Magnetic Island was originally settled by the Wulgurukapa people, the canoe people. Some of their descendants still on the island today.
White settlement did not happen until late in the 19th century. You will see traces of these early settlements in the place names. Robert Hayles is one of the best known of the early white settlers. An English migrant, he first visited Magnetic Island, he had worked on a sheep run, tried gold-mining, owned an hotel, been married twice and produced eleven children. He saw the potential of Magnetic Island as a holiday destination, so he looked for a suitable site for an hotel and bought four and a half acres in Picnic Bay in 1899. On part of this he built the first hotel on Magnetic Island. Hayles was also the first to build a jetty in Picnic Bay.
Picnic Bay is where the first ferries used to arrive. Then the mall was a thriving place with cafes and even cars and trucks driving along the jetty to pick arrivals up. Nowadays, the jetty is being restored having being almost wiped out after Cyclone Yasi. The ferries no longer arrive there. Picnic Bay still has a hotel which serves good pub food and a new function centre. The mall is also home to a few friendly cafes and a Thai restaurant. Strolling along Picnic Bay beach is one of the highlights of a visit to the island where the only footprints might be yours.
The other families were Harry and Elizabeth Butler who were the first permanent white settlers on the island. The Butlers became involved in the quarantine station which was set up towards the end of the 19th century. They also built guesthouses to cater for the growing number of holidaymakers.
William Bright, his wife Mary and daughter Fanny settled in Nelly Bay, now the site of the ferry terminal to the island and relatively recently (2006 and 2007) the home for the development of the five-star hotels on the island. You might pass the cemetery on Sooning Street behind Peppers where the Brights are buried. There is a bend in the road which was to prevent interference in Mrs Bright’s burial place.
Thanks to the Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre Inc. for the information above. Be sure to visit their centre next to the police station in Picnic Bay for lots more information.