Captain Cook sailed past Coolangatta and the Gold Coast in 1770 at which time he named both Point Danger and Mount Warning. Their names reflected the apparent danger the area presented to ships navigating off the Gold Coast. A light house was later erected at Point Danger to warn ships of the potential hazards and it became the first lighthouse in the world to attempt to use laser technology to aid in navigation. Their efforts were unsuccessful and the advanced technology was replaced with the tried and proven conventional navigation aids involving the use of high powered lamps.
Despite Cook's efforts, in 1846 a ship named the "Coolangatta" was wrecked off the coast and the town was named in its honour. Thanks to the Surveyor General of the day, many of the place names on the Gold Coast have been derived form Aboriginal words and the word "Coolangatta" is said to mean "beautiful place".
After the closure of the convict settlement further north where Brisbane is today, many of the newly freed settlers made the move south to the Gold Coast and Coolangatta and it fast became a popular holiday retreat as far back as 1880. The settlers included timber getters, cane farmers, cotton growers, oyster farmers, fisherman and the constant flow of visitors to the area inspired early entrepreneurs and developers. Coolangatta was one of the earliest resort destinations on the Gold Coast and today its beautiful beaches attract visitors from all over the world.