If you’re looking for excellent surf this year – or you’re just looking to catch a little bit of sunshine from the safety of the sand – then Surfer’s Paradise, in Gold Coast, Queensland, is among the most tantalising beaches in all of Australia. Like all the resorts the country has to offer, however, it’s not been that way for very long. Let’s look at how this little corner of civilisation sprung up from almost nowhere over the last century, and how it became a Mecca for everyone looking to enjoy the sea from atop a plank of wood.
In the late 19th century, many farmers were travelling the length of the country’s east coast in search of a suitable place to establish their farms. One such farmer was a man named James Beattie, who settled on an eight-acre plot on the banks of the Nerang River, who estuary lies around half-way down the east coast of Australia. The farm included a jetty on the river bank, which placed it at a comparative advantage against the other farms of the region.
The farm was first founded in 1869, but it was later acquired in 1877 by a German named Johann Meyer, who developed the land into a sugar-plantation. It turned out, however, that the area attracted lots of passing traffic and visitors looking to take in the natural beauty of the area. And so Meyer found that he could make more money from providing passers-by with accommodation and other services than he could through sugar cultivation. He established a private ferry service, which took travellers up and down the river, and a hotel near the beach itself.
To get the money together for this change of business trajectory, Meyer sold a great deal of his estate at an auction in Brisbane. The buying syndicate wasted little time in carving the land up. By the time that 1888 rolled around, the settlement was benefitting from regular horse-and-coach services between the area and Southport. The Meyers family itself operated another horse-driven service, taking tourists up and down the main surf beach.
All of this success was not to last, however. The Meyers were ruined financially, and Johann himself would die in 1901. The family could not afford to renew the lease on the hotel, and so it lapsed.
What’s in a name?
The story of how the district came to be known as ‘Surfer’s Paradise’ is an interesting one. The postmaster of Southport made deliveries to a receiving office near the beach. But since it didn’t have a name, he took it upon himself to name it after his wife’s home village; Elston, in Nottinghamshire.
When, in 1917, a real estate company in Brisbane came to auction a part of the estate, they offered it under the name ‘Surfer’s Paradise Estate’. Jim Cavill, the man who would build the Surfer’s Paradise Hotel in 1925, lobbied enthusiastically to have the name changed to Surfer’s Paradise, and would ultimately succeed after cheerleading local support in 1933.
Building transport links
Of course, no settlement can thrive if people can’t easily get to and leave it. Establishing a transport infrastructure would therefore be crucial to the future prosperity of what would become Surfer’s Paradise. The nearest railway station could be found at Southport, and would require natives of Elston to cross the river without the help of a bridge. This was corrected in 1925 with the establishment of the Jubilee Bridge in 1925. The bridge’s construction would coincide with the fifty-year anniversary of when James Beattie first established his farm.
After the bridge was complete, motor cars would be able to travel easily in and out of the area, and tourists would be able to reach the nearby resort easily. This made Surfer’s Paradise a far more attractive financial proposition, and so before long investment began to pour in, and so too did tourists.
Jim Cavill’s hotel housed sixteen bedrooms, and was sited at the crossroads between the main road and a coach track running between what was the Meyer’s Ferry and the beach. As time went by, businesses began to open up in and around the area, and before long both Southport and Surfer’s paradise had become suburbs of a larger settlement called Gold Coast. If you’re considering moving to Australia in the near future, then you should consider it a must-visit. Australian Visas for UK citizens aren’t as difficult to come by as you might expect – so apply for one today!