Feature Story

Redcliffe in times past: the humble Oyster

Many, many years ago the rocks on the foreshores of the Redcliffe Peninsula would have been covered with oysters – large, succulent oysters – according to newspaper reports of the time. Local indigenous people used these oyster reefs for thousands of years, the oyster being an important part of their diet. Middens uncovered in the 1930s at Woody Point revealed thousands of shells, probably representing hundreds of years of oyster gathering. One wonders whether the soldiers and/or convicts availed themselves of this local delicacy when establishing the penal settlement at Redcliffe Point in 1824.

It was not long after the advent of free settlement at Moreton Bay that oysters began to be harvested in large numbers to meet the needs of the increasing European population. By the 1870s excursion vessels began visiting the peninsula and advertisements for the sale of land at Scarborough extolled the Abundance of Schnapper, Whiting, Turtle, Crabs, Oysters, etc., awaiting capture.

By the 1880s, visitors were advised that fish was plentiful at Humpybong and that with such fat oysters that can be gathered off the rocks, there can be no fear of starvation. Holiday visitors enjoyed the delights of local produce. The Edgewater Boarding House at Woody Point was noted for the good cooking, the oysters and fresh fish provided for guests. Excursion vessels vied with one another to provide their customers with specialty food, and we’re told in an article in the Truth newspaper that the Oysters on the Emerald are such as are not often to ‘be procured’ in the city.

Such was the popularity of the oyster that oyster saloons were established in Brisbane in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These establishments served such delicacies as oysters curried, stewed, devilled, fried and scalloped. They might be pureed as a sauce, and Oyster Patties and Oyster Pies were also very popular.

Not surprising then to find an oyster kiosk established at Redcliffe opposite the Redcliffe Jetty about 1920 while at the Cooee Oyster Cafe near the jetty and Belvedere Hotel at Woody Point, oyster suppers were a specialty. Smaller oysters were still to be found tucked amongst the rocks in the 1950s but today, whilst oysters are to be found on the menus of local eateries, they can no longer be seen on our rocky foreshores.

Pat Gee
September 2019

Looking for more stories? Check out our previous features…

Our Whaling Past

Redcliffe Hotel

Redcliffe Jetty

Sand Garden Competitions on the Peninsula

Suttons Beach Pavillion – A Short History

Ted Smout Bridge 10th Anniversary