Matthew Flinders rowing ashore from his sloop The Norfolk

Matthew Flinders, credited for naming the continent “Australia”, was the first European to set foot on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, when his crew disembarked from the “Norfolk” on 19 July 1799.

During the voyage in the “Norfolk”, Flinders and his crew sailed up the east coast and arrived at Bribie Island. From there he sailed up the Pumicestone River (now ‘Passage’) and into Glass Mountain Creek before landing and setting off on foot with an aim to climb Mount Tibrogargan. Arriving near the base on 26 July 1799 and setting up camp, Flinders discovered how steep the mountain was to climb and opted for an easier climb of Mt Beerburrum.

Flinders was accompanied on the voyage by two seamen and ‘King’ Bongaree, the Aboriginal chief of the Broken Bay Tribe in Sydney, who played a key role in ensuring that the explorers’ encounters with local indigenous tribes remained peaceful and harmonious. Flinders’ records reveal that he found the indigenous inhabitants to be friendly and described their achievements with respect and admiration.

Matthew Flinders RN 1774-1814 (1807) by Toussaint Antoine de Chazal de ChamarelThe Glass House Mountains were named by Captain James Cook in 1770, during an expedition in “Endeavour”, because they resembled glass houses in his native Yorkshire. They are a series of spectacular volcanic plugs that rise dramatically from the coastal plain.

Following Flinders’ visit, the Glass House Mountains became a popular area for convicts and criminals to escape to. It was not until the end of the 19th century that Europeans began to settle the area more permanently and establish farms.

215 years after Matthew Flinders came ashore on the Sunshine Coast and led an expedition to the Glass House Mountains, his visit will be commemorated, along with the involvement of King Bongaree, George Bass and Trim, Flinders’ illustrious cat, by a permanent display at the Glass House Mountains Visitor and Interpretive Centre, which will open to the public from 19 July 2014.

Funding for this project has been provided by the Regional Arts and Development Fund, which is a Sunshine Coast Council and Queensland Government partnership to support local arts and culture.

Visitors to the area can now salute Matthew Flinders’ pioneering spirit, or run in his footsteps. To celebrate Flinders’ ascent of Mr Beerburrum, the “Flinders’ Tour” will be held on Sunday 27 July, the day after Flinders made the climb. This event will have 50km, 25km and 10km running circuits available for both serious and fun runners, all running in Flinders’ footsteps.

The Glass House Mountains region offers visitors quality accommodation, along with many tourist attractions, such as Australia Zoo. Accommodation includes the Glass House Mountains Ecolodge, which provides a range of standard hotel rooms and family rooms to a converted church and two former railway carriages.

Sandra Tiltman  


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