The Insider Tour Group wants to reintroduce you to the city you know and love.
Insider Tours Brisbane is offering walking tours of the River City with a twist.
Founder Francis Hartnett began his career in the tourism industry in Berlin just after the wall came down — “I really wanted to be in a happening city and a place that was quite inspiring culturally and historically, and that was dynamic,” he says. He then took his insider knowledge of the newest and most secret hot spots of global hub cities to Prague, London and Beijing, and eventually found himself in Australia. He planned on beginning his tours of Brisbane a few years ago when he first visited — but he didn’t think we were quite up to scratch.
Fast-forward to 2014 and our culinary and bar scene is bursting at the seams, and Francis has launched tours exploring the ins and outs of our historically rich town.
Insider Tours currently offers three walking tours — the Boutique Brews & Gourmet Pub Tucker Tour, Brisbane Underbelly: Convict & Crime Tour, and Guilty Pleasures Sunday: Indulgence Walk of Brisbane.
As the name suggests, it’s all about being an Insider – getting the behind-the-scenes look and VIP treatment at every location that leaves you wanting to come back for more. It’s about getting to know your city, again.
“We know Brisbane like locals,” Francis says. “We can take local residents and reintroduce them to Brisbane — even though it’s the town they live in, they might not know what’s new around town. All of these bar happenings and culinary and gastro concepts are taking shape, especially over the last six months, and have really transformed the city.”
And it’s the city that the tours are trying to highlight, especially to the tourist market. Not everybody knows about the excitement our little ‘town’ has to offer — even some hotels in the CBD offer shuttle buses to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast instead of suggesting what’s right outside their doorsteps.
“We’re the one kind of activity that focuses on Brisbane,” Francis says. “We’ve got the historical angle, but also the culinary and lifestyle angle — whereas other tourist activities might have been focused on four-wheel-driving up the coast, or going to the amusement parks, we’re bringing it back to the city and we’re offering something that’s somewhat sophisticated.”
You may have already been to some of the locations visited on the tours, but many are hidden in old laneways and side streets that are just as interesting for their history as for their brews. For instance, Burnett Lane is where the first members of Queensland’s parliament used to meet; now it’s a hidden pocket of the inner city where you can grab a coffee or a cocktail from early until very late.
As for the Underbelly Tour, Francis says “there’s always a little bit of morbid curiosity”. But beyond that, it reflects a part of our city’s history that’s legitimate and interesting.
The GPO Office on Ann Street, which people walk by every day, used to be the female prison and public gallows. Not so long ago, that’s a place where people were imprisoned and publicly executed. There’s also the old windmill from the convict era that was built to mill grain, but never got much wind — so they ended up putting a treadmill on it, and prisoners would be placed on that for days, literally walked to death. Public floggings were a daily affair.
We’re a new city from a recent history that’s full of stories from our harsh settlement. From the first settlers to the Fitzgerald Inquiry, Francis and his team will school you on everything from Brisbane’s most interesting stories and where they occurred, to the newest local chocolatier that’s opened up in the same spot.
Another major theme of all the tours Francis runs is celebrating local and organic produce. After all, what’s the point of going on a Brisbane tour only to enjoy things that aren’t local to our area?
If you’ve found you’ve lost that love for your city, or you want to score some major brownie points with your friends or family from out of town, head on one of the Insider Tours. (It’s worth noting that the tours are restricted to people over 18, as many of the insider spots visited are licensed venues.)
The tours go for a few hours, depending on how long your group likes to take at each destination, and the cost includes a few samples at each venue. Tickets start from $35 each and are available from Eventbrite.
“We need to start becoming what we say we are,” Francis says. “We want to be a global city? Let’s be a global city!”
In other words, Brisbane talks the talk — now it’s time to walk the walk. Pardon the pun.