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Kayaking Up Cabbage Tree Creek

Home > Brisbane > Adventure | Animals and Wildlife | Boating | Nature | Outdoor
by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published July 9th 2017
paddling near mangroves
My friend Margaret had two weeks holiday from her busy job as a schoolteacher at a large Brisbane high school. We were planning to book a place up the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days, but she had to cancel as she had too much schoolwork to do.

Kayaking at Shorncliffe
Kayaking at Shorncliffe

We decided to go kayaking instead up Cabbage Tree Creek at Shorncliffe. Margaret had bought her kayak off Gumtree and had only used it a couple of times before on Enoggera Dam. I had my very old patched up white water kayak I bought off a work colleague in Townsville over 40 years ago for $50. I had had a rudder put on it and some of the cracks patched up before Christmas. I wanted to see if the leaks were fixed and if the rudder made it easier to paddle in a straight line. Cabbage Tree Creek is part of the Cabbage Tree Creek Catchment and covers 45 kilometres through residential and industrial areas and bush from Northern Brisbane to Moreton Bay.

Jetty along Cabbage Tree Creek
Birds on Jetty at Cabbage Tree Creek

After checking the tides, we agreed to meet at the boat ramp on the corner of Allpass Parade and Yundah Street at Shorncliffe at 7.30am. Shorncliffe was the place first settled when the town of Sandgate was surveyed and the town lots auctioned in 1853. On the way, I drove up an interesting street called Signal Row and discovered it got its name because messages from passing ships were received there.

Boats in Cabbage Tree Creek
Boats in Cabbage Tree Creek

We paddled off past yachts moored in front of The Sandgate Yacht Club and the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club and headed past the Sinbad Street boat ramp at the entrance to Nundah Creek. We turned right into Cabbage Tree Creek. I had paddled up Nundah Creek last year with two other friends who were on stand up paddleboards.

calm water
Calm Water

It was a beautiful sunny day and I was surprised at the number of boats moored along the creek as we paddled up past the mangroves. There were lots of different species of birds out enjoying the day too. We saw cormorants, ibises, egrets, herons, pelicans and lots of other birds. Some birds were feeding in the mangroves and others were enjoying perching on the pontoons, jetties and decks adjoining houses on the creek.

Birds relaxing on jetty
Birds relaxing on jetty
Bird on Cabbage Tree Creek

There were a wide variety of boats from catamarans to very large yachts and prawn trawlers moored along the creek. Some very old looking boats looked like they had been in the creek for many years and some had seen better days. The Trawlers would have to go out and return on high tide, as the creek would become shallow and muddy at low tide. A local author, Brian Hutchinson wrote a book about the history of "Prawn Trawlers of Cabbage Tree Creek 1952-2014" which was published in 2015.

We paddled under the bridge across Sandgate road and the rail bridge and then turned around and headed back to Shorncliffe for coffee. A bridge was opened across Cabbage Tree Creek in 1865. In 1882 Sandgate was connected by railway to Brisbane, enabling it to become a destination for beach bathers and excursionists.

Sandgate is a bayside suburb 17 km north of central Brisbane. It adjoins Shorncliffe and both place names reflect their coastal position. The surveyor James Burnett named Sandgate after the seaside district of the same name in Kent, England and Shorn Cliff, also named by Burnett, referred to the cliff face overlooking Moreton Bay. Sandgate was originally known as Cabbage Tree Creek. The Aboriginal name for the area is Warra, which means a stretch or expanse of water.

Birds on jetty
Birds on jetty

Cabbage Tree Creek has had a long history of boat building, boat and fishing industries along its banks. The Creek has also been used for recreation. I found a couple of photos from the State Library of Queensland showing activity in the Creek as far back as the 1920s. One of the photos shows Drew's boat building sheds on Cabbage Tree Creek, Shorncliffe, in 1920

Drew's Boat Building Shed 1920
Drew's Boat Building Shed 1920 / State Library of Queensland.

The boat under construction on the left is Roberta, built by Albert (Skipper) Drew. The yacht moored at the end of the jetty is Mona.

Another early photo shows a steamer loaded with young people moored at a jetty taking on passengers. There are entertainers with minstrel makeup standing on the bow of the craft. In its early European history, the beachside suburb of Sandgate was a getaway for Brisbane residents - a place for holidays and day-trips.

Early photo on Cabbage Tree Creek
Early photo on Cabbage Tree Creek / State Library of Queensland.

We didn't have anything bump our kayaks this trip. I had read in an online blog that some kayakers have been bumped and fishermen say there are some large bull sharks in the creek. There was a bit of rubbish in the creek and traffic noise got very noisy the closer we got to the highway.

We had a peaceful paddle and didn't see anyone else on the creek at all in any type of watercraft. My new rudder was great and my arms weren't even tired at the end of a couple of hours paddling. I stayed dry too as my boat didn't leak anymore.

Cabbage Tree Creek
Cabbage Tree Creek

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Why? Relaxing outdoor activity
When: Anytime but dependant on tides
Where: Cabbage Tree Creek
Cost: Free if own kayak
Your Comment
Thanks for including the historical information and photos :)
by melan (score: 1|17) 1373 days ago
Nice article Roz.
by May Cross (score: 3|7861) 1374 days ago
This gave me a good idea for the weekend thanks :)
by Emilie Jayne (score: 2|152) 1355 days ago
That was a good read.i live in brighton but train on cabbage tree everyday.great your work.
by malst (score: 0|4) 1064 days ago
Thanks for including the historical information and photos :)
by melan (score: 1|17) 1373 days ago
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