A brief history of Redcliffe

I don't think I would have made a good convict!Prior to European settlement, the Redcliffe area was inhabited by Aborigines of the Ningy Ningy tribe who took full advantage of the foods that could be easily found in and around its waters.

The first European record of the Redcliffe area is to be found in the journal of Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook in his voyage around the world in HMS Endeavour. Cook's record of the area was used by Lieutenant (later Captain) Matthew Flinders in 1799 when he became the first European explorer to enter Moreton Bay in the Sloop HM Norfolk. On this voyage, Flinders spent two weeks exploring the bay and surrounds, naming Point Skirmish (now South Point), Pumice Stone River (now Pumicestone Passage) and Red Cliffe Point (now Woody Point).

Redcliffe gained its current name due to the distinctive red cliff faces visible from ships sailing Moreton bay. While today Redcliffe is a popular destination for day-trippers and holidaying families, its first European visitors were not so cheerful. In the early 1800s, the area was chosen by southern authorities as the location for a new northern penal settlement.

On September 1, 1824, the brig Amity set sail for Redcliffe from Sydney. Aboard were the new settlement's commandant, Lieutenant Miller, explorer John Oxley, the ship's crew, guards and convicts. The party landed at Redcliffe on September 13, 1824.

The original settlement was built on the banks of Humpybong Creek, around the area of the current Redcliffe shopping precinct. Typical of early Australian penal garrisons, it consisted of the basic facilities to house prisoners and their attendant guards.

Within a year, it was apparent that there was insufficient fresh-water supplies in the area to support a large settlement and the decision was made to relocate the colony to the banks of the Brisbane River in 1825. The settlement at Redcliffe became deserted and remained so until the 1860s when the area was declared an agricultural reserve. The land was then used for grazing cattle and growing crops such as sugarcane, wheat, cotton, cattle feed, oranges and potatoes.

Redcliffe underwent a major land boom in the 1880s and quickly gained a reputation as an ideal seaside resort - offering an experience similar to many of the holiday destinations in England. The names of some Redcliffe beaches and suburbs reflect this English association, for example: Margate, Clontarf and Scarborough.

During this period, day bathers typically travelled to the peninsula by steamer - the most celebrated being the Koopa. The Koopa delivered its first passengers to the Redcliffe Jetty in 1911 and continued in this role until World War II, when the vessel was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy.

Road access to Redcliffe remained less than ideal until the construction of the 2.8 kilometre Hornibrook Highway, which officially opened on Friday, October 4, 1935. The viaduct, at the time the longest in the southern hemisphere, meant Redcliffe was no longer considered isolated - and this resulted in significant population increases across the city.

Today, Redcliffe is a modern city that still possesses the charm and beauty of a small seaside holiday town. The mix of old and new continues to make the city so inviting to locals and visitors alike.

To discover more about Redcliffe's past, visit the Redcliffe Museum or the Redcliffe Historical Society. Why not take a self-guided heritage walk?

Some great pictures of Redcliffe have been posted on the Lost Brisbane Facebook pages - "Not Brisbane, but close enough"

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