History

Understanding the Gold Coast

THE GOLD Coast is a popular holiday destination and dynamic business environment – a city associated with fun, sun, surf, sand and high rises. A city physically defined by its beaches, rivers and canals, and by its sub-tropical green mountain hinterland.

The city today has a vibrant mix of tourists and locals with over 500,000 permanent residents and nearly 12 million visitors per year.

Often described as a teenager that is finding its feet, the Gold Coast is maturing, strengthening its place as the sixth largest city in Australia and looking forward to its future and the opportunity to shine brightly on the world stage when the city hosts the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The following links offer information and inspiration about the heritage and character of the Gold Coast.

See our timeline

A brief history of the city

When Captain Cook sailed past in 1770, the area was a stretch of long open beach, low lying coastal heath, sandy ridge lines, pockets of coastal rainforest and, further inland, an even denser rainforest backdrop.

Historical record provides an understanding of the population of the local Aboriginal community before the arrival of Europeans, their hunter-gatherer society, ceremonial activities, language and myths and legends unique to the area.

Surveyors first visited the region in the 1840s and shortly afterwards the area opened up for cedar logging, sugar cane plantations and cotton farming. Town settlements started with Nerang and Southport just after the mid-1800s with some holiday settlement beginning along the coastal strip. The main form of transport from Brisbane at the time was by Cobb and Co coach or boat and later by train to Southport. In 1887 Southport was the most populated town in the area with approximately 1000 people.

In 1925, Jim Cavill built the Surfers Paradise Hotel in Elston, which officially became known as Surfers Paradise in 1933. But it was not until the early 1950s, as Surfers Paradise became a popular holiday centre for World War II returned servicemen and families, that the city we recognise today really began to take shape. Tall building development started in 1959 with Kinkabool at 10 stories and has since grown decade by decade to create the distinctive skyline with one of the world’s tallest residential towers Q1.

For greater insight into the history of the Gold Coast, see the Gold Coast Urban Heritage and Character Study.

A brief history of Evandale

A cultural heritage assessment by Jabree Ltd provides insight to the pre-European contact history and indigenous cultural values of the Evandale site. This report is available to download here

The land was selected in 1860 as farmland for cotton, and then sugar cane, but later converted to dairying and other agricultural uses.

In the 1960s the Gold Coast Council purchased the farmland of Evandale for the development of an arts and civic centre. The administration centre opened in 1976 and the cultural centre, which is today known as The Arts Centre Gold Coast, opened in 1986.

The 16.9 hectare Evandale site is currently home to The Arts Centre Gold Coast, Council’s Civic Chambers and associated administrative buildings and popular parklands.

Evandale Evolution

Evandale evolution

The first civic building at Evandale – Council’s Surfers Paradise Administration Centre – was officially opened on 11 September, 1976. With its distinctive ‘beehive’ foyer, draped with tiers of greenery, the building housed Council’s administration, the city’s Council Chambers and also hosted a wide array of functions, exhibitions, ceremonies and events. The first Arts Centre opened on 6 December, 1986.

Like many administration centres in growing cities, the original building has struggled to keep pace with the city’s phenomenal growth over the past four decades.

With Council now meeting in the new Chambers Building directly across the road, and the city’s administrative workforce relocated off-site, the original administration building will be demolished early in 2016 to make way for Stage 1 of Evandale’s next chapter – delivery of the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct.

Acknowledging that the administration building has been of civic and personal significance to many, the building’s place in our city’s development has been captured through:

  • archival capture of building plans and a full photographic record
  • adaptation of suitable fittings and equipment
  • a digital Book of Stories titled Evolving Evandale - Farmland to the Future, featuring the genesis and fascinating working life of the city’s first Evandale Civic Building – a window on the development of the Gold Coast itself.
  • and, working in partnership with The Arts Centre Gold Coast, a documentary, THE TRANSFORMATION (see video below) to provide a permanent, engaging historic account of the building and its role in Evandale’s evolution.
  • Exhumation of the time capsule buried in the building’s foyer on 11 September 1976 and future exhibition of suitable contents.

1860-2018 Precinct Timeline

1860 English immigrant EB Price selected a 1196-acre parcel of land... Read more

English immigrant EB Price selected a 1196-acre parcel of land known as Evandale. He used the land for cotton growing.

