Backward Glance: Picnic Point – a recreational haven
  • Wednesday 17 August 2016
In today’s Backward Glance we step back in time and look at the long and varied history of Picnic Point.

From the time of early European settlement, the sandy stretches of the Maroochy River at Picnic Point and around Chambers Island have been popular recreational places for families to enjoy swimming, boating and fishing.

“Picnic Point” was the name given by WJ Smith who built one of the first houses at Maroochydore.

William Pettigrew's sawmill was built on Maroochy River bank near Picnic Point in 1889.

Pettigrew fell victim to the 1890s depression and after selling out to James Campbell & Son, the mill was closed and dismantled in 1905.

Frederick William (Billy) Phillips (1881-1944) is thought to have built the first house on Picnic Point. He began the first passenger service from Palmwoods to Maroochydore in 1923.

By ca 1916 William Short and wife Margaret (nee Wright) owned three houses fronting the Maroochy River at Picnic Point which family members occupied at various times over the years.

William owned property at Hunchy until ca 1921 and he then bought farmland on Maroochydore Road before retiring to Picnic Point in ca 1950.

Brighton Boarding House, later re-named Brighton Guest House, was built on the Picnic Point Esplanade in the early 1920s.

It served as one of several venues for Anglican services before St Peters Anglican Church was built in Maroochydore in 1925 and was also a popular spot for wedding receptions.

Les and Thelma Leadbetter bought the Brighton Guest House from Mrs FW Phillips in ca 1950.

At that time, the guest house was one of several operating at Maroochydore which was traditionally the holiday destination for rural families from the northern end of the Blackall Range.

Holiday makers often rode their horses to the Coast for holidays from as far away as Yarraman, Nanango and Kingaroy.

Brighton Guest House changed hands in the late 1950s and in September 1958 it was destroyed by fire.

A two-storey block of flats, named the Rod and Reel, was then built on the site.

During the 1930s, holidaymakers and local residents could hire canoes from the Cotton Tree camping grounds and row up the Maroochy River to Picnic Point and nearby Chambers Island.

To cater for those enjoying such recreational activities, the Maroochy Shire Council built a weatherboard dressing shed at Picnic Point in the 1940s.

In 1951, the Maroochydore Progress Association constructed diving boards and slippery slides on the river’s edge and provided seats along the foreshore.

One of the first community projects to provide a venue for retired people to meet and socialise in the Maroochy Shire was undertaken in 1960 at Picnic Point when an open-fronted weatherboard shed, initially named “Sons of Rest” was opened at the eastern end of the foreshore.

The shed became a popular spot for card and board games.

It was improved and extended during the 1960s and renamed “The Friendship Centre”.

By the 1990s the shed had become dilapidated and in 2010 modern public amenities were constructed on the site.

Blanck Park, located adjacent to the eastern end of Picnic Point with frontages to Duporth Avenue and Picnic Point Esplanade, remains one of the locality’s key attractions.

Thomas O’Connor gifted the land to trustees in 1917 for the purposes of constructing a public hall or school of arts.

He supplied the materials for the building which was the first public hall in Maroochydore.

A Provisional School opened in the hall on August 21, 1921 and continued to be used as a schoolroom until the end of 1923.

Pupils were then relocated to a new state primary school building which was officially opened on September 27, 1924 on Main Road, Maroochydore.

The old hall was demolished and the land was neglected until 1940s when Adolf Blank took over the maintenance. The park became known locally as Blanck Park.

Modern-day Picnic Point has many recreational opportunities and remains a hidden gem along the Maroochy River foreshore.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions:

Hero image caption: Houses along the Maroochy River bank at Picnic Point, ca 1935.

Carousel image captions:
Image 1: Leadbetter brothers on horseback in the backyard of Brighton Guest house, Picnic Point Esplanade, ca 1954.

Image 2: Canoeing on the Maroochy River canal at the junction of Bradman and Duporth Avenues, Maroochydore, 1936.

Image 3: Residences fronting the Maroochy River on Picnic Point Esplanade, Maroochydore, 1930.