Burleigh Heads History

Burleigh clearly has a lot of history, predating European settlement, Aboriginals lived from the land and sea and have a rich culture dating back thousands of years. This page explores both modern and more ancient Aboriginal history.

How did Burleigh Heads get it’s name?

In 1860 J. R. Warner originally named Burleigh's large southern headland Burley Head, however common usage altered the name to Burleigh Heads. It's believed he named it due to its size, he was surveying the area at the time.

What does Burleigh mean?

A christian male first name from the Old English words meaning “hill” and “field.”

What is Burleigh's Aboriginal Name?

Big Burleigh is Jellurgul; Little Burleigh is Jebbribillum or the Waddy of Jebreen. Jellurgul meaning sugar bag or bee's nest.

Other reports from later say Big Burleigh was Jayling (black) and Gumbelmoy (rock), named after the volcanic black basalt rock of the headland.

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Couple strolling through Burleigh Heads

Aboriginal History

In May, 1770, Sir Joseph Banks observed some Aboriginal activity at Burleigh Heads from the deck of the Endeavour.The first inhabitants of the Burleigh area were the 5000 year old Kombumerri Tribe known as “The Salt Water People”. It is believed they lived in the area for thousands of years until around 1936 when they ceased holding their ceremonies there but many of the people remained at Burleigh Heads.

Take A Closer Look At Jellurgal

For a real life look into the past, visit Jellurgal Cultural Centre and get in touch with Burleigh's Aboriginal history. Located at Burleigh Headland just off main highway, cultural tours are available from the only Aboriginal cultural centre on the Gold Coast. They also have art for slae, cultural learning and venue hire.

First European History

The first European landholder in the Burleigh area was Alfred William Compigne who lived near Beaudesert. In 1888, the first store and a post office were established in Burleigh Heads and a hotel followed shortly after with it become a welcome stop over for travelers on their long journey. Gradually restaurants and guest houses began springing up due to the public interest in bathing. But for many years Burleigh was just another seaside village on this part of the coast.

The first blocks of land started to be offered for sale during the First World War and a second release in 1919 with pick of the blocks being sold from around 10 pound on 1 pound deposit and 1 pound per month. Cars were also starting to become popular and road works were carried out to cope with a growing traffic problem. With more and more people settling in the area, local businesses started to increase and more shops, banks and hotels started to be built.

Modern History

The first lifesaving patrols began on Burleigh Beach in the summer of 1918/1919 and Burleigh Heads Surf Lifesaving Club was established in 1921 and an equipment shed built in late 1922. By 1925, the previously outdoor picture theatre was fully enclosed and Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic Church services were all held at Burleigh Heads. Around this time many sports clubs started to spring up and plans were afoot for a resort. The area went ahead in leaps about bounds and by 1950 the northern section was also subdivided although for many prior sand mining in the area had been extensive.

Historic Buildings & Sites

  • West Burleigh Store, 33 Tallebudgera Creek Road, West Burleigh
  • David Fleay Wildlife Park, 244 West Burleigh Road, Burleigh Heads
  • Bora Rock Memorial, Jebbribillum Bora Park, Burleigh Heads
  • Burleigh Heads Tourist Park and Caretaker’s Residence, 28 – 36 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads
  • Burleigh Heads Rotary Classification Pole, Alby Adams Park, Burleigh Heads
  • Grave of Sarah Duncan, Park Avenue, Burleigh Heads
  • Norfolk Pines Burleigh Foreshore, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh has grown from its humble beginnings to a thriving seaside tourist centre and will continue to grow with progress of the entire tourist trade on the Gold Coast and surrounds.

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