Moreton Bay (Aboriginal name – Quandamooka) and its islands were inhabited by Aboriginal tribes. The name Morton’s Bay was given by Captain Cook when he passed the area on 15 May 1770, honouring Lord Morton, president of the Royal Society. The spelling Moreton was an error in the first published account of Cook’s voyage (Hawkesworth’s Voyages). Cook gave the name only to the bightformed by the northern end of Stradbroke Island (in 1770, there was only one island) and the eastern side of Moreton Island. He was unaware of the South Passage (as it’s now called) between the two islands, and did not sail into what is the present Moreton Bay.
Matthew Flinders was the first recorded European to enter the Bay in 1799 touching down at the Pumicestone Passage, Redcliffe and Coochiemudlo Island. He was followed by John Oxley who explored the Brisbane River in 1823. On a subsequent visit in the following year, Oxley established the first European settlement in the Bay at the present site of Redcliffe.
After Oxley in 1823 came convicts and soldiers. As the South Passage between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands was the shortestshipping route, a depot and pilot station were established at Amity Point in 1825.
European settlement began in earnest after the abandonment of the Redcliffe settlement, and work began on the new convict settlementseveral miles up the Brisbane River in 1825. Within a couple years this new settlement was growing rapidly and the number of ships entering the bay was increasing. As a result, the facilities required to service the pilot station at Amity grew, and in 1827 convicts were sent to the island to build a new causeway at Dunwich, remnants of which can still be found on the same site. Within a year the first permanent European settlement at Dunwich had been built. Due to poor weather, smuggling, and conflict with aborigines this convict out-station was difficult to sustain and was closed in 1831.
The first immigrant ship from England, the Artemisia, reached Moreton Bay in December 1848 after a four month journey. The next year saw the arrival of the Fortitude carrying more free immigrants to the settlement.
By the 1850s the regions earliest industry was utilising the bay for the transport of timber. After felling the logs were dragged or rolled into flooded streams from where they were washed downstream to tidal reaches and bound together into rafts. After the floods had ceased and tides returned to normal, the currents of the bay and sometimes boats were used to direct the timber north to the Brisbane River or to Dunwich for shipment to Sydney.
The bay was home to the Lightship Rose which provided a permanent navigation aid to passing ships at the mouth of the Brisbane River. The John Oxley was another notable boat which temporarily acted as a pilot ship.
Car ferries began crossing the bay to reach North Stradbroke Island in 1947, leading to an increase in tourism on the island. In the 1950s both sand mining and the first land sales at Point Lookout occurred