Benowa, a residential suburb four km west of Surfers Paradise, boasts one of the few Gold Coast place names dating from the nineteenth century. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word denoting 'bloodwood'.
In 1866 one square mile of land was granted to Robert Muir for sugar, which in due course became the Benowa plantation. The location was known as Nerang Creek, now the river which forms the western and southern boundaries of the suburb. There were large meanders (now Benowa Waters canal estate and Lake Capabella) and low-lying land (now the waterway north of the Sir Bruce Small Park) with ample residual fertile land for growing sugar. In its time Benowa was classed as a large-scale plantation. Bailliere's Queensland Gazetteer (1876) described Benowa as having three sugar mills, a hotel, a racecourse, a courthouse, a store and a blacksmith. The village formed around the Ashmore and Benowa Roads intersection where a primary school was opened in 1885.
Forty years later the village was little altered except that dairying had replaced sugar. The Post Office directory for 1949 recorded a similar situation.
By the mid-1970s the Sorrento canal estate in neighbouring Bundall had formed, and Benowa Waters followed soon afterwards. Building activity ran into the 1990s, waterfront residences on Bruce Small Boulevard on the western side being the most prestigious developments. On the firmer ground around the village, a high school (1980), a Catholic college (1979) and the Pindarra Hospital were built by the mid-1980s, and residential subdivisions stretched west to Ashmore Road. The Sir Bruce Small Park (in memory of Gold Coast's controversial Mayor and enthusiastic promoter of canal estates) was laid out on the edge of a former wetland.
During the late 1980s unused land between Ashmore Road and the river was taken for the extensive Royal Pines Resort Golf Course, convention centre, hotel and marina. There are several other golf courses across the river in Carrara. Shopping is done in the other direction in Bundall, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise, although there are the Benowa Gardens shops near the school, to service everyday needs.
Benowa's census populations have been: