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Surfers Paradise
Gold Coast CityQueensland
Surfers Paradise, QLD skyline.jpg
Viewed from Broadwater
Population 19,668 (2011 census)
Established 1933
Postcode(s) 4217
Location 78 km (48 mi) from Brisbane
LGA(s) City of Gold Coast
State electorate(s) Surfers Paradise
Federal Division(s) Moncrieff
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
25 °C
77 °F
17 °C
63 °F
1,258 mm
49.5 in
Suburbs around Surfers Paradise:
Southport Main Beach Pacific Ocean
Bundall Surfers Paradise Pacific Ocean
Broadbeach Waters Broadbeach Pacific Ocean

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 suburbs high-rise buildings are the best known feature of the city's skyline.


StateLibQld 2 191855 Estate map for Pacific Ocean Estate, Southport, 1915
Estate map for Pacific Ocean Estate, north of Elkhorn Avenue, 1915
Main entrance to the beach
Gold Coast, 2015
Surfers Paradise beach, January 2015

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 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 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.

Heritage listings

Surfers Paradise has a number of heritage-listed buildings, including:


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.

To the East it is bordered by Esplanade along the Ocean. The Westward inland side is defined by the canal system and the Gold Coast Highway.

Surfers Paradise night markets
Night markets in Surfers Paradise

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. They always have people protecting the school leavers.


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
Rainfall mm (inches) 136.6
Avg. 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


Q1 one
Q1 – The world's fifth tallest residential building

The precinct offers high rise accommodations to tourists. The most popular of accommodations including Circle on Cavill, Hilton, Q1 and Soul.


Centro Surfers Paradise Shopping Centre is located in Cavill Avenue and provides a variety of goods. High end retail in the precinct includes Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Prada, Gucci and Escada, all located in Elkhorn Avenue.

Adrenalin Park
Adrenalin Park
Adrenalin Park in 2007.

Adrenalin Park is a small amusement park in Surfers Paradise operated by Funtime. The park features the Sling Shot and Vomatron rides as well as a mini golf course.

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.


Surfers paradise sign
Cavill Mall in Surfers Paradise during Schoolies week.

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, particularly Surfers Paradise, in 1979, and Surfers Paradise is still the largest single venue for the event. 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. 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.


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.


GCLR Set 9 at Cypress Avenue 2014-09-28
G:link trams at Cypress Avenue station

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.

The place is part of the open world environment of the 2016 racing video game Forza Horizon 3.


In the 2011 census, Surfers Paradise recorded a population of 19,668 people, 47.8% female and 52.2% male. The median age of the Surfers Paradise population was 36 years, 1 year below the national median of 37. 49.4% of people living in Surfers Paradise were born in Australia. The other top responses for country of birth were New Zealand 9.1%, England 3.9%, India 3.7%, Japan 2%, China 1%. 67.6% of people spoke only English at home; the next most common languages were 2.2% Japanese, 1.3% Punjabi, 1.2% Mandarin, 1.1% Arabic, 1.1% Italian.

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