. Harper's body was washed up, and unsuccessful attempts by Dr. Kebble, were made to revive her.You, and everyone interested in what is still Brisbane's worst disaster, where some 29 people drowned, and some 59 people were saved by various means, is invited to this event. [Because of the time shortage, it would be appreciated if 'JOL Admin' could forward this message to Sonja and her husband Parton please?]

I am looking for late 1800s early 1900s photos of Moggill Ferry on the Brisbane river

Hi - thanks for your question. Could you please complete our online enquiry form and one of our helpful librarians will assist you.