Surfers Paradise, Queensland
Surfers Paradise is a suburb within the local government area of City of Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. At the 2011 census, Surfers Paradise had a population of 19,668. Colloquially known as ‘Surfers’, the suburb has many high-rise apartment buildings and a wide surf beach. The feature of the heart of the suburb is Cavill Mall, which runs through the shopping and entertainment precinct. Cavill Avenue, named after Jim Cavill, an early hotel owner, is one of the busiest shopping strips in Queensland, and the centre of activity for night life. One of the features of the area is the Surfers Paradise Meter Maids designed to build goodwill with tourists.
Surfers Paradise is the Gold Coast‘s entertainment and tourism centre and the suburb’s high-rise buildings are the best known feature of the city’s skyline.
James Beattie, a farmer, became the first European to settle in the area when he staked out an 80-acre (32 ha) farm on the northern bank of the Nerang River, close to present-day Cavill Avenue. The farm proved unsuccessful and was sold in 1877 to German immigrant Johan 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 the farm and started a ferry service and built the Main Beach hotel. By 1889, Meyer’s hotel had become a post receiving office and subdivisions surrounding it were named Elston, named by the Southport postmaster after his wife’s home in Southport, Lancashire, England. The Main Beach Hotel licence lapsed after Meyer’s death in 1901 and for 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 to sell subdivided blocks in Elston as the “Surfers’ Paradise Estate”, but the auction failed because access was difficult. This was the first recorded reference to Surfers Paradise, but like the Gold Coast, the title may already have been local vernacular – surfing having been demonstrated in Sydney in 1915.
Elston began to get more visitors after the opening of Jubilee Bridge and the extension of the South Coast Road in 1925; the area was serviced before then only by Meyer’s Ferry at the Nerang River. Elston was no longer cut off by the river and speculators began buying land around Elston and Burleigh Heads. Estates down the coast were promoted and hotels opened to accommodate tourists and investors.
In 1925, Brisbane hotelier Jim Cavill opened the Surfers Paradise Hotel located on what would later become the site of the Surfers Paradise Centre which incorporates the Surfers Paradise Beer Garden and Hard Rock Cafe. In opening the hotel and neighbouring zoo, Cavill created the first attraction in the suburb. Located between the ferry jetty and the white surf beach off the South Coast Road, it became popular and shops and services sprang up around it. In the following years Cavill pushed to have the name Elston changed to Surfers’ Paradise. The suburb was officially renamed on 1 December 1933 after the local council felt the Surfers Paradise name was more marketable. In July 1936 Cavill’s timber hotel burnt to the ground and was rebuilt the following year.
A development boom followed in the 1950s and 1960s. The first highrise in Surfers Paradise was erected in 1959 and was named the Kinkabool. The Kinkabool stood 10 stories high and remains to this day in Hanlan Street. Many tall apartment buildings were constructed in the decades that followed, including the iconic buildings included the Iluka, St Tropez and The Pink Poodle. The boom later saw strong Japanese investment in the 1980s.
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 (e.g. Chevron Island), and the bridges to those islands, have created a contrast reflected in subdivision and building form. Some early remnants survived such as — 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 a focus of activity, with supporting shops and restaurants. The intensity of activity, centred on Cavill, Orchid and Elkhorn Avenues, is reflected in the density of development. Of all places on the Gold Coast the buildings in this area constitute a dominant and enduring image visible from as far south as Coolangatta and from the mountain resorts of the hinterland.
Surfers Paradise has a number of heritage-listed structures, including:
- The Pink Poodle sign, 18 Fern Street.
- Kinkabool, 32-34 Hanlan Street One of the original Apartment blocks In Surfers.
- Matey, at Cavill Park, a 1957 bronze statue of a homeless dog that lived in Surfers Paradise. Registered as a significant local heritage site by the Gold Coast City Council.
