The name Caloundra was derived from words in the Gubbi Gubbi dialect

Bulcock Street, Caloundra, looking west, ca 1945. Image credit: Picture Sunshine Coast.

Origin of name

The name Caloundra was derived from words in the Gubbi Gubbi dialect – ‘kal’owen’, or beech tree (Gmelina leichhardtii) and ‘dha’ (place, abbreviated from ‘dhagun’) – meaning ‘place of beech tree’. The name was variously spelt as Kalowen, Cullawanda or Galouwen. Beech trees were plentiful in the region before being cut out by timber-getters.

By 1865 the name Caloundra was being used by the few white visitors to the area.

Early history of settlement

Following James Cook and Matthews Flinders, John Bingle in March 1822 took a boat party up the Pumicestone River, so named in 1799 by Flinders, and proved that the waterway was in fact a passage, opening to the sea at present day Caloundra.

In 1847 Captain John C Wickham named Wickham Point, a headland north of Bribie Island, which is known also as Caloundra Headland.

In April 1863 during cyclonic squalls thirteen men were separated from their ship Queen of the Colonies and were marooned at present day Moffat Beach. The twelve surviving castaways were the first known, though involuntary, white residents of Caloundra.

Inspired by the Queen of the Colonies saga, in 1864 Alexander Archer rowed up the Pumicestone Passage. He wrote: ‘This place is called Calowndra. It would make a capital sea bathing place, as there are beautiful sites for houses and there is good garden soil, but it is too far from Brisbane to be much frequented for such purposes for many years to come’.

The Land Act of 1868 allowed the State Government to subdivide pastoral runs for closer settlement. Around 1870 Thomas John Ballinger established a landholding from the present day Hibiscus Family Holiday Park on the shore of the Passage (previously the Tripcony family’s Black Flat) to King’s Beach (later named after the King Family who settled near the beach in 1893). Ballinger, although the first landholder proper in Caloundra, never lived there. A new deed was issued to Robert Bulcock in 1875.

Although it was Bulcock who built the first house (The Homestead, on a knoll facing the Passage and the beach that now bears his name, in 1878), Thomas John Ballinger became the first permanent European resident in Caloundra. His 1881 selection was on high land south of Lake Currimundi known as Ballinger's Hill, later Battery Hill after the Russian scare of 1882.

The second resident in Caloundra was Samuel Leach, who in 1881 settled land at the junction of Pumicestone Passage and Bell’s Creek. In the same year explorer William Landsborough took up land between the Leach and Bulcock properties in the area now called Golden Beach.

Robert Bulcock donated the highest point of his land at Caloundra (now Canberra Terrace) for the erection in 1882 of an observation tower to detect Russian warships. The Caloundra Lighthouse was built next to this tower in 1896.

Caloundra’s beauty, isolation and superb fishing led to the first public land sales in April 1883. In that year James C Moffat established a holiday cottage on the headland that now bears his name.

Caloundra’s first school commenced in 1886 in a cottage owned by G L Bury, near the future site of the lighthouse.

In 1888 John and Margaret Wilson established Sea Glint, the first guesthouse in Caloundra, near present day Tooway Lake. Premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith was a regular visitor.

In the tail of a cyclone in February 1893 the SS Dicky ran aground on the beach that now carries its name.

In 1910 Caloundra’s first store was run from the front verandah of the house of Andrew Tripcony and his family, who later sold goods from a shed at Black Flat.

The Landsborough Shire Council was formed in 1912 to administer the local district, including Caloundra.

Robert Bulcock’s land was subdivided in 1917 and developed by Caloundra Beach Estate, and in 1925 the area containing his residence was also subdivided. In 1928 Caloundra Beach Estate advertised 207 seaside allotments for sale.

Local real estate agents Farlow & Henzell launched the Dickey (sic) Beach Estate in 1936. A year later a bridge crossing Tooway Creek was completed.

In 1936 the Council sought to compete with the attraction of beaches closer to Brisbane and initiated a car park at Kings Beach. In the photo below, Bill Nemeth uses a draught horse and metal scoop to level the dunes.

In the war years from 1939 to 1945 Caloundra was classified as a restricted area by the Australian Defence Force. Many homes were commandeered by the Armed Forces and the Caloundra School in Queen Street became the headquarters for the American Army, and later the Australian Coast Artillery.

In 1942 electricity was supplied to Caloundra.

After World War II Caloundra grew rapidly. The town was known to thousands of military personnel and their families, and Caloundra became popular with holidaymakers.