Backward Glance: Sunshine Coast’s first resorts – the guest houses
  • Wednesday 14 December 2016
Holidays are here and the Sunshine Coast will again become a hive of tourist activity.

As with many other coastal regions throughout Queensland times have changed.

No longer is the Sunshine Coast an area where the main employment comes from timber and farming.

The Sunshine Coast is now a place where tourists flock from all over the world to experience what this region has to offer.

Ocean liners moor off the coast and bring holiday makers ashore, our airport has recorded the most passengers it has achieved in a year and the drive market remains strong.

The Coast and hinterland famous for beautiful scenery, waterways and beaches is a haven for those on holiday and those lucky enough to live here.

With sea breezes and mountain air considered good for one’s personal constitution the early guest houses, nestled into scrub just behind the coastal beaches or positioned not far from picturesque scenic spots in the hinterland, were very popular.

There were no lattés at the café for those early tourists, just the joy of a holiday, shared eating in dining rooms, sing-alongs around the piano and wide open spaces to roam along the beach or bush tracks.

Everyone got to know each other and lasting friendships were formed from one year to the next.

If there were not enough beds to go around, verandahs with sleep-out areas could squeeze in a few extra guests.

The Blackall Range, or hinterland as it is known, with its cool summer temperatures and crisp mountain air also became a thriving mountain holiday destination where guest houses prospered.

Guests enjoyed bush walking, waterfalls and magnificent scenery from lookouts.

All of these pursuits are still enjoyed by those who arrive in the region by many forms of transport.

The late 1800s saw the North Coast railway line open and by the next century tourists had started to arrive by train.

Guests were transported to their holiday accommodation by tram, buckboard, hire cars and buses from the railway stations.

The hinterland provided transport by buckboard and tramways to the coastal scenic rim.

Buses waited at stations for the guests. Charles Clarke’s Buderim bus was a Ford Model T, one ton truck fitted with a covered wagon type of all-weather protection and canvas seats.

It could carry 11 passengers and provided a daily service, except Wednesday and Sundays. 

The bus lacked sufficient power to take full loads up the hill to Buderim, then known as Foote’s Hill, with adult male passengers having to walk up the hill while ladies and children rode in the bus.

The gradual development of the Sunshine Coast as a tourism destination increased due to car ownership and accessibility.

Roads improved in the 1930s, including the opening of the Bruce Highway in 1934.

An early guest house on the Coast was Kings Grand Central built by Allan and Eliza King who married in 1890 and settled in Caloundra.

Between 1908 and 1909, Kings Grand Central was built near a sand track later to become the corner of Edmund and King streets.

It was a popular place to stay and, in 1935, a second storey was added to the wooden structure in order to accommodate the increasing number of holiday visitors.

This is now the site of the Kings Beach Tavern.

The Alexandra Guest House was built during 1926-1928 on the small hill behind Alexandra Headland Beach.

It was surrounded by 36 acres of sports and recreation ground and was designed to provide accommodation for 70 guests.

The guest house had 36 bedrooms, a reception and dining room, cafe, verandas, two shelters and a laundry.

Given that safety played a major part in the popularity of the beaches, surf lifesaving also played a tremendous part in the early establishment of the Sunshine Coast’s local tourism.

Today we still rely on our lifesavers and lifeguards to keep the coastal beaches safe and to watch over our visiting guests and locals alike.

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

Image captions:
Hero: House guests on the bowling green at Elston Guest House, Montville, 1930s. Located at the top of the Blackall Range, Elston was the first guest house to open in Montville.

Image 1: Beach goers on Mooloolaba Beach showing an early life saving reel on the beach, ca 1930.
Image 2: Popular Maroochydore Beach showing lifesavers' tower left foreground, ca 1950.
Image 3: Coolum Beach, looking north along the coast towards Peregian, 1955.
Image 4: Holiday makers arriving by bus adjacent to the bus depot in Bulcock Street, Caloundra, ca 1945.
Image 5: Charles Clarke's bus with a full load of passengers on the Mooloolaba Buderim Road, October 1924.
Image 6: Sallaway's Allawah Boarding House, Maple Street, Maleny, 1913.
Image 7: Five bathers in the shallows at Kings Beach, on the hill is a large building which was the Kings Grand Central Guest House, ca 1934.