Surfers Paradise is fronted to the east by the Surfers Paradise Foreshore, a rejuvenated public space that fronts Surfers Paradise Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The Foreshore was completed in 2011 and feature contemporary coastal streetscaping that incorporates existing trees and vegetation, including about 95 pandanus trees. The masterplanned space hosts a full calendar of free public events such as the Surfers Paradise Festival and the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships. The area of Surfers Paradise east of Surfers Paradise Boulevard sprawling towards the beach tends to focus on family-friendly attractions such as Time Zone, Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and Adrenalin Park; while the nightclubs and adult entertainment tend to be concentrated in the western part of the suburb.
The “Gold Coast Nightlife Precinct” offers many after-dark activities for visitors. The precinct is considered Australia’s nightlife capital and attracts close to 20,000 visitors daily. The area also hosts the largest Schoolies week event in the country, attracting tens of thousands of school leavers to the precinct.
As a popular destination for beach-goers, Surfers Paradise is noted for its relatively steady warm climate throughout the year. Temperatures recorded at the nearest active weather station, Gold Coast Seaway, are milder than Brisbane in summer and warmer in winter. Extreme temperatures at the station have ranged from 40.5 °C (104.9 °F) on 22 February 2004 to 2.5 °C (36.5 °F) on 19 July 2007. The average temperature of the sea ranges from 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) in July and August to 27.1 °C (80.8 °F) in February.
Climate data for Gold Coast Seaway (temperatures: 1992–2016; rainfall: 1994–2016) Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Record high °C (°F) 38.5
Average high °C (°F) 28.7
Average low °C (°F) 21.8
Record low °C (°F) 17.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 136.6
Average rainy days 14.2 14.6 15.1 12.0 11.6 10.9 8.5 7.1 8.7 9.8 12.3 12.6 137.4 Source: 
Surfers Paradise offers some of the Gold Coast’s best shopping opportunities, with a variety of stores located in Cavill Avenue and surrounding streets as well as at the Centro Surfers Paradise Shopping Centre is located in Cavill Avenue.
- Adrenalin Park
- Meter Maids
The Surfers Paradise Meter Maids were introduced in 1965 when entrepreneur Bernie Elsey opposed the installation of parking meters in Surfers Paradise. The maids were hired to top up expired parking meters and dressed in gold bikinis. Meter feeding is against the law but council decided to ignore the offence due to the good publicity it garnered. Gold Coast Mayor Bruce Small promoted the city in 1967 through the use of the bikini-clad meters maids. The evolution of parking meters has rendered the meter maids initial goal useless and are seen as a novelty these days.
The meter maids initially dressed in gold lamé bikinis and a tiara but the outfit would go through several changes during their existence. The attire has now evolved into a gold lycra bikini and an Akubra hat. A sash is often worn emblazoned “Surfers Paradise Meter Maids”. Controversial retired Australian rules football player Warwick Capper underwent a short stint as a Surfers Paradise meter maid in 2007.
Surfers Paradise hosts a calendar of free public events, largely targeting residents of the Gold Coast, visitors from southeast Queensland and interstate and international tourists.
Surfers Paradise Festival
Staged each March and April, the annual Surfers Paradise Festival is a celebration of local music, food, fashion, film and art and is a key driver of the Gold Coast’s long-term cultural development.
Across the four weekends of the festival, the Surfers Paradise precinct is transformed into a vibrant showcase of the Gold Coast’s emerging arts and cultural scene.
The festival comprises an accessible mix of family events, exhibitions, live music, street markets and short film screenings.
Schoolies week is an Australian tradition of high-school graduates (also known as ‘schoolies’ or ‘leavers’) having week-long holidays following the end of their final exams in late November and early December. The tradition began on the Gold Coast in the early to mid 1980s and Surfers Paradise is still the largest single venue for the event. Prior to the 1980s, school leavers enjoyed one “muck up day” at the end of their Senior year, which often ended by meeting up at one of the old beer gardens in Surfers or Broadbeach. Official Schoolies events on the Gold Coast are drug-free and alcohol-free events held on the beach. The events often include concerts and parties.
