Backward Glance - Tourism Memories on the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 05 July 2017
This week we take another step down memory lane to look at tourism on the Sunshine Coast.

One of the Sunshine Coast’s most notable landmarks is the iconic Bli Bli Castle which was officially opened in April 1973 by Maroochy Shire Council Chairman Ed De Vere.

The tourist attraction is a significant architectural building constructed over a 15-month period by the Hayne family.

It overlooks Bli Bli, which now has a vastly different landscape to when it first opened.

The castle stages a variety of regular events, as well as all of the favourite long-standing attractions, including the fairy stories depicted in a total of 30 scenes and the medieval arms and armour which have attracted visitors for more than 40 years.

Another early family operated tourist attraction was the Flaxton Model Village display situated at the residence of Mr and Mrs M Bradley who were the owners and builders of the popular attraction.

The model village was officially opened on March 21, 1970 by the then Minister for Tourism, MJ Herbert, MLA.

The miniature English village was an ongoing project, starting around 18 months prior to the opening.

It featured replicas of old English buildings, built to 1/12th the scale and authentic in every detail.

There were different scenes, including a model of a 14th century castle with moat, drawbridge and water mill, a coaching inn, Tudor cottages and market square, a winter scene with spired church and shops and a range of houses, taverns and other buildings from different eras.

Life-sized village stocks, a souvenir shop, café and Pickwick Theatre were among the other attractions, along with facilities to make brass rubbings.

Ginger Town, located at Yandina, is another very notable tourist attraction, offering an interesting history as well as lots to do and see.

This year the tourist attraction celebrated the 21st anniversary of the very popular Ginger Flower and Food Festival.

Ginger Town’s picturesque gardens provide a pathway where visitors can stroll through acres of exotic plant-life with water features.

The historic cane train Moreton puffs along throughout the gardens and tourists can hop on board for an enjoyable ride.

The loco was purchased by Ross and Jennifer Robertson who meticulously restored it over 18 months.

It began operating at Yandina Ginger Town on Boxing Day 1992 with two replica carriages.

The carriages, similar to the early Coolum tram carriages, remind us of a time when the hard working sugar cane train provided access to the coast as well as an early form of transportation for locals and tourist alike.

Who can forget the Ginger Belle, an authentic replica of a side-wheeler 1880s paddle steamer, which was built and also owned by the Robertsons.

The paddle steamer operated in association with the Ginger Town complex.

It carried 50 passengers and was constructed of steel and wood over an approximately two-year period.

On completion, it was loaded by crane onto a truck and transported to the Maroochy River, where it was launched by Sir Walter Burnett on August 29, 1988.

The paddle steamer provided tours along the Maroochy River three times daily.

It was skippered by Ross Robertson while Jenny Robertson provided a commentary on the history of paddle steamers, settlement and sugar cane and ginger growing in the area.

Not to be forgotten was the Ginger Belle tour bus which transported visitors to and from the Ginger Factory to the Ginger Belle, moored at Browne's Wharf, a site chosen for its historical significance, being located within a few metres of the original wharf which had been the limit of navigation for steamers such as Tandorna Radjah in the 1880s.

The bus, which also provided visitors with an informative tour of the working ginger farm, was replaced by the Moreton loco and its passenger carriages.

Another significant tourist attraction was the former Suncoast Pioneer Village on David Low Way, Pacific Paradise.

It was conceived as a pioneer museum by Kath and Noel Parry and their sons who collected, restored and researched the many items displayed.

The village was dedicated to preserving pioneering items and memories of the past in an educational and entertaining way.

Displays included one of Australia’s biggest and best collection of vintage and veteran vehicles, as well as agricultural machinery and equipment, models in period costume, bottles, dolls, antiques and all sorts of household items.

The first stage of the Suncoast Pioneer Village was officially opened on June 12, 1976 by the then chairman of Maroochy Shire Council, Cr Ed De Vere and Member for Fisher C F Adermann.

In 1989 the site was bought by members of the Foy Chesterton and Murray family, who set up another tourist attraction – Nostalgia Town – a family theme park.

It opened its doors to the public in 1990 and closed in 2003.

The Big Kart Track, a fast paced tourist attraction on the Steve Irwin Way, has been operating on the Sunshine Coast since March 1983.

Founded by Ferre De Deyne, this tourist attraction is popular with holidaymakers and locals who regularly visit for some action packed fun on the racing track.
Community minded Ferre De Deyne was awarded the Sunshine Coast Australia Day Creative Award for his commitment towards creative industries in the Sunshine Coast community in 2015.

Today visitors to the Sunshine Coast can still enjoy many tourist attractions.

These include the popular Aussie World just off the Bruce Highway near Glenview, Mooloolaba’s Underwater World, Australia Zoo, Wildlife HQ, whale watching tours, deep sea fishing excursions, and for the experienced diver, a dive to where the old warrior ex-HMAS Brisbane rests in 28 metres of water.

There are also the many street markets, themed festivals, river cruises and cruises down Pumicestone Passage, music festivals and much more.

Not to be forgotten is the grand old heritage listed Caloundra Lighthouse, which has an open day once a month so visitors can go inside what is one of the oldest buildings still standing on the Coast.

Ocean liners now transport visitors ashore by smaller vessels while others come by all types of transportation.

There is so much to see and do in this special place, which this year is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its naming as the ‘Sunshine Coast’. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit

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

Image captions
Hero image: Fairytale castle under construction on the David Low Way, Bli Bli in 1972.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Aerial view of Bli Bli showing the Fairytale Castle on the David Low Way, 1973.
Image 2: Action at the Big Kart Track on the Steve Irwin Way.
Image 3: Minister for Tourism, Mr Herbert (left) and the owner of the Flaxton model village, Malcolm Bradley in the life size village stocks, Flaxton, 1970.
Image 4: Steam driver road loader, one of many vehicles on display at the Suncoast Pioneer Village opened on 13 June 1976, David Low Way, Pacific Paradise
Image 5: Paddle steamer 'Ginger Belle' on the Maroochy River at the Ginger Factory, Yandina, ca 1990.
Image 6: Cranes preparing to lift the Ginger Belle paddle steamer at the Ginger Factory tourist complex situated at Yandina, 1988.
Image 7: Ship in the International Shipping Channel passing close to the shoreline of Bulcock Beach, Caloundra, 2000.