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Gold Coast History & Heritage

Discover how Council is working to conserve and celebrate the rich and unique heritage of the Gold Coast.

Stradbroke Island, South History

View of  northern end of  South Stradbroke Island , circa 1980s

View of northern end of South Stradbroke Island,
circa 1980s. Jumpinpin Bar separates the island
from North Stradbroke Island.


The two islands, North and South Stradbroke Island shelter the mainland and the adjacent islands of Moreton Bay from the full force of the Pacific Ocean. North Stradbroke Island is situated in the local authority of Redland Shire;

The Gold Coast

South Stradbroke Island is situated in the local authority of Gold Coast City. Before 1896, Stradbroke was one island.

Geological History

During an Ice Age, 120,000 years ago, the mainland coast was located much farther west than it is today, with the sea lapping the foothills of the Darlington Range; the coastal floodplain of the future Gold Coast, forming part of a large shallow seabed.

To the north, sand blown and washed up from southern rivers formed a large sand mass around an outcrop of bedrock (Point Lookout).

Farther south, a series of sand spits and beach ridges consolidated and stretched into a curved line from the mouth of the Nerang River to just south of the Logan River.

In the last 6,000 years, this southern sand island linked up with the larger northern sand mass to form Stradbroke Island.

View of Tuleen

Tuleen before the breakthrough of the Jumpinpin
Bar in the 1890s. Pandanus Palms or Jumpinpin
grew here.

Nineteenth century Government survey maps mark the narrow isthmus which formed the one island by its aboriginal name Tuleen.

According to Moreton Bay yachtsman Joshua Bell, Oumpinpin or Jumpinpin, the root of the pandanus tree was harvested there.

In 1896, the sea broke through at Tuleen forming the Jumpinpin Bar and South and North Stradbroke Islands.

Aboriginal History

There are archaeological remains of human occupation at a site on North Stradbroke Island which dates back to the Pleistocene Age (between 10,000 to 21,000 years ago).

The area formed part of the mainland at the time. Aboriginal people have occupied Stradbroke Island and the some of the Bay Islands from at least the last 6,000 years.

These family groups include the Noonuccal and Goenpul from the northern end of Stradbroke Island; visitors or families originally from the mainland including the Yugarabul from the Brisbane River region, the Yugambeh people (the Gugingin, Bullongin, Kombumerri from the Logan, Coomera and Nerang Regions.

Since the people moved from one food source to another and were linked by family and ceremonial bonds, it was natural that there often a mix of families in an area.

It is likely too, that if a family claimed a favourable place with a good aspect and abundant food, they would continue to use it as their base camp and retreat. In a world with few strict boundaries, this is how they would define their place.

On the southern end of Stradbroke Island, extended stays would have coincided with the peak or seasonal abundance of a favoured food such as fat oysters, plentiful pippis, a run of fish - tailor or mullet.

View of paperbark wetland

Paperbark wetland on South Stradbroke Island
pictured here circa 1965

Aboriginal Place Names

There are a number of different aboriginal place names associated with Stradbroke Island.

Today, North Stradbroke Island is generally referred to as Minjerriba. Moondarewa (Moonjeribah) mosquito was recorded on plans by a surveyor for a proposed township at the southern end of Stradbroke Island.

Currigee is documented by William Hanlon as the currajong tree; Canaipa ironbark spear; Cooran (Couran) as ash tree.

European Exploration

On May 17, 1770, Captain Cook approached land within six miles of Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island. He named Point Lookout but assumed that the landmark was part of the mainland.

Matthew Flinders was the next recorded European explorer to enter and survey northern Moreton Bay in 1799. Flinders was followed some 24 years later (1823) by Surveyor John Oxley in the Mermaid.

Oxley found that the sandhills extending south from Point Lookout were not part of a peninsula but an island. As a result of Oxley's recommendations based on his discoveries around the Brisbane River and information provided by castaways, Pamphlett and Finnegan, a shipload of soldiers and convicts arrived at Moreton Bay in 1824.

