The Bribie Island landscape has changed a lot since Matthew Flinders, Bongaree, and their crew landed on the island in 1799. Even centuries later, the expedition has left an indelible imprint on the island and its residents. You can explore this history with the Bongaree Self Guided Walkabout, heritage waterfront walk.
The community of Bongaree is proudly named in honour of an Aboriginal explorer from Broken Bay, near Sydney. Bongaree accompanied Flinders on his expeditions, and helped encourage communication between the white explorers and the traditional caretakers of the areas they visited.
It’s easy to forget that communities like Bribie Island have long and colourful histories pre-dating the thriving collection of galleries, cafés, and museums there today. Walking tours are a fantastic way to get out of the air conditioning, and explore the beauty and history of an area.
The Walkabout starts and ends at the Bongaree Jetty, and takes visitors to historical landmarks and buildings around the foreshore area. Though there are 16 main landmarks showcased in the walk, there are other, smaller landmarks and plaques throughout the journey for visitors to enjoy. In sunny weather, there’s even a chance to view the natural, swampy landscape as it was before the island was developed.
There is a small amount of uphill walking involved in this walk, though it’s generally considered a low-intensity wander.
Built in 1911, the SS Koopa started Island tourist trips, and by the 1920's thousands came to Bribie Island to camp and fish. After World War 2, cars could cross the Pumicestone Passage by barge, and by early 1960's Brisbane boat trips stopped, and the Bribie Toll Bridge opened in 1963.
in 1918, beach huts were built along this foreshore, and by 1929 the Bowls Club opened for just 30 residents and the many visitors. The road is named after Thomas Welsby, Moreton Bay historian who wrote the legend 'Bribie the Basket Maker' after the 1937 'Depression' to re-establish tourism.
In 1923, Bill Shirley built the first road from the Jetty to the Ocean Beach. The Shirley family ran a bus service and a Guest House. Bill became the first Honorary Councillor, and a bridge here was his first achievement in 1935. WW1 veteran "Jimmy No Legs" lived in the white cottage you can see across the creek.
The water tower stands on what was the highest point on Bribie Island but was progressively leveled to create the Bowls Club, Caravan Park and fill swamps.
The store on the corner has seen many businesses since the 1920's (Rowcroft Chemist, Mac's Corner, Uncles Tom's Cabin) serving a sea of campers tents on 'the hill' from here to the jetty.
On the way to site 5, note classic old homes in Third Avenue
Bribie Doctors was originally a hostel for visiting bowlers from the 1930's and the 'Thrift Shop' in Second Ave was the first volunteer fire station.
Originally Campbell Rd when built in 1923, and planned as a 4 lane road and tramway to Woorim. This comer store, originally a butchers shop, overlooked the original town centre. A few other shops here and across the road served campers who pitched tents along the waterfront, between the roads, and on 'the Hill' where the library and bowls club now stand.
Artie Bestmann, the first real resident of the island, lived on this comer from about 1903, kept bees, grazed cattle and hosted occasional visitors.
Alfred Hall, a Brisbane grocer, built a "weekender'' next door and began bringing provisions for the few residents.
When tourism became popular "Hall and Bestmann" brought the first car to Bongaree in 1919 and built a large general store on this comer site in 1921.
Tree lined Banya St contains some of the most significant buildings of the early settlement. At the Foster St intersection is the first Anglican church, built in 1928 by Bill Shirley. For many years the largest hall in the shire."Anembo", opposite was the site of the first private electricity generator in the 1940's, before Caboolture had electricity.
A house which originally stood on the SW comer became the temporary "pub" for several years when the military took over the hotel at Woorim in 1941.
On the other comer stands a unique round house built in 1950's by the Tesch family. Ivan Tesch ran the first car ferry service, first cinema, ice works, electronic repairs. His wife Clare played organ in the Anglican church for over 60 years.
A small hall at 25 Banya Street started life in 1892 as a school in Deception Bay, was moved to Narangba in 1910, then sold to the Bribie Methodist's and sited here in 1924. It was a church for 62 years and 1986 became the Masonic Centre.
Built around 1916 for the Coungeau family, on the hilltop at No. 34, it was the grandest home on the island. Norm Coungeau was a Brisbane wine merchant and his wife Emily was a poet, artist, songwriter and wrote Australia's first opera "Australis". They left their home to the Anglican Church as a holiday retreat for Ministers. An American Commander used the house in WW2. Later "Toe H" purchased it from the church to use as a holiday home for the underprivileged and disabled.
The SIE corner of Campbell St was the site of "Davies Guest House' from the 1920's. Famous for it's ornamental trees and novelty gardens. There were many boarding houses in this area and many fine Bribie Island Pine trees remain.
DIRECTIONS - SITE 10 TO SITE 11
Down Campbell St across Toorbu/ St to Bonagree Bowls Club, turn left, then right beside bowling greens. Left fork through the trees, follow the track over the creek and round to the sealed road. (If wet go via Toorbul St. Spowers St. roadways)
Founded 1904, the first Anglers Assn. established it's headquarters here on Bribie Island. Many notable residents, including Campbell and Welsby were directors, and world famous author and fisherman Zane Grey proclaimed it one of the best fishing spots in the world.
Since the 1920's, this wonderful seafront Esplanade was the site for many large and popular guesthouses. Mostly replaced by modern units, a few original houses remain. Proprietors would meet boats at the jetty and carry luggage across the creek and along the sand tracks. After 1945 another boat service operated from Scarborough to Bribie mooring at a small wooden jetty south of the creek.
Originally known as Campbells Creek after Campbell family who did oystering in the 1890's and operated a general store beside this creek in the 1920's . In those days the creek was much larger providing a small boat harbour and dugongs were brought in for processing. Reg Campbell was one of many who ran tourist hire boats at Bongaree, and this creek area was a popular camping site from 1912.
A museum of seaside culture and local history with regular changing exhibits. A nearby plaque shows a replica of Flinders' very accurate map of the Bay, used by later explorers such as Bingle and Oxley, who established the Brisbane Penal Colony.
This park was a popular tent campsite for sixty years until 1974. Brennan's ran a General Store across the road, and today's Post Office is the site of Ormiston's Shop in the 1920's. A variety of small shops in Toorbul Street provided campers, tourists and the few residents with their basic needs.
This plaque tells the story of 12 residents with more than fifty years continuous residence on the island in 2005, which was the centenary year of Rotary International.
The Bongaree and Bicentennial walks are self guided, with maps available to help find your way through the landscapes. View the Bongaree Walkabout map online, or pick one up at the Bribie Island Seaside Museum or Bribie Island Visitor Information Centre. The content for this listing and the Bongaree Walkabout map was designed by Barry Clark, tutor in Local History at the Bribie Island University of the Third Age and long term Rotarian and Warwick Outram, a 35 year resident and author of several books on Bribie History, sponsored by Rotary Bribie Island.
Bribie Island is just over an hour away from Brisbane, using the M1 and Bribie Island Road. The island has a range of accommodation options for those wanting to make it a weekend adventure.
The Bongaree Walkabout tour takes about an hour to complete, but an idle stroll (or a walk with a photographer) will take longer. The Bongaree Jetty is surrounded by parkland, so it’s a perfect chance to grab a picnic (or visit one of the nearby eating options) and make a day of it with the family.
The Bicentennial walks are all on sandy surfaces, which will impact those with mobility issues.
Regardless of the time of year, it’s a good idea to pack your sunnies, sunscreen, water, food, and of course the camera!
Bongaree QLD, Australia
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