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The first Europeans to settle on what is now Saunders Beach were the Saunders family. They spent New Year’s Eve 1891 hosting a party for about thirty guests at their residence Springfield, north of the Black River.

The guests danced and sang and an enjoyable night passed too quickly, reports The North Queensland Herald of 6 January 1892 (available on microfilm at James Cook University).

On New Year’s Day “a riding party proceeded to a fine beach…where a pleasant picnic took place”. Afterwards some members of the party relaxed under the spreading trees while the more energetic rode races or walked along the beach. That night there was more dancing until the party-goers were exhausted.

Springfield was situated on Crown Land leases George Saunders had been accumulating since 1877. The house at the foot of Mt Saunders no longer stands but was substantial for the times – weatherboard on five feet stumps with an iron roof, front verandah and detached kitchen. Records of its existence date back to at least mid-1883. Also on the property were stables, stockyards, a men’s hut, milking yards, calf pen and four acres of garden and orchard.

1892 proved to be a busy year for this pioneer family. As well as ensuring the viability of the family dairying and horse trading enterprises George and his wife Elizabeth welcomed their first grandchild in March. Another daughter married in May. Deterioration in the Black River crossing prompted George to request repairs from Thuringowa Divisional Board. On the back of finalising the purchase of what is today’s Saunders Beach, he completed the purchase of the parcel of land on which Springfield stood.

Like much of the Saunders’ holdings north of the Black, the site of the homestead became nickel refinery land in the 1970s. The small township of Yabulu, nestled between the North Coast railway line and the Bruce Highway and near the nickel refinery includes Springfield Drive and this remains a lasting tribute to the pioneer life of the Saunders.


A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 edition of the “Beach Banter” as part of a local history series. The “Beach Banter” is the newsletter of the Saunders Beach Community Centre Inc.


James Cook University Library – Historical newspapers, North Queensland Herald

Queensland State Archives Item ID 62829, 62929, 62876, 63112, 63221, 62304, Land Selection Files.

Townsville City Council CityLibraries Local Collection Mathew Index