Once Upon a Time in Palm Beach

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Once Upon a Time in Palm Beach

Once upon a time, in 1925 there were approximately twenty seaside homes on the Palm Beach Estate. 

In 1873, Henry Jordan, a Queensland parliamentarian and sugar planter living in the Logan area, selected much of the coastal land between Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks. Gradually, Jordan added to his block until the property encompassed what became known as the suburbs of Palm Beach, Elanora, and Currumbin Waters.

During the 1880s, William Wood, a retired railway worker and early land speculator, acquired 400 acres of Jordan’s coastal block. It appears that Mr Wood leased portions of his land during his time as an owner and during World War One, a tenant, Mr John Crimp, occupied a homestead and grazed cattle on the property. Wood had numerous properties in South East Queensland and, despite having a connection with the coastal property for sixty years, appears to have chosen to live at Palm Beach, known as Beechwood Estate, only towards the end of his life in 1948.

During the early 1900s, improvements in roads allowed an increasing number of people to travel to the southern part of the Gold Coast and, by 1903, the railway line linking Brisbane to Coolangatta was completed and included stops for Elanora and Palm Beach.

Around 1921, William Wood’s property south of Tallebudgera Creek was purchased by the Palm Beach Company Ltd. The first housing allotments were subdivided from Cypress Avenue to the foreshore. In December of 1922 land sales for the Palm Beach Estate began with 120 allotments being sold in less than three hours.

One of the first families to build a home on the estate at 4th Avenue was the surveyor and development manager, Percy Ballard and his wife, Annie. By 1925 there were approximately twenty seaside homes on the Palm Beach Estate and potential investors and holiday makers were encouraged to stay at the company owned Palm Beach Guesthouse or enjoy lunch at the tea rooms which had also been built by the company.

In 1926 road bridges were constructed over the Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks. During the same year the Palm Beach Hotel was erected to provide a convenient stopping place for passing traffic. Word spread and many families from Brisbane, Ipswich, the Darling Downs and western districts of Queensland built their timber or fibro beach house or camped along the long sweep of beach.

The nearest settlement was Currumbin, with a hotel and stores, just over the Currumbin Creek about two kilometres south. Currumbin and Tallebudgera Creeks were bridged for road traffic in 1926. When the Elanora post office was opened at Palm Beach in 1927 there were a store, the Palm Beach Hotel (1926), 50 houses (30 permanently occupied), and a boarding house in the course of construction. Because of the possibility of confusion with Palm Beach, New South Wales, the Post Office kept the name Elanora until 1961. Nearly everything else, however, was known as Palm Beach, including the surf life-saving club (1930) and the hotel. The railway station also kept the old name until the line was closed in 1964. 

There is considerable joint Palm Beach-Currumbin activity, with three combined sports clubs located at the Palm Beach reserve. In addition to the Palm Beach surf life-saving club there are also the Pacific and the Tallebudgera (1946) life-saving clubs. The last-mentioned is near Palm Beach’s northern boundary, the mouth of Tallebudgera Creek, where there are also the Tallebudgera recreation camp, the womens’ Neptune Royal Life Saving Club (1930) and a tourist park.

Subdivided by the mid-1950s, the subdivision is unusual in the way in which it straddles both sides of the highway. Streets along the highway are named from first to twenty-eighth starting at the southern end of the area and each second one terminates at the highway. Between the beach and the highway in the southern part of the area the narrow Jefferson Lane links across streets. In this lane are some of the earliest and most basic of Gold coast beach “Shacks”, some on blocks of land valued in millions of dollars. There is some suggestion that these in fact predate the subdivision and other remnants of an earlier settlement.

It was the credit squeeze of the 1960s when developers on the Gold Coast began slashing prices and offering “holiday land for the working man”.  It was an era in land prices that gave no second chances to speculating buyers, a time when blocks of land were going like hot cakes — for as little as $100 from Paradise Point to Palm Beach. The Gold Coast in the 1960s was a special time and place and Brisbane plumber Neil Victorsen had dreamt of owning a slice of paradise since he first set eyes on the Gold Coast in the 1940s. And in 1962, The Truth newspaper in Brisbane advertised “holiday homes for the working man” with terms of purchase offering £50 deposit with an interest rate of 5 per cent, a price half of the pre-credit squeeze value or “whatever deposit suits you”. After they pumped out all the swamps in the ’60s, Palm Beach became more of a holiday home for many people in Brisbane.

There was always people living in that part of the Gold Coast but it really blossomed in the ’60s. Palm Beach had a census population of under 1500 people in 1961, but within 20 years it was fully enclosed by the development of the Gold Coast. The northern part, known in the 1960s as Pacific Beach, had a low-lying inlet running from the Tallebudgera Creek, which by the middle of that decade had been formed into lakes Awonga and Waidup, preparatory to creating a canal estate. Palm Beach State primary was opened nearby in 1974. Anson Shallows, on the north side of the mouth of the Currumbin Creek were in the course of land reclamation where the recreation reserve would be extended and the Gold Coast Highway rerouted to cross the creek mouth. The Palm Beach-Currumbin high school (1972) was later built there.

Between the census years of 2001 and 2011, the median age of Palm Beach residents reduced from 43 to 39 years, compared to the national median of 37 years. Residents aged 65 years or older made up 24% of Palm Beach’s population in 2001, but this group had reduced to less than 17% in 2011. With a median weekly income per person of $553 in 2011, residents earned only 4% less than the national median. In recent years the clean beach and open views have attracted younger, high-salaried people who renovate or rebuild. About one-third of the housing stock is units, nearly half detached houses and the rest town houses or other types of dwellings. There are local shops in Palm Beach Avenue and Gold Coast Highway, and drive-in centres at The Pines in neighbouring Elanora and at Burleigh Heads across the Tallebudgera Creek.

  • Palm Beach was judged Queensland’s Cleanest Beach in 1999 and again in 2000 and 2011 by the Keep Australia Beautiful Council.

  • Extreme erosion along Palm Beach in 2011 revealed rusted car bodies, among other aged items, usually many meters below sand.

  • Palm Beach Surf Club was voted Best Surf Club on the Gold Coast in 2019.


  1. Centre of the Government of Queensland.
  2. Gold Coast Queensland Gov - City of Gold Coast.
  3. Gold Coast Bulletin (August 19, 2016) - Real Estate Flashback: Remember 1960s Palm Beach as the holiday land for the working man.

by Celine Battendier

Once Upon a Time in Palm Beach February 2020
First National Palm Beach
Cnr of 6th Ave & Cypress Terrace, Palm Beach, QLD 4221

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