I Love a Sunburnt Country.

# Z is for Zilzie

To say the best is kept to last when we come to talk about Zilzie is an understatement! There is no other place like Zilzie and to write about Zilzie, I need to tell a story.

The war in The Pacific (7th Dec 1941-Sept 2nd 1945) brought the real threat of invasion to the northern part of Australia. The Brisbane Line was drawn, an imaginary line which crossed Australia at the latitude of Brisbane and it was suggested that if the worst came to the worst, Australia would be defended from this point, thus leaving the northern part of Australia to surrender to the invading forces who were pushing down through The Pacific. Fortunately, it never came to this but the threat brought an overwhelming presence of American soldiers into Australia, particularly Queensland.

At Rockhampton there was a large American Military Base and my father would tell stories of the American lorries coming out to the farm to buy watermelons and pumpkins to feed the troops. My mother would talk of the big tins of coffee they would bring as a gift. When the war finished all the American Army huts were sold off and this is the beginning of the Zilzie story. Somehow my father and various relatives had managed to buy blocks of land at this little seaside location. Dad bought 3 blocks of land and some of his siblings purchased land there also. The army huts were dismantled, the timber and roofing carted to Zilzie and the rebuilding into little beach side holiday shacks began.

My mother would tell the story of one of my older brothers, born in June 1945 and just crawling by that Christmas when the house was being built, falling through an unfinished floor and landing on the ground on a piece of timber with a nail sticking out and injuring his head. There was an urgent dash to the Yeppoon Hospital for treatment, but all ended well, that brother is now 76 and 6 months.

Every Christmas holidays we spent three weeks at Zizlie. We had Christmas at home on the farm and then on Boxing Day would go to the beach. The build up to going to Zilzie was as exciting as Christmas itself. There were fruit cakes to make and boxes of food and linen to pack. When we got there, the house had to be cleaned and mopped and all the crockery and cutlery washed, the kerosene fridge lit and the beds made. Then the first swim and the first night of sea breeze and hearing the waves crashing on the front beach. We were there!

Beautiful Zilzie Beach and Mother McGreggor Island. Image is of a canvas print on the wall at the Pine Beach Hotel in Emu Park.

Memories of Zilzie; the swims, the long beach walks to the first, second, third lot of rocks, and if one was really keen, right to the mouth of Coorooman Creek, the armies of soldier crabs, the boat rides to Mother McGreggor or across the bay to Keppel Sands, going out to see the traps fished at low tide, exploring the rock pools, walking over the headlands, spending hours on the beach and going back to school brown as a berry.

And the people; the small crop farmer, the dairy farmer, the lucerne grower, the high school geography teacher, unmarried because the love of her life was killed in the war, the goat lady who every day walked her goats through the lazy streets, me walking along the beach each morning with a billy can and 2 shillings to the goat farm and buying our fresh goats milk. Diagonally across the road in the big house were the Everinghams and the Rudds. At the time, Dr Doug Everingham was the Federal MP, directly across were the Salmons. Mr Salmon was a bank manager way out west and their 6 weeks at Zilzie was a real sea change. Zilzie was a lazy unspoilt piece of paradise; my parents loved Zilzie; it was their plan to retire there when we kids had all grownup and settled.

It was amazing how many people my mother welcomed, managed to cram in around the table and feed; boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, relations and visitors; they were all welcome. It was at Zilzie in the summer of 1974/5 that my mother had enough time to rest and notice the deep, nagging pain in her lower abdomen and resolved that when she got back to the farm she would go to the doctor. That pain was the cancer that in a few short months took her from this world. She never got to see Zilzie again and my father, although he kept the little house all of his life, never got to retire there.

I think it is fair to say that when mum died, the light that made Zilzie shine and be such a wonderful and special place for us all went out. It was my parents dream to retire there together, they looked forward to that so much but without the light of my mother and her gracious hospitality to all, it was just a shadow. But memories; they are golden treasures to be brought out and lingered over, to be thankful for and to be held close.

64 Reef Street, Zilzie, Qld 4710 - realestate.com.au
Zilzie Beach. Image: realestate.com.au

Today Zilzie is a real suburb with many lovely seaside homes. The beaches are still unspoilt, Mother McGreggor stands as graciously as ever and Zilzie is still making beautiful memories in the hearts and minds of many folk. But on the corner of Kennedy Street and The Esplanade, there is a vacant block of land; it is the best piece of land in Zilzie and it waits to work its magic.

4 replies to “I Love a Sunburnt Country.

    1. Hi Chris. My father passed away on the last day of August in 2001. The little house and land was auctioned as part of his estate so the proceeds could be distributed. It has since changed hands twice, I think but no-one as yet has built on the land. I actually don’t know who owns it now. It is worth a bomb of $$$$ well, well out of my price range.
      Two of my brothers, one deceased, and now owned by his wife, and a very dear friend and her hubby have properties at Zilzie so still very connected to the place. Dad’s old block of land, I think has the best position on Zilzie as it is situated between both beaches and has excellent access and views to both. And the beaches have quite different characters, one has great surf and the tide there does not recede very far and the other is in a big bay, sheltered and calm and the tide goes out forever on that beach. Could go on for ages. Yes very nostalgic and thinking about and writing that piece was quite emotional. Talk soon 🤗


  1. Zilzie. I’ve never been there but would like to visit one day. Your Zilze is a geographical place in time full of nostalgia and great family scenes. Sounds wonderful. Very interesting read, and perhaps my main takeaway out of the many moments you shared, is that memories of such events & places are indeed golden treasures. As I get older I am reminded that time is indeed filled with swift transition, & yet I can still reflect on, or perhaps continue to make, golden treasure with family and friends… Thank you for sharing your treasure from Zilze, a reminder to treasure precious memories.


    1. Thank you, David. Yes it is so true that living a life that is full of precious memories is the real treasure and sharing ourselves with others is what makes those memories. Sending a big hug. Stay warm.🌞


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