Backward Glance – 150 years of Yandina – Part 1
  • Wednesday 01 August 2018

Yandina is celebrating its 150th birthday with a street fair on August 19.

Over the next two weeks, we will take a look back at what life was like in the early years of settlement, and at some of the changes that have helped shape this town into what it is today.

Yandina was surveyed by Charles Warner in 1871 and it was known as “Maroochie” for many years. 

Timber getting and cattle runs were the earliest commercial activities that attracted interest to this region, followed later by dairying and fruit growing. 

Over time, sugar cane became a very important crop in the area as it grew well on the flood plains of the Maroochy River.

The first explorers to come to the area found valuable stands of timber including crow’s ash, white beech, pale beech, pine and various hardwoods, but red cedar was the red gold the timber getters prized most.

The timber getters’ rough camps were isolated in the rugged forests many miles from civilisation and their families.

The Maroochy River provided access into the forests as boats were able to navigate the river to the tidal limit.

Fresh water was also an important resource readily available.

Yandina was one of the first towns on the Sunshine Coast to be settled.

It began as a 100,000 acre combined pastoral lease Canando and Yandina, established in 1853 by English pioneering brothers Daniel and Zachariah Skyring.

They were among the first settlers in the area.

This vast cattle run covered the area which today we know as Yandina, Eumundi and Cooroy region.

The Skyring brothers realised grazing cattle was not very profitable as the feed was poor and the dingoes plentiful.

The brothers allowed their leases to lapse in 1858.

When the Yandina run became available for selection under the New Land Act passed in 1868, this opened the way for closer settlement.

Paddlewheel steamer “Tadorna Rajah” delivered supplies for the selectors as far as Steven’s wharf at Browne’s Rocks.

“Tarshaw”, “Gneering” and “Tadorna Rajah” carried timber to Brisbane and returned with goods, provisions and the mail, which were brought by barge or punted up the isolated river region to the settlers.

Gold was discovered in Gympie in 1867 so gold seekers headed north, through the Yandina district, to the goldfields hoping to strike it rich. 

They quickly realised there was no reliable thoroughfare between Brisbane and Gympie. 

Whilst there had been routes established via Durundur, near Woodford, and out over the Conondale Range, these tracks were rough and unsafe and they weren’t a quick way to get to the gold diggings.

Early timber men, James Low and William Grigor built a useful but rough track from Dunethin Rock, on the Maroochy River, out to Valdora, then on to Eumundi and north towards Gympie.

In May 1868, Low timed the track as taking 11 hours to reach Gympie by horse and dray from Dunethin Rock.

The government decided that a new road was to be built, allocating $6000 to provide an efficient route directly between Brisbane and the Gympie gold fields.

Cobbs Camp, now known as Woombye, was about halfway to Gympie and became the main overnight stopping place for travellers on Cobb and Co coaches during their journey on the newly completed Gympie Road.

Yandina settler James Low realised the potential and established Maroochie Depot, slightly upstream from Dunethin Rock, on the opposite side of the Maroochy River. 

James Low moved the depot and post office from Dunethin Rock upstream towards where the new road would cross the river in the shallower reaches of the Maroochy River. 

He also built a hotel and store for the passing trade on what was soon to become the Gympie Road.

James and his wife Christina Low were a substantial influence on early Yandina, setting up services for settlers and assisting early travellers with provisions and amenities.

Low’s store was also a post office.

The Cobb and Co change station was positioned between the river and Low’s Maroochie Hotel which was licenced in 1869.

Low provided chaff and oats for the horses and beds and meals for travellers.

If you only had a swag, you could sleep on the verandah of the hotel for nothing.  

Yandina became the first commercial centre between Caboolture and Gympie, and resulted in the permanent township being formed.

Low’s hotel was in the perfect position near the Maroochy River, a very convenient stopping point where travellers could rest on their journey between Brisbane and Gympie.

Due to vast distances, anyone passing through would stop at the hotel.

The family lived at the rear of the hotel.

Yandina Telegraph Office was the first government building on the Near North Coast, opening in 1874.

Prior to the opening of the Yandina Provisional School in 1889, there were just two schools, Maroochy and Fairhill provisional schools, in the region.

The Maroochy Provisional School was established due to the efforts of the Lows and was midway between Yandina and Nambour, opening in 1879 with a good humoured Irishman, William Mahon, the first teacher.

As new settlers arrived in Yandina, the community petitioned for a provisional school.

Provisional meant that the parents of students were responsible for supplying the building and furniture, as well as maintaining the building and school grounds.  

Unfortunately when the new school was halfway through being erected it was realised that a mistake had been made as the school site was on a road.

This was soon rectified, a very capable Irish head teacher Deborah Lalor commenced her teaching duties on November 14, 1889 at the little bush school with about 30 pupils in her care.

In 1891, the North Coast railway line and Yandina Railway Station were established.

This was an important change for the town.

It provided a fast means of transport to Brisbane for freight, including timber, and for anyone travelling north or towards Brisbane.

Yandina Railway Station was the first station on the North Coast Line to have an angle track to turn the steam engines around.

When the North Coast Railway line came through, the Yandina town centre moved closer.

Businesses and traders established their premises near the station. Sometimes entire buildings were moved to be closer to this new means of transport.

For example, the Yandina Hotel was slowly moved on rollers and sleds, dragged by bullock teams, whilst beer was still being served in the bar.

A baby was also born upstairs to early settler Mrs Sommer during the move.

The 1871 census recorded 104 people living and working in the Maroochy region.

Only 31 were permanent, the rest being timber getters at that time.

The population was growing and the land was being settled more widely.

By 1884, most of the valleys and lower reaches of the Maroochy River and its tributaries had been taken up for farming.

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

Image Details: 

Hero image: M754421: Men pictured during the clearing of land for the construction of the Excelsior Hall, Yandina, ca 1900. The Excelsior Hall was the first hall in Yandina for public use. It was built in ca 1900 in what is now Scott Street. And in ca 1916 it was moved to the rear of the Australian Hotel. Pictured include: Alex G. Low (far left), John Gustave Sommer (far right with foot on log), his brother Richard Bernard Erwin Sommer (in dark suit seated on log ), Mr Mitchell, Yandina Station Master (seated in front with dog)

M403225: Sketch of James Low's hotel 'Mooroochie House', Yandina, drawn ca 1875
The hotel was built in 1868 at the Gympie Road crossing of the South Maroochy River. It included accommodation at the rear for Low's family. An adjacent building contained a butcher shop, general store and the Yandina Post Office.

M754442: Maroochy Store and Yandina Post Office, Yandina, ca 1868
James Low erected the building next to his hotel (Mooroochie House) at the Gympie Road Crossing of the South Maroochy River in 1868

M734512: 'Coondalbour', residence of Christina Low and family, Yandina, 1904

M864779: Yandina State School pupils and teachers, 1911 
The School commenced as Yandina Provisional School on 14 November 1889 and was upgraded and officially opened as a State School on 25 April 1902.

M754460: Australian Hotel, Stevens Street, Yandina, ca 1903 
Built in 1888-1889 at the intersection of Fleming and Farrell Streets, Yandina. Following the completion of the North Coast Railway line to Yandina in 1891, the hotel was relocated to its present site opposite the Railway Station in Stevens Street. It was extended in the 1930s and later renamed the Yandina Hotel.\

M706776: John Low with bullock wagon hauling timber to Yandina Railway Station, ca 1904

M191708:  Railway Station, Yandina, 1911
The railway line from Landsborough to Yandina was declared open on 1 January 1891.