Bribie Island remains the only Moreton Bay Island to be connected to the mainland by road. The building of the 831m bridge to Bribie Island half a century ago took two years of work and was considered an engineering marvel at the time, being the longest pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete bridge in Australia.
Construction of the Bribie Island bridge was not without controversy. Locals feared outsiders would trample the island’s natural beauty. Today, it is fairly well accepted that Bribie Island’s attractions make it a tourist drawcard. Each New Year’s Eve, tens of thousands arrive to watch the bridge illuminated by fireworks bursting over the Pumicestone Passage. The fireworks display is considered one of the biggest in the state outside of Brisbane.
The bridge has made it possible for everyone from day trippers to international tourists to easily explore the island and take in its still largely underrated beaches. Few would dispute, however, that Bribie Island has managed to retain its small seaside village feel and escape the glitzy, commercialisation of some parts of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
Change over the decades has occurred, but has been far from radical or swift. A visitor to the island can return to the same ice-cream store for a double-scoop cone ice-cream on the beach that they did 30 years ago, eat fish and chips from the same eatery on the beach or catch a movie from the same small tin shed picture theatre. There are also plenty of new cafes and restaurants to choose from, including gourmet pizza and al fresco dining.
The opening of the bridge not only swelled the number of tourists. It also paved the way for a boom in the permanent population. The tiny community of Bribie Island stood at just 600 people before the bridge’s erection. That has swelled to more than 17,000 people today. The Pacific Harbour residential development helped the population boost. But growth on the island is limited by environmental protections, ensuring its natural beauty is preserved for future generations.