When John Oxley visited the Moreton Bay Region in December 1823 he was tasked with finding a suitable site for a convict settlement, in the hope that eventually settlers could begin occupying the land stretching northwards into Papua New Guinea. His suggestion was ‘Red Cliff Point’, the cliffs off Scarborough point, which had been named by Matthew Flinders in his 1799 voyage.
On 12 September 1824 the Amity arrived with the first party of Redcoats and convicts to inspect Woody Point, but after searching here and on the island of St Helena for drinkable water, they eventually settled near the present day town of Redcliffe.
John Oxley and Lieutenant Henry Miller surveyed the entire peninsula, before deciding to establish the settlement about 200 metres from the beach. Over the next 8 months the convicts constructed the Commandants House and store (prefabricated in Sydney), the soldiers’ barracks, a jail and a range of smaller buildings and huts, but by this time the conditions on the peninsula were becoming a major concern with food and water becoming ever scarcer. They relocated to Brisbane city in 1825.
100 years later the Redcliffe peninsula was in full swing, preparing to celebrate the centenary of Oxley’s landing.
On the 24 September, 1924 the Union Jack was unfurled at the rocks near Sutton’s Beach, replicating the actions of John Oxley when he identified the peninsula as Queensland’s first settlement site. The full account of Oxley’s voyage was recounted before an enraptured collection of 300 children who were all bestowed with a medal specially struck for the occasion.
A full programs of luncheons, dinners and sports events were conducted before a full gala ball was held inside the Redcliffe picture theatre. By this time Redcliffe had become the most attractive holiday destination outside of Brisbane!
Did you know that the foreshore area encompassing Pelican Park at Clontarf on the southern end of the peninsula (where today’s KiteFest event is hosted) was, for much of its history, part of a series of mudflats and a reef? With the sea pressing so close against the Hornibrook Esplanade cars were often splashed with sea salt in stormy weather in times gone past.
In 1971 the aftermath of Cyclone Dora caused a tidal surge that severely impacted this stretch of ocean front and the decision was made to reclaim parts of the foreshore.
Today this reclaimed land includes Apex Park and Bicentennial Park, as well as Pelican Park.