The name is recorded in 1320 as Elmsted and means 'place where elm trees grow'. The name was shared with Elmstead Place mansion and the woodland of Elmstead Wood. After the local railway station opened it took the name Elmstead Woods.
Elmstead is served by one Transport for London bus service.
Elmstead has a senior football club, F.C. Elmstead, who play at Oakley Road in Bromley.