Merrimac was originally part of the great swamp which extended from the original Merrimac Estate property to today’s Burleigh Waters. Settlers believed the swamp to be the home of the mythical creature of the Australian bush and wetlands, the Bunyip.
In 1873 Thomas Stephens acquired the land believing that with land reclamation and drainage his property could be good dairy farming land. By the year he died, he had established the first dairy called Hill View.
Eldest grandson William assumed management of the estate and proceeded to drain the swamp for dairying. He experimented with various grasses for the grazing of sheep and cattle, growing and milling sugar cane and processing his milk. Many miles of drains were constructed to run the water off the swamp and gradually the surface hardened. Number Two dairy was built on a slight rise nearer the coast – this dairy was called Merrimac.
Two contradictory stories exist regarding this name of Merrimac. One explanation states that Mrs Stephens named the dairy after an American Indian word meaning ‘Merrily running waters’. The other explanation is that it was named after the Union navy frigate USS Merrimac.
In the mid-1900’s, there were approximately 25 local dairy farms in Merrimac. However, in the late 1980’s the land was developed as residential estates and golf resorts.
Merrimac State High School was founded in 1979 on the site adjacent to Rio Vista Boulevard and Dunlop Court.