Taken from the Yugambeh word bilinba meaning bats, Bilinga is located on the southern end of the Gold Coast near the border of New South Wales. Bilinga was adopted by the Queensland Lands Department in 1918 as a place name for Crown land north of Coolangatta after land in the area began to be progressively auctioned from 1915. Bilinga is also the name of a peak on the McPherson Range.
Following the land auctions, a rail siding on the Nerang Tweed Railway line was approved. Within a few years, the nucleus of settlement had formed when a general store operated by Percy Henzel opened near the rail siding.
As the suburb grew, so too did the number of visitors to the beach-side destination. In 1922 visitors to the area remarked on the surprising progress of Bilinga showcased in the 23 new houses built or in the process of being built in only two months. During the Christmas period of the same year, a number of festive decorations were put up and numerous tents were described as lining the foreshore suggesting the large number of visitors. By the late 1920s, a new coastal motor road improved access to the area for holiday makers and residents, further improving Bilinga’s status as a holiday destination.
In the 1930s it was considered necessary to build an emergency landing strip south of Brisbane. Bilinga was chosen as the most suitable location and construction began in 1937. The construction of the emergency landing strip required an adjustment between the state boundaries and in 1938 Queensland acquired one acre of New South Wales. Ten years later, the landing strip underwent significant upgrades in order to welcome commercial passengers from the Southern states. The emergency landing strip, and later aerodrome, eventually developed into the Coolangatta Airport.
In 1938, following the drowning of Vincent Joseph Conroy and his daughter, Veronica, the Railway Institute Swimming Club of Brisbane applied to start a surf lifesaving club at Bilinga. The Bilinga Beach Railway Surf Club was born and commenced patrols within a few months. The 2.8km stretch the Bilinga Surf Club patrol is one of the largest on the Coast, but the Club has experienced challenges with membership numbers. In 1997, the Club had 20 members and by 2004 the Club had 10 active members which resulted in the beach being closed during competitions to allow the lifesavers to participate. In 2006, the Club had increased to 24 active members and 50 nippers, and the introduction of a bronze medallion squad.
In the late 1940s, it became apparent the area of Bilinga required a hospital. After the closures of the Border Hospital and a private hospital in Murwillumbah, the next closest hospital was the Tweed District Hospital which in serving both the Coolangatta and Tweed areas was very overtaxed. In 1946 the Coolangatta Town Council approved the construction of a private hospital for $2000 and in 1950 the Bilinga Private Hospital opened.
Sources of information and further reading
- Gresty, J. A. The Numinbah Valley: Its Geography, History and Aboriginal Associations, 1947.
- Watson, F. J. Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes of South East Queensland. Brisbane: Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, 1944.
- Kerr, John. Destination Sth Brisbane: an illustrated history of the southside railways of Brisbane. Brisbane: Australian Railway Historical Society, Qld. Div., 1978.
- Bilinga Aerodrome (1948, November 17). The South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1949), p. 16. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187682171
- Coolangatta (1937, November 26). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37908286
- Life-saving Patrol For Bilinga (1938, February 5). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39729010
- Tried to save child (1938, February 13). The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97864348
- Platform boosts access to the beach (2006, December 13). The Albert and Logan News, p. 23.
- High-rise approved despite objections (2005, March 16). The Gold Coast Sun, p.34.
- Nasty shock for local landowners (2004, April 28). The Gold Coast Bulletion, p. 16.
- Future bright for Bilinga (2006, December 29). The Gold Coast Bulletin, p. 48.
- Small on magic, big on courage (2004, January 3-4). The Weekend Bulletin, p. 11.
- Foundering Bilinga club desperate for a lifeline (1997, June 11). The Gold Coast Bulletin, p. 6.
- Bilinga Beach railway surf club (1938, March 11). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 16. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183425256
- Bilinga (1922, December 24). The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1903 – 1926), p. 12. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/213122500
- Bilinga Emergency Landing Ground (1938, February 11). The South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/133763806
- Coolangatta hospital re-opening today (1950, December 1). The South Coast Express (Surfers Paradise, Qld. : 1949 – 1951), p. 1. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/226284471
- Hospital for C’Gatta (1946, February 28). The Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW : 1914 – 1949), p. 2. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/193040125
- Old border hospital at Bilinga (1950, April 5). The South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1954), p. 28. Retrieved October 24, 2018, from, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/225626532