Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

Suffolk Park, New South Wales, Australia

Suffolk Park, a small coastal town in northern New South Wales, is situated at 28° 41’ S 153° 37’ E. It is approximately 100 miles south of Brisbane & 475 miles north of Sydney.

Population:-  The population in 2011 was 3,468

How to get there:-

By road:  From Brisbane & the north take Pacific Motorway/Pacific Highway southbound. Take Ewingsdale Road exit east to Byron Bay, then Bangalow Road southbound.
From Sydney & the south, take Pacific Highway then Sydney-Newcastle Freeway, before joining New England Highway & merging again with Pacific Highway. At Ballina, take Angels Beach Drive/ The Coast Road/Broken Head Road northwards.

No rail service since closure of Byron Bay station in 2004.

Nearest major airport is Gold Coast Airport, Bilinga, Queensland, around 45 miles north of Suffolk Park by road.

Time Zone: Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

Pre European Settlement

History & Derivation of Name 

Baywood Chase and Byron Hills

Tallow Beach

Rous County & Byron Shire

 

 

 

 

Pre European Settlement

Prior to European colonisation, the area around what was to become Suffolk Park was inhabited by the Bundjalong people.  Two sub-groups (or clans) included the Byron Bay area in their territory.  The Minjunbal had the territory north of the cape, the Arakwal had the territory south of the cape, including the area around Suffolk Park.  In resource rich areas like Cape Byron, the aboriginal clans were fairly sedentary and the boundaries of the tribal territories were clearly established.  The Bumberin tribe lived in the Byron Bay area and was led by a “King Bobby” when the Europeans arrived in 1881.  He was succeeded by his son, known as Harry Bray, who had his camp at Tallow Creek, just to the north of Suffolk Park.  Harry Bray died in 1922.

The Arakwal aboriginal people are the acknowledged custodians of the Byron Bay area and retain a strong interest in the maintenance and protection of their cultural values.  In 1997 an agreement between the State Government and the Arakwal guaranteed them a role in the management of the Cape Byron Reserve.  In 2001 this agreement was strengthened to the formal opening of the Arakwal National Park.  This extends from the north of Suffolk Park along the coast to Cape Byron, and is a cultural heritage site formed to safeguard the native traditions.

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History & Derivation of Name

Captain Cook in the Endeavour explored the coast in May 1770 and named Cape Byron after the navigator John Byron.  Numerous aboriginal people were noted on Tallow Beach.  However, the first Europeans attracted to the region were cedar cutters in 1848.  This area of northern New South Wales was surrounded by subtropical rainforest that covered about 10,000 hectares known as the Big Scrub, and was excellent timber country.  Cedar cutters made occasional camps and logs were shipped from Tallow Beach out to offshore schooners.  However, the area around Cape Byron was not permanently settled.

Byron Bay and its environs were surveyed in 1865 and the first permanent settler arrived there in 1881.  The first land sale by the Crown was in December 1885, and the town of Cavanba (aboriginal name for “meeting place”) was established.  In 1894 the name was changed to Byron Bay, and the railway reached the settlement.  By this time the demand for timber was declining, and the government encouraged potential farmers to the area on the basis that they cleared the plateau in the hinterland of the rainforest.  Hence, most of the Big Scrub was cleared for agricultural use by the end of the 19th century.  At the same time advances in technology, particularly in refrigeration techniques, meant that dairy products could be preserved and shipped to the growing cities elsewhere in Australia.  Byron Bay became renowned as the biggest butter producer in the southern hemisphere, and it became the major port for northern New South Wales.  

One of the farmers attracted to this boom area was George Archibald Suffolk (1876-1952), the grandson of Joseph Suffolk, who had established the family in southern New South Wales in the area south of Nowra (see Suffolk Creek, NSW page).  George Suffolk still lived at Nowra in 1904, but by 1908 he was a farmer at Nimbin which is 43 miles west of Byron Bay.  George became a successful farmer, and also acquired land in other parts of the region.  One of these was a parcel of land adjoining Tallow Beach, 3 miles to the south of Byron Bay.  George Suffolk had an eye for a good opportunity, and in January 1922 he had plans drawn up with the intention of constructing a beachside estate on this land.  However, this plan did not come to fruition and on 16th November 1922 he dedicated this land to the Byron Shire Council for community use as a “recreational reserve”.  Hence it was named Suffolk Park.  


