Despite being the only island in Moreton Bay with a holy name, St Helena Island has a dark and grim past.
For 65 years (from 1867 to 1932) it was Queensland's maximum security prison for men, and was home to the colony's worst criminals. The Prison Superintendent lived in a magnificent house surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. The house has gone, but glimpses of his opulent lifestyle remain, along with other ruins which are a reminder of personal enterprise and suffering. Today's St Helena provides visitors with an eerie insight into its bleak past, which gave rise to its reputation as 'the hell hole of the Pacific' and 'Queensland's Inferno'.
Located four kilometres from the mouth of the Brisbane River, St Helena Island is one of Queensland's most historic islands and has been preserved as Historic National Park - the first of its type Queensland.
Today, an environmental education centre operates on the island. It helps students understand how European settlers changed the Australian landscape and colonial Queensland's social and political history affected the lives of St Helena's prisoners and wardens.
Tour operators conduct educational historic tours of St Helena, but more daring types can enjoy 'Ghost Tour' at night, when visitors can watch live, moonlit vignettes re-enacting the Island's history.
Private boat owners can join a Ranger-led tour on weekends and public holidays by making prior arrangements with Rangers on St.Helena Island. Fees apply.