Surfers Paradise

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Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia

Surfers Paradise (28°00'S 153°25'E) is a suburb on Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland. Colloquially known as 'Surfers', the suburb is famous for its many high-rise apartment buildings and wide surf beach. The central feature of the Surfers Paradise CBD is Cavill Mall, which runs through the centre of the main shopping precinct.

James Beattie, a farmer (and no relation to current Queensland Premier Peter Beattie) became the first European to settle in the Surfers Paradise area when he staked out an 80 acre farm on the northern bank of the Nerang River, close to the location of present-day Cavill Avenue. The farm proved unsuccessful and was sold in 1877 to German immigrant Johann Meyer, who turned the land into a sugar farm and mill. Meyer also had little luck growing in the sandy soil and within a decade had auctioned off the farm and started a private ferry service and built the Main Beach hotel as tourist attractions. By 1889 Meyer's hotel had become an official postal receiving office and the subdivisions surrounding it were given the name Elston, named by the Southport Postmaster Mr Palmer after his wife's home village in Nottingham, England. The Main Beach Hotel licence lapsed after Meyer's death in 1901 and for the next 16 years Elston was a tourist town without a hotel or post office.

In 1917 a land auction was held by Brisbane real estate company Arthur Blackwood Ltd, who were trying to sell subdivided blocks in Elston as the 'Surfers' Paradise Estate', but the auction failed because access to the area was still too difficult. This was the first recorded reference to the Surfers Paradise name, but like the Gold Coast, the title may well have been part of local vernacular prior to the land auction.

Elston began to get considerably more visitors after the opening of the Jubilee Bridge in 1925 and the extension of the South Coast Road; the area was serviced until that time only by Meyer's Ferry at the Nerang River. Suddenly, Elston was no longer cut off by the river and speculators began buying up land around the villages of Elston, and Burleigh Heads. Estates down the coast were heavily promoted and hotels began opening to accommodate both tourists and investors.

Brisbane hotelier Jim Cavill opened the Surfers Paradise Hotel that same year, and suddenly the town had its first real landmark. Located between the ferry jetty and the white surf beach just off the South Coast Road, it became a popular spot and various shops and services sprang up around it. In the following years Cavill led a push to have the name Elston changed to the more marketable Surfers' Paradise and in 1933 his lobbying paid off and the town officially acquired its present name.

The boom of the 1950s and 1960s was largely centred on this area and the first of the tall apartment buildings that now characterise the skyline were constructed in the decades that followed. Little remains of the early vegetation or natural features of the area and even the historical association of the beachfront development with the river is tenuous. The early subdivision pattern remains, although later reclamation of the islands in the Nerang River as housing estates, and the bridges to those islands, has created a contrast reflected in subdivision and building form. Some early remnants survived such as Budd's Beach — a low-scale open area on the river which even in the early history of the area was a centre for boating, fishing and swimming.

Some minor changes have occurred in extending the road along the beachfront since the early subdivision and The Esplanade road is now very much a focus of activity in this part of the Gold Coast. Promenading and people-watching takes place in this area where land use encourages not only residential activity but tourism with supporting shops and restaurants. The intensity of activity, centred on Cavill, Orchid and Elkhorn Avenues, is reflected in the density of building development. Of all places on the Gold Coast the buildings in this area constitute a dominant and enduring image visible from many vantage points in the city from as far south as Coolangatta as well as from the mountain resorts of the hinterland and beyond.

The Gold Coast Oceanway travels along a beachfront alignment between Narrowneck and Surfers Central but then diverts inland to travel along a narrow corridor along Garfield and Northcliffe Terraces behind the beachfront highrises. Gold Coast City Council proposed to create a new Oceanway pavement along the public road reserve between the highrise buildings and the dunes but there was considerable opposition from local residents.

The Surfers Riverwalk travels along the Nerang River foreshores through Surfers Paradise.


Since 1991 the Champ Car World Series has run an annual race on the streets of Surfers Paradise, an event currently known as the Lexmark Indy 300.

Each Wednesday there is a night market held along the beachside boardwalk at the top of Cavill St., and on Friday nights as well in the summer.

Schoolies week is celebrated by around 50,000 high school graduates each November.

In the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the "paradise" that the refugees hoped to reach is none other than Surfers Paradise.
Surfers Paradise beach was voted as one of the best beaches in the world by the American Travel Channel.
Surfers Paradise beach was judged Queensland's Cleanest Beach in 2006 by the Keep Australia Beautiful Council (Credit: Wikipedia).



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