Sunday, 19 April 2015

Suburb Guide: Hollywell

Early morning colours on the heathland at Pine Ridge Conservation Park.

Featured areas: (1) Pine Ridge Conservation Park, (2) Runaway Bay
Marina, (3) The Broadwater foreshore, (4) Suburban Hollywell.
Image courtesy of Google Maps. 

Hollywell is not one of the premier tourist destinations on the Gold Coast, but for those interested in coastal landscapes, a visit should be essential! Inside this suburb remains the last coastal wallum heath found on the Gold Coast mainland, preserved as part of Pine Ridge Conservation Park. Before European settlement, this vegetation type would have covered the entire area, right down to the dunes bordering the Broadwater. Things changed in 1890, when
an Englishman named Joseph Proud purchased the land and named it after his homestead back in Britain. The area remained largely rural until a canal development was proposed in the late 1980s, thanks to the financial success of a similar venture at nearby Runaway Bay, and now the suburb features very large and expensive waterfront homes. It will be interesting to see how the property market fares here in the coming years; with a completely flat topography and much of the protective dune system altered or removed, Hollywell appears particularly vulnerable to the future effects of climate change.

Both the Noisy and the Little Friarbird (Philemon citreogularis) are found at Pine Ridge Conservation Park.
The latter (seen here) is the less common of the two.

Rainbow Lorikeets are abundant within the park,
commencing their daily activities well before sunrise.

1. Pine Ridge Conservation Park
Pine Ridge has become a beautiful natural island amid a sea of intense urban development, protecting 121 hectares of the Gold Coast's last remaining wallum heathland. The name 'wallum' is an Aboriginal word for the Banksia (Banksia aemula) tree which dominates low-lying coastal areas in South-east Queensland, and this species is plentiful within the Conservation Park. Also common is the Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta), a eucalypt which has adapted to the acidic, waterlogged sands of the wallum environment. Growing closer to the ground are Swamp Grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea fulva), Twiggy Homoranthus (Homoranthus virgatus) and Wallum Boronia (Boronia falcifolia); a visit in winter and early spring will show off these flowering beauties at their very best.

I find that even the urban sections of the Gold Coast have a surprisingly decent dawn chorus, and Hollywell is no exception. Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) and Noisy Friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus) make harsh sounds, while songsters like the Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina) and Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta) please the ears more. Careful listening will also reveal the presence of cute Double-barred Finches (Taeniopygia bichenovii) in the Conservation Park, given away by their nasal calls within the undergrowth. Other wildlife to be seen within the park include Lace Monitors (Varanus varius) and the occasional Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). 

Pine Ridge Conservation Park can be entered off Oxley Drive opposite Coombabah State Primary School. Facilities include parking, picnic tables, signage and a walking path which mostly follows the perimeter of the park.

A Swamp Mahogany overlooking the wallum heath. The flower buds of this species
somewhat resemble medieval jousting lances. 

2. Runaway Bay Marina
Despite featuring the name of a neighbouring suburb, this marina actually falls within the boundaries of Hollywell. Here you can gaze at multi-million dollar boats from underneath the shade of native Pandanus (Pandanus tectorius) and exotic Coconut Palms (Cocos nucifera), but mind your noggin' if standing under the latter! Parts of the foreshore here and at the end of Poinsettia Avenue fall on private property, with accompanying signs being quick to point out boundary lines. Bush Stone-Curlews (Burhinus grallarius) are sometimes observed skulking about the landscaped gardens around the marina.

Coconut Palms and private jetties straddle the edge of the Broadwater at the end of Poinsettia Avenue.

3. The Broadwater foreshore
Beach Morning-Glory is a common dune plant
along the Broadwater foreshores.
The Gold Coast Broadwater is a calm seaway that flows between the mainland and South Stradbroke Island. The Nerang and Coomera Rivers also flow into it, enriching the water so that seagrasses can grow and provide a home for fish, marine mammals and turtles. A proposed cruise ship terminal and island metropolis in the centre of the Broadwater has caused controversy for the past few years, due to the selling of public land and the potential for irreversible environmental damage associated with the project. Mercifully, a new State Government has shut the idea down, keeping it aside for public recreation and environmental protection instead.

