From Penal Colony to Tourist Attraction: Exploring the History of Moreton Bay

Moreton Bay is a renowned Australian ballad that recounts the struggles of a convict in criminal settlements in Australia, particularly in the penal colony of Moreton Bay, Queensland. This bay was formed around 6000 years ago when sea levels rose and flooded what were then the floodplains of the Brisbane River. It was inhabited by the Quandamooka people, who had a prosperous economy due to their productive yields from edible natural resources. Of particular importance for trade and ceremonial life between clans were the vast oyster farms, the annual capture of red mullets and the collection of bunya. Caboolture, located near Brisbane, was one of the first areas in Queensland open to European settlement.

The Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was established as a place for repeat offenders, a place of exile and punishment. The records tell an intriguing story of the early years of life in Moreton Bay and the difficulties in settlement and beyond. Celebrity tours are organized in the regional areas of Moreton Bay, and tourist attractions include the birthplace of Jacob Francis Worrall and the vacation home of Geoffrey Rush. The seagrass beds and corals of Moreton Bay are subject to the ongoing threat of soil runoff caused by agriculture in the Lockyer Valley and construction activity in southeastern Queensland. Between 1828 and 1829, the viability of the Moreton Bay settlement was put to the test when a multitude of factors combined to create what one convict called “the horrors of Moreton Bay”.The first immigrant ship from England, the Artemisia, arrived at Moreton Bay in December 1848 after a four-month voyage.

The governor gave command of the new settlement to Lieutenant Henry Miller, who set sail for Moreton Bay with 50 settlers, including about 30 convicts. Within Moreton Bay are the smaller bays of Waterloo Bay, Redland Bay, Raby Bay, Deception Bay and Bramble Bay. Moreton Bay is generally shallow and sandy, although an important canal is maintained to allow access to the port of Brisbane on Fisherman Islands, at the mouth of the Brisbane River, for international maritime transport. We can trace your requests in the Colonial Secretary's correspondence related to Moreton Bay 1822-1860, indexed online at the State Library of Queensland. As we approach the bicentennial of the creation of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony, it is essential to remember its history and how it has evolved from a place of exile and punishment into a popular tourist destination. From its indigenous inhabitants to its celebrity tours, Moreton Bay has a rich but quiet history that is worth exploring.