The Mooloolah Valley area makes for a lovely drive through the country side, situated in the valley below the Blackall Range, on the coastal side.
Mooloolah is referred to as Mooloolah Valley to distinguish it from Mooloolaba which is 25 km closer to the beach. It is a small town on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, situated north of Landsborough on the main railway line from Brisbane with regular services southbound to Brisbane and northbound to Nambour and Gympie from Mooloolah railway station.
The Mooloolah River forms part of the eastern boundary.
The town of Mooloolah developed around the railway siding of the same name that was established in 1891. However, the name Mooloolah also describes the river and the surrounding area, both of which were developed by European settlers from the early 1860s. The land in between the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers was designated as a reserve in 1842 by the New South Wales Governor, Sir George Gipps, ostensibly to protect the Bunya Tree from exploitation, as the tree was significant to local Aboriginal people (Gipps was acutely conscious of the effect of pastoral expansion on Aboriginal people and he actively sought to limit the size of pastoral holdings for this reason). The reserve was removed in 1860 following the passage of the Crown Lands Alienation Act 1860, one of the earliest Acts passed in the newly-created colony of Queensland. Pastoral runs, stocked with cattle, were quickly established in the Council area, including Edmund Lander’s Mooloolah Back Plains and Maradan Plains, and John Westaway’s Moolooloo Plains. The runs took in all of the land between the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers. Lander built a homestead on the Mooloolah River and the homestead became a stopping point for the Cobb & Co coach when the road between Brisbane and the Gympie goldfields was opened in 1868. The property was located on the southern bank of the river, directly to the left of the Gympie Road (now the Old Gympie Road).
The district was also important for timber and, increasingly, agriculture. The Sunshine Coast was particularly noted for its rich stands of pine and cedar. The prominent Brisbane timber merchant, William Pettigrew, established a depot on the Mooloolah River in 1862, from which he accepted timber logged by independent timber getters operating in the area. The depot was located on land now designated Charles Clark Park, Mooloolaba. Sugar cane production also became prominent from the late 1860s. The first sugar cane planted in the Council area, and the first sugar mill, were established on the Mooloolah River c1869 by the Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers. The operation was called ‘Friend’s Farm’. One of the members of the group was Joseph Dixon, who went on to establish a sugar mill at Buderim in the late 1870s. The plantation and mill proved to be a short lived experiment, ending in the early 1870s. Nonetheless, the agricultural potential of the district had been demonstrated by this time, and farms were increasingly taken up, focusing primarily on fruit and dairy.
The growth of the town and district relied on its location on key transport routes. The first hotel so called ‘Mooloolah’ was either built, or adapted from an existing structure, by Landers on his property on the Gympie Road, and later taken over by George Land Bury after Landers’ death in 1878. (Bury went on to become a major landholder in the Council area, and was especially associated with the Moreton Central Sugar Mill in Nambour.) The hotel undoubtedly took advantage of the traffic on the Gympie Road, as well as the increasing number of settlers in the area. The Mooloolah Plains School was established in 1878, consisting of a building used by the ‘Friends’ built c1870. It was located in front of the cemetery, which was gazetted two years earlier. A second school was built just north of the Mooloolah Hotel and called the Mooloolah Bridge School, around the same time. A school was later opened in the Mooloolah town, after the railway was built. Surveyors began to trace potential routes for a railway from the early 1880s, and the town of Mooloolah was allegedly surveyed in 1884.
By 1902, the town consisted solely of a carpenter and blacksmith. A public hall was built c1905 and a sawmill and general store by 1908. A new ‘Mooloolah Hotel’ was opened in 1911 in the town and a recreation and sports ground opened near the railway station in 1916.
History Source - 'Thematic History of the Sunshine Coast', Sunshine Coast Heritage Study, Sunshine Coast Council, August 2019