Noosa History

The Noosa River and lakes were flooded by sea during the glacial period 130,000 years ago making Noosa Heads into an island. The mountains in the area were formed by volcanic lava thrust upward that have withstood erosion over millions of years whilst the softer land around washed away and created the Great Sandy Park with its high dunes.

It is speculated that the name “Noosa” is derived from the Aboriginal “noothera” or “gnuthuru” meaning shade or shadow. The first visitors to Noosa, the Gubbi Gubbi people roamed the area in bark canoes living off the abundant riches provided by the river system. The Gubbi Gubbi was a well planned matrilineal society with the woman’s name being given to the land and the tribe.


Tewantin’s first permanent resident Grainger Ward settled in 1870 and by 1912 Tewantin had developed into a thriving town with four hotels, shops and a regular coach service to Gympie. The early wealth was created by timber and milling with a regular paddle steamer the Culgoa making three trips a fortnight delivering timber to Brisbane until being wrecked on the Noosa Bar on 13th May 1891.


Noosa tourism developed in the late 1920’s. The Noosa Surf Life Saving Club began in 1927 as a tent on the beach and now a major building on the beach offering wonderful views, food and service.


Over the years many battles have taken place between the demands of the developer against those that wanted to protect this unique and wonderful coastal community. Nancy Cato, in her book The Noosa Story first published in 1979 provides a gripping story of the battles that were fought, won and lost. Nancy sadly died in 2000 and is remembered in a memorial park named after her on Noosa Parade. More recently Michael Gloster in his beautifully illustrated book The Shaping of Noosa published in 1997 carries on the story.


The 70’s saw developers working hand in hand with a local council and business desperate to exploit the pristine parcels of land that boarded the coastline. It was also the start of what has been a continuing migration of people from southern states and overseas attracted to the Noosa lifestyle. A capture of Noosa Council during 1982 – 1985 by a strong pro conservation group started a process of change, and a desire to preserve “paradise”. Battles have taken place over extensive development of the North Shore with planned jet airport and resorts, building on Noosa Hill and currently a fierce and vocal debate over the planned Noosa Shire Business Centre.


Today, Noosa led by Mayor Bob Abbott, a conservation minded community, the benefits of being surrounded by National Parks and council purchased protected areas has become a success story for excellence in town planning and provision of highly desired lifestyles. Some argue that Noosa represents the world’s most perfect town, a cry not just made by locals but recognised in press stories appearing around the world.


Noosa’s dependence on tourism is gradually decreasing with the growth of intellectually based business managed by “barefooted executives” making full use of the new telecommunication technologies and the skills within the community. Noosa tourism still remains the major industry and developers are still building noosa holiday accommodation for the visitors that are coming to Noosa from all over Australia and the world.


A population cap of 50,000, no high rise development permitted and very limited land available for development should protect Noosa for future generations to enjoy. It also leads to some of the fastest rising property prices in Australia, creating a vibrant real estate business, which can be viewed on the futuristic video screen displays in the Tom Offermann Real Estate office on Hastings Street.


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