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Taking a look at our region’s rich seaside history

Posted: 4pm 10 Nov 2018

For longer than most people can remember, it was safe beaches, great fishing, family events, a relaxed atmosphere and fish chips that attracted visitors to Bribie Island and the Redcliffe Peninsula.

From the beginning of the 20th Century, if keen holiday-makers desired a trip to the popular seaside destinations, it meant a trip on a steamer called the SS Koopa, which made its maiden voyage with paying passengers on Boxing Day 1911.

This ran for 31 years from Brisbane's Customs House to Woody Point Jetty, then to Redcliffe Jetty and then on to Bribie Island.

The Bribie Island Historical Society conducted research in the trip from Brisbane to Bribie on the SS Koopa and later the SS Doomba had a luxurious feel with a dining saloon, gambling and even a licensed bar. Not to forget the orchestra that provided the music for dances, community singing and concerts.

Before leaving the seaside the passengers would load up on large bunches of wildflowers, bottles of Bestmann’s honey and Bestmann’s wine and seafood. The Bribie Island based jetty was famous as Australia’s top spot for wrangling Australia’s largest fish, the groper.

According to History Redciffe’s Pat Gee, the 1930’s saw the creation of entertainment committees throughout the Redcliffe Peninsula in a bid to generate more activities on along the foreshore. These included sand garden competitions at Woody Point, Margate and Suttons Beach, as well as many other family orientates fun.

By the time WWII ended these activities lost their appeal and new one were introduced, such as, the Sunday Mail Sun Girl competition, which was widely popular in the 1950’s.

Each seaside location form as south as Byron Bay to as far north as Cairns would conduct heats, with a combination of local girls and tourists. The finals being held at Suttons Beach, which had thousands of spectators and supporters flocking to the peninsula.

Come the 1960’s and 70’s the tourist proved harder to attract with more and more people affording their own cars and fuel, they would instead drive to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Which left the Redcliffe community needing to come up with other ways to get the crowds to visit and spend their money on the Peninsula.

When Saturday shopping was introduced, that seemed to boost the number of visitors to the region. “It was big. No one else had it,” History Redcliffe’s Margaret Harding says.

There was also the bonus draw card of a picture theatres, the skating rink (1938 – 1985) and cafés. The tourist dollar also encouraged local entrepreneurs to sell soft-serve ice cream, fish and chips, and even hot water from laundry coppers on the beach for cups of tea and coffee.

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