Born in August 1807 in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, Kingston arrived in South Australia on the Cygnet in 1836 as Deputy Surveyor to Colonel William Light. Not only did he recommend the site of Adelaide as Capital, it seems that he also was the principal designer of the Adelaide town plan. He was the first white man to set foot on the site of the city. Later he worked as an architect and designed many of the early government buildings. Among them were; Government House, Adelaide Hospital, Treasury Building, Adelaide Goal and the Glenelg Custom House. Among his private work were Paxton Square Cottages in Burra, Ayers House, Cummins House, Colonel William Light's monument in Light Square and his own seaside home at Brighton.
He also proposed that land besides the Burra Creek be set aside as parklands.
On 23 May 1837, when most of Adelaide's streets were named, Kingston Terrace was named after him. George was also an early buyer of real estate in Adelaide acquiring sections 255 and 1027 in 1837 and section 417 in 1838. In October of that year he resigned from the Survey Department and started business as an Civil Engineer, Architect and Surveyor.
The eighty acres of land for the Kingston House were bought in 1839. He granted Robert Bristow permission to build the Marino Inn on it. It was constructed from prefabricated timber panels, shipped out from England, and was soon very popular with sailors, quarrymen and seaside visitors.
Kingston was prominent in forming the South Australian Mining Association and became a shareholder of the Burra mine which made him a wealthy man. He carried out the Burra Special Survey and was elected director of the company in 1848 and chairman in 1857. By this time he was also a MP representing Burra and Clare. He became member of the Board of Governors for the Botanic Gardens and Chairman from 1858-1875.
By 1851 Kingston transformed the original Kingston House and made several extensions to make it suitable as a summer residence for his large family. Kingston married three times and was widowed twice. His six children were all born to his second wife, Ludovina Catherina da Silva Cameron, after their marriage on 10 April 1841. She died ten years later and Kingston married Emma Lipson on 4 December 1856.
On 20 August 1851, Kingston was sworn in as a member of South Australia's first elected parliament and held his seat in the Legistative Council for twenty-nine years, representing the northern rural and mining districts. As early as 1854 he tried to form a committee which would try to find out where gold in large quantities could be discovered in South Australia. Three years later he became the first Speaker of the new House of Assembly and held that position until he retired in October 1880.
During 1858 Kingston was involved in the survey of the town of Kingston, laid out as a private investment, on the shores of Lacepede Bay. It was meant to be a port but was not officially sanctioned as such until 1865.
Kingston was knighted in 1870, despite holding strong republican views. In 1877 he became one of the promoters of the Glenelg and Brighton Tramway Company. Kingston died in 1880 aboard the RMS Malwa on his way to India. He was buried at sea. After the death of his son's widow, Lucy, the Kingston House was bought by the South Australian government.
Kingston's name has been applied to the Hundred of Kingston, Mount Kingston near Lake Eyre and Kingston Park, an Adelaide suburb, laid out by Lucy Kingston.