The event is often seen as a rite of passage for graduating students and a transitional period from youth to adulthood. It is constantly criticised as promoting teen sex and under age drinking/drug taking. The event also attracts over age and under age attendees that are referred to as ‘toolies’ and ‘foolies’. It is estimated that around 40,000 teenagers travel to the Gold Coast for the Schoolies event every year. A dedicated Schoolies event zone, featuring live music and youth-themed activities, is established each year on Surfers Paradise Beach in order to provide a safe, fun environment for school leavers. The area is monitored for exclusive use of current Year 12 school leavers. Schoolies Hub Beach area opens nightly from 7pm.
Volunteers in bright orange vests are the Schoolies Support Team who provide practical support and advice. Recharge Zones are located close to the Schoolies Hub to provide a safe place to keep hydrated with free water available.
Sport and recreation
A number of well-known sporting teams represent the local area. One of them is the well known NRL club named the Gold Coast Titans and Surfers two Australian rules football team’s Gold Coast Football Club, Surfers Paradise Australian Football Club plus Australian Shooting Academy, Surfers Paradise Rowing Club, Surfers Paradise Apollo Soccer Club, Surfers Paradise Rugby Union Club, Surfers Paradise Triathlon Club, Surfers Paradise Cricket Club, Surfers Paradise Golf Club, Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club and Surfers Paradise Baseball Club.
In Surfers Paradise there also is the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, which hosted CART for a long time and now hosts Supercars Championship.
Surfers Paradise State (Primary) School is located on the Isle of Capri in Surfers Paradise. A State primary school was first established in Laycock Street, three blocks south of Cavill Avenue, in 1934. It was replaced with the Isle of Capri site in 1976.
The Japanese Language Supplementary School of Queensland Japanese School of Gold Coast (ゴールドコースト校 Gōrudo Kōsuto Kō), a weekend Japanese school, maintains its school office in Surfers Paradise. It holds its classes at All Saints Anglican School in Merrimac.
Surfers Paradise Beach is regarded as one of the best beaches on the east coast of Australia and has been recognised with numerous domestic and international awards:
- 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
The precinct is serviced by two modes of public transport which are Surfside Buslines and the G:Link light rail service. Surfside Buslines operates serval bus routes which connect the suburb with the western parts of the city. The G:link runs in a north-south direction.
The G:Link light rail system has five stations through the precinct.
Northcliffe station lies on the southern end of Surfers Paradise Boulevard, near the intersection of the Gold Coast Highway. The station services Northcliffe Surf Lifesaving Club and the Northcliffe beach. Surfers Paradise station is located on Surfers Paradise Boulevard between Clifford Street and Hamilton Avenue. Notably, it is the closest station to the Q1. Cavill Avenue station lies on Surfers Paradise Boulevard between Cavill Avenue and Elkhorn Avenue. It is the closest station to Cavill Avenue, considered to be the heart of the precinct. Cypress Avenue station lies on Surfers Paradise Boulevard between Cypress Avenue and Palm Avenue. It is the closest station to Funtime amusement park. The station provides bus connections to Nerang railway station. Surfers Paradise North station is located on the north side of the intersection of Surfers Paradise Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.
In popular culture
As an iconic holiday destination, Surfers Paradise has been namechecked in numerous popular Australian songs including:
- The Australian Crawl song “The Boys Light Up” also mentions the line “That flat in Surfers Paradise, with the ocean view”
- The Redgum song “Gladstone Pier”, from their 1984 album Frontline, includes the line “From Surfers up to Townsville…”
- The Kev Carmody song “Elly” mentions the line “She gazed up at the tall glass and concrete walls at Main Street Surfers Paradise”.
- Pop singer Cody Simpson released an album titled “Surfers Paradise” as a tribute to his hometown.
