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Gold Coast history and heritage

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Tugun history

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Click to enlarge Tugun, circa 1910. Photographer unknown.

Tugun, circa 1910. Photographer unknown.

Tugun Surf Life Saving Club, circa 1920s. Photographer unknown.

Tugun Surf Life Saving Club, circa 1920s.
Photographer unknown.

First European settlement

In 1898, the Farrell family walked overland from Tallebudgera Township along a track now called Simpson Road, to their block of land or selection just south of Currumbin Hill. They established a camp site there and started to clear some land for a home and grazing paddocks for their small dairy herd.

For many years, their selection and small slab home was the only farming property in the area south of Currumbin to Coolangatta. The local Aboriginal people often bartered fish and crabs with the Farrells, supplementing the settlers' diet when times were lean.

Over the creek, known today as Flat Rock Creek, and to the north-west of Currumbin Hill, another Irish family, the Mitchells had settled on their block a few weeks after the arrival of the Farrell family. At first, there was a degree of rivalry between the two families based partly on old country loyalties - the Mitchells were from the north of Ireland, the Farrells from the south.

However, years spent pioneering the land and the experience of isolation meant that inevitably the families became the firmest of friends.

Railway and dairies

The coming of the railway north from Nerang, and the completion of the line to Tweed Heads in 1903, would bring a number of changes for families who slowly settled the areas south of Currumbin.

However, the line would soon prove a boon for Coolangatta, bringing many holiday makers to the seaside resort, as well as providing an economic link with Brisbane. The dairy farmers in the Currumbin area could now send their cream to the butter factories located at the far end of the line at Tweed Heads.

Naming Tugun

Around 1913, the Farrell family applied for a rail stop which would allow them to load their produce on the train. The siding was known for some time as the 65 mile 46 chain stop (65 miles and 46 chain from South Brisbane Station), and later as Tugun.

In 1910, the Lands Department and the Post Master General both decided in favour of the name Tugun as an official place name - preferring a word which North Brisbane pioneer, Tom Petrie, stated meant sea waves in an Aboriginal dialect probably originating from the Pine River District, north of Brisbane.

It is however, only in recent times that the name Flat Rock Creek has referred to the salt water stream which divides the Tugun area from Currumbin. Locals always referred to the creek as Tugun Creek, although the rocks along the beach were always known as Flat Rock.

Tugun village

The Queensland Department of Lands named the area when Crown land near the beach was sub-divided into allotments for auction after 1915. The first home in Tugun village was built in 1916. The construction of a coastal road linking Southport to Coolangatta in the 1920s was a major achievement for the Main Roads Commission.

The age of the mass-produced motor car provided the impetus for developing beach properties and accommodation facilities in areas such as Tugun and Bilinga.

When F. S. Charles constructed the Seaside Hotel at Tugun in 1925, he could boast that facilities included a first class septic system and electricity, with a winter tariff in 1925 of three guineas a week or 10 shillings a day. In 1926, the Diamond family took over the management of the hotel and a little later when the hotel burnt to the ground, Paddi Diamond purchased the site and rebuilt facilities at the cost of 14,000 pounds.

Over the years, the Tugun Hotel underwent many changes, but survives today as a landmark in the area. With features which ensured that the area retained its identity, the Tugun area could boast of having its own hotel, a railway station, a surf life saving club and a general store.

The dairy and banana farms however, which dated from the early years, disappeared as the land was subdivided into areas such as the Currumbin Estates in the late 1950s.

Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Collection.

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