Bribie Island, separated from the mainland by the narrow Pumicestone channel, is 45 km north of Brisbane at the point where the Bribie Bridge crosses the channel. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal expression, 'Boorabee', referring to a koala or the island itself.
The island was seen by the explorer Matthew Flinders in 1799, where he named Skirmish Point at its southern end. Bribie Island is 34 km from north to south, including the spit extending nearly to Caloundra, and has a maximum width of eight km.
The island had an estimated 600 Aborigines on it at the time of Flinders exploration. An Aboriginal Reserve was established near White Patch in 1877, and it is understood that by 1897 most of the island's Aboriginal population had died. Early European settlers were castaways, but a fish cannery was opened at the northern end of the island in 1901. Freight and passenger shipping ran regular services to Bribie Island within ten years, some of the passengers being holiday-makers and campers. A telephone link and a bowls club were established in the 1920s, and a school was opened in 1924 at Bongaree, the island's main settlement. Bongaree, was served by the 'Koopa' which came from Redcliffe. A barge also crossed the channel from Sandstone Point.
Bribie Island was described as a pleasure resort and a Moreton Bay oyster ground. As late as the 1950s Bongaree's main street was a sandy esplanade dotted with holiday houses and a general store. Wallabies and wild ponies could be seen from the verandahs, and a local hall was the social centre. The bridge was opened in 1963, but did not precipitate an immediate population surge. That began ten years later and even more markedly in the 1980s. Bribie Island's most notable resident, the reclusive artist, Ian Fairweather, had died in 1974.
Bongaree, and neighbouring Bellara and Banksia Beach, contain over 80% of the island's population on its protected western shore. Woorim on the ocean side is across the island from Bongaree. The northern three-quarters of the island is a Recreation Area, including the World War II fort which is on the Queensland heritage register. Banksia Beach includes canal estates, a marina, bowls and golf clubs, a community arts centre, a primary school (1992) and a shopping centre. Bongaree has two shopping centres, a high school (1989), a bowls club, an aquatic centre, several elderly persons residential facilities, and a hospital. Woorim is north of Skirmish Point. Its ocean beach has the Bribie Island surf life-saving club. There are also a small shopping centre, the Bribie Island golf club and parklands adjoining the beach.
Bribie Island's census populations have been:
Bribie Island holiday guide, annual
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