Caloundra’s History

The first European to sight Caloundra area was Captain James Cook who in May 1770 named the Glass House Mountains. Matthew Flinders followed in 1799. He entered the channel between modern day Caloundra and Bribie Island.

Queensland became a separate colony in 1859. Free settlers started to take up land in Caloundra and outlying areas after the 1860 Unoccupied Crown Lands Occupation Act – ignoring the fact that the local indigenous tribes had lived and cared for the land for tens of thousands of years.

The name “Caloundra” is thought to be named after the Aboriginal word ‘Callanda‘ which means “Beautiful Place” in the Kabi language. However, there is some discrepancy that it may be derived from the word ‘Cullowundoor’ meaning beech tree. It is thought that Caloundra was given this name because of the trees that grow on the headland of Caloundra Head – either way it is a beautiful place.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, in particular the Kabi Kabi Peoples and the Jinibara Peoples of the coastal plains and hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast on which we live and work. We pay our respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past, present and emerging. We are committed to honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas and their rich contribution to society.

On 8 November 1875, Robert Bulcock Snr. Bought 277 acres (112 hectares) of land for £70 ($140) in Caloundra. He paid it off at £7/1/6 ($14.15c) a year. Robert Snr. In 1885, he settled permanently in Caloundra.

Caloundra has seen phenomenal growth in the 100 years since Robert Bulcock Junior decided to subdivide and sell part of his father, Robert’s, property in 1917.

Very few of the white settlers became permanent until the 1890s. These early settlers had no services. In 1903, there were 19 voters on the Electoral Roll from seven families. They had to provide nearly everything they needed – dispose of their waste, grow, catch and preserve their own food and provide their own water and lighting. They arrived by either horse-drawn vehicles, or boat up Pumicestone Passage.

While the fertile inland soils were used to grow maize, oats, sugar and tobacco and the local dairy industry prospered, all Caloundra could offer was tourism.

After the 1917 land sale, the population started to grow slowly, mainly fishermen and their families. It stopped during World War II. After the war, with family car ownership in the 1950s, Caloundra witnessed a growth spurt. Some of these holidaymakers decided to stay and become permanent residents.

Water Transport was the earliest method of transport between Caloundra and Brisbane. Small vessels travelled the still waters of Pumicestone Passage carrying supplies for Caloundra residents and people wishing to visit.

ln1889, people were picked up from Landsborough Railway Station by horse and sulky and later by service vehicle.

Electricity did not come to Caloundra until April 1941 during World war II. Residents used ice chests in their homes and holiday campers also used ice. Ice was delivered door-to-door as well. Large locks of ice were sold for 4d (5c) in the 1950’s. During World War II, the Clarke Family Ice Works was used to store food free of charge for the soldiers training in Caloundra and northern end of Bribie Island.

The Bruce Highway was built in 1935 and then in the 1950s came the family car and annual holidays. It wasn’t until the 1960s that road construction became a serious business.

In 1965, Caloundra was tiny – 2000 to 3000 people. They had very few services then, basic Education, Police Officers, an Ambulance, a Post Office and Doctors and Vets who visited a few half days a week.

Services started to come to Caloundra in the late 1960s and early 1970s. You could rent a home for $11 a week!

The very early residents of Caloundra were self sufficient. As the town grew, fishing became a viable income. All fishing related businesses quickly grew up:- boat hire, fishing tackle, bait, prawning, boat building and fish and chips.

House building and sawmills were followed by stores, fruit and vegetables, butcher, dairy, baker, groceries and deliveries of milk, bread and ice.

When holidaymakers arrived in large numbers, garages, taxis, buses, guesthouses, flats and camping areas appeared.

Many residents even held down two or three different jobs to make ends meet e.g. delivered newspapers, collected and sold shell grit, picked and sold Christmas Bells. Their income raising ideas were creative and diverse.

Fast track today, Caloundra continues to grow at a phenomenal rate – Councils own predictions.

2021 – 351,424 people
2031 – 436,785 people
2041 – 518,004 people

The population of the Sunshine Coast is forecast to grow to over 500,000 people by 2041. It is anticipated that we will require a total of over 217,230 dwellings.

The largest of population increases will be those aged 75 years and over, and The second largest will be those 40-54 years (i.e. more established families)


Queen of Colonies

1863 – The ‘Queen of Colonies’ was a ship bringing free settlers from England to Australia in 1863. It was heading for the Port of Brisbane when the doctor’s wife died. 13 people set off in a lifeboat to bury the body, which they did on Moreton Island. On their return to the ship, a violent storm washed the lifeboat on to Moffat Rocks. These castaways were most likely the first white people to set foot in Caloundra.

It is believed a castaway may have carved the ship’s name into the bark of this Pandanus tree. The trunk is preserved in Newstead House in Brisbane.

In 1960 Landsborough Shire Council had a memorial built to replace the tree that died. This monument can be seen on the Queen of Colonies Parade, Moffat Beach.

SS ‘Dicky’

In February 1893, the SS ‘Dicky’ was blown ashore at Dicky Beach during a cyclone. It was unable to be refloated with bullock teams after three attempts.
Dicky Beach remains the only recreational beach in the world to be named after a shipwreck ‘SS Dicky’ which ran aground during heavy seas in February 1893. The wreck was one of the most photographed wrecks in the world and after 122 years was removed by Council in 2015.

Photo 1900 and rusted away in 1930s

Anro Asia

In 1981, The ‘Anro Asia’ was a container vessel, fully loaded from China. It was heading to the Port of Brisbane but ran aground on the northern tip of Bribie Island.

It was so large people said it appeared to be right across the Caloundra Bar. Many attempts to refloat it failed, so it was decided to remove the loaded containers by Chinook helicopter and truck them to Brisbane.

‘Anro Asia’ on the northern tip of Bribie Island – 1981 .

World War II

1939 to 1945

On 21st April 1939, Currimundi area was gazetted by the Australian Government to be set aside for training purposes. Late in 1939, an advance party set up the Dicky Beach Army Camp. Among the soldiers, were the 22nd and 29th Battalions who camped and trained there.

Photos: The Army Camp, Dicky Beach – 1940s.
The soldiers walking to Dicky Beach for a swim

This is just a very small snippet of our history. For a comprehensive information, images and books please visit

Used with permission

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