- American rapper Donald Glover, known under his stage name “Childish Gambino”, referenced the Gold Coast in his 2014 song “Retro”: “down under, surfin’ on the Gold Coast”.
In the 2016 Census, there were 23,689 people in Surfers Paradise. Of these 51.1% were male and 48.9% were female. The median age of the Surfers Paradise population was 37 years, 1 year below the national median of 38. 44.6% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were New Zealand 7.1%, England 3.7%, India 3.6%, Brazil 2.4% and Japan 2.1%. 59.3% of people spoke only English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin 2.5%, Portuguese 2.4%, Japanese 2.3%, Punjabi 1.8% and Spanish 1.6%. The most common responses for religion were No Religion 29.2% and Catholic 19.3%.
According to the 2016 census, Surfers Paradise is an ethnically diverse suburb, including the largest Jewish community (119 people; 0.5%), the largest Spanish Australian community (285 people; 1.2%), and the largest Lebanese Australian community (84 people; 0.4%) of any suburb in Queensland.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). “Surfers Paradise (State Suburb)”. 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). “PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND’S 150 ICONS”. Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
- * Gold Coast City Council – Early History of Surfers Paradise Archived 4 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. Council of the City of Gold Coast. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- “Advertising”. The Brisbane Courier. 7 August 1917. p. 10. Retrieved 15 November 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
- “Gold Coast City Council”. Early History of Surfers Paradise. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 3 February 2006.
- “Surfers to celebrate 80th birthday”. goldcoast.com.au. 10 March 2013. Archived from the original on 12 March 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- “£25,000 FIRE”. Daily Examiner. Grafton, NSW. 7 July 1936. p. 6. Retrieved 17 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- “NEW SURFERS’ PARADISE HOTEL OPENING”. The Courier-Mail. Brisbane. 21 September 1937. p. 22. Retrieved 17 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- “Gold Coast Local Heritage Register: N-Z” (PDF). City of Gold Coast Council. pp. 97–98. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- “Kinkabool (entry 601477)”. Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Design, UBC Web. ““Matey” | Monument Australia”. monumentaustralia.org.au. Archived from the original on 24 March 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
- “Heritage Sites In Surfers Paradise” (PDF). Gold Coast City Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 August 2017.
- Ltd, Copyright Global Sea Temperatures – A-Connect. “Gold Coast Sea Temperature | Australia | Sea Temperatures”. World Sea Temperatures. Archived from the original on 27 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
- “Climate statistics for Australian locations: Gold Coast Seaway”. Bureau of Meteorology. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
- “Warwick Capper finds his slot”. Herald Sun. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
- “Surfers Paradise Festival”. Surfers Paradise Alliance. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- “Surfers Paradise Festival”. Surfers Paradise Alliance. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
- Gold Coast Archived 4 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. The State of Queensland. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- “Surfers Paradise State School”. Surfers Paradise State School Website. 14 September 2017. Archived from the original on 14 September 2017.
- “Surfers Paradise”. Queensland Places. 2015. Archived from the original on 14 September 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- “平成 26(2014)年度” (Archive). The Japanese Language Supplementary School of Queensland. Retrieved on 1 April 2015. p. 4. “借用校舎：オールセインツアングリカンスクール(All Saints Anglican School) Highfield Drive, Merrimac, QLD4226, AUSTRALIA 事務所：The Japanese Society of the Gold Coast/ The Japanese School of Gold Coast 25 Mawarra Building, 3108 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise, QLD4217”
- Travel Channel Archived 18 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine. 6 December 2006
- “2016Census_G14_QLD_SSC – Census DataPacks – General Community Profile”. Australian Bureau of Statistics – Census 2016. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- The Official Gold Coast Surfers Paradise in Queensland website
- Surfers Paradise Alliance — The Official Site
- Map of Surfers Paradise; Tourism Queensland includes locations of many popular buildings and attractions
- University of Queensland: Queensland Places: Surfers Paradise