Elwood, a bayside suburb, is south of St Kilda and 8 km south of central Melbourne. Its name is surmised to have come from the Quaker historian and poet, Thomas Elwood, a friend of the poet Milton. Lieutenant Governor LaTrobe, who had influence in the naming of places, had a high regard for Quakers.

Elwood has two geographic features: the Elster Creek, with headwaters in Bentleigh, flows north-easterly to the flat landscape of Elwood, and now enters Port Phillip Bay by a straightened stream, named the Elwood Canal (1887); and Point Ormond, a little south of the canal, was the receiving place for passengers from the typhoid ship, Glen Huntly, in 1841. (It was also known as Red Bluff, but renamed after the father of the philanthropist, Francis Ormond.)

Land surveys and sales of land in Elwood, south of Point Ormond, occurred in 1850-51. In the mid-1860s Elwood was a small hamlet on swampy ground, with a few properties on the higher ground south of the Point. In 1870 the area was incorporated with St Kilda borough. It became the unfortunate location for the St Kilda abattoirs and a dumping ground for manure and nightsoil from Brighton.

In 1885 work began on the reclamation on 65 hectares of the Elwood Swamp, and four years later work began for construction of a channel, roughly following the Elster Creek bed, to drain further marsh land. The Australian handbook, 1893, described Elwood:

The proposed railway line did not eventuate until 1906, but it helped to hold land values for a while. It was actually a tram from St Kilda to Brighton run by the Victorian Railways.

The 1903 Australian handbook described Elwood:

The drain's efficiency was lessened by tides holding back the outflow, and odour from the Elwood Canal was a recurrent problem. However, sufficient works were completed by 1911 for Elwood to be described at some length in the Victorian municipal directory as a healthy foreshore suburb with once swampy land raised, drained and subdivided. Part of Red Bluff had been taken for filling.

The State Government began sales of reclaimed land in 1913.

In 1917 the Elwood primary school was opened, later becoming a central school and being enlarged in 1926. Elwood Beach became one of the most popular for Melbourne residents, and the Elwood Surf Life Saving Club (1911) one of Victoria's first clubs. The beach’s popularity was maintained into the postwar years when scorching summers made it a more pleasant spot to sleep overnight instead of in uncooled, uninsulated suburban cottages. Beach attendances of 100,000 persons were estimated.

Elwood was described in the 1930 Victorian municipal directory:

In 1957 the Elwood high school opened, the same year as the St Kilda to Brighton tram closed.

Until 1994 most of Elwood was in the St Kilda municipality, whose council took a relaxed attitude to the construction of flats. Consequently about 70% of Elwood's dwellings are flats and units, with a few larger houses subdivided, and with a mixture of large and small dwellings mostly built 1910-30. In 1987 and 1996 the median price for an Elwood flat or unit was a little under the median for metropolitan Melbourne, but the median house prices rose from 165% to 205% of the metropolitan median over the same period.

In 2014 Elwood College had 501 pupils and Elwood primary school 740 pupils.

There are foreshore reserves from north of Point Ormond leading to the St Kilda marina. Southwards there are the life saving club, angling and sailing clubs, sea scouts and a croquet club. Ormond Road has two shopping areas. Two blocks of flats are on the Victorian Heritage Register: Windermere flats (1936), Broadway; and Hartpury Court (1923) in Milton Street.

Elwood’s census populations have been:

census date population
1911 532
2001 12,715
2006 13,785
2011 14,638

At the 2011 census occupied dwellings in Elwood were:

Type % of total occupied dwellings


Separate house 19.2 75.6
Row house 11.3 9.9
Flat, unit 69.0 13.6

Further Reading

J.B. Cooper, The history of St Kilda from its first settlement to a city and after, 1840-1930, 2 vols, Printers, 1931