They established their settlement first on the northern edge of the Bay at Redcliffe but was soon relocated south to a location upstream on the Brisbane River. This penal settlement became the future site of Brisbane.

Three years later, in 1827, the first British ship of war, commanded by Captain the Honourable Henry Rous, entered Moreton Bay to undertake survey work.

On board the frigate Rainbow was the chief administrator of the colony of New South Wales, Governor Darling, who was on a visit of inspection to the new Moreton Bay convict settlement.

Europeans Name Stradbroke

As a result of the visit, Governor Darling ordered in July 1827, that the long sand island to the south of the main channel into Moreton Baybe named The Isle of Stradbroke in honour of the Rainbow's Captain Rous, the second son of the Earl of Stradbroke.

Cambus Wallace

Cambus Wallace wrecked off Stradbroke Island in
1894. Explosives from the salvaged cargo were
detonated, weakening the dunes around Tuleen.
Storms and rough seas in the following years
helped the sea to break through creating the
Jumpinpin Bar and two islands.

How South Stradbroke was formed

Stradbroke Island was gradually severed in two in the mid 1890s with the breakthrough of the ocean at Jumpinpin. It all started with a shipwreck.

In the early morning of the 3rd September, 1894, the barque, Cambus Wallace ran aground in the heavy seas near the narrow isthmus of Tuleen. Some of the crew managed to make it to shore, but five men drowned.

The hatches broke open as the tide rose and tons of cargo washed overboard. The vessel was carrying whiskey, beer and cases of explosives consigned to Thomas Brown and Websters, general merchants in Brisbane.

Assistance came from Southport residents and families living at the island's oyster camp at Currigee. Custom officers and the Police from Brisbane travelled by steamer to the wreck. After taking care of the survivors, the rescue party buried the dead on a hill between two pandanus trees.

In later weeks a salvage operation began. The explosives from the cargo were piled together and detonated.

All this activity concentrated in one area, plus the storm and tide action, weakened and later eroded the sand dunes along the narrow spit of land.

By the spring of 1896, the tide had divided Stradbroke Island in two. The graves and memorial to mariners from the Cambus Wallace washed away into the waters of the new Jumpinpin Bar.

Hut constructed from corrigated iron

Fishing hut or dwelling for an oyster lease, South
Stradbroke Island, circa 1965. Note the kerosene
fridge (no power connected); the galvanized iron
wood stove recess on the right – iron surrounded
the stove for safety and to disperse the heat outside;
the small water tank to catch rainwater from
the roof of the hut

Further Reading and Resources

John Markey - Eye witness accounts of the Wreck of the Cambus Wallace
Extract from the South Coast Bulletin, Wednesday, 19 April  1950 p.16

 A.B Kindmark -  William Hanlon talks to a shipwrecked sailor from the Cambus Wallace
Extract from Hanlon, W.E. Early days of Nerang Head's and Southport's Infancy - Copy held by the Local Studies Library, Gold Coast City Council

Bell, Joshua Peter - Moreton Bay and How to Fathom It, (9th Edition) Brisbane, Queensland Newspapers, 1988

Hanlon, W.E. - The Early Settlement of the Logan and Albert Districts, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland Vol. 2 No.5 (November 1935) pp.208.252

Horton, Helen -  Islands of Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Boolarong, 1983

Northern Stradbroke Island Historical Museum Association - Historic North Stradbroke Island, Dunwich, The Association, 1994

Salter, Lindy South Stradbroke Island (2nd Edition) The Gap, Qld., The Author, 2002

Steele, J.G. The Explorers of the Moreton Bay District 1770 - 1830. University of Qld, 1972

Thomson, A.K. The Collected Works of Thomas Welsby. Brisbane, Jacaranda Press, 1967

Wilmott, Warwick Rocks and Landscapes of the Gold Coast Hinterland (2nd Edition) Brisbane, Geological Society of Queensland, 1992