Fife and drum and brass bands entertained crowds of people on boats floating up the South Esk River into the Cataract Gorge from the early 1860s.
The main Gorge path reached the area to be developed into the Cliff Grounds in December 1892.
The honorary engineer for the City and Suburbs Improvement Association, Mr HN Taylor, designed the first bandstand perched on the cliff beside the path opposite the rapids. It was capable of being taken to pieces and erected elsewhere if necessary.
St Joseph's band opened the bandstand with a promenade concert on the evening of December 27, 1892. Numerous Chinese lanterns suspended from trees in the grounds looked like "great globes of luminous fruit" and the entrance, path and bandstand were also illuminated by lamps.
About 1000 people passed through the turnstiles that night, and a large number went up the Gorge in boats and landed at the steps near the rapids.
The Daily Telegraph reported that "A good programme was rendered by the band, but the music could not be heard very far away, on account, principally, of the noise made by the water coming down over the rapids."
The first bandstand's location was not ideal, and it was removed in 1900.
By August 1895 Mr Taylor submitted plans for a new and improved bandstand in the Cliff Grounds. A committee of ladies took the initiative and held a cake fair raising all the funds needed for the bandstand. It was so successful that they organised a garden fête held in the Cliff Grounds in early February 1896 to raise more money.
It appears that the City Band, conducted by Mr J Edwards, was the first to use the "most tasteful and commodious structure" on Sunday January 19, 1896 with a "well-selected programme of sacred music to the enjoyment of a large assemblage."
In January 1898 a musical carnival given by the Garrison, City and St Joseph's bands entertained the crowds by marching to the entrance gates and playing lively marches until they reached the rotunda where they took turns contributing a series of selections.
The Improvement Association handed over the Cliff Grounds to the City Council on February 25, 1898, and the next day a large fire threatened to destroy the rotunda, Crusoe hut and dove house. The caretaker and several men played water onto the structures, cut a line outside the boundary fence and back burned the vegetation saving the grounds from destruction.
No longer used by bands, in January 1992 the rotunda became an interpretation centre.