Yatala ('Yat-a-la'), a residential and industrial suburb on the Pacific Highway (now the Pacific Motorway), is 36 km south-east of central Brisbane, nearly half way to Southport on the Gold Coast. It is bounded on the north and west by the Albert River, and it was part of the sugar growing industry in that area during the 1860s-90s.
Yatala was the name of a property on the Albert River acquired by a South Australian who apparently took the name from Yatala, near Port Augusta. The South Australian name is thought to have been derived from an Aboriginal expression referring to swamp or flowing water.
Situated a few kilometres south-east of Beenleigh, Yatala was recorded in 1876 as having three sugar mills, a ferry, a hotel, a hall and a racecourse. After the decline of the southern sugar industry Yatala was settled by general farmers, many of them involved in dairying. Apart from the roadside hotel, there were two blacksmiths and a butcher (1924). Little had changed by the early postwar years, although Watkins and Bryant's store and bakery was also recorded.
During the next forty years Yatala was known as a roadside stop on the way to the Gold Coast where a Yatala pie could be bought and enjoyed. Local children attended school in neighbouring Stapylton.
Yatala's position as a spot between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and otherwise nowhere in particular, proved to be its great strength by 2000. Gold Coast, with hills, wetland and dunes overcrowded with high-rise, needed level, large-scale parcels of land for warehousing. Yatala, on the Pacific Highway, answered the need. It was also close to outer suburban Brisbane. Power's boutique brewery (1988) was acquired by Carlton and United, and enlarged to a facility twice the capacity of Milton's Fourex. Aldi supermarkets built a distribution centre at Yatala, and an industrial business park of 183 ha was developed. About 60% of demand for industrial land came from the Gold Coast.
Some 1980s out-of-town entertainment facilities remained: the twin drive-in theatre (Stapylton), Stanmore Motocross Park (but noisily close to housing) and the Yatala pie shop. Bullens Lion Park became an industrial estate. By 2004 there were over 500 businesses at Yatala. In the west between the Albert River and rural/residential housing, the Rivermount P-12 College was opened in 1992.
Yatala's census populations have been: