The first glimpse most visitors get of North Stradbroke Island is Dunwich - a small town with a fascinating history and rich heritage.
Dunwich was originally home to a large Aboriginal population and much of the island's Aboriginal history centres around the town and its surrounding areas.
The Nunukul, Nughie and Goenpul tribes have occupied the island for thousands of years, with evidence of this habitation at various sites on the island. An example of this occupation can be found at Myora Springs, situated 4kms along East Coast Road, and well worth a visit.
Myora Springs is a pristine source of natural spring water surrounded by a small tropical forest. It was a favoured camping place of the Aboriginal people and today is a great spot to stop and enjoy the grassy picnic area and swimming hole. It is also possible to see parts of a large midden on the banks of the freshwater spring.
Another significant site is at Wallen Wallen Creek. Just south of Dunwich there is archeological evidence of human occupation for thousands of years in this region. In fact, researchers found artefacts dating back more than 21,000 years old at the base of a large sand dune in the area.
There are many other significant Aboriginal sites on the island and the Minjerribah Moorgumpin elders are currently developing an Aboriginal history and culture tour, which will cover such places. The tour will include discussion and evidence of walking trails, bush foods, middens, and other significant Aboriginal sites on the Island.
European settlement saw Dunwich used as a convict outstation, Catholic Mission, Quarantine Station and Benevolent Institution. This variety of uses has left its mark on the town and there are three cemeteries that act as a reminder of the island's past - the general cemetery within the town, the Myora Aboriginal cemetery north of Dunwich, and a leper's cemetery just south of Dunwich. The general cemetery is the only of these that is accessible to the general public and is possibly the second oldest cemetery in Queensland. Although many graves are unmarked and some headstones are crumbling, incomplete and no longer legible, a walk-through cemetery provides an insight into North Stradbroke Island's rich heritage.
A visit to the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum offers an impressive display of photographs, items retrieved from shipwrecks, information about early settlement, and the sand mining industry. Housed in an original dormitory of the Benevolent Institution, the museum provides unique insight into the Island's past.
A self-guided walk is also available to explore North Stradbroke Island's heritage. The walk begins at the Stradbroke Island Tourism office and winds its way past convict relics and graves dating back to shipwrecks in the 1800s. The walk explores the Convict Causeway, Privy Pit, Draughts Boards, various historical buildings and much more.