Macleay Island, the northern-most of the group, was named after Alexander Macleay, the New South Wales Colonial Secretary 1825-37. Its fertile southern end was settled first in the early 1870s. Macleay Island is the second largest of the four Bay Islands, situated 30km from Brisbane in the Moreton Bay Marine Park at the southern end of Moreton Bay. It is 6.5km long and 4km wide at its widest point. Protected by North Stradbroke Island to the east, Macleay is connected to the mainland by ferries and barges, which also connect to inter-island transport for the four Bay Islands
The island’s natural environment includes rainforest, rocky shores, sandy beaches, and vistas to the mainland, over to North Stradbroke Island and up to Moreton Island. There’s a large variety of birds including migratory birds which visit yearly. There is a large bush stone curlew population on the island. Macleay Island has mangrove foreshores. These are spots for fishing, swimming, sailing, picnicking and barbecues. A launch spot is the Dalpura Ramp towards the north of the island. Pat’s Park at the northern end of the island allows for swimming, BBQs, picnics and has children’s play equipment. The Anzac day services are held at the Cenotaph located there. The island has a skate park for the younger generation, which opened in 2014
The Industrial Ruins, located at the southern end of Macleay Island appear to be associated with the 1869 establishment of a sugar mill, possibly in conjunction with a salt works, on the island. Although no early description of the mill and salt works has been found, documentary evidence reveals that a sugar mill was erected on the island in 1869, that both a sugar mill and a salt works were extant on the southern half of Macleay Island in 1871, but that possibly neither were operating by 1874. At this period, sugar cultivation and manufacture in Queensland was still experimental. In the late 1860s the principal sugar-growing area extended from Tingalpa and Cleveland south to the Redland Bay, Logan and Albert districts. The red clay soil on Macleay and Russell Islands in southern Moreton Bay was similar to that at Redland Bay, and the islands had the additional advantage of being free from frosts. On the mainland a number of small sugar crushing mills and distilleries were erected, employing an open pan system which produced a coarse, dark brown sugar…. by the 1880s, farmers at Cleveland, Redland Bay and the Bay islands were growing mainly bananas, fruits and vegetables..
By late 1868, John Campbell had 40 acres under sugar on Macleay Island, and Rebecca Gosset [formerly Owen] 20 acres. At this period the Macleay Island cane was likely crushed on a floating mill [the Walrus] which operated in the southern Bay down to the Logan and Albert rivers.
In August 1870, J & G Harris had converted their leasehold of the southern half of Macleay Island into freehold, and the plantation was advertised for sale in April 1871. At this time it comprised 640 acres of freehold land, with 40 acres under sugar; a furnished residence with fine views, out-buildings, and a large tank with a permanent supply of water for household purposes; men’s huts, stock-yard, blacksmith’s; a sugar mill driven by a 4hp engine; and a salt works. South Sea Islanders were working on the plantation. In October 1871, the plantation was sold to Arthur Cumming Biddle of London for £500