Brisbane Geography

Brisbane is ideally situated in the south eastern corner of Queensland to the east of the Great Dividing Range. On a map you’ll find the city located halfway up the east coast of Australia at coordinates 27.5oS, 153oE.

Sprawling along the Moreton Bay floodplain, Brisbane stretches from Caboolture in the north, to Beenleigh in the south, and as far as Ipswich in the west.

Winding around the Brisbane River the city is rather hilly, with prominent rises including Mt Coot-tha, Enoggera Hill, Mount Gravatt, Toohey Mountain and Highgate Hill to name a few.

With the Great Dividing Range at Brisbane’s back door, the bay to the east, rivers, hills, bushland and open plains, there’s a region to suit all outdoor activities.

On the Brisbane River

Brisbane River

Travelling 344km from Mount Stanley to Moreton Bay, he Brisbane River is the longest river in south east Queensland, flowing through the centre of the city. The Central Business District is still in the original settlement location in a curve of the river approximately 23 kilometres upstream from Moreton Bay.

There are 16 major bridges crossing the Brisbane River, and a tunnel that paths the way underneath the river. The river is dammed by Wivenhoe Dam, creating the man-made Lake Wivenhoe to function as Brisbane’s main water supply.

In spite of the hilly areas of Brisbane, much of the city exists on the low lying flood plains, with several suburban creeks throughout the suburbs joining the Brisbane River. These low lying areas on the water’s edge increase the risk of flooding, with Brisbane seeing devastating floods in February 1893, January 1974 and more recently in January 2011.

There have been significant changes to the city’s water management since 2011, with backflow valves and a number of other flood mitigation works having been implemented to ensure against such damage in the future.

The Mountains

Lost World Valley

While there are no real ‘mountains’ within the Brisbane city limits, a number of the suburbs are situated on large hills that afford an elevated position above the flood plains. Even the CBD is partially elevated by such hills.

On the western edge of Brisbane the suburbs around and including Mount Coot-tha, Enoggera, Moggill and Chapel Hill sit atop Herbert Taylor Range. The range is an eastern spur of the D’Aguilar Range and mostly protected by the Mount Coot-tha Reserve and Brisbane Forest Park.

Reaching 300 metres above sea level, Mount Coot-tha is a prominent land mark in Brisbane and affords clear views of most of the city. Local television and radio stations make use of the landmark to house their broadcasting towers.

Just across the river from the CBD you can clearly see the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. These cliffs were created by convicts mining the volcanic rock which make up the landmark, quarrying the area for local building works. The site hasn’t been a quarry since 1976 and the cliffs were heritage listed in 2003.

You can also get a great idea of the Brisbane region from Google's aerial photography of Brisbane.

Moreton Bay

Moreton Island wrecks

Stretching some 125km from Caloundra in the north to Surfers Paradise in the south, Moreton Bay is one of Queensland’s most important coastal resources. It’s the entrance to the Gold Coast Seaway as well as the Brisbane River, and is separated from the Coral Sea by Moreton Island, North Stradbroke and South Stradbroke Islands.

The bay is 35km across at its widest point and contains about 360 small islands. The blue waters are home to some environmentally significant habitats and the bay is the only place in Australia where Dugong gather into herds.

With the heritage protected wetlands, muddy habitats on the west side of the bay, sandy habitats on the east side, and the coral and seagrass beds, the Moreton Bay area supports up to 25% of Australia’s bird species, making the area an Important Bird Area (IBA) as classifies by BirdLife International. The bay is also home to whales, dolphins, dugong, sharks and the Loggerhead Turtle.

The Scenic Rim

Mt Barney countryside

Right in Brisbane’s backyard at the foothills of the once volcanic Great Dividing Range lies the Scenic Rim. About 22 million years ago there were three major volcanos to the west of the Brisbane River. These now extinct volcanos make up the highlands that now include Toowoomba, Cunningham’s Gap and Mt Superbus. What were once amongst the largest shield volcanos to exist on the planet, now make up what we know as the Scenic Rim.

The region enjoys a great diversity of plant life as a result of the volcanic and older sedimentary soils in the ground. Because of the topography, the mountains in the east catch moisture laden clouds from the Pacific Ocean, accounting for much of Brisbane’s water supply

The altitude ranges from 300 to 1,500 metres above sea level, creating a climate that gets cooler as you move higher into the ranges. It’s this temperature that allows warm, subtropical rainforests to grow at the base of the mountains, with cool, temperate rainforests just a bit further up.