Maroochydore, a major beach resort on the Sunshine Coast, is 95 km north of central Brisbane. It is at the mouth of the Maroochy River, a large stream with headwaters beyond Yandina and Eumundi. The river mouth is in extensive swamp and delta country, a haven for water birds. It is thought that the word Maroochy was derived from an Aboriginal expression describing the red bill of the Australian black swan.

The Maroochy River is navigable for a good distance, and was used to transport timber harvested from the inland ranges in the 1850s and 1860s. A wharf (1868) at the river mouth was the loading point for further transport to Brisbane. When Thomas Pettigrew set up a sawmill near the river mouth he also built several cottages for his mill workers. In 1888 the first of numerous annual Salvation Army camps was held at Cotton Tree, beginning a holiday and camping venue at the river mouth which continues until the present. The mill workers' cottages continued in use despite the 1898 closure of the mill.

EARLY TOWNSHIP

Pettigrew had acquired land around the river mouth, which he sold to a surveyor, Thomas O'Connor, who in 1907 subdivided and sold allotments between Picnic Point and Cornmeal Creek. It was the beginning of the Maroochydore township which, until 1916, had also been called Maroochi or Marutchi. The Club Hotel (1911), a school of arts (1916), a store, refreshment rooms, surf life-saving club (1916), a Progress Association (1920) and a State primary school (1921) marked Maroochydore's early development.

Road access to Maroochydore was problematic: a coast track traversed deep sand and the steep Alexandra Headland; the track from Nambour was hilly, and boggy at the lower levels. Alternatively, there was a tramway from Palmwoods to Buderim (for sugar cane and passengers), and then a steep decline down from the Buderim plateau; or the cane tramway to Petrie Creek and a trip by motorboat. Nevertheless, Nambour, Woombye and Palmwoods locals built seaside cottages, and O'Connor built the Alexandra Guest House overlooking the surf beach. (His guesthouse was later a Presbyterian Church youth camp.) In 1925 Pugh's Queensland directory recorded Maroochydore as having three storekeepers, three motor car services, a hotel and two sawmills. The Maroochydore Picture Palace and the Jazzland dance hall were opened in the 1920s and a passable road from the Bruce Highway was opened in 1928. A golf course, Horton Park, was opened in 1956.

HOLIDAY DESTINATION

A reliable coast road was built in the early 1960s by a private-public sector venture, the former supplying finance in return for land subdivisions. The venture was largely inspired by a local councillor and a parliamentarian, David Low, who foresaw tourism as the new growth area in the then largely rural North Coast. The David Low Way from Noosa Heads to Mooloolaba commemorates his contribution. At about that time Maroochydore and Mooloolaba were treated as the one unit, with unbroken foreshore development: their population doubled between 1961 and 1971, and more than quadrupled between 1971 and 1991 (3068 in 1961, 28,509 in 1991). High-rise apartments entered the skyline and drive-in shopping centres added massively to Maroochydore's gross retail area. The larger, Sunshine Plaza (1995), has a department store, two discount department stores, three supermarkets and over 200 specialty stores and, far from being on a suburban outskirt, is on the Cornmeal Waterway and within walking distance of Cotton Tree.

Maroochydore extends westwards along the Maroochy River to as far as Eudlo Creek. In this part of Maroochydore there are the State high school, the Catholic primary school, a bulky goods shopping centre, a retirement village, two holiday/caravan villages, the Maroochydore multi-sports complex and a canal estate.

Maroochydore has the Sunshine Coast's first surf life-saving club (1916), State primary (1921) and secondary schools (1964), a Catholic primary school (1980) and a TAFE. Despite its holiday image, 87.9% of Maroochydore's population is permanent.

Maroochydore's census populations have been :

 areaCensus DatePopulation
Maroochydore1921100
 19471581
 19541926
Maroochydore and Mooloolaba19613068
 19716374
 198117,460
 199128,509
Maroochydore
(including 2750 tourists and visitors)
200114,814
Maroochydore
(excluding overseas visitors)
200613,707
 201114,445
Further Reading: 

Helen Gregory, Making Maroochy: a history of the land, the people and the shire, Fortitude Valley, Boolarong for Maroochy Shire Council, 1991