Review: The Story Bank in Maryborough brings the magic of Mary Poppins to life
Brollie-wielding nannies descend on Maryborough in southern Queensland every July for the Mary Poppins Festival — a celebration of the famous character and her creator P. L. Travers, who was born here in the late 19th century. But anytime is a good time to pay a visit to this historic city and the fabulous Story Bank. Spit-spot!
The town of Maryborough in Queensland’s Fraser Coast region has a rich trove of period architecture, including the birthplace of the author who created one of the most famous literary characters of all time. Converted into a multimedia museum in 2019, The Story Bank is an engaging homage to P. L. Travers and her enigmatic nanny — Mary Poppins. Hours: 10am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday
If a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, then a visit to Maryborough will do wonders for you.
Just a three-hour drive north of Brisbane, encircled by the Mary River, Maryborough is one of Queensland’s oldest towns. The first thing you will notice when you arrive, preferably on the winds of the east, is the grandeur and richness of the colonial facades that proudly line the wide streets. It’s easy to see that no expense has been spared preserving the glorious architecture of an era gone by.
While there are ample things to see and do around town — from the steam train locomotive and the famous Bond Store, to the stunning Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial in Queens Park — there’s one special building that has captured my eye. The Australian Joint Stock Building is a former bank that holds not only a special place in the history of this town, but more broadly on the grand worldwide stage, and in the hearts of children everywhere.
You see, once upon a time, back in 1899 to be precise, a baby girl was born in the upstairs room. Named Helen Lyndon Goff, this little bundle of joy would grow up to become a revered author and write a series of books titled Mary Poppins, under the pen name of P. L. Travers. Brought to the big screen by Walt Disney in 1964, it’s a work that would influence our thoughts and ideals, while bringing a tourism boost to this quintessential Queensland town.
Breeze down Cherry Lane (aka the corner of Richmond and Kent Streets) to see the perfectly restored property, now called The Story Bank. It’s a cleverly executed name that honours not only the old bank, but also a love of reading and Travers’ famous fictional character — George Banks.
Standing in front of this $1.5-million-dollar restoration project, your eyes are immediately drawn to the crowd hovering around waiting patiently for a photo with a statue of Mary Poppins. There’s an air of excitement; after all, it’s not every day you get to stand alongside this magical nanny, dressed in her finery and holding her trademark umbrella. Already there’s a sense of a childhood fantasy coming to life, but it’s not until you land inside the front door that the real story begins.
The Story Bank takes you on a whimsical and enchanting journey built on stories, art, books and interactive displays. It’s the detail that impresses me. A grand staircase re-enacts the famous scene of Poppins and the children slip-sliding down the banister, while a teacup chandelier dangles from the roof and a gorgeous patchwork quilt details the author’s life. The interior is the stunning work of local artisans, who have lovingly created a magical world for all ages to enjoy. Don’t forget to look for the twenty hidden mice, illustrated by local artist April Spandina.
Step inside the study, sit at the desk and pretend to create an all-time best seller. But I must warn you, if the phone rings and you jump in surprise, answer it! After all, this is your story!
This may sound like pure escapism, but there’s much more to the two-storey museum; it has been designed to encourage education, literacy and creativity.
More Poppins-inspired fun awaits you around town. From the murals, quirky pedestrian crossing lights and themed souvenir stores, to the eight-day Mary Poppins Festival that runs during the winter school holidays, one thing is for sure: this Queensland town is mad for the magical nanny they call their own.
It’s a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious adventure for the big kid in us all.
Cover image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland. Image: Andrew Tallon. Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian media personality and avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride, and she knew there was no turning back. Since then, Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two — from exploring relatively untouched Bhutan to braving the cold on the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.