Backward Glance – Fishing, camping and caravanning through years

Queenslanders love venturing into the great outdoors and with the 2019 South Queensland Caravan, Camping and Fishing Expo coming to town, it’s a great opportunity for us to reflect on how things have changed.

In his oral history, Jack Browne reflected on beautiful childhood holidays during the early 1900s.

His father would load up the bullock wagon by putting two saplings on top of it, then placing another two across it. He would then load the tents, double beds, stretchers, cupboards and clothing and set off for Coolum.

Jack’s brothers would ride their ponies while he sat up with his father and mother in the wagon.

While his father was unyoking the bullocks, the boys set to the task of unloading the wagon.

A tent was erected using the saplings and throwing calico over the top.

They camped for six weeks, fishing, swimming and collecting pippies, and there wasn’t a soul to be seen.

It was also common on these treks to pack up the chickens or maybe even have a cow or a pig tag along.

In 1910, the Edward and Tainton families left their horse and cart at the rafting grounds up Eudlo Creek and travelled in an 18 foot flat bottom boat to Cotton Tree, where they camped at the mouth of the river.

One of the most popular camping reserves was the 215 acre Wharf and Water reserve, gazetted in 1873 on the lower reaches of the Maroochy River, where holiday makers made their camps amongst the native Cotton trees.

The area was re-gazetted in 1916 as a reserve for Camping and Recreation purposes and went on to become the Cotton Tree Caravan Park.

This park was also the site for a series of Aquatic Carnivals as well as swimming races conducted by the Maroochydore Life Saving and Swimming Club. The first was held on Boxing Day 1916.

Over the years the number of campers grew, with many people travelling by boat from Yandina, or along the Maroochy River, Petrie Creek and Eudlo Creek, as well as by car.

An Ambulance tent was erected over the Christmas-New Year period in 1923 and treated more than 100 minor issues, the majority being sunburn.

Caloundra became a very busy holiday destination during the 1930s with informal camping grounds being set up at Kings Beach and Bulcock Beach.

The council sunk bores and setup windmills to provide water for campers and the maintenance of the camping grounds.

On April 21, 1933 the Nambour Chronicle reported record crowds visiting Caloundra.

Caravans began to appear as part of the camping scene during the 1930s and 1940s.

James and Stanley Whalley built a caravan which was towed behind their Model T Ford.

The car was powered by charcoal gas, as petrol had been rationed during World War II.

Caravans were built by their owners, like Steve Short in 1947, who built a caravan which was used for his and his mates’ annual fishing trips.

Caravans were not only used for holidays, they were used as a place of business as well.

In the 1940s, Hazel O’Meara parked her refreshment caravan on The Esplanade at Bulcock Beach in Caloundra, mainly for the weekend and holiday trade.

In 1906 William Grimes from Nambour and his group made their way to the Maroochy River.

They would camp on Pincushion Island or along the river bank, and their evening menu cooked over the campfire would be fish, such as Blue (Parrot) and Leatherhead, with sweet potatoes.

In 1933, the Nambour Chronicle reported that fishing over the Easter holidays was popular both in the Bribie Passage and on the ocean foreshores.

The anglers from the mouth of the Passage reported good sport and visitors to Marlow’s Basin near the headland, obtained good catches of jew, tailer and bream. Whiting and flathead were also plentiful in the Passage.

Members of the Landsborough Fishing Club participated in a competition, the winners were Messrs W Isambert (12½ pound), AJ Myers (10½ pound) and PM Isambert (8½ pound).

Boat hire businesses were also established, Charles Clarke acquired a fleet of boats and took visitors on deep sea fishing trips in his motor launch “Miss Bondoola” and AE Round’s Hire Boat Depot at Bulcock Beach catered for recreational fishermen.

Big game fishing became popular in the 1930s with the Queensland Big Game Fisherman’s Association putting Mooloolaba on the game fishing map, when they erected set of large scales on an A frame on Clarke’s jetty.

Local boats for big game fishing off Mooloolaba were engaged, attracting visitors from around the world.

Fred Eager, a well-known big game fishing personality, played host to a number of Hollywood stars from the time at his house on River Esplanade. Stars included, Errol Flynn, Doris Day, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow and Fred took them on deep sea fishing adventures.

This love of deep sea fishing lead to the formation of amateur deep sea fishing clubs throughout Queensland.

One local club was the North Caloundra Amateur Deep Sea Fishing Club, believed to be founded in 1953 with the Hotel Francis being the club’s earliest venue and watering hole.

Mr AE Hooper, in a history of the club, described their members as early deep sea amateurs who suffered 90 minutes of jolting to and from scattered offshore reefs – their only emergency communication a shirt waving on a fishing rod; their only navigation aide memorised landmarks and their only auxiliary power a pair of oars.

Times have certainly changed but our love of venturing into the outdoors remains the same.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image details

Hero Image – Tent campers and caravans at the Cotton Tree Caravan Park and Camping Ground adjacent to Cotton Tree Parade, Maroochydore, 1960s

Image 1 – A. E. Round’s Hire Boat Depot, Bulcock Beach, Caloundra, ca 1930

Image 2 – Hodgson’s Boat Hire located on the Esplanade, Bulcock Beach, ca 1940

Image 3 – Stephen George Short, Reg Mitchell and ‘Pop’ Simpson on a fishing holiday, Caloundra, November 1947

Image 4 – Men in a horse-drawn wagon returning to the Nambour district after a fishing trip to Maroochydore, 1906

Image 5 – Camping grounds and shopping area, Cotton Tree, ca 1950

Image 6 – Holidaymakers at the jetty and camping grounds, Cotton Tree, 1920s

Image 7 – Camping on the Spit at Mooloolaba, Easter, 1935

Image 8 – Hazel O’Meara’s refreshment caravan parked on The Esplanade at Bulcock Beach, Caloundra, ca 1947

Image 9 – William Stanley Potts with his catch of fish, Mooloolaba, ca 1957

Image 10 – Fishing boat,’Wollomai’, with a record marlin catch, Mooloolaba, ca 1940. The fine launch, used by experience fishermen, F.Z. Eager, was fitted with full equipment and the best tackle for big game fishing.

Image 11 – Bessie Spink camping at Moffat Beach, Caloundra, 1942

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