Gold Coast History

A timeline history of the Gold Coast, Queensland Australia.

Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast, Queensland, ca. 1938


  • 1770 Point Danger and Mt Warning were discovered and named by Captain Cook in 1770.
  • 1842 The first accurate map of the Gold Coast was produced in 1842 by the English-born surveyor Robert Dixon. At the time of the mapping, Queensland was not a state but was still part of New South Wales.
  • 1845 By 1845 there were only 1,599 white people in what was to become Queensland.
  • 1859 The new colony of Queensland was declared.
  • 1861 Queensland’s population had grown to 32,838.
  • 1885 A Governor of Queensland, Governor Musgrave, built a seaside home near Southport in 1885, setting a trend for the Coast becoming a fashionable resort for the wealthy and influential.
  • 1902 Southport was established as a town in 1902, boasting a population of 1230, Southport became not only a resort town, but the business centre of the South Coast. Hotels sprang up to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.


From the 1950’s a shot of Main Beach, Gold Coast.


  • 1925 Pioneer developer Jim Cavill built the Surfers Paradise Hotel in an area known as Elston.
  • 1933 Jim Cavill and Elston residents successfully lobbied to change the name of Elston to Surfers Paradise and Australia’s most famous beach resort was born.
  • 1936 An emergency airport strip was created at Coolangatta for planes flying between Sydney and Brisbane, in the same location it is now Australia’s seventh busiest airport, Gold Coast Airport.

Quiet street scene in Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise, ca. 1938

  • 1940 These seaside towns of the South Coast (now Gold Coast) became well known to the thousands of Australian and US armed servicemen who came for recreational leave during the Second World War
  • 1940 In the late 1940s, Brisbane journalists called the coast, south of Brisbane, ‘the Gold Coast” – it was the place to buy and sell land in the post-war real estate boom.
  • 1950 Development increased rapidly. Serviced holiday apartments and shopping arcades were built. The canal Estates of Paradise Island, Chevron Island and the Isle of Capri were some of the first modern major land developments.
  • 1958 With a growing tourism industry local businesses began to adopt the term ‘Gold Coast’ in their names, and on 23 October 1958 the South Coast Town Council was renamed “Gold Coast Town Council”. The Queensland State Government proclaimed the Gold Coast a City on May 16th, 1959.
Relaxing at the beach.


  • 1959 The first high rise on the Gold Coast, Kinkabool, was built in 1959 at Surfers Paradise and still stands today.
  • 1965 The area was becoming a popular destination and in 1965 the Meter Maid scheme began topping up the empty parking meters of visitors, with Annette Welch being the first bikini-clad meter maid.
  • 1972 The first theme park opened, Sea World (formerly Ski Gardens based at Carrara). Originally developed by Keith Williams now owned by Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow.
  • 1970 The hi-rise boom continued in earnest during the 1970s.
  • 1980 Japanese property investment during the 1980s continued to change the face of the Gold Coast with hi-rise developments and golf resorts.
  • 1981 Dreamworld, the original creation of John LongHurst, opens at Coomera. Now owned by Macquarie Leisure Trust.
  • 1982 Coolangatta Airport Terminal opens and runway upgraded for larger aircraft(B737 and A300).
  • 1984 Cades County Waterpark opens to be later renamed to Wet n Wild.
  • 1991 Warner Bros. Movie World opens.
  • 1995 the Gold Coast was amalgamated with the hinterland and northern areas of the Albert Shire Council to form today’s City of the Gold Coast and become the seventh largest city, and one of the fastest growing, in Australia.


Discover more of the Gold Coast’s past

Gold Coast Historical Society Inc.
Address: 8 Elliott Street, Surfers Paradise
When: Every Sunday, 10am – 3pm Tuesday, 10am – 1pm or by appointment
Cost: Entry by donation
Facebook: Gold Coast Historical Society and Museum

Gold Coast Hinterland Heritage Museum
Where: Mudgeeraba Heritage Centre
Address: 238 Mudgeeraba Road (cnr Scullen Street, Mudgeeraba)
When: Sundays, 10am – 2pm
Cost:$5 for adults (children free on Sundays)

Gold Coast Family History Society
Address: Rm 3, Bicentennial Building, 833 Nerang-Southport Road, Nerang
When: Tuesday/Wednesday, 9.30am – 2.30pm; Thursday 11am – 8.30pm; Saturday, 10am – 4.30pm

14th Light Horse & National Servicemen Assoc. Museum
Address: 3 Worongary Road, Worongary (adjacent to Mudgeeraba Showground)
When: Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays, 10.30am – 2.30pm or by appointment
Cost: Donation

South Coast Restoration Society
Address: Heritage Park, 193 Rifle Range Road, Pimpama
When: Second Sunday of each month (annual rally – last weekend in July)
Cost: Free

Southport Military Museum
Address: QLD Naval Brigade Drill Hall, Owen Park, 201 Queen Street, Southport
When: Every second month, on the first Sunday of that month, 11am – 2pm
Cost: Free

St. Hilda’s School archives
Where: 52 High Street, Southport
When: Monday to Wednesday, 8am – 4pm (school term)

Surf World Museum
Where: 1st floor Honeyworld, 35 Tomewin Street, Currumbin
When: Daily, 10am – 5pm
Cost: Adults $9, Child/conc. $5, Family (2Ad, 3Ch) $25

Yugambeh Museum Language and Heritage Museum
Where: Cnr Martens Street and Plantation Road, Beenleigh
When: Monday to Friday, 9am – 3pm