The arrival of Queensland's first Governor on 10 December 1859 was an occasion for celebration; in the words of Brisbane's newspaper, ‘never was welcome given with heartier zest’. As Sir George Bowen stepped ashore at a temporary landing stage in the Botanic Gardens, he was greeted with an ornamental arch, a semicircular frame covered in flowers and greenery, bearing words of welcome. This ‘triumphal arch’, as it was called, was the creation of Andrew Petrie, a pioneer settler and building contractor, and Walter Hill, the Curator of the Gardens. It was to be the first of hundreds of similar arches erected throughout Queensland for almost a century. They were a regular feature of public celebrations until relatively recent times, marking the arrivals and travels of Governors, occasional visits by royalty, the opening of major roads, railways and bridges, and, to a lesser extent, historical milestones. They ranged from grand, highly decorated structures – often the work of professional designers – erected in the metropolis for royal visits to simple arches of greenery, put up by even the smallest regional communities for special occasions, such as welcoming visiting Governors. This paper takes a closer look at these curious structures and the symbolism behind them for, as Stephen Alomes observes, public rituals provide valuable insights into Australian life, revealing contradictions between imperial loyalties and burgeoning nationalism, indigenous and derivative, traditional and modern.