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Gold Coast history and heritage

Discover how the City of Gold Coast is working to conserve and celebrate the rich and unique heritage of the Gold Coast.

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Highway heritage of the Gold Coast - stories from the 1930s to the 1970s

Mermaid Beach cottage circa 1940s

Almost everyone that came to the Gold Coast in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s came with a sense of adventure about coming to a place that was different. What attracted them to the Gold Coast and why did they put down roots here?

Broadbeach Hotel May 1967

Surfers Paradise and its neighbouring beachside settlements grew slowly following the austerity of the War years. Once building restrictions were lifted in 1952, investors from the southern states and Queensland responded to the emerging subdivision potential. Increased levels of car ownership and the availability of paid holidays enabled families to drive further.

Despite bad roads, they knew they would find a motel, an apartment or van park waiting for them. This was a place where bikinis, frowned upon on the beaches in New South Wales and Victoria, were acceptable as street wear. In 1958, the evocative name of the Gold Coast was coined and adopted by the local council. Life was relaxed and sophisticated and comparable to the French Riviera and Miami, or so the tourist brochures claimed, and visitors responded to these well organised campaigns.

Aquabelles, Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens circa 1960s

The Gold Coast Highway linked the seaside villages enabling people to orient themselves to the real focus of the Gold Coast - the beach. The Coolangatta experience was different to the ‘showy’ development occurring at Surfers. It was based on a formula from the 1930s, which offered ‘hokey pokey’ dance routines on the beach and parties organised by the guesthouses for their young, single guests.

Several digital stories also revealed working lives played out in motels and tourist ventures and at the iconic venues of the post-war period such as The Chevron, Lennons Hotel, the Beachcomber Motel and the Surfers Paradise Hotel. Through their stories and treasured items we are able to gain an insight into why they came and why they stayed. The digital stories can be viewed on YouTube and combine film footage, music, photos, sound effects and the interviewee's voice.

You can also listen to audio oral histories and read transcripts taken from interviews held with some colourful characters of the Gold Coast.

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