In 1936 it was reported that the location “was little frequented at present and has not been developed.”  This remained the case until the 1950s when Suffolk Park benefited from the growth of the recreation and leisure industry.  Title to the land still remained with the
Suffolk family.  However, on 12th March 1958 Walter Cecil Suffolk, the son of George Suffolk, transferred ownership to the Shire of Byron.  By this time it had developed into a major caravan and camping site and in 1959 a Suffolk Park Progress Association was established to ensure that the land stayed in public ownership for community and recreational use, and not be sold off for commercial purposes.  This did not stop the spread of urban development westward over land which was not in public ownership.  Since Suffolk Park adjoins Tallow Beach, this proximity led to the locality becoming very popular as an exclusive residential area for professional people, artists and writers who enjoy the advantages without the traffic and tourism of the main town of Byron Bay, as well as offering a range of holiday accommodation.  It remained a suburb of Byron Bay until 1970 when Suffolk Park was recognised as a separate populated place and it has now spread well beyond the original donation of George Suffolk.

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Baywood Chase and Byron Hills

The cliffs to the west of Suffolk Park form a steep escarpment that made it difficult for the cedar loggers to drag their timber to the beach.  To get the logs there, the loggers cleared a path down the escarpment and then rolled or slid the logs down the “shoot” onto the coastal plain, where bullocks would drag them to the waiting boats.  One of the best-known shoots was “Cooper’s Shoot” immediately behind the present Suffolk Park, remembered in Coopers Shoot Road at the top of the plateau.  Most of the land immediately below the plateau where this “shoot” was located became farmland taken up in 1896 by the Wooldridge and Hamilton families.  

Little is known of the Hamilton family, but Percy Wooldridge (1869-1933) came to Australia from Dartford, England, as a boy in 1879.  He arrived at Byron Bay in 1892 and had his farm on the Broken Head Road, the main road going south from Byron Bay.  In 1933 he was shot and killed by William Lawler who believed erroneously that Wooldridge was having an affair with his wife.  Lawler was found mentally unstable and given six years for manslaughter.   

The area remained farmland until the late 1980s when property developers realised the potential for residential estates.  The present Baywood Chase and Byron Hills were planned estates and today they are considered residential suburbs of Suffolk Park.  To commemorate the timber background most of the roads have been given the names of rainforest trees, such as the hoop pine, red bean, bunya and redgum.  “Baywood” itself is named after the Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) the most prominent evergreen tree of the eastern coastlands.  “Chase” is an old medieval name for an area of unenclosed land formerly reserved for hunting as in Cannock Chase.  “Byron Hills” relates to the escarpment overlooking Byron Bay.

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Tallow Beach

Stretching along the coast, adjacent to Suffolk Park, is the 9 miles long windswept Tallow Beach, sometimes known simply as Tallows.  The name derives from the 120 casks of tallow that were washed ashore here on 7th August 1864, after the schooner Volunteer capsized in a gale just offshore.

The northern end of Tallow Beach is sheltered by Cape Byron & has therefore acquired the name Cosy Corner. The unspoilt beach then stretches southwards adjacent to Arakwal National Park, before the convergence of the inland Tallow Creek lagoon, which runs roughly parallel with the beach for more than a mile.  Further south the beach passes Suffolk Park & terminates at Broken Head, with the rocky outcrop known as Cocked Hat Rocks just offshore (see photo, right).

 

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Rous County & Byron Shire

Rous County, in which Suffolk Park is located, is the most north eastern county in New South Wales. It has borders with Buller, Drake & Richmond counties of New South Wales, & Ward County in Queensland. The county was named after Admiral Henry John Rous (1795-1877) second son of the 1st Earl of Stradbroke, from Suffolk, England. Whilst in Australia he also gave his name to Rous Channel & Stradbroke Island & also influenced the naming of Ipswich in Queensland. New South Wales counties are now only used for land titles and geographic surveying purposes.

Byron Shire is the Local Government Area into which Suffolk Park falls. It was named after Cape Byron, the easternmost point of the Australian mainland, which itself was named by Captain Cook in 1770 in honour of Admiral John Byron (1723-86), grandfather of the poet Lord Byron. Byron Shire was created under the Shires Act of 1906 & covers an area of around 219 square miles. The population as at 2006 was 29,423. The administrative seat is at Mullumbimby.

Byron Shire has many fine beaches & is a popular destination for surfing, scuba diving & whale watching. Inland, the region intersperses sub-tropical rainforest with tropical fruit & sugar cane farms. 

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