1870 A sugar plantation was established in the area... Read more

A sugar plantation was established in the area by Julius Holland in partnership with Alfred Holland, Charles Morris and William Miskin. This plantation took in 5.5 miles of riverfront and covered a large area west of the Nerang River including the Evandale site. Shortly after the Bundall Sugar Plantation and sugar mill sadly failed.

1877 A German immigrant called Johann Meyer acquired land... Read more

A German immigrant called Johann Meyer acquired land near Evandale to establish a short-lived sugar plantation and mill. Meyer quickly found as many would in the future - there was more money to be made in providing accommodation and services to visitors and travellers. In 1887 he built a private ferry service over the Nerang River that connected Evandale to the beach side where it landed at Surfers Paradise at the bottom of Cavill Avenue. This was the famous Meyer’s Ferry. (Source: www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/thegoldcoast/surfers-paradise-history-2764.html )

1880 Charles James settled at Bundall to grow sugar cane... Read more

Charles James settled at Bundall to grow sugar cane on a property bounded by the Nerang River, Crombie Avenue and Bundall Road according to an article published in the Gold Coast Bulletin on 21 May 1977, titled ‘Farming days at Bundall’. After the demise of sugar growing, the land was used exclusively for dairy and farming . The country was swampy and low-lying and prone to flooding, with the only high ground being an area known as Sandy Ridge, which is now Elliott Street.

1902 Southport was established as not only a resort town, but the business centre of the South Coast Read more

Southport was established as not only a resort town, but the business centre of the South Coast. Hotels sprang up to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. The population on the Gold Coast at the time was about 1230.

1920 Jim Cavill acquired 25 acres (10 hectares) of land in an area known as Elston Read more

In parallel to Evandale being developed, Brisbane hotelier, Jim Cavill acquired 25 acres (10 hectares) of land in an area known as Elston (renamed Surfers Paradise in 1933).

(Source: www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/thegoldcoast/surfers-paradise-history-2764.html)

1957 A 106-acre parcel of land was sold to a Melbourne investor, Mr Efrim Zola... Read more

A 106-acre parcel of land was sold to a Melbourne investor, Mr Efrim Zola, for 90,600 pounds. At this time the price was claimed to be an Australian record for undeveloped farmland. (Source: Gold Coast Chronicle 1/2/1978). Council discussed the proposed development of the lower reaches of the Nerang River. The matter was brought before Council following receipt of a letter from Cardno and Davies (engineers) on behalf of Mr E Zola and his business associates (Source: South Coast Bulletin 2/10/1957). A photograph of the proposed development was published in the Sunday Mail on 13 October 1957.

1959 Officially the Gold Coast Read more

South Coast Town Council officially adopted the name Gold Coast Town Council. It was proclaimed a City in 1959.

1968 Council identified the need for a cultural and civic precinct... Read more

Council identified the need for a cultural and civic precinct. The councillors agreed to purchase the Evandale cane farm site with a view to establishing a city heart.

Public pressure began for the construction of an Arts and Civic Centre. Subsequent Councils discussed and agonized over the merits of such an ambitious undertaking.

The population on the Gold Coast at the time was about 80,000.

1969 Incorporating a Cultural Centre Read more

The City of Gold Coast supported in principle the building of an Arts and Civic Centre. It was also decided to incorporate a Cultural Centre into the overall design of a Gold Coast Civic Centre.

1971 Evandale became the home of the city’s administration... Read more

The future location of the Council administration was discussed. Several sites were considered and subject to extensive public debate. It was on 12 February 1971, that Council decided the position and features of Evandale made it well suited to become the home of the city’s administration. The population on the Gold Coast was about 100,000

1976 The Gold Coast City Council administration centre was officially opened... Read more

The the City of Gold Coast administration centre was officially opened on 11 September 1976. It was considered to be one of the finest civic centre constructions in Australia. The intention of the foyer was a sunny atrium to reflect the image of the Gold Coast – sunny, tropical, exciting and a great place to live, work and play.

1977 Drawings and estimates for a cultural complex were commissioned... Read more

Drawings and estimates for a cultural complex were commissioned by the City of Gold Coast. For almost a decade Councillors fought over and debated the construction of the cultural complex. The issue was extremely controversial - it cost one Mayor his job, and the rate paying public were divided over whether or not the complex was more important than ‘rates, roads and rubbish’. An architectural proposal was fully prepared.

