Prior to European settlement the Innisfail area was occupied by five separate societies of the Mamu people. These Aboriginal people followed migratory lifestyles in the rainforest and transverse rivers in string-bark canoes.
The first arrival of European people came in 1872 when survivors of the shipwreck, the "Maria" arrived on the coastal areas surrounding what is now the Johnstone River. Sub-Inspector Renee Gordon's search party came with the intention of rescuing remaining survivors. The crew would later venture up river between what is today Flying Fish and Coquette Points. Johnstone wrote very highly of the area, stating:
A most glorious view appeared - a noble reach of fresh water, studded with blacks with their canoes and catamarans, others on the sandy beaches; deep blue fresh water expanding to an imposing breadth. —Robert Johnstone (1872),