Sandgate (pictured circa 1920) has long been a popular destination for a day out. (Supplied: John Oxley Collection, State Library of Queensland)
Before the bright lights of Surfers Paradise and the idyllic vibe of Noosa, a small bayside suburb was the top holiday spot in Queensland.
Sandgate, a suburb in Moreton Bay, 16 kilometres north-east of Brisbane, was popular among the early Europeans to arrive in the state.
Bringing their English traditions with them, a seaside holiday was high on the list for relaxation and entertainment.
Many believe the name of the area was inspired by Sandgate, which sits on the Kent coast of south-east England.
A hand-coloured illustration of Sandgate Beach from 1910. (Supplied: Centre for the Government of Queensland)
The traditional owners of the land, the Turrbal people, long inhabited the area and called it Warra, which means a stretch or expanse of water.
The wealthy escape the heat
Historian Helen Gregory said the area had “sparkling” sand and calm waters.
“Sandgate became the popular place to go, yet initially you had to be wealthy to holiday in Sandgate,” she said.
“You had to afford the Cobb & Co coach or had your own horse.
“Not everyone came to swim as many couldn’t, but the pier was built and the promenade was there and that is where they would spend their time.”
Just like Brighton in England, Sandgate also had its own pier to promenade on. (Supplied: State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library)
The Shorncliffe pier, although not as big as Brighton Pier in the UK, helped cure the homesickness of new locals and tourists alike.
The town was often referred to as “Sandgate, the Brighton of Queensland”.
Ms Gregory said when the railway from Brisbane was built in 1882, the area became a popular weekend destination for residents escaping the heat.
“It became more available for everybody then and guest houses appeared,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Loretta Ryan.
“Guesthouses became really popular and many still stand there today.”
New highway drives tourism
As time went on, the Bruce Highway was built and connected even more people to the region.
“Tourism became very important in the decision to establish the Bruce Highway — in its early stages it was seen as a tourist road when cars appeared in the 1920s,” Ms Gregory said.
“It helped in the development of caravanning, so caravan parks began to appear in the area too.”
Other accommodation that started to appear in the 1930s and ’40s was self-catered accommodation.
“The development of the motel came from America when motoring became the popular form of travel here in Australia; they weren’t common in England,” Ms Gregory said.
“We began diverging as the English never had self-catering accommodation; they thought that it was most unusual as their accommodation was always catered for.”
‘A picture fully pleasing to the eye’
Christmas and New Year’s was also a popular time to visit Moreton Bay.
Boating and swimming were often the chosen water sports, while dances and open-air films were also a hit among tourists.
Women rowing off the beach of Sandgate in Bramble Bay, 1930. (Supplied: John Oxley Collection, State Library of Queensland)
The Brisbane Courier newspaper reported on the popularity of the area in 1907:
“Sandgate on the sea, often gay and bright and always pretty, was yesterday bubbling with life and movement.
“Thousands of trippers from the city hurried down at an early hour to enjoy the full New Year’s Day, 1907, forgetful of business cares and household worries.
“Thousands more followed during the day until it was estimated there were fully 10,000 visitors gathered at the favourite seaside resort.
“The wide sweep of the bay, the narrow strip of gleaming sand, the dancing wavelets, the green-clad slopes of Moora Park running down to the beach, dotted with thousands of picnickers, the women and children in dresses of white or pretty tints, made up a picture fully pleasing to the eye.”
Ms Gregory said when people weren’t visiting the beach, the hills were another way for early European settlers to escape the heat.
“When the British were in India, when it got very hot on the plains in India, the British went to their hill stations,” she said.
“They did that here too and went to places like the Blackall Ranges or Atherton Tablelands to escape the heat.”
Ms Gregory said although other locations became more popular when air travel and other transport developed, the area remains as a popular day trip for visitors and locals alike.