Backward Glance: Beach holidays on the Coast 70 years ago
  • Wednesday 27 May 2015
Aeroplane offering joy flights to holiday crowds on Maroochydore Beach, ca 1927

Can you believe that it was illegal to swim in the sea in Australia between the hours of 6am and 8pm until 1903?

The law was finally repealed after William Gocher, through his Sydney paper, announced his intention to go for a swim in 1902. William completed his daylight swim and was dragged off by the local constabulary. However he wasn’t charged. In November 1903, Manly Council legalised all-day bathing on the provision that bathers wore a neck to knee costume.

Sunshine Coast beaches 70 and more years ago were very different places compared to the often busy places of today. Holidays were a lot more basic and of course there were no big resorts to stay at. A lot of the visitors were from the hinterland areas and it was quite a trek on bad roads to get there. However there was no shortage of exciting things to do - things that tourists today have no hope of experiencing.

Visitors to Maroochydore could enjoy the excitement of a joy flight in a light plane for a cost of 10/- ($1) for a five-minute trip.

With the growing interest in holidays and swimming on Coast beaches, visitors often found themselves in difficulty in the water. After several rescues and drowning deaths in the Maroochydore area, the Maroochydore Life Saving Club began operation in 1916. The Mooloolaba club followed in 1922, Alexandra Headland in 1924 and Caloundra in 1927. Lifesavers at that time generally travelled from the hinterland for patrols over bad roads sometimes taking up to four hours each way.

Mooloolaba Beach was well patronised and horse-riding on the beach was a popular pastime.

Caloundra beaches were also popular as a holiday spot for families from the Glass House and Maleny areas who would make the long trek down for their annual holiday.

Overland’s Dicky Beach Huts were one of the first holiday accommodation in the area.  The five cabins were erected in Bryce Street in 1937 by James Overland and his wife Myrtle. The couple also built a corner store with an upstairs residence on an adjacent block. They were the first holiday accommodation cabins to be established in that area, which at that time was known as “Dicky Beach” and later named Moffat Beach.

During WW11, the cabins were leased by the Australian Army for accommodation purposes.  In 1949, the cabins were renovated; one was demolished and the remaining four were joined together in pairs. They proved very popular with holiday makers who mostly travelled by rail and bus service from Brisbane so they could relax, fish and crab at Tooway Lake and off Moffat Beach. These families often booked the cabins years in advance which still occurs today.

The furnished huts were advertised as 'within 100 yards of the beach. Each hut is 12 foot by 12 foot and has accommodation for four persons [and] cooking is done in a separate cook house'. Rates ranged from 10/- for a weekend to two pounds per week during the holiday season.

At the time, ice was the only means of refrigeration and power was supplied by a generator on a model T Ford engine.

The inlet in the river at Cotton Tree also became a popular recreation and swimming area. A diving board and slippery slide were built in the swimming pool and during the 1950s swimming techniques were taught as a holiday activity.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.