Nature, culture and history
Explore the many features of Burleigh Head National Park and discover just how important it is to protect this coastal headland.
Between 20 and 23 million years ago, molten lava from numerous eruptions in the Mount Warning area spread in all directions, some flows reaching the present coastline at Burleigh headland and Point Danger. Slow cooling of the thick lava resulted in shrinkage and cracking into six-sided columns. Many slid and rolled to the water’s edge.
Ocean waves easily eroded soft underlying sedimentary rock. Huge basalt boulders then fell to sea level. This ring of hard basalt prevented further erosion of the headland flanks.
Heavy rain seeping down into the underlying rocks contributes to the instability of the area and aids in speeding up the movement of these huge columns further downslope.
The headland is a living museum and habitat for many rare species. It is dominated by littoral rainforest—a dry form of rainforest which grows only by the sea. This complex vegetation type has developed on the nutrient-rich dark soils derived from basalt parent rock.
As you cross the boundary of the rainforest and open forest, many different rocks and soils can be seen. Rainforest’s dependence on the richer soil is noticeable.
Open eucalypt forest grows on poorer yellow soils derived from ancient sedimentary rock. Brush box, ironbarks, bloodwoods and forest red gum can be seen here.
Exposed seaward slopes support pandanus groves, which withstand stress from wind, heat and salt spray. A small pocket of coastal heath grows on the slope above Sandy Cove.
Little remains of the diverse wildlife that once lived on the headland. Bush surrounding the headland has been cleared for residential and commercial development. Dogs and cats have hunted most ground-dwelling animals. Despite this a range of wildlife species still enjoys the park’s protection.
The headland is an important refuge and feeding area for migrating birds. Male brush-turkeys construct large leafy mounds in which hens lay their eggs. White-bellied sea-eagles, brahminy kites, whistling kites and ospreys hunt fish along the creek. Many species of fruit-eating birds gather in the treetops to gorge on prolific rainforest fruits. Carpet pythons and bearded dragons can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on rock formations.
Aboriginal people have lived in the Burleigh area for countless generations. Sites on Burleigh headland and Tallebudgera Creek are important to the Traditional Owners. Please respect Aboriginal culture by leaving the sites untouched.
Government Surveyor J.R. Warner named the headland 'Burly Head' in 1840 after its massive appearance. By the 1880s the name was corrupted to its present form.
Burleigh headland was set aside as a Reserve for Public Purposes in 1886—an act of remarkable foresight. Records show the reserve survived subdivision proposals in 1916, 1929 and 1941 in an attempt to use it to grow bananas. In 1947, the reserve’s importance was recognised by gazetting it as a national park.