Long-legged Bandwings are relatively small grasshoppers.
Access to the Broadwater can be found in Hollywell along James Cook Esplanade. Neatly landscaped parkland is interspersed with native trees that provide a home to Little Wattlebirds (Anthochaera chrysoptera). Scattered picnic tables here also offer a scenic place for a meal, though a lack of barbecues and water makes it a strictly BYO affair. At the northern end of the beach is a small dune remnant where native Beach Morning-Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) and Beach Spinifex (Spinifex sericeus) fight against garden weeds like Cobbler's Pegs (Bidens pilosa). In this vegetation, a wealth of insect life exists - even a quick glance will reveal Beach Tortoise Beetles (Aspidomorpha deusta), Long-legged Bandwings (Heteropternus obscurella) and Wandering Perchers (Diplacodes bipunctata). 

Bream are sought after by both recreational and
commercial fishermen.
The Broadwater's marine life can also be readily observed from the beach at Hollywell. I came across a female Red-fingered Marsh Crab (Sesarma erythrodactyla) near the canal mouth, an unusual find given that this species is more frequently recorded in mangrove forest. Oyster-covered boulders in the same location also create a reasonable fish habitat, with Yellowfin Bream (Acanthopagrus australis) being particularly common. A fish I was very surprised to see here was a tiny juvenile Blackspot Snapper (Lutjanus fulviflamma). The adults live on coastal reefs, so finding this juvenile in the Broadwater shows the importance of retaining estuaries as fish nurseries.

Good wildlife habitat: oyster-covered rocks and a remnant dune borders the Broadwater.

4. Suburban Hollywell
This Masked Lapwing has a deformed leg, highlighting the
stressful and dangerous urban environment it lives in.
It comes as no surprise that a suburb as demographically wealthy as Hollywell would have an obsession with neatness and order. A drive down Magellan Avenue, for example, will show neatly-manicured lawns and almost no street trees. This is perhaps where the Gold Coast City Council lags behind its contemporaries on the Sunshine Coast and in NSW's Northern Rivers, the streets of which feature more banksias, melaleucas and other native trees. One bird that has taken quite well to the treeless lawns of Hollywell's streets however is the Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles). 

Common Paper Wasps (Polistes humilis) cluster tightly over their nest in a Bribie Island Pine (Calitris columellaris).


  1. i am always glad when some areas are saved for more natural habitat than all just turned into suburban homes and neighborhoods. hoping both can exist there.

    1. Yes, I feel the same, and I think retaining the natural habitat adds a lot of value to the suburb, both financially and in terms of lifestyle and wellbeing.

  2. I'll probably never be up that way but I enjoyed reading the review of the local flora and fauna. Nice work!

    1. Cheers! At least you know now that the Gold Coast isn't just high rises and partying! :)

  3. It is good to know some of these places are being preserved for nature.. I love all the birds and the scenery. Great post and photos..

  4. That Friarbird is exquisite Christian. As for the Paper Wasps....hmmm.....we discovered another beginning of a colony in OB's hut. It's the size of a golf ball at the moment but it will grow all too quickly if we don't do something quickly and I DON'T want to be killing a colony again. It was awful. Lovely post as ever!

    1. Thanks Em, yes I was pleased with that Friarbird shot, so thanks for appreciating it!

      Wasps fascinate / horrify me all at once, so to have a large colony around my dwellings would make me feel uneasy. Hope some Bee-eaters or something similar swoop in and sort it out for you! :)

  5. Great Little Friarbird photo Christian. They used to nest here in Marina Park but the Noisy Miners have driven them out. Back to your point of manicured lawns - this is why the Noisy Miners have totally colonised Poinsettia Park and Marina Park. About 14 years ago, Poinsettia Park had much undergrowth as that was then run by a community group. Now the park is constantly pruned to death and consequently the Noisy Miners thrive. They love areas with open trees and without levels of vegetation. In the past 4 years where there used to be Little Friarbirds, White-faced Herons and Willie Wagtails nesting in Marina Park, we now have Noisy Miners, and well, Noisy Miners. Fortunately, the Bush Stone-curlews are not bothered by these colonising birds.

    1. Thanks for your insider knowledge of the suburb, Judy, much appreciated! It's crazy how much difference a few landscaping changes can make to the local wildlife, and such a shame that the choices being carried out in these parks adversely affects the birdlife. God bless that wonderful Conservation Park around the corner, but it would be ideal if it wasn't such an 'island'.

      I write for a magazine produced by a Gold Coast based environmental organisation named Gecko and plan on writing a future article on Pine Ridge. If you'd be interested in offering a local perspective on the park and the surrounding area, including the wildlife, please let me know! I can be reached at if you're interested :)

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