Looking for a nostalgic Redcliffe walk ripe for reminiscing about Redcliffe history. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to our peninsula, the Redcliffe Esplanade Walk shines a light on local tourist attractions and popular haunts of days gone by.
Lace up your walking shoes to see the sites of such former delights as Comino’s Arcade, Luna Park and the Rollerdrome as you stroll by the beach past parklands, a swimming lagoon, shops and dining establishments. This walk can also be paired with the Redcliffe Convict Trail for a longer journey around the foreshore and inland to Humpybong Creek.
To enjoy the 1.78km walk to its fullest be sure to play each site’s corresponding audio track available from the official Moreton Bay Regional Council website. The tracks recount personal nostalgic stories provided by members of the Redcliffe Historical Society who lived on the peninsula during its early years.
As you stroll, look out for the white markers which indicate each stop on this Redcliffe walk.
This Redcliffe history trail starts nearby Café 63 located to the north of the Redcliffe Parade & Humpybong Esplanade roundabout. From here stroll south, all along the waterfront past Settlement Cove Lagoon to Suttons Beach Pavilion where you will turn back to head north up to the Redcliffe Parade and Anzac Avenue roundabout, proceeding to your last stop – Ambassador Hotel.
The former site of the Redcliffe Town Council Building was constructed in 1942. Today, you can still admire the building’s preserved art-deco façade architecture.
The Redcliffe Town Council Building generally housed only 6 people: the Mayor, a Town Clerk, a Health Surveyor, a Building Surveyor, and 2 administrators. In 1972, the council moved to a new, larger address to accommodate its growing staff.
During its lifetime as Redcliffe’s governance headquarters the building was privy to the peninsula’s transformation from a popular seaside vacation playground for Brisbanites into a large bayside hub, home to 17,500 residents by 1959, and worthy of recognition as a city in its own right.
The second point of interest on your Redcliffe walk takes you to the site of the old Redcliffe Rollerdrome which once upon a time existed where Rotary Park’s Anzac Place memorial now stands.
The Rollerdrome opened to much fanfare in time for Christmas back in 1938. The building which once stood here featured canvas walls welcoming in the breeze and allowing open-air skating during warmer weather.
It attracted a diverse crowd of skaters including professionals such as world champion Ethel Flanagan, renowned as the world’s best female artistic roller skater of the 1930s and 1940s.
The Rollerdrome became part of Redcliffe history in 1985, when it closed its rink and hung up its skates to make way for the Anzac Park memorial expansion.
Redcliffe Jetty was a focal point in the peninsula’s promenade social scene.
The first 1885 incarnation of the jetty was 700 feet long. It serviced supply ships, pleasure cruises and passenger steamers. By 1919 the structure had fallen into such a decrepit state it was replaced by a new jetty in 1922, located just north of the original which still stood until its demolishment in 1923.
The new jetty featured rail lines to transport cargo and a halfway house which was revamped in 1938 into Penny Arcade entertainment parlour, another favourite local hangout. The arcade was frequented by another blast from Redcliffe’s past – the young Bee Gees brothers who spent their childhood growing up on the peninsula.
By 1961 the replacement jetty had also fallen into disrepair. It was torn down in 1973 to make way for the third, current Redcliffe jetty which entered construction in 1995, opening to the public in 1999.
As you enjoy this Redcliffe walk you will come across a few vestiges of Redcliffe history salvaged from its predecessor on the latest jetty incarnation – lighting fixtures, drinking fountains and seating.
In Redcliffe’s early days, the only way of reaching the peninsula was by water. From 1911 to 1942 the steamship SS Koopa ferried people to and fro, cruising between Brisbane, Redcliffe and Bribie Island.
The large, quick and glamourous vessel featured saloons, confectionary stalls, a bar and a promenade main deck, all staffed by Stewards. As Bribie Island did not have its own bar at the time, the steamship became the unofficial local watering hole during its time in port.
In 1942 the Royal Australian Navy requisitioned SS Koopa for wartime supply ship duties in New Guinea waters during WWII. In 1947, after its wartime stint, the vessel resumed its ferry trips, but by this time the motorcar had made its debut, rendering the ferry service obsolete. SS Koopa was retired in 1953 and dismantled and relegated to the Redcliffe history books in 1960.
The introduction of Greek cuisine to Australia back in the 1870s is widely accredited to the extended Comino family who immigrated to Australia from Greece.
