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Nature, culture and history

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More park information is available in our trial Bribie Island National Park and Recreation Area page.

Nature, culture and history

Bribie Island's rich natural diversity has drawn people to its shores for thousands of years. Local indigenous people have used the plentiful seafood and coastal resources for many generations. Evidence of their traditional lifestyle is present in many places on Bribie Island.

Today, camping areas are located in areas traditionally used by Indigenous Australians for similar reasons—easy access, plentiful fishing, protected campsites and an uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape.

Natural environment

On the foredunes you'll find communities of coastal she-oaks (Casuarina equisetifolia var. incana), acacias, banksias (Banksia integrifolia) and beach spinifex (Spinifex sericeus). These communities stabilise the dune system by trapping sand and reducing erosion.

Picturesque lagoons just behind the ocean beach provide an ideal setting to relax in a coastal environment. With summer rainfall, the lagoons can break out onto the beach and into the ocean.

Extensive tidal wetlands and waters around Bribie Island are protected as part of Moreton Bay Marine Park. Fish, crabs and prawns breed in Pumicestone Passage and dugong feed on its seagrass communities.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 migratory shorebirds visit this area in the summer months. Bribie Island's wetland resources are essential for their survival. The birds rest and refuel, feeding on yabbies, worms, pipis and other small animals. Around April they leave again, flying thousands of kilometres to breeding areas in Alaska, China and Siberia.

Look for the 'flap-flap-flap-glide' motion of the osprey as it soars effortlessly in the sky. Other birds of prey including sea eagles, brahminy kites and whistling kites are often seen along the coastline.


Culturally significant sites, including large shell middens, demonstrate continual use of this coastal area over thousands of years.

Living a traditional lifestyle, families journeyed throughout the land, staying for varying periods of time on the northern sections of the island and on what is now the western coastline. They favoured the northern areas close to the river with access to a wide diversity of resources—marine, estuarine, wetland and freshwater. Cypress pine forests growing there provided good protection.

As the seasons changed, family groups moved to where resources were available. When cyclones occurred, people moved away from the coast along the rivers and streams. Families took different routes along the way to gather materials for their lifestyle.

Each person had their own distinctive call by which they were recognised. People called to one another through the bush. Carved message sticks carried by a messenger and smoke signals were used to send messages to distant families.

A meeting place

Pumicestone Passage's rich seafood resources were shared with other groups of people as they travelled to attend the Bonyee Bunya festival in the mountain ranges. Visiting groups camped along the old coastal dunes from Sandstone Point south to Caboolture River. Extensive shell middens from these camps were collected and processed for use as brick mortar in Brisbane's early buildings. A rich archaeological record of stone tools from distant regions has been found in the middens.

On the menu

As with high quality restaurants today, the menu of the day consisted of foods that were seasonally available.

From extensive intertidal mudflats, people harvested oysters, cockles, mudwhelks, ribbed ceriths, hairy mussels and eugaries (pipis).

On the water, fish, turtles and dugong were caught using nets and spears. Women frequently prepared string for weaving fishing nets. Men prepared spears and boomerangs from various types of hard timbers, then 'fired' them to harden them.

Canoes were made for water travel from stringybark, tallowwood and other tree bark. The bark was slowly prised from the tree when the sap was running to avoid cracking and splitting from lack of moisture. It was then smoked and treated, the sides were curled up and the ends sealed with clay to make it watertight. Vines were used to strengthen the canoe and cross pieces inserted to prevent shrinkage.

Melaleuca saplings and vines were used to make rafts for travelling short distances.

Various birds and their eggs were eaten. Small groups worked together to flush quail into the open where they knocked them down with small waddies (clubs). They hunted brush turkeys and raided their nests for eggs. Small hawk-like boomerangs were thrown to frighten ducks into nets placed across lagoons. A similar method was used to capture parrots and cockatoos.

Kangaroos, wallabies and other small marsupials were skillfully hunted into mesh nets, which were about 1.2 m high with 50mm to 60mm mesh. Controlled fire was a tool used to maintain open spaces with grass regrowth, to attract marsupials for easier capture.

Flying foxes were knocked down while roosting during the day. Snakes and goannas were eaten and goanna fat was saved for skin decoration.

Bungwall fern (Blechnum indicum) from melaleuca wetlands was the staple plant food. Women and children dug up large quantities of fern rhizomes (roots) and prepared them by lightly roasting and pounding. Roasted fern was eaten with meat or fish or on its own, somewhat like bread.

Many other plants were eaten, including roots from freshwater bulrush (Typha spp.), which were chewed raw until only the fibre remained. Yams (Dioscoria transversa) were dug from up to one metre underground and roasted. The hearts of cabbage palms were eaten raw.

Honey was collected from the native beehives.

When indigenous people hunted here just over 200 years ago, the winter runs of sea mullet and bream were thick enough to colour the water. The catch was so plentiful that excess fish were preserved for future eating. People wrapped the fish in plant twine to keep the flies off and hung them in dilly bags in the trees.

Indigenous people knew about the importance of ecological sustainability and had laws prohibiting the taking of undersized fish or animals that were breeding, rearing young or carrying eggs. They hope people will continue this practice by following laws designed to protect natural resources today.

Help ensure that this popular fishing place is available for many generations to come. Catch only what you need and return undersize or breeding animals to the water.

A changing land

In the early 1860s the traditional Indigenous Australian way of life changed forever with the arrival of pastoralists and timber-getters.

Queensland's first Aboriginal Reserve was located on Bribie Island, near White Patch in 1877. Elderly people and those who did some work were given sugar and one pint (about 2 cups) of flour each day. When fish were in short supply they were given more flour.

Later, many people were moved from their traditional land to reserves including Durundur, Monkey Bong Creek and Barambah (Cherbourg). Some stayed on Bribie Island, found occasional work and adapted to a new lifestyle.

Today, many Indigenous Australian people maintain strong spiritual and cultural links with their traditional land. They work together with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to share their knowledge and culture to help protect this region.

View World War II structures

Along Ocean Beach foredunes are weathered gun emplacements and searchlight buildings that are characteristic of the six-inch gun batteries used to defend Queensland's coastline and Brisbane during World War II. They are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and managed to conserve this cultural heritage.

During World War II, Fort Bribie was strategically located near Bribie Island's northern tip to secure the passage south. Moreton Bay's shallow waters are scattered with small islands, banks and sandbars, so large ships are limited to the main north-west shipping channel that runs close to shore near Bribie Island. To further increase defence capabilities, the Skirmish six inch battery was established near Woorim in 1942.

Shifting sand has left the northern searchlight and other structures exposed on the beach. Harsh weathering conditions have reduced the stability of these structures. When visiting these sites, obey signs and view the structures from a distance. Do not climb over structures, as they may collapse.

Last updated
25 June 2018