Origin of name

Timber was the mainstay of the early economy of Tewantin in the 1860s and the felled logs floating on the bays of the Noosa River are understood to have given rise to the name of the settlement by aborigines of the local Kabi Kabi tribe. 

Tewantin is believed to have been derived from dauwa (dead tree) and dhan (place of).

History of settlement

Escaped convicts, John Bracewell, John Graham and a man named Davis are thought to be the first European men to come to the area probably around 1826-27.

It was nearly 40 years (1865-66) later, however, that the first European settlers arrived. They came to cut the giant cedar and kauri trees first noted by explorer and businessman William Pettigrew in 1863. Five years later Pettigrew is said to have been responsible for starting the delivery of timber by water to Brisbane where it was milled and used for building construction there. Timber was the backbone of the local economy and early sawmills included McGhie Luya & Co at Elanda Point and Noosaville and the Dath, Henderson and Bartholomew’s mill across the river from the Royal Mail Hotel.

The demand for timber increased as a result of the discovery of gold in Gympie in 1867 by James Nash. A trail was blazed by Maryborough ferry operator Walter Hay and in the very late 1860s horse and bullock wagons and coaches like Cobb and Co started a regular service between Gympie and Tewantin.

With the area rapidly becoming the main outlet for gold, timber, produce and seafood, Clarendon Stuart (who was Gold Commissioner of the Gympie field) was appointed in May 1871 to survey the land for the township of Tewantin.

The Tewantin region remained dependent on the use of the river for access to towns north and south along the coast (eg Brisbane and Maryborough) until the rail link between Brisbane and Maryborough was completed in 1891. This then enabled passengers and freight to travel by train to Cooroy then travel overland to Tewantin, initially over rough tracks and then a road which was graded in 1922.

Tewantin remained reliant on the river for access to Noosaville and Noosa Heads until 1929 when bridges across the mouth of Doonella Lake and Weyba Creek were constructed.  A land deal between Noosa Council and T.M.Burke led to the developer building the two bridges and five miles of road between Tewantin and Noosa Heads, in exchange for 470 acres at Golden Beach (now Sunshine Beach).

More visitors were now coming to Tewantin and, with new businesses opening up, a great boost was given to the existing timber and fishing industries.  Electricity was connected in Tewantin in 1946, a town water supply in 1965, and a sewage system in 1975, providing a platform for progress and growth.

Tewantin is also home of the shire’s local governance. In 1980 Noosa Council moved from Pomona to its present site overlooking the Noosa River, formerly the wharf area of the early Port of Tewantin.

Today, Tewantin is a bustling town of lively cafes, busy restaurants, schools, shops, clubs, its historic hotel (The Royal Mail), a picturesque boat harbor marina and the Noosa Regional Gallery.

Australian Census figures report a population of 10,920 in 2016 (10,920).