In 1903 the Comino’s Australian contingent were joined by Arthur Comino who had left Greece to work in his brother’s café. In 1937 he and his wife bought a Redcliffe boarding house and adjacent shops which were all destroyed by a fire in 1941. The catastrophe was a blessing in disguise, gifting Arthur the perfect opportunity to construct an entertainment, shopping and dining hub.
Arthur helmed much of the construction work, putting his stone mason skills to good use as his vision slowly came to life. Once complete, it housed a Greek café, shops and an arcade on ground level (the arcade is heritage listed), the Comino family home and serviced rooms on the first floor, with more serviced bedrooms on the second storey all clustered around a terrazzo floored ballroom.
The ballroom would become home to Redcliffe’s first nightclub in 1946. This Redcliffe walk takes you to the original arcade which you can stroll through.
Just before Bee Gees Way is the site of the old Pier Theatre.
In 1917, the Redcliffe Picture Palace screened its first silent movie. Originally an open-air venue, the theatre was roofed-in, in 1921 and reopened under a new name, the Redcliffe Picture Pavilion.
Back in the early days of film, cinemas were not only used to screen movies, but also rented out by community members to host a variety of events such as fetes, weddings, celebrations, and fundraisers.
With the advent of sound in film in 1927, talking movies, nicknamed ‘talkies’ became popular with filmgoers. This new innovation coincided with the 1928 renovation of the theatre which prompted another name change to Pier Theatre.
Disaster befell the venue in 1943 when the premises burnt to the ground after a free movie night fundraiser for WWII servicemen. The final incarnation of the cinema was up and running by the end of 1943. Today the theatre lives on only in the Redcliffe history books and the memories of those long-time local residents who once attended its film screenings.
Settlement Cove Lagoon marks the former site of Luna Park. The amusement park opened its gates in 1944, offering locals, tourists and visiting WWII servicemen a salt-water swimming pool as well as classic amusement park attractions including a ferris wheel, merri-go-round, and steam train, plus numerous skill games and side-show stalls.
Luna Park closed up in the late 1960s. The site was eventually transformed into Settlement Cove Lagoon in 1993. Bring your bathers along on your Redcliffe walk to enjoy a splash in the refreshing water.
Constructed in 1882, The Seabrae was a beautiful Queenslander home which featured intricate wood and iron detail in its design along with large wind-protected verandas and a towering Moreton Bay fig.
Its bay views and close proximity to the waterside made it well-suited to life as a guesthouse.
In 1926 new owners, the Sampson family, took over The Seabrae and by 1934, they had demolished the original guesthouse to erect a modern two-storey building.
At the outbreak of WWII The Seabrae became a refuge for evacuated women and children brought over from Hong Kong. Then, a few years later in 1942, the Australian military moved in and commandeered the building for the war effort. Later the military sublet The Seabrae to the American Navy who housed their on-leave military personnel within the premises.
The building’s claim to fame came in 1943, when one of the era’s finest jazz musicians, Artie Shaw, the American clarinettist, composer, bandleader and actor, played to a crowd of 300 people –his first music gig in Australia.
In 1945, as the war came to a close, the building was given back to the Sampson’s who transformed The Seabrae Guesthouse into The Seabrae Hotel. It enjoyed
a prosperous existence until it was torn down in 2009 to make way for Mon Komo Hotel, a great spot to enjoy an al fresco lunch by the bay before continuing your Redcliffe walk
to Stop 9.
The idea to build a road from Redcliffe to Petrie was conceived by Thomas Rothwell. It served 2 purposes – to provide a much needed thoroughfare between the growing bayside and hinterland hubs, and to provide returning WWI servicemen with meaningful work.
Aptly named Anzac Avenue, the 18km road was inaugurated with a tree planting ceremony in honour of returned and fallen servicemen, at Petrie in 1925 and was officially opened to the public in the same year. By the end of 1926 one thousand trees had been planted along its length.
The last stop on your Redcliffe walk is the Ambassador Hotel on Redcliffe Parade. Where this hotel now stands is believed to have been the site of the old Redcliffe Convict Barracks built during early Moreton Bay Region settlement in 1824.
A brick floor, thought to have been part of the barracks kitchen, still remains, forming part of the hotel’s flooring. Other settlement bricks are believed to have been used in the Ambassador’s Hotel’s construction.
In its prime, the hotel welcomed ever increasing patronage numbers and Redcliffe history has it that the venue was widely regarded as the most fashionable waterside hotel in all of Queensland.
Bulimba Brewery took over ownership of the Ambassador Hotel in 1936. With its glory days long gone, today the venue looks nothing like its former self.
Photos Courtesy of Moreton Bay Region Librarie