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Gold Coast history and heritage

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Southport history

Click to enlarge Chelmsford House guesthouse, circa 1910s. Photographer unknown.

Chelmsford House guesthouse, circa 1910s.
Photographer unknown.

Looking across the Broadwater, circa 1910s. Photographer unknown.

Looking across the Broadwater, circa 1910s.
Photographer unknown.

Southport Railway Station, circa 1900. Photographer unknown.

Southport Railway Station, circa 1900.
Photographer unknown.

Southport is the Gold Coast’s Central Business District (CBD), and has played a pivotal role on the Gold Coast and in South East Queensland for more than a century. It was one of the first coastal resort towns in the region, later becoming the administrative and commercial centre of the Gold Coast.

  1. The first white settler was Richard Gardiner in 1869 when Southport was known as Nerang Creek Heads. The Township of Southport was surveyed in 1874 and named Southport in 1875.
  2. The town was named Southport on account of its position as the most southern possible port of the Queensland Colony and after the English seaside resort of the same name.
  3. Goo-een is the Aboriginal word for Southport.

As early as 1860 a village reserve was proposed opposite the Boat Passage but it would be some time before this village was surveyed.

Meanwhile, many selectors took up farming properties which would later be included in the town.

Richard Gardiner built a home and a wharf near the river end of Queen Street and the Loder Family established a farm beside a salt water creek to the north of this reserve.

In 1875, George Pratten was finally commissioned to survey a township on the Crown Reserve at Nerang Creek Heads.

Sale of land was slow but news of the excellent fishing and accounts of Southport's potential as an idyllic seaside resort spread to the Brisbane community.

An increase in visitors motivated land sales and the construction of holiday accommodation.

By the 1890s, Southport was the favoured seaside destination for the Queensland Governor, Sir Anthony Musgrave and his entourage.

Southport became a fashionable seaside resort. The Southport Town Council encouraged tree planting, various sideshow amusements, the construction of the Southport Pier and picture theatre.

The Southport jetty (later known as the Pier) was originally built for practical reasons.

The main means of contact with Brisbane in the early days was by cutter or steamer. On arrival in the Broadwater, a small boat would row into shore to deliver passengers or supplies.

Around 1880, the local people gathered donations from the community and built a small jetty, extended by 1883 to a length of 800 feet.

Steamers such as the Natone or the President providing a regular service to Brisbane before the railway was built, docked at the pier and visitors could easily walk to the shoreline.

In later years, swimming baths were built, and a kiosk erected. After the railway was linked to Southport, the pier and nearby kiosk and park were enjoyed by weekend railway excursionists, who could promenade upon the jetty or listen to the town band playing or check the catch of a local fisherman.

Southport was one of the earliest centres of the Gold Coast.

Its early dominance, its location facing the Broadwater, providing access by sea combined with its position as the railway terminus from Brisbane, all ensured its role as an administrative and business centre.

Today, The Southport School, St Hilda's, the hospitals, court house and commercial and administrative headquarters reflect these developments.

Southport was declared as a Priority Development Area (PDA) on 4 October 2013 under the Queensland Government's Economic Development Act 2012. The PDA status will remove barriers, boost development opportunity and facilitate the further economic development of the Gold Coast's CBD.

Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Collection.

Sources of information and further reading

Hanlon, W.E., 1934 The Early Settlement of the Logan and Albert Districts

Longhurst, R., Settlement and Development of Queensland's Gold Coast to 1889

Steele, J.G., 1983, Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River, p63

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