Coochiemudlo Island: if your name’s mud – feature it! - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photo: Supplied.


For the unknowing, an island with “mud” in its name could discourage any intended visits. For those in the know, Coochiemudlo (which means “red rock”, the ochre gathered by the Quandamooka people) is a gem in the bay, a precious little place that is becoming increasingly popular with mainland tourists and folk who come for a visit to enjoy the swimming and fishing – and end up staying.

When Jan MacIntyre settled on Coochiemudlo 23 years ago, the population totalled 350. The most recent census put the current population at 870, which, while not astronomical, is a sizable increase on a land mass with a total area of 4.1km2. Jan is now the President of the Coochiemudlo Heritage Society, which holds the collected history and artefacts of white settlement on the island.

Matthew Flinders, captain of the ship Norfolk, landed on Coochiemudlo in July 1799 at what is now called Norfolk Beach. Flinders called it the Sixth Island, later known as Innes Island, then reverted to its Indigenous name in the 1880s. While a valuable source of timber, the mosquitoes and lack of a reliable water supply kept white settlement at bay until the early 20th century.

Jan says that the Heritage Society – originally the Historical Society – had early hopes of having a dedicated building brought over from the mainland to house the collection. The dream didn’t eventuate and the museum is now housed in a downstairs room of the Coochiemudlo Community Hall. A donation of display cabinets from the Queensland Museum gave the space a distinctly professional air – even though it’s run by volunteers – and the museum has a comfortable relationship with its housemate, the Coochiemudlo Library.

While white history on the island isn’t extensive, the museum has a collection of historical family artefacts, tools of trade, historical documents, photographs, artwork and books that pieced together give a sense of how this little settlement grew.

“Since 2016, volunteers have compiled a Year Book for the island,” Jan says. “Everything of note goes into it; even the installation of the island’s sewage system rated a mention!

“We have books about the island written by locals and edited by Emeritus Professor John Pearn. Chronicles of Coochiemudlo starts with the prehistory of the island and tracks its history through to Federation and World War One. The other really popular book is Characters, Clothes and Cliffs, a compilation of stories from various local writers.

“We also have an exhibit about the island’s heritage-listed Emerald Fringe that skirts the island between the high-water mark and property boundaries. That’s very impressive for such a little place – but my favourite exhibit is the artwork of Rosemary Opala, her line drawings and paintings of the local flora,” Jan says. “Her favourite flowers were the banksias, and they’re still very much a part of our bush environment.”

The landscape of the Emerald Fringe embraces a significant and endangered coastal environment that includes a variety of ecosystems, including littoral forest, tidal mangroves and foreshores. There are low-impact recreational facilities, meeting areas, and some modest community monuments in the Fringe, but no private residences.

There are public amenities and shops on the island, a café, restaurant and beach bar, but Jan recommends having a backup plan for large groups.

“Coochie’s only a small place, so a sudden surge of visitors could be a bit overwhelming,” she says. “As well as bringing the standard water bottle, sunscreen – and insect repellent, just in case – if you’re coming with a swarm of hungry children, packing a few sandwiches might be a wise move!”

The museum, in conjunction with the library, is open to the public on selected Saturday mornings.

For information about facilities and opening times, check the Heritage Society’s Facebook page or website: The History Room Open Day on January 13 offers a great opportunity to learn about a very interesting little island.

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