Origin of name
‘Peregian’ is thought to be an aboriginal word meaning ‘emu’, although its source is not clear as, in the local Gubbi Gubbi dialect, the word is ‘Nguriun’.
Peregian Beach is the youngest township in the Noosa Shire. The coastal strip between Coolum and Noosa Heads was Crown Land with strict development regulations until 1957 when the Country Party, led by Sir Francis Nicklin, won the Queensland election. Developers TM Burke & Co, with Maroochy Shire councillor David Low, lobbied to open up the land. TM Burke was granted a 20 year State lease with the right to develop in return for building a coastal highway. In 1959, construction of the David Low Way commenced from the north at Sunshine Beach and south near Mt Emu using materials sourced from a small quarry there. The road was officially opened in March 1960. The first house in Peregian was built on Pelican Street in 1960. It still stands.
The inland areas experienced earlier, but sparse, settlement. In the 1820s escaped convicts arrived, followed later by explorers looking for timber and farming land. The coastal scrub offered little valuable timber and most had been removed by 1866. The sandy soil was unsuitable for crops and the railway, so vital to the emerging hinterland towns, was lacking. The land would, however, support cattle and sheep and large areas were consequently cleared. The 29,000 acre Yandina Station was established in the 1850s and stretched to Lake Weyba where the Murdering Creek massacre occurred in the 1860s. The 1870s saw the allocation of a 10,000 acre aboriginal reserve around the lake and establishment of a small mission on the western shore which closed in 1878. By 1887, most aborigines had been removed to the Barambah mission, now known as Cherbourg, near Kingaroy. A communal style agricultural settlement, started in the 1890s, failed due to the infertility of the land. The livestock farmers remained.
The threat of war in 1939 led to the swamp behind Peregian being used for army training and as a gunnery target area. Craters covered the low lying land now crossed by Woodland Drive. Unexploded ordinances (UXOs) are still occasionally found from Peregian Springs to Sunshine Beach.
Between 1960 and 1973 there was no town plan for Peregian. Roads were constructed following the easiest route and each side was then subdivided into lots. The developer designated some lots ‘shopping area’ and the rest ‘residential’. On the sale of a lot, the land was removed from the State lease and registered as freehold. The State received a percentage of each sale. Further subdivisions followed the initial 120 lots around Pelican Street, first to the west in 1961 at Cormorant Crescent, then north in 1962, and south from 1963 ending at Pitta Street in 1970. South Peregian was originally part of Maroochy Shire and was incorporated into Noosa in 2004.
The developers designated some larger areas ‘park’ for public recreation but Council, being rurally focussed, declined funding for upkeep so TM Burke employed a gardener. Many trees were planted in the parks; coconut palms were secretly planted in the dunes to give a ‘tropical island’ look and 1,000 native trees were given away to the early residents. The Surf Club was founded in 1962. 1962/63 saw a mini-recession in sales and TM Burke formulated a Promotion Project. The company added amenities including, in 1964, a community swimming pool in the centre of the current shopping square. Land was allocated on the western side of the David Low Way for a caravan park, tennis courts and sports oval which opened in 1965, however, funding expired before the Bowls Club could be established. The pool closed around 1979 when major repairs were needed which neither the developer nor Council were prepared to finance.
Community effort enabled the Bowls Club to open and a bush fire brigade was also established. The first Peregian Carols by Candlelight was held on Christmas Eve 1964 and has grown in popularity each year since. Local mothers formed a Kindergarten Committee in 1973. Land was donated from the Promotion Project and activities for the first group of 53 children were conducted in the open air with a few re-used sheds to store equipment. Fundraising commenced and the kindy building opened in 1982, to be extended and almost doubled 15 years later. Volunteer groups also formed to repair and replant dunes and swamp lands which are still thriving.
Peregian locals have actively expressed their views on development and have managed to prevent, among other projects, Peregian Waters, a development around man-made lakes to the south west of town; The Woodlands, a proposed subdivision around Woodland Drive; and ‘Maratina’, an eight storey development approved by Maroochy Shire Council for Victory Park, Lorikeet Drive. Peregian has evolved. The Bowls Club has given way to a large, new community centre, a cricket pitch has been installed on the oval, fortnightly Sunday morning markets and Peregian Originals concerts bring numerous visitors to the town and many of the shops sell upmarket, niche items. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the spirit of the locals to keep their town vibrant and healthy.