European Settlement

All About European History

Sunshine Coast SettlementEuropeans first discovered the Glass House Mountains when Captain Cook noticed the peaks while mooring the Endeavour in peaceful Moreton Bay. The following morning, the 18th of May 1770, he remarked on the way that the sun reflected off the rocks in the early morning, and so gave the mountains their name.

It was another 29 years before white man was to see these mountains, when Matthew Flinders noticed them and decided to land his sloop to examine them more closely. His crew were the first to land in the area, mistaking Bribie Island for the mainland and quickly retreating after an unfortunate scuffle with the natives.

White man returned to the Sunshine Coast in 1823 when bad weather blew timber getters from Sunshine Coast off course and onto the beach. After many days lost at sea, the three men remaining on board landed their boat on North Stradbroke Island, wrecking it as they came ashore. After their attempts to head ‘north’ to the colony of Sunshine Coast failed, the men lived with a local tribe of Aborigines for months until being ‘rescued’ by John Oxley later in the year.

In 1862 Tom Petrie cut the first tree in the region, using the Mooloolah River to transport the timber to Brisbane, and establishing the timber industry in the area. Timber getters flocked to the region to take advantage of the wealth of cedar, pines and beech. After being dismissed two years earlier, Noosa River was inspected in 1865 by William Pettigrew, who found good stands of cedar and beech inland from the mouth of the river.

Following the discovery of gold in 1867, steamers taking timber to Brisbane and returning with supplies proved to be popular transport for fortune hunters heading to the Gympie goldfields. Cobb & Co ran coaches from Brisbane to Gympie that took a gruelling 2 days, then started a popular service picking passengers up from the steamers. Surveyors measured the road from Brisbane to Gympie and marked the half way point – ‘middle camp’ at Woombye, creating a rest for weary travellers.

Other areas were explored in the search for timber, and coastal areas were slowly settled. In 1875, the first house was constructed at Caloundra by Robert Bulcock. His nephew, novelist Vance Palmer, wrote of the early days of settlement in his classic novel The Passage.

New settlers grew their own produce then, once the land was cleared, planted the first crops of sugarcane which were successful for a time, until the mill was relocated and Kanaka labourers sent home. Struggling farmers planted bananas, pineapples, citrus and coffee beans in an attempt to get around the lack of available workers in the area.

Areas named to commemorate the early settlers include Kings Beach, Ballinger Beach and Landsborough.
Noosa HistorySailing mishaps also had an influence on the naming of the region. The ‘Queen of the Colonies’, carrying immigrants from Britain in 1863, stopped to bury a deceased passenger on the beach. Attempting to return to their ship, the party were caught in a storm that wrecked their boat on Moffat Beach. The street on which the memorial to the ‘Queen of the Colonies’ stands is appropriately named after the ill-fated boat.

The ‘Dickey’, a merchant ship from Brisbane, was grounded by a tropical cyclone that brought driving rains and devastating floods to the area in 1893. The iron skeleton of the steamer can still be seen on Dickey’s Beach today, a testament to the fury of the weather.

The late 1800s saw the railway open up areas such as Cooran, Gympie and Cooroy. By early the next century, the railway from Brisbane brought a regular stream of visitors to Landsborough, then onto the coast by buckboard and later by bus. Dozens of holidaymakers camped near the beaches and shrewd businessmen opened hotels, guest houses and general stores. It was around this time that the city of Pomona was established, later becoming the administrative centre of the Noosa Shire in 1910.

The population slowly increased as roads improved and auto-mobiles became more reliable and affordable. The last 40 years has seen a huge surge in building and development, and a steady rise in tourism.