In the beginning...
After much searching in 1971, Ian and Marcia Hayne purchased land at Bli Bli, in the center of the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.They choose 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 was 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.
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.
In September 1986 a private doll collection was purchased, this collection was displayed in a new doll museum built for the purpose and opened to the public in December 1986.
At the same time the tower block was first opened to the public. To open the tower a concrete cutter was lifted by crane to the top of the Great Tower and each floor was cut into blocks and lowered down through the tower to the ground floor, circular steps were then constructed to provide access to the panoramic views from 7 stories high of the surrounding country.
Looking for further displays to provide entertainment Sandy and Joan purchased items from the closing down auction of The Land of Legends at Tugun on the Gold Coast on the 27th of May 1995. In the next six months work mainly behind the scenes was carried out to provide 12 new displays to be opened to the public in December 1995. A further 5 displays were opened progressively during 1996.
Change of Ownership
In December 2002 Bernd and Margaret Benecke (alias King Bernadus and Queen Margareta) with their Company BTT Pty Ltd purchased the Castle and began with major additions and alterations.
An array of new Exhibitions have also been added. Including the original throne from the set of Xena the Warrior Princess and Hercules which was filmed in New Zealand.
Starting the family business
After leasing the Castle business for the first 3 years, the Kings vision of a family run business was finally realised in 2006 when Birte Benecke-Uhrig and Stephan Uhrig with little Prince Tobi moved to Australia from Germany to take over the running of the business. Thus the Bli Bli Castle was renamed as the Sunshine Castle Bli Bli and a new Era had begun.
The New Era
Castle security was improved by the addition of a front wall and gate complete with 4 watch towers and battlements. The previously added new courtyard area was now fully enclosed and completed with a small stage and fireplace adding to the flair and allowing for a whole new entertainment genre to begin. 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 King's and Queen's thrones and tables and chairs for a feasting area. New toilet facilities and a commercial kitchen now allowed for the catering of larger functions, weddings and corporate events. A Cafe terrace now includes a special shaded children's birthday area.
In March 2007 the inaugural medieval feasting theatre dinner show had its debut for the public. The new emphasis on bringing life to the Castle saw a dramatic increase in interest for the Castle as a function venue. In 2009 the Sunshine Castle opened the new Castle Gallery with its 'Castles of the World' display. Castle markets began in conjunction with the community association. In 2010 the doll museum and fairytales received a facelift and a range of new dolls were donated to the Castle and added to the displays. The Castle in conjunction with the Underground Opera Company held its premier 'Opera in the Castle' season – with 3 sold out shows in June 2010.
The planning and execution of the Sunshine Castle complex is unique in the Southern Hemisphere.