Bribie Island is named after a convict from the Moreton Bay penal colony who became the first European to live on the island. According to the folklore he became an expert at mud crabbing for the officers and was rewarded with his freedom. His name was Bribie and, once freed, he lived on the island for the rest of his life with a local Aboriginal woman.
Prior to European settlement Bribie Island was the home of the Gubbi Gubbi Aboriginal group who used bark canoes, nets for fishing and catching birds and spears for killing the local kangaroos and wallabies. There is also evidence that they used stone traps to catch fish. There is evidence of middens on the coasts of the island. It has been claimed that by 1897 there were no Aborigines left on the island.
The first European to reach with Bribie Island was Matthew Flinders who landed in 1799 to make repairs to his vessel, the Norfolk. At Bribie Flinders saw his first dugong and fired upon some of the Gubbi Gubbi residents on 16 July, 1799. There is evidence that the township of Bongaree was named after Flinders’ Aboriginal companion often written as Bungaree. Flinders did not realise that Bribie was an island and consequently did not find the entrance to the Brisbane River.
The European discovery of the Brisbane River occurred in 1823 when John Oxley landed on the island. He met Thomas Pamphlett, a shipwrecked convict, who showed him the mouth of the Brisbane River.
Although it was close to Brisbane the development of the island was slow. In the late nineteenth century a fish cannery was established but it was abandoned in 1901. A jetty was built in 1912. The first car arrived on the island in 1919. In 1953 the island was finally connected to the mainland’s electricity.
During World War II Bribie Island was seen as a first line of defence against invasion of Brisbane and consequently Fort Bribie was built. Today it is still possible to see remnants of the gun emplacements on the island.
Bribie Island changed dramatically in 1963 when the Bribie Island bridge from the mainland was completed. This opened the island up to holidaymakers and day trippers.