Timeline of Noosa: 1850-1899 Timeline of Noosa: 1850-1899


The brig Kirkdale shipwrecked on a sand beach near Noosa Heads. She caught fire and burned down to the water level. No lives were lost. The Mate, Mr Green, and four crew took their only long-boat to Brisbane to find help. In the meantime, the Captain E. Williams and the six remaining seamen followed the beach southwards to make way overland towards Brisbane. At the Maroochy River they encountered Richard Jones, a timber dealer, who lent them a boat and a guide to sail to Brisbane.


The local area was originally opened up by timber-getters who began logging there around this time. Brisbane saw-miller William Pettigrew navigated the Noosa River as far as Lake Cootharaba in search for stands of mill-able timber. He stated that the only places suitable for timber-getting were on the north side of King King (Kin Kin) Creek entering the northern extremity of the Lake. Pettigrew noticed good patches of pastureland, but he judged them too limited for grazing a large herd. He reported swans, ducks, geese, pelicans and other waterfowl to be abundant on the lakes (he had caught two black swans). On the foreshore of Noosa Beach he discovered pine trees.


The schooner Warren Goddard was to deliver sawmill machinery and plant from Brisbane to Laguna Bay for a Mr Blakesley. On arrival, Mr Blakesley could not be found. Weather conditions eventually forced the schooner to turn back with its freight still aboard. The schooner grounded in Moreton Bay on her return trip and the sawmill machinery was covered with water. Both ship and cargo were insured.

The captain of the Mariposa abandoned intentions to collect timber at Laguna Bay, deeming it too risky.


The schooner Independence, 42 tons, departed from Brisbane for Laguna Bay under Captain J. Robertson on 1st March with four passengers (Mr and Mrs Blakesley, Miss, and Master Blakesley). On its return voyage the Independence transported 20,000 feet log cedar.

In October that year, the Gneering transported 30,000 feet cedar and a passenger from Noosa River to Brisbane.


Following the discovery of gold at Gympie by James Nash, the construction of a road from Gympie to Caboolture was conceived in order to establish a dray overland connection between the new goldfields and Brisbane. The road was ready for traffic in 1868 and became locally known as the Brisbane Road. From 1868 Cobb and Co. offered a twice weekly coach service between Gympie and Brisbane over this road with an overnight stay at Cobb’s Camp (now Woombye). Further waypoints on this passage were Tuchkoi and the crossing of the Maroochy River (Yandina) on the upper half as well as the crossing of the Maloolah River, the Mellum Creek (today Landsborough) and Caboolture on the lower half. The journey was 117 ½ miles long and cost £3.10s. An alternate itinerary between Gympie and Brisbane was to travel north overland to Maryborough and then by sea to Brisbane. Both ways were time consuming and difficult.


William Pettigrew took on a five year lease of a two acre wharf site on the Noosa River at Tewantin for £2 ($4) a year. Other early wharf site lessees were: Walter Hay, B. Finney, R.A. Richardson, A.R. Pillow, Dath Henderson & Co., John Staley, John Madden,

Albert Wilkin, Alfred Hort as well as McGhie, Luya & Co.

Lieut. Bedwell, commander of H.M. surveying schooner Pearl, discovered that the existing chart of the area made by Matthew Flinders in 1802 was very inaccurate in the vicinity of Laguna Bay.


Port Master of Queensland George Heath surveyed the estuary (Nusa Harbour) in the Tug Brisbane. He recorded a depth of approx. 7 feet over the bar at high tide and 9 to 12 feet of water in the lower river. On his chart he marked a series of shifting sand banks and several wooded islands in the vicinity of Hay's Inlet. He also noted the mouth of Weba (Weyba) Creek and reported that the Noosa River was a better outlet for timber than the Mary River and the Maroochy River.

The Cootharaba Sawmill originated. A.F. Luya & Co purchased Portion 1, Parish of Noosa at Elanda Point on the shore of Lake Cootharaba. C.S. Russell, a partner in the firm, prepared the infrastructure for a sawmill on this property while part of the land was turned into cattle grazing ground. When Russell left the partnership in 1871, the firm became McGhie, Luya & Co. Under this trade name the sawmill commenced business in October 1871. Three tug boats were built to tow pontoons loaded with timber to Colloy wharf (opposite Gympie Terrace). The steamer Culgoa was purchased to convey the sawn timber to the company’s wharf at South Brisbane. On its return trips to Noosa the Culgoa brought passengers as well as mail and goods for the locals. In 1873 the sawmill’s boiler exploded killing five workmen. This prompted an inquiry which resulted in a new law to have boilers regularly inspected. By 1874 the Cootharaba Sawmill boasted a small self-contained township with a store, a blacksmith as well as butcher’s and carpenter’s shops, a school, homes for 60 families and a huge saw-mill with access to 3 miles of rail for the transportation of logs. For some years there was also a hotel. Imports of cheap timber, an economic depression in 1890, combined with the pine being depleted caused the Cootharaba Sawmill to close in 1891. Mr Luya then tried to subdivide the land and to let the plots to framers with an option for purchase. However, the land was unsuitable for farming and the scheme floundered with the hungry families moving away. In 1892 Portion 1, Parish of Noosa, was advertised for sale as “Cootharaba Estate”.


