Tin Can Bay, situated on the western shore of a mainland inlet south of Fraser Island, is 200 km north of central Brisbane. It is thought that the name came from the anglicisation of tin-kun, an Aboriginal expression describing a narrow-leafed coastal vine, or of similar sounding expressions meaning dugong, big fish or mangroves.
The protected shallows of the inlet were ideal for exploitation. Dugongs were hunted for their oil, and a dugong station was set up at the mouth of Kauri Creek (eight km north of the inlet) in the 1850s. Timber was rafted out for Maryborough sawmills, and oysters were cultivated and harvested at the mouth of Schnapper Creek, the waterway running through Tin Can Bay township.
In 1922, after only a few humpies had been built at Schnapper Creek, township lots were put up for sale. They were bought mostly by residents of Gympie and Widgee Shires for holiday houses. In the 1930s, the cheap land and plentiful fishing attracted permanents affected by the economic Depression. A school was opened in 1934, and the town was known as Wallu until it reverted to Tin Can Bay in 1937. By the early 1950s the population had grown to about 240, with a wharf and fish market (1945).
In 1957 a prawning ground was found, bringing in a trawling industry. Tin Can Bay became a fishing port and ultimately the boating and fishing resort it is today. A sealed access road, a hotel and reticulated electricity followed in a few years. A new fish market was opened in 1971.
Tin Can Bay has a P-10 State school, two churches, a hall, golf and bowling clubs, a marina, a yacht club and foreshore reserves. A 9.5 km walkway runs along the foreshore. There are also a hotel, a motel and three caravan parks. Its census populations have been:
Ian Pedley, Winds of change: 100 years in the Widgee Shire, Gympie, Gympie Times, 1979