Richard Wilschke has run Gondolas of Noosa for 24 years straight. Picture: Patrick Woods.
Richard Wilschke has run Gondolas of Noosa for 24 years straight. Picture: Patrick Woods.

Noosa’s slice of Venice here to stay

Gondolier Richard Wilschke has learned many things while keeping his Noosa River business afloat for 24 years, including the importance of knowing when to leave it to the professionals.

He has been conjuring up the romance of Venice aboard his gondola for 24 years.

While he goes to great lengths to satisfy his customers, he spares them his rendition of one of the Italian city’s attractions.

He won’t sing.

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“There’s a lot of engagements, birthdays and anniversaries,” Mr Wilschke, 53, said.

“You’re sharing really a lot of personal moments with them.

“People always tell us how much they love it and that’s why I keep doing it.

He said people asked him to sing “all the time”.

Gondolas of Noosa has been providing magic moments on the river for almost a quarter of a century.
Gondolas of Noosa has been providing magic moments on the river for almost a quarter of a century.

“I just tell them I’ve got a really good stereo, I’ll put on Andre Bocelli, not me,” he said.

With thoughtfulness like that it’s little wonder Mr Wilschke believes he is the longest “stayer” of all the tourist ventures on the river.

“The Noosa Queen would be probably be running longer as a business,” he said.

“We’ve been running longer than the (cruise) ferries but I would probably be one of the only continuous owners.”

As 20 year old he quit the Magnetic Island heat and travelled to Noosa seeking surf and new work opportunities.

Mr Wilschke immersed himself in the hospitality industry working at the fabled Coco’s restaurant and Cafe Le Monde.

A flashback to 1998 with Richard Wilschke and fiancee Tania Saunders on their Noosa River gondola named Venus.
A flashback to 1998 with Richard Wilschke and fiancee Tania Saunders on their Noosa River gondola named Venus.

His life’s course on the water was set working for thrill ride operator Bill Turner.

“We were doing jet ski rides off Main Beach and banana (boat) rides,” Mr Wilschke said.

“He talked me into buying a rubber ducky, one of the ex-surf club ones and started working with him off the beach ferrying people in and out.”

After his mum suggested a gondola ride at Mooloolaba with friends, he eventually scraped together $35,000 to have a fibreglass boat built in Brisbane.

Taking the plunge meant three years of struggle to establish a regular client base.

“We always had a 50-50 following, 50 per cent local - 50 per cent tourists,” Mr Wilschke said.

“It’s been going great, we’ve had so many repeat visitors, whether it’s a couple or a family they’ll recreate their holidays every year.

“I really enjoy the people and just the appreciation and joy that they have.”

He has also operated the Noosa Water Taxi for the past seven years.


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