History of the Sunshine Castle
History of a 45 year old Sunshine Coast icon.
Looking at the history of the Sunshine Castle, over the last decade its has shifted the focus of its displays and exhibits to a medieval museum, functions and events venue. Originally built in 1972 by a local Scottish couple to house eight original Fairytale Diaramas and some dolls, the Castle has grown over time and had three freehold owners.
First opened as a Fairytale Castle it was then known as the Bli Bli Castle. The original Castle located on the David Low Way (back then the only way north from Brisbane) was able to attract a magnificent 1 million visitors in its first 3 years of trading.
In the beginning…
After much searching in 1971, Ian and Marcia Hayne purchased land in Bli Bli, the center of the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.They chose the location because of its hard granite foundation on a knoll overlooking the Maroochy River and the surrounding cane fields.
In 1972 work was commenced to build a Norman/Medieval style Castle. The first stage (today’s fairytale displays / Reception Hall) was completed and opened in March 1973.
Two years later the Great Hall and Moat were completed with it’s display of medieval armour. The armour came from England, Germany, Spain and Italy.
In 1978, the Great Tower building was erected in stages in conjunction with an expansion of the souvenir shop, and Tudor façade on the shop front. The 3rd of May 1980, the new tower building was opened to the public.
History of the displays adding attractions
In July 1984 Sandy MacKenzie and his wife Joan together with Kevin Tuckwell purchased the Castle. Work began almost immediately to enclose and include the house, situated alongside the Castle, into the Castle complex.
The courtyard was also enclosed and the downstairs area of the house used to introduce a Tea Room and increase the shop area. This was opened in time for Christmas 1984.
The Bli Bli Castle was born and enjoyed its heyday for much of the 80’s and 90’s as a Doll museum and Fairytale Display with the addition of the Dancing Dolls in National Costumes – sewed by the Lady of the house.
The Current Owners
In 2002 Bernd and Margret Benecke acquired the Castle and began with major additions and alterations. The freehold owner’s vision of a family run business was realised when Birte Benecke-Uhrig and Stephan Uhrig and their company S&B Uhrig Pty Ltd moved to Australia from Europe to run the business (then renamed to Sunshine Castle) in 2006.
Castle security was improved by the addition of a front wall and gate, complete with four watch towers. A new enclosed courtyard area added to the flair for a whole new entertainment genre to begin. Improved toilet facilities, a commercial kitchen and a Queensland Liquor License over the years to follow now allowed for the catering of larger functions, weddings and corporate events. The function of the Great Hall as a pure exhibition area was also altered and the floor area was cleared of displays to make room for the Kings and Queens thrones and tables and chairs for a feasting area.
More and more medieval displays have been added over time. Various celebrations for the Castle’s 40th anniversary in 2013 included the launch of a History Shields Tour, giving visitors more information about the medieval era and enhancing the educational value of the self-walk tour. The remaining doll museum and fairytales have seen sections and dolls being retired and partially replaced by interactive armour displays and other medieval exhibits. The Castle management despite taking a new focus – continue to preserve sections of the dolls as an important part of Castle heritage.
The new focus on Weddings, Functions and Special Events as well as partnerships with local entertainers and educators sees the Castle come to life. A wide range of function packages, special themed menus as well as regular School Holiday programs featuring resident knight Sir Justyn and other medievalists as well as regular sold out ‘Opera in the Castle’ concerts with the Underground Opera Company see them looking brightly into the future.