the big pelican

The Big Pelican
Icon of Noosaville

‘The Big Pelican’s History’

Built circa 1977 in Noosa Council’s workshop for Rotoract as a float for the Festival of the Waters Parade. The Pelican was an appropriate choice for a float as it was the emblem of Noosa Council (It was later changed to the Boronia). The Big Pelican featured on post cards and other tourist material as ‘Percy the Pelican’ thought to be named after Mr Percival from the motion picture ‘Storm Boy’. The pelican could rotate its head, open and shut its bill, flap its wings, blink its eyelashes, and wiggle its tail. The operation was managed by two people located inside the body section using levers, pulleys, and cable and being regularly passed cool beverages. The back of the pelican is opened for parades with a floor section to allow passengers to ride high in its back and wave to the watching and cheering crowds. Previous passengers have included beauty queens, celebrities, sports stars, politicians, dignitaries, and local heroes.

The Big Pelican participated in many parades but fell into disrepair a number of times and was subsequently relocated around Noosaville and repaired.

The Big Pelican was located at the front of the Noosa Lakes Motel on Hilton Terrace (now the Australis Resort) as a static display. During numerous relocations the structure deteriorated and was at one time capsized off a pontoon in the Noosa River! All that could be seen were the tips of the bill and beak above the water. Once recovered the steel structure further deteriorated and the pelican was dumped on a now developed land space in Noosaville.

The Big Pelican was recovered and resurrected by the owners of Pelican Boat Hire and relocated to the roadside of Gympie Terrace near Pelican Boat Hire. The Pelican was repaired so it could be displayed in road parades and as a static display. When the foreshore development of Gympie Terrace commenced circa 2000 The Big Pelican was again moved next to Pelican Boat Hire but continued to require high maintenance due to bird waste and vandals. This prominent position was now used as a landmark, meeting point by locals and business operators, and even for fundraising cake and cookie stalls. As time passed the structure became an icon of Noosaville and even immortalised by local children’s author Wendy Alice Waring. The Big Pelican became the character Peter P. Pelican in her book ‘I can see the colour and lights of Noosa’. The Big Pelican is also known affectionately by locals as Pelican Pete.

Agreement with Noosa Council for a permanent location in the foreshore park in front of Pelican Boat Hire. Pelican Boat Hire agreed to complete a full restoration of the structure with a fence and garden. Functionality was fully restored and the Big Pelican is now ready for street parades. If you have any photos or historical information of The Big Pelican please see the staff at Pelican Boat Hire.

With the sale of the business to new owners in 2016, it was time for another makeover. The old boatshed was gutted and renovated with walls removed and new doors installed to open it up to the foreshore parkland and to the river. A brand new kiosk was installed to bring coffee to the riverbank where locals and visitors could enjoy their coffee with their dogs on their daily walks. The boatshed was given traditional striping and signage to match the Big Pelican’s new paint job.

In 2017, the old timber jetties were upgraded to provide additional jetty and pontoon space as well as bring the fuel systems up to meet the latest compliance codes. Ferry passengers now enjoy shaded seating at the end of the jetty while they sip their coffee waiting for the next scheduled service.

As part of the boatshed’s makeover, the Big Pelican was given a touch up. Minor repairs were carried out, some age spots addressed and a full repaint undertaken to bring back the sparkle that continues to features in thousands of visitor’s photographs as they pass by this official ‘big thing’ of Australia.

‘The Big Pelican Extreme Makeover’

Originally construction was a metal frame on a box trailer with chicken wire and paper mache covering. This initial covering was not water proof. The covering was later updated with hessian bags and a fibreglass surface, with a stretch vinyl lower bill.

The extreme makeover reconstructed, strengthened and expanded the original metal frame. The Pelican now has a full steel frame, galvanised wire understructure, polymer covering under 3 layers of axial flexible fibreglass. The finishing was completed with 2Kfiller, marine polyurethane undercoat, and several top coats of acrylic external paint.

The Big Pelican has been restored to full function with flapping wings, rotating head, opening beak and blinking eyes.

The reconstruction of The Big Pelican and safety fence by Pelican Boat Hire took more than 6 months.

Noosa Council ceded the land for the permanent location. The garden was donated by the Rotary club of Noosa Heads

The Big Pelican is now owned by Pelican Boat Hire and all future maintenance and costs will be borne by Pelican Boat Hire

The official opening of the restored Big Pelican in this current location occurred on October 13 2007. The festive event with the help of Rotary Noosa Heads, Pelican Boat Hire and the support of the many commercial operators on Noosa River raised funds for the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard.

Our thanks go to Glen Elmes MP Noosa, former Noosa Mayor Bob Abbott, and Councillors Peter McGregor and Bob Jarvis for their support, and Noosa Heads Rotary