Canungra’s History

Canungra means Valley of the Owls, and the area is well known for its bird and wild life.

Canungra has been a tourist town since 1916.

Lahey’s sawmill had been working since 1884  and Canungra was run as a ‘company town’.   Laheys had built Leighton House  on the north side of Pine Road as accommodation for workers and the occasional visitor.  

On 1 May 1916  the Lahey Company held an auction of 107 allotments (30 with comfortable cottages) thus opening up the town for settlement by the general public.   Laheys built a two story guest house (on the site of the current Canungra Hotel) and named it Bellissima which was the name of the ship the Lahey family had travelled on when they migrated to Australia.  

The original Bellissima guesthouse

The letterhead for Bellissima  included the following information: Beautiful Situation,   Commodious, Well Ventilated Rooms,   Electric Light Throughout,  Tennis Court,   Motor Garages,   Modern Sanitation,   Wood Fires in Winter,  Cool in Summer.

In 1915  the railway line was extended from Logan Village  to Canungra to service the timber industry.  This meant that train travel was available for the public  and at times special trains were organised just for tourist travel. In 1927, the Lahey Company gave Bellissima  to David Lahey who sold it to Bernie Conaghan. Bernie quickly converted it into Canungra’s first Hotel,  adding an extension to the house which became the bar.  These buildings burnt down in 1937.   A smaller version of Bellissima was built on the site which is now the Canungra Hotel.  This has, of course,  had extensions and upgrades over the years, including a large function area that was added to the Hotel in 2014.  

St Margaret Mary's Church

There are several beautifully restored historic buildings in the town, including St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church.

During World War Two, the nearby Kokoda Barracks were used as a jungle warfare training centre for army soldiers going to Papua New Guinea to fight. Today it is mainly used for intelligence training for army, navy and air force personnel.