Friday 14 February 2020

1966 bushwalk on North Bribie

The following article gives readers a view of North Bribie Island as it was in 1966.

Bushwalking on Bribie (1966)
by "Wantimba"

An island, warm in the sun, lies across Pumicestone Strait from Caloundra, inviting the bushwalker, the bird watcher, the fisherman and the casual tourist to something unusual, something different.

The invitation is especially strong on sunny winter days between May and September.

This is the northern end of Bribie Island. Of the many accounts of early Queensland only one gives an indication of the native name of this island.

John Dunmore Lang, D.D., A.M., in his book "Queensland - Australia" dated London April 22, 1861 wrote:- "To the northward of Stradbroke Island, and separated from it by a navigable channel of nearly a mile in width is Moreton Island, running due North for about twenty miles with an average breadth of three miles. The third island is Bribie's Island, the Yarun of the natives..."

For those who wish to visit "the Yarun of the natives" at the northern end, outboard hire boats are available at several points between Bulcock Beach and Military Jetty fronting Pumicestone Strait.

On the island at the site of the old jetty where military supplies and equipment were landed during World War II, there is an attractive landing. A notice board fronts the water. "Lions Park, Caloundra." There are low banksia and wattle trees shading springy, close cut grass and rustic tables - both there per courtesy of Caloundra Lions. This small square of "civilised" ground amid primitive surroundings is close to the ocean beach. The first sand dunes can be seen from the picnic tables.

The holiday adventurer should come provided with a good picnic hamper and a supply of drinking water for, as yet, there are no water tanks on the northern part of Bribie Island.

It is primitive land, retaining some of the native creatures and wild "atmosphere" which inevitably vanish before "development."

Kangaroos favour a small open area of grass land just north of the landing. Several emus stalk the sand dunes. At least two of these emus are extremely big and unusually dark in colour. Several brolgas (native companions) inhabit the stretch of dune and swamp extending south to the old lighthouse fronting the ocean beach.

The active visitor may choose between walking down the open ocean beach as a beachcomber, or following the old military road behind the frontal sand dunes. About a mile south, between the road and the beach, is the first of a string of old forts built during World War II.

The massive concrete and log structures are crumbling and dangerous. One fort is almost undermined by ocean tides - illustrating the alarming erosion which is eating away the northern end of Bribie Island.

Underground storage chambers and magazines remain in good condition. They are as sound as on the day the last soldier marched out. Hundreds of names, accumulated over 25 years are scribbled on the dry walls.

These forts and many other traces of a large military establishment tell of tense days when big guns and young men waited for enemy ships which may have attempted to force the North West Channel into Brisbane.

Today [1966], surf surges on a long peaceful beach. Keen fishermen cast into promising gutters. A feeling of primitive isolation, ignoring the ghost forts and past history, holds this island.

Some three miles south of Lions Park the dome of a lighthouse shows above the frontal sand dunes. The tower is now decrepit and neglected. Once this was an important mark for shipping. Like the ghost forts it is now part of Bribie's long history.

In "Bribie the Basket Maker," Thos. Welsby wrote:- "Comes now the Lower Light House. There are two structures of this nature on the island used as leads for deep sea vessels seeking the North West Channel into Moreton lights. They were built in 1896, one being called the front light, the other the back light. These houses contain white fixed lights, the nearest giving a front of 12 nautical miles, the back one 15. The structures are built and known as skeleton towers. The outer or ocean light has a height of 62 feet, as a building, from base to vane, with 56 feet of height of light above high water, whilst the inner or backlight is 98 feet above high water mark."

Today [1966], a clear track leads past the ocean light to the second light. People climb this tower for views of the island. The hugs timbers are still sound, excepting for one great stay which has been burned by bush fires. For 70 years these skeleton towers have stood above the flat land of Bribie Island.

Beside the track to the second light a large native fig tree has survived axe and bush fire. The ancient shells of an aboriginal "midden" are plentiful in the sand hereabouts.

The track continues past the second light to the shores of Pumicestone Strait. At the end of the track is an old boat landing where, for some two or three hundreds dollars worth of clearing, an inviting landing and picnic area could be made. From here a track leads south down the centre of the island, finally emerging on the bitumen road between Bongaree and Woorim.

The opportunity to secure the northern end of Bribie Island as a fauna and bird sanctuary, attracting tourists seeking respite from the worlds of bitumen and close packed buildings, may soon pass - dredging leases are pegged on this island in the sun.

At this landing a motor boat could meet parties having made the interesting walk from Lions Park opposite Caloundra, past the old forts and lighthouses, through kangaroo and emu country - and have them back to Military Jetty, Caloundra within half an hour.

Bushwalking on Bribie by Wantimba. Nambour Chronicle May 6, 1966. page 23.
An online copy of the article can be viewed at

Lang, John Dunmore (1847)
Cooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cotton-field of Great Britain: its characteristics and capabilities for European colonization with a disquisition on the origin, manners and customs of the Aborigines.
London : Longman, Brown, Green and Longman, 1847. 523p.
A pdf file [13.9 MB] of the book, digitized by Google from the library of Harvard University and uploaded to the Internet Archive, can be accessed at

Welsby, Thomas (1937) 
"Bribie - The Basket Maker"
Brisbane, Qld. : Barker's Bookstores, 1937. 146p.
A pdf file [25.9 MB] of the book can be accessed on the National Library of Australia's website