The Gold Coast is a coastal city in southeastern Queensland on the east coast of Australia. The city is 94 kilometres (58 mi) south of the state capital Brisbane. It is the second most populous city in the state, the sixth most populous city in the country, and the most populous non-capital city in Australia. The Gold Coast has the largest cross-state metropolitan area population in Australia, due to the inclusion of Tweed Heads, New South Wales in its metropolitan area. The Gold Coast's metropolitan area converges with that of Greater Brisbane, forming part of an urban conurbation of over 3 million people.
While the origin of the city's name is debatable, the name "Gold Coