The owners of Bli Bli’s beloved Sunshine Castle have vowed to rebuild it bigger and better, after devising an exciting new chapter for the embattled attraction.
One of the Sunshine Coast’s longest-standing tourism drawcards, the castle was forced to vastly reduce operations in January last year.
This followed the discovery of major concrete cancer, which meant some areas of the 1972-built property were unsafe.
However, the owners continue to run mini tours, a quality independent toy store and coffee shop.
Despite the setbacks, they have stayed positive and worked towards a positive future for the Coast icon.
Owner-operator Birte Benecke-Uhrig, alias Queen B, said a wonderful solution had presented itself, one that would honour the attraction, keep it in the Bli Bli area, create jobs and provide an enormous tourism boost for the region.
“By far the solution with the most heart and passion is the idea and intention of the family to relocate and rebuild the iconic Sunshine Castle on another site,” Birte said.
“The site we have found and are working to secure, whilst still in early stages, offers the potential to tick all the boxes required for a Castle 2.0,” she said.
“This will be purpose-built and created with 20 years of experience and backed by 50 years of history.
“We want to make it a big drawcard for Bli Bli and the region going into the future.”
The new Sunshine Castle will preserve some of the unique structural elements and displays of its predecessor.
The key elements in the new vision will be:
• A purpose-built castle with medieval additions, including a dungeon, and displays for a tourist tour
- A large courtyard for medieval markets, events and catering
- A separate Great Hall able to hold weddings and functions
- Supporting retail areas that fit in with the theme and target audience
- A large moat and expansive parklands
- Solar infrastructure to offset and help power the sustainable attraction
Birte said that to make all this happen, they were in the process of examining “urban renewal options” for the existing site.
“We are only at the beginning of this process and keen to work closely with council to achieve a positive outcome for everyone,” she said.
The future of the current site might include apartments, which would fit a vision outlined in the new Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme Project, unveiled on Thursday.
In its planning directions for Bli Bli, council proposed that possible areas for additional low-medium density residential development close to the centre at Bli Bli be investigated to improve housing diversity.
It specifically suggested a review of “the future land use intent for the castle site”.
The document, which will shape the future of the region, is open to public comment and for more information about the New Planning Scheme project visit council’s website.
“Moving a castle from its original location to another site does not have a lot of precedence in history, but I am so excited for our family and community to create this opportunity,” Birte said.
“Our castle stood in the cane fields on the only highway north at the time and the town grew at its feet.
“Now it is time to take the castle out of the town centre and give her a new lease of life. This will allow for Bli Bli to keep its brand, but also open up some very beneficial and forward thinking opportunities for urban renewal and upgrades of the current site in the growing and thriving heart of the Sunshine Coast.
“We are not developers by any means and we are not coming into this community on a whim without our blood, sweat and tears already in the mix.
“We have a vision and a passion, we have the experience, the know-how, the track record, and the tenacity to make this endeavour work given the right community support and a pathway to take it to completion.”
Birte said that while options were endless and details defined by the process, the family and project team were committed to building a new castle that shone a light on history.
“Stepping up to make this happen is a challenge we are ready to conquer.
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“My favourite part of running this castle for the past 20 years has been the faces of the children who love the stories that come to life when they visit.
“It is for my own children, the children of all those that have a memory of visiting our castle and future generations that we are doing this for.”
Originally called the Fairytale Castle, the attraction was built by local Scottish couple Ian and Marcia Hayne in 1972 and housed fairytale dioramas and dolls before its heyday in the 1980s under the second owners, when it was a doll museum.
Birte said that her family had spent a lot of time on up-keep and giving the castle an extra 20 years since her parents Bernd and Margret acquired it in 2002.
“We have given this castle our tender loving care and created so many moments, events and experiences for visitors along the way, that we can stand proud of everything we have achieved.”