The traditional owners of this land were the Noonuckle, the Goenpul, the Quandamooka and the Kombamerri tribes, which have occupied the islands since the Pleistocene age. It is thought that Moreton, North Stradbroke and South Stradroke islands were once joined, forming a long narrow peninsula beginning at the Southport Seaway (now known to locals as ‘The Spit’).
South Stradbroke became a separate island in 1898 when wild seas broke through the narrow sand isthmus at Jumpinpin. The peninsula would have given easy access to the mainland Indigenous people, allowing them to visit the island tribes for social interaction and a change of diet, in particular a large variety of seafood.
Couran, or Quaran, (early maps show alternate spellings) is an Indigenous word for ‘Moreton Bay ash’, ‘eldest brother’ or ‘dugong skirt’ – it varies from tribe to tribe. Indigenous occupation of the island was nomadic and completely in harmony with nature. Their strength and obvious good health, as noted by early European observers, was no doubt due to the quality of natural food available. Fish, shellfish and other seafood was supplemented by turtles, wallabies, snakes, lizards, echidnas and bandicoots. Honey, berries and fruit were plentiful and flour was made by grinding roasted fern root.
Once a base for fishermen and oystering, Couran was subdivided into small farms in the 1920s. Several families took up the land but struggled to make a living over the next 20 years. Families of fishermen had also established themselves on the island as anyone with fishing or oystering licences could squat on adjoining land.
Some visitors to the island arrived unexpectedly when their ships were wrecked. The Scottish Prince came to grief in 1887 without loss of life while the Cambus Wallace was wrecked near Jumpinpin in 1894. The Cambus Wallace cargo contained large quantities of dynamite which was later ignited, with the explosion causing a large crater to form in the honeycomb sand hills which eventually filled with fresh water from the island’s water table to become Clayton’s Lake.
Today, Australian Governments both at State and Local levels recognise the recreational value of South Stradbroke Island. All the Crown Land now under lease has become a Conservation Park under the Trusteeship of Gold Coast City Council. Five generations of English settlers and countless generations of Indigenous people have not destroyed its unique qualities. Sensible planning today and continuing into the future ensures that generations to come will enjoy its charm as well.
Couran Cove Island Resort showcases the natural beauty of the island, and management and staff are dedicated to helping guests experience the character and charm the island naturally exudes. With their commitment and the passion of all visitors, the unspoiled splendour of this beautiful island will be cherished and maintained well into the future.