Coolum Beach, 18 km north of Maroochydore and 120 km north of central Brisbane, was named after Mount Coolum (207m) which is a few kilometres south of Coolum Beach's commercial centre. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word describing the mount, referring to its blunt or cut-off summit.
Land selections near Mount Coolum began in 1871 and there was timber harvesting, banana growing and dairying in the 1880s. Much of the land was swampy, but various drainage schemes during the 1910s-30s yielded land for dairying and sugar growing. A cane tramway (c1921) from Nambour and Bli Bli, across the Maroochy River, included a passenger-carrying facility. It paid dividends, bringing visitors and stimulating the release of Mount Coolum Beach land sub-division in 1922-23. The sub-divider promised bathing sheds, a golf links and tobogganing on Mount Coolum. Visitors had the choice of surfing, fishing, or dancing at the school of arts.
Coolum Beach continued as a popular local resort with a permanent population of about 200 until the 1960s. Development in the next decade brought the population to over 1000, and it then doubled at ten yearly intervals. The Mount became a target for development, prompting a successful preservation campaign in 1986. It is now in a National Park. A Hyatt-Regency resort and golf course between Mount Coolum and the beach has been low-rise and less controversial, occupying the Yaroomba locality which is positioned between Coolum Beach and Mount Coolum. A yet smaller locality, Point Arkwright, is similarly positioned.
Coolum Beach has a surf life-saving club, four churches, two small drive-in shopping centres, state primary and high schools (1917, 1985), Coolum Beach Christian College (2004) and a community hall. There is also a shopping strip near the caravan park. Coolum Beach's housing is clustered towards the coast and it has a large undeveloped portion west of the Sunshine Highway. The northern area of Coolum Beach includes parts of the Emu Mountain and Peregian sections of the Noosa National Park. Coolum Beach's census populations have been:
Frances Windolf and John Windolf, An island surrounded by land: the history of an earlier Coolum, Coolum Beach, Zusammen Books, 2004