The name Noosa came from the Aboriginal word meaning "shadows" or "shade". This is most probably a reference to the relief the tall forests of the area offered from the sun. The Kabi tribe had been visiting the Noosa area for 40 000 years before Europeans first arrived in the 1800s. The tribe lived as the mouth of the Noosa River to the north, Redcliffe to the south and Cooroy and Nambour to the west. The region was a sacred retreat used by Aborigines for celebrations such as the annual Bunya nut festival.
In 1828, David Bracefell was the first white man to visit the area. Nicknamed Wandi, he had a reputation for regularly escaping his bondage at Moreton Bay and treking north to Noosa. The Europeans arrived throughout the 19th century to log the area, with the first timber cutters arriving circa 1865.
Andrew Petrie and Henry Russell guided their whale boat up the Noosa River in search of timber and sheep grazing country in 1842. These men became some of the first white settlers to explore the region thoroughly. Later than century, with the prospect of finding gold at nearby Gympie, settlers began finding their way to Noosa - this time as holiday makers.
In 1879 the Noosa Headland was declared Town Reserve. This tract of green forest has remained untouched and is now one of Noosa's most important natural assets, Noosa National Park. The land was gazetted as National Park in 1930, thus guaranteeing its protection in the future. A decade later the town began to develop swiftly gaining popularity as a brief holiday destination as well as a picturesque place to live.