1978 Gold Coast City Council decided to proceed with stage one... Read more

The City of Gold Coast decided to proceed with stage one of the project for the benefit of the community, and that the Community Centre should be funded by the sale of council land which had been acquired for this purpose.

1981 A Cultural Centre Committee was established to raise funds... Read more

A Cultural Centre Committee was established to raise funds and promote interest in a proposed Cultural Centre.

On 26 January 1981 Mayor Keith Hunt laid the foundation stone for the arts centre by selling council owned freehold property near Evandale to raise money for the centre.

1982 The Cultural Centre Committee becomes the Community Arts Centre Association... Read more

The Cultural Centre Committee becomes the Community Arts Centre Association to help promote the project.

1985 Council let a tender for the construction... Read more

Finally, 17 years after the concept was first proposed, the City of Gold Coast let a tender for the construction of a Cultural Centre.

1986 The Gold Coast Community and Entertainment Centre was officially opened... Read more

After almost 20 years of controversy and political in-fighting, the Gold Coast Community and Entertainment Centre was officially opened by the Governor of Queensland, Sir Walter Campbell, on Saturday 6 December 1986. It was officially named the Keith Hunt Community, Entertainment and Arts Centre, also known as ‘The Centre’, and later ‘The Arts Centre’ The project cost more than $15 million to construct.

The Community Arts Centre Association transforms into the Friends of the Gold Coast Arts Centre. The Friends raise $120,000 to fund the fit out and equipment for the new Arts Centre.

1993 The Gold Coast Arts Centre became a separate entity to Council... Read more

The Gold Coast Arts Centre became a separate entity to Council.

1996 The Arts Café was added... Read more

The Arts Café was added to the Arts Centre facilities.

2004 A new cinema... Read more

A new cinema, two function rooms and an administration area was added to the Gold Coast Arts Centre.

2008 Residents tell Council it wants more cultural spaces... Read more

Through the Bold Future community survey, residents tell Council it wants more cultural spaces as part of future city planning.

This includes innovative spaces to interact, preservation of our cultural and indigenous heritage, exposure to cultural and creative pursuits and support for our home-grown creative industries.

This feedback is reflected in Council’s Corporate Plan 2009 – 2014. (source: http://www.ourcityoursay.com.au/the-history).

2009 The Evandale Precinct Taskforce was formed... Read more

In February 2009, the Evandale Precinct Taskforce was formed to drive the development of a draft masterplan. This draft masterplan illustrated the potential for the Evandale site as a cultural precinct, incorporating a range of new cultural facilities to complement the existing parklands and lake.

2009 Mayor Ron Clarke releases his 'legacy projects' for the city... Read more

In February 2009, the Evandale Precinct Taskforce was formed to drive the development of a draft masterplan. This draft masterplan illustrated the potential for the Evandale site as a cultural precinct, incorporating a range of new cultural facilities to complement the existing parklands and lake.

2010 The Centre was renamed The Arts Centre Gold Coast, refurbished, rebranded and relaunched... Read more

The Centre was renamed The Arts Centre Gold Coast, refurbished, rebranded and relaunched.

The community is surveyed to discover what facilities of a cultural precinct would be most important to them. As well as identifying the key points of what is needed in the design, the survey also reiterated the overwhelming demand for cultural growth with more than 90% of respondents supporting the establishment of a cultural precinct at Evandale.

A draft masterplan is developed.

On 17 September 2010, Council endorses the draft masterplan and gives the green light for the Taskforce to execute a comprehensive city wide community consultation and engagement plan.

2012 Mayor Tom Tate announced an international design competition... Read more

In December 2012 newly elected Mayor Tom Tate championed the Cultural Precinct as a major project. He announced that an International Design Competition would be held in 2013 to attract top design teams from around the world to submit innovative and exciting design solutions for the site.

2013 Green Bridge Survey Read more

May 2013

A survey of Chevron Island residents identified Mawarra Street as the preferred location of a greenbridge connection between the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct and Chevron Island.

Download PDF

2013 Launch of the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct International Design Competition Read more

March launch of the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct International Design Competition. Winner to be announced in November 2013.

2014 Planning to establish the City’s future heart of arts, cultural and civic activity Read more

Planning to establish the City’s future heart of arts, cultural and civic activity.

2018 4-15 April 2018 – Showcase the City to the world with the 2018 Commonwealth Games Read more

4-15 April 2018 – Showcase the City to the world with the 2018 Commonwealth Games.