The Tamborine district is a hilly plateau that is a northern spur of the McPherson Range. Much of it is preserved as national park and it forms part of the 'scenic rim' of the Gold Coast. The plateau is approximately 10 km from north to south, and about half that from east to west. The villages at the north of the plateau are Eagle Heights and North Tamborine. Mount Tamborine is a locality to the south, 20 km due west of Southport. All three localities come under the general place name of Tamborine Mountain. The plateau is 50 km south of central Brisbane, and its highest point (550 metres), known as Mount Tamborine, is a few kilometres west of North Tamborine.
The Tamborine plateau rises as an escarpment when seen from the coastal plain, and the Coomera River and Cedar Creek (a tributary of the Albert River) have their headwaters on the plateau. It is thought that the name (at first spelt Tambourine) was derived from an Aboriginal expression relating to the escarpment or referring to yams growing there.
The Tamborine district was included in the Bunton Vale pastoral run (1843) which was renamed Tambourine. In time the name was applied to the parish and the plateau. In 1875 the first of several farm selections was taken up; the hilly terrain was considered inferior to the coastal flats, but it had excellent timber and deep soils. By 1886 most of the plateau was under selection, although not necessarily occupation. Mount Tamborine (the locality) was definitely occupied, with citrus and other orchards, vegetable crops and St Bernard's Hotel. A village settlement, on farms much too small, started in 1888. A short-lived provisional school was opened in 1893.
North Tamborine was more easily accessible from the Logan Village railway station, and in 1898 a Brisbane family, the Geissmanns (Swiss and German) built Capo di Monte, serving as a residence and guest house. They succeeded in having a school opened in 1900, and a store was added to their guest house in 1909. The arrival of the Geissmanns coincided with a growing clientele of natural history holiday-makers, and Queensland Governors lent their patronage to the Capo. The first of several sections of the Tamborine National Park (and Queensland's first), Witches Falls, was reserved in 1908.
Meanwhile Mount Tamborine children tramped daily to the Capo school, until a gradual growth in population satisfied the opening of a second school in 1914, named St Bernard. The increase in population mirrored a decrease in the acreages of rainforest timber, as the Big Scrub was cut out and snigged down to sawmills. The supposed reserves of timber prompted the opening of a railway line from Logan Village, southwards across the plateau to Canungra. Opening in 1914-15, the line carried decreasing quantities as much of the best timber had been cut out, but it also did service with mixed freight and passengers. The line closed in 1955.
The Tamborine local government division (1893) had the unenviable task of maintaining local roads, and as late as 1930 tolled a road to stay financial. A splurge of land subdivisions during 1918-25 brought in rates, but also more traffic. The subdividers sold blocks to both permanents and weekenders, who incidentally provoked a building boom and kept Geissmanns' sawmill (1911) going profitably. Guest houses were built to accommodate holiday makers. The Tamborine Progress Association agitated for road spending, the North Tamborine public hall (1923) and the Tamborine Show and memorial hall (1930) near Mount Tamborine. Farming included dairying and citrus (until the 1930s) and flower growing (freighted to Brisbane). Vegetable growing increased sharply to feed Allied servicemen during World War II, sparking a number of co-operative arrangements for farm machinery, transport and distribution.
Tamborine Mountain attracted a number of writers and artists, contributing to a local feeling for the preservation of natural landscape. At various intervals from the 1920s to the 1960s, lands were donated and reserved for national parks. Notable examples were Palm Grove on the eastern escarpment (1925), the Knoll (1954) and Franklin (1957), which contains a Lepidozamia cycad reserve. The reserves contributed immeasurably to Tamborine Mountain's tourist appeal, made more accessible by a road from the Gold Coast (1958, officially opened 1966). A country club golf course and several residential estates were promoted during 1958-60s.
The Tamborine Mountain Road (1922-25) linked North Tamborine to the Tamborine railway station, serving both local farmers and tourists. A short section, known as Geissmann Drive, passes through a national park, and it is listed on the Queensland heritage register.
Dairying tailed off in the 1950s, and avocado farming increased sharply. Proximity to the Gold Coast provoked a proposal for a theme park in 1979, replete with a fiberglass avocado and miniature train. Local residents opposed the scheme, in keeping with their willingness to do without reticulated water and sewerage. As a consequence, the mountain's landscape has been less severely touched by building activity, maintaining the mountain's tourist appeal. The national parks are liberally interspersed by relatively modest galleries and cafes, particularly at Gallery Walk in Long Road on the way into Eagle Heights (see separate entry).
Tambourine Shire (changed to 'Tamborine' in 1939) was amalgamated with Beaudesert Shire in 1949. Its census populations were:
Its area was 740 sq km.
Eagle Heights and North Tamborine have the district's churches, halls and schools, along with the swimming pool, sports centre and bowling club. North Tamborine also has local shops, a visitors' information centre, historical society and a pioneer homestead. The schools are Tamborine Mountain State Primary (1900), Tamborine Mountain State High (2001) and Tamborine Mountain College (1995). Mount Tamborine (the southern locality) has the St Bernard State Primary School (1914) and a golf course.
Tambourine Mountain's census population in 2006 was 6534. The median age of its residents was 46 years, compared with 37 for Australia.
Eve Curtis, The turning years: a Tamborine Mountain history, North Tamborine, E. Curtis, 1988
J. Guyett, ed., A natural history of Tamborine Mountain, North Tamborine, Tamborine Mountain Natural History Association, 1988
Eagle Heights entry