Walter Hay was paid to cut a direct track from Gympie to Noosa which became known as the Noosa Road. The opening of this road prompted a furore: The town of Gympie was in favour as they anticipated a faster and more convenient way to Brisbane through a port at Noosa for goods and mail as opposed to the tortuous Brisbane Road or the north passage via the port of Maryborough. The towns of Maryborough and Maroochy were against as they disliked being bypassed. Despite letters to newspapers denigrating a port on Noosa River this port was increasingly used for the trade between Gympie and Brisbane. The sea passage was combined with overland transport by cart and bullock wagon on the Noosa Road through Cooran.

The Noosa Road also became an emergency alternative for overland journeys from Gympie to Brisbane when the Brisbane Road was flooded by the Mary River. The itinerary through Noosa (134 miles) and along the coast was only 16 ½ miles longer than via the Brisbane Road alone (117 ½ miles).


The town of Tewantin began taking shape. The Government had surveyed Tewantin on a high peninsula between the Noosa River and Lake Doonella. The site was encircled with mangroves, swamps and rainforest. Governor Blackall had proclaimed 640 acres as the Town of Tewantin already in 1870, but it was not until September 1871 that allotments were advertised for sale. The first house in Tewantin belonged to Grainger Ward who had acquired it before these developments. It was located at the site of today's Tewantin central business district on a huge property known as Ward’s Estate. Grainger Ward was induced to give up the acreage to make way to town planning and in 1875 he advertised his 99 acres, house and garden for sale. Tewantin became a port on Noosa River and took on shipping timber and supplies for local settlers and residents as well as for the Gympie goldfields. Wharves and stores were constructed on the riverfront. However, the completion of the North Coast Railway in 1891 in the hinterland and the decrease of the timber supply reduced drastically the demand for Tewantin’s port and by 1897 its wharves and warehouses were falling into decay.


At the request of the Queensland Aboriginal Missionary Society, the Department of Lands proclaimed a Temporary Reserve for an Aboriginal Missionary Station. About 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) in size, it covered amongst others what we know today as Noosa Heads, Noosa National Park, Sunshine Beach and the west shore of Lake Weyba. Rev. and Mrs Fuller had volunteered to run the missionary campaign and thus established their home on the Eastern shore of Lake Weyba by the end of 1872. The first service was held in Mr Ward’s house. Soon the Fullers were confronted with the moral issues of intoxication and of white men living with aboriginal females. The Fullers lasted a little over a year before they sailed north towards Cardwell to settle at Mission Beach. The Aboriginal Reserve in Noosa area was annulled in November 1878. 1,700 acres (378 hectares) of its surface were made available for selection from 15th January 1879 at an upset price of seven shillings and sixpence per acre. 8,250 further acres (1,833 hectares) were to be surveyed for auction. Another 2,366 acres (526 hectares) were designated for a new township at Noosa Heads.

In September 1872 a weekly mail service was established from Gympie to Tewantin.


The first Regatta on Lake Coothabara was held on the Queen’s Birthday (24th May). The firm McGhie, Luya, & Co., owner of the Coothabara sawmill, hosted the event on their premises. Rowing and flat bottom sailing races were held, followed by a dance. The regatta was repeated the year after.


The Gympie to Noosa Coaching Company initiated a transportation service between Gympie and Noosa. The trial trip took 7 hours and five minutes. The long duration of this journey was partly caused by the necessity to lop some branches of trees along the road in order to enable the high coach to pass.

At the end of 1974 William Casey opened the first hotel in what was to become Noosa Shire. It was called the Half-way House and was situated about midway on the Noosa Road near Cooran Mountain and catered to travellers between Noosa and Gympie.


In January R. Richardson opened Tewantin’s first hotel. Furthermore, Tewantin became connected to the world via a telegraph line. By the end of the year Tewantin boasted two hotels, a boarding house, a school, a police station and a telegraph office.

The steamer Culgoa of the Coothabara sawmill owned by McGhie, Luya & Co. regularly frequented Tewantin’s port. For three years she had made innumerable trips by day and night, ferrying timber, cargo and passengers between Tewantin and Brisbane without serious mishaps. However, it eventually did shipwreck on the Noosa River bar in 1891.


Staff Commander E.P. Bedwell surveyed in great detail the Noosa River from the bar at the entrance to the Township of Tewantin. For soundings up to 21 feet he used a marked pole and for soundings in greater depths a lead line. Bedwell reported that bar and sand heads were constantly changing and that the whole estuary was a maze of sand banks.


In January Cobb and Co.’s well established coach service from Gympie to Brisbane was altered. Instead of following the Brisbane Road alone it was diverted via the Noosa Road to Tewantin before continuing via Maroochy, Cobb’s Camp and Landsborough to Brisbane. This enabled passengers to leave the coach at Tewantin and travel overnight to Brisbane on the steamer Culgoa. The coach departures were timed to meet the Culgoa in Tewantin. However this upset the mail schedules. As well as that the road between Tewantin and Maroochy proved to be difficult. Consequently Cobb and Co. adapted their strategy and offered twice a week the old itinerary via the Brisbane Road to suit the mail needs and once a week the new passage via Tewantin to please passengers. A number of other coaches also operated between Tewantin and Gympie.


According to the Divisional Boards Act of 1879 the Noosa area was put under the auspices of the Widgee Divisional Board. It was administered from Gympie until the Noosa Shire was proclaimed in 1910.

Early in 1879 the sand spit fronting Laguna Bay was surveyed to prepare the creation of the village of Noosa. Allotments along Hastings Street were offered for sale in April, but in that year no blocks were sold.

Also, at the north side of the river mouth residential allotments were surveyed and offered for sale. Some of them had been secured by Gympie residents. However, most of the allotments were reclaimed by the sea shortly after as the river mouth shifted.

Additionally, an area on high ground near the Devil’s Kitchen called Alexandra (now within Noosa National Park) was surveyed and sold. No buildings were erected in the area as it was not accessible either by water or road.


The famous aboriginal bushranger Johnny Campbell was captured by other aborigines in Tewantin at Goodchap's paddock and trussed with Mrs Goodchap's clothes line.

Dath, Henderson and Company established a sawmill on the northern side of the Noosa River, opposite Tewantin. The Adonis, built and launched in 1883, was put into commission for the transportation of sawn timber, goods and passengers between Noosa and Brisbane. In 1886 the sawmill was closed and its machinery shifted to Brisbane. However, the firm continued logging timber in the Noosa area and transporting the logs to Brisbane.

Seventy nine acres of what is now Noosa Heads were selected by Walter Hay, who was in charge of the buoys and beacons at the entrance of the river bar.



The land adjoining the Noosa Town Reserve was surveyed.

In the process, Mr Warner, the Land Commissioner, serendipitously discovered that timber-getters had illegally cut 78,000 feet of pine and 5,000 feet of beech. He promptly seized the wood and fined the offenders. This was most likely the only time that timber was removed from this area which became part of the Noosa National Park.

The Land Ranger for the Gympie district advised that the area was definitely not suitable for selection and that the scrub was of great attraction to visitors. This is regarded as the genesis of the Noosa National Park. In part thanks to this recommendation the Town Reserve remained undeveloped.


Walter Hay established the first boarding house at Noosa Heads. On his acreage there he had built the ten-roomed residence called Bay View House. Progressively enlarged, reconstructed and renamed Hillcrest Guest House, the building ended up a Federation style bungalow. In the 1950s the Anglican Church purchased it and renamed it Halse Lodge, after Archbishop Halse. In 1988 the building was substantially renovated. Today it is the only guest house in Noosa Heads dating from the turn of the century and one of the few sites in south east Queensland that have been operating continuously as a seaside guest house since the late nineteenth century. It is now listed in the Register of the National Estates.


The Queen’s Birthday holiday was celebrated at the premises of the Cootharaba sawmill where the Cootharaba Athletic Club had arranged two days of athletic and aquatic events, a ball and a supper.


The 61 metre long Alexandra Bridge over Weyba Creek was completed. It had been conceived to provide access to Noosa Village. Thanks to a Government loan of £1,000 to the Widgee Divisional Board the construction had been made possible. The bridge was opened by Miss Ferguson, daughter of Alderman Ferguson, on Easter Friday. The opening ceremony was followed by a banquet and a trip by steamer up the lakes. By 1901 the bridge was declared unsafe and after a bushfire had burnt part of the decking, it was dismantled.


The Tewantin Horse Races were held on 12th July. A 1 ½ mile stretch of Gooloi Street (now Poinciana Avenue) was used as the race-course.

In November the Prince of Wales’ birthday was celebrated at Tewantin with a ten-event regatta including a regatta ball as well as a cricket match. The highlight of the rowing and sailing races held that day was a “duck hunt”. Tommy, an aborigine, played the elusive duck. It took twenty minutes to catch him. The regatta ball was held at the Grand Hotel with supper being served at midnight. The cricket match was played between the teams of Tewantin and Cootharaba. The latter won and was represented by Tom Dodd at the handover of the winner’s cup.


On 10th June a rail line linking Cooran and Gympie was opened extending the existing rail between Maryborough and Gympie. A turn-table had been installed at Cooran to turn the engine around, for the return journey to Gympie. This proved to be a popular mode of transport for Passengers and goods.

Nevertheless the township of Cooran developed only slowly. Pinbarren Village Settlement farms were open for selection near Cooran from Monday, 5th August 1889. These farms were laid out in a circle around a central area designated for house blocks to provide shelter in case of an attack by natives. As the farmers did not feel any danger they built their homes on their own farmland and left the ‘village’ unoccupied.

William Martin owned 80 acres in the town area of Cooran and had the first allotments surveyed in about 1905. On the eastern side of the rail line a second subdivision was advertised for sale by McKay and King Auctioneers on 16th October 1909.

In the meantime, a rail line had been constructed from Brisbane to Yandina. From then on Passengers from Gympie to Brisbane mostly took the train to Cooran, then a coach to Yandina, where they met another train to travel further south.


The railway line between Brisbane and Cairns was completed. In April the railway from Cooran to Cooroy was ready and on 18th July the last missing link, the railway between Cooroy and Yandina, was opened.

The rail travel beat any other way of transport in comfort and speed. It also made the hinterland more accessible. Consequently, the coach and steamer trades were badly affected.

Cooroy became the rail/coach stop for Tewantin. The train journey from Gympie to Cooroy took an hour, and the twelve mile coach journey from Cooroy to Tewantin took an hour and a half.

Tewantin had now a second hotel and two new stores with a coach yard and stables (these stores replaced another hotel and store which had recently burnt down).

The only remaining allotment at the North Shore was occupied by Mr W. Hall’s home. The other allotments there that had been surveyed ten years previously were reclaimed by the sea.

At Noosa Heads Mr Hill’s Grand Hotel had succumbed to a fire. Only Bay View House remained as an accommodation for visitors there.

The land near the bar on the southern head of the Noosa River which was covered by rain forest was designated for public use. It became the Noosa Woods camping and picnic area.



The highest flood ever known hit the area. During nine days of heavy rain in February and March Lake Cootharaba rose by two metres. The remains of the Cootharaba sawmill on its banks were destroyed. Some homes were washed away.

A relief party found knee deep water under Mr Goodchap’s house at Hilton Terrace and also water under the houses in Noosaville. However, these houses were in no immediate danger. At Noosa Heads the relief party found a need for rations, which were later supplied.

Roads were cut and the telegraph line was interrupted. The Royal Mail Hotel took in Mr Goodchap and his family even though it was fully occupied with visitors.



The “Co-operative Land Settlement Act 1893” promoted communal management of farmland. In its wake two groups of unemployed men moved from Brisbane to Noosa area. One was called the “Woolloongabba Exemplars” (59 men) and had the intention to settle at Lake Weyba. The other was called the “Protestant Unity” (35men) and wished to settle near Cooran, at Skyring’s Creek. Both groups were given large areas of land to build their homes on and farm collectively, with proceeds to be shared equally by the group.

All together thirteen communal farming groups were formed in Queensland. However, they all failed and were disbanded.

At Lake Weyba only three members of the Woolloongabba group remained to select land as individuals.

The Protestant Unity left the most members behind, with nineteen families and four single men to select land individually. Their settlement in the vicinity of each other caused a new township to be formed at the closest point on the North Coast Railway. It was called Pomona. In 1895 a railway station was opened there to serve the new settlers.


Laguna House, the soon to be famous boarding house in Hastings Street, was built by J. Bainbridge. From 1900 on it accommodated the Noosa Village Receiving Office. In 1903 Laguna House was rented by (and later sold to) the Donovans. At the beginning Mrs Donovan ran the boarding house alone while her husband continued working at Gympie. When the venture proved to be successful Mr Donovan joined his wife and became the Noosa mailman. In 1926, the Donovans purchased the Royal Mail Hotel in Tewantin. Laguna House was taken over by H.T. Walter, followed by J. Gibney. The building was eventually pulled down in the 1960s to make way for modern construction.