The name 'Maroochydore' was given to the area by Andrew Petrie

Cotton Tree jetty, ca 1935. Image credit: Picture Sunshine Coast.

Origin of name

The name 'Maroochydore' was given to the area by Andrew Petrie during his exploration of the coast in 1842. Derived from 'murukutchi-dha' in the language of the Brisbane River Aboriginal people, who accompanied Petrie, it literally means 'the place of the red bills' (i.e. the black swans). The name came into general use in 1884.

Early history of settlement

Andrew Petrie's exploration stimulated Governor Gipps' Bunya Proclamation of 1842. This prevented settlement or the granting of cattle or timber licences in the Bunya Country which covered much of the Maroochy district. When the Proclamation lapsed, Tom Petrie explored the coastal area for timber resources in 1862.

The Maroochy River bar proved too hazardous for shipping. Instead, Brisbane sawmill owner, William Pettigrew, established a depot and wharf at Mooloolah Heads (Mooloolaba) in 1864, and it became the dominant port. He established a timber depot at Cotton Tree and Charles Chambers lived there.

Pettigrew transferred his activities to Maroochydore in 1884. Until this time, Maroochydore appears to have been mainly used for grazing cattle and as a landing place for timber rafted down the River. In 1884, Pettigrew built the first house at Maroochydore, occupied by his employee, Hamilton Muirhead, and in 1891 he opened a sawmill on the riverbank at the end of the present Baden Powell Street. He continued to operate his steamers 'Tarshaw' and 'Tadorna Radja' in the Maroochy River. The 'Gneering' had been wrecked on the Maroochy River bar, towed to Goat Island and left there as a wreck.

A post office receiving office was opened circa 1891. It ceased in 1898 when Pettigrew closed his mill and went into voluntary liquidation. The mill was reopened and operated until 1903 by James Campbell & Sons.

Although at this time, the Town of Maroochydore did not exist, for many years residents from the hinterland had visited the area for holidays and fishing trips, arriving mainly by boat or punt. From 1894, the Salvation Army began camps and meetings at Cotton Tree. These remained popular for many years.

In 1903 Thomas O'Connor, a surveyor, purchased all of Pettigrew's land in the Maroochydore area. He subdivided a portion into residential allotments and held the first sale in July 1908, marking the beginning of the development of Maroochydore as a seaside resort.

In the same year, the Lands Department surveyed the Town of Maroochydore out of the Cotton Tree Reserve. After prolonged public opposition, a successful sale of these allotments was held in December 1915.

With the opening of the first Coastal hotel (the Club Hotel) and a regular mail boat service to Yandina in 1912, followed by a boat and tram service to Nambour in 1917, present-day Maroochydore began to develop. By 1920 the permanent population reached approximately seventy, and during the following decade it had grown enough to warrant schools, churches, new business houses, a post office, regular transport services and a bitumen main road.