The Early Days Of Burleigh Heads

The majestic visual impact of rock and sea which is Burleigh has been long appreciated by many generations of pioneer settlers and the Kombumerri people, for who it is a place of deep significance.

Jellurgal (Burleigh Heads) was formed a long, long time ago when Jabreen the Creation Spirit stretched as he awoke. His giant rocky fingers can still be seen protruding from the top of the headland, reaching up to the sky. Jellurgul became a focal point in the daily traditional lives of the Kombumerri people. The area around the headland was witness to corroborees and dances, attracting Aboriginal people from throughout the region.

Robert Dixon Named The Mighty Jellurgal “Burley Head”

In 1840 Robert Dixon undertook the first survey south of Nerang and name the mighty Jellurgal “Burley Head” This name persisted until at least the mid 1880s until the common adoption of the more genteel spelling of “Burleigh” The Queensland government declared a town reserve at “Burleigh Heads” in 1871 which was surveyed by G.L. Pratten (who also surveyed Southport four years later).

The auction of 65 town allotments at the Town of Burleigh took place at the Lands Office, Beenleigh in 1872. Burleigh Heads was described as set to become “the fashionable watering place of South Queensland”. As A Special Tourist envisions in 1876: “I can see… the white villas rising tier upon tier on the surrounding hill slopes … The bronzed visitor drinking in the sea breezes, and forgetting fever and ague”.

Despite the alluring nature of Queensland’s “future sanatorium” Burleigh at this time, however, was inaccessible by road, far from the Tallebudgera farming district and subsequently an isolated spot visited by only the most intrepid travellers.

Burleigh Was Put On The Map In 1883

By 1882 the Nerang Divisional Board was clearing a track to “Meyer’s Ferry” (now Cavill Ave) which allowed wheeled vehicles to cross from Bundall to the coastline. This opened the way for produce from Tallebudgera to reach Southport and for groups of travellers to enjoy the brisk journey by buggy or carriage along the beach.

Oysters from Tallebudgera Creek (from beds leased by R. Griffith) were a delicacy enjoyed at guesthouses at Southport. Tourism on the south coast was underway and in 1883 Frederick Fowler, a member of the Board, decided he would truly put Burleigh on the map. Fowler was a well known timber getter, hauler and grazier in the Tallabudgera district and heeding the call for a “house of accommodation” at Burleigh became the founder of modern Burleigh Heads.

This original hotel burnt to the ground in 1887, but the ever resourceful Fowler built a grander establishment with stables ready for the increased trade by 1888. Visits to Burleigh were to become an essential part of a holiday to Southport. The town of North Burleigh was surveyed by Joshua Jeays in 1883, with the first store opening in near Fowlers Hotel in 1888.

The hotel, store and post office became an essential stop over for the new “Royal Mail Coach” travelling from Southport to the Tweed, travelling along the beach with drivers calculating low tide and fording both Talledudgera and Currumbin creeks.

Burleigh was Shaped by the Idea of Holidays? The Future Sanatorium of Queensland

Tragically, Frederick Fowler died after a fall at his Hotel in 1901. Far fewer people were coming to Burleigh and after struggling for three more years his wife, Elizabeth (nee Bozier) dismantled the hotel and closed the postal receiving office.

The dawn of the new century saw a small number of residences on the headland, but with the arrival of the railway line extending to the Tweed and the opening of the station at “Oyster Beds” (which become “Booningba or West Burleigh” in 1903 the coach line ceased operations. Burleigh was a “half hour pull” from the station and few bothered with the extra discomfort or expense of such an excursion. Burleigh, however, had its advocates and a fair number still travelled along the beach from Southport and several district families, from Tallebudgera, Mudgeeraba and Nerang would visit for picnics, or for Easter and Christmas camps.

Burleigh was shaped by the idea of holidays and with the eventual increasing use of the “horseless carriage” combined with the advent of the opening of the Jubilee Bridge in 1925 the new century saw much progress towards its potential as the future sanatorium of Queensland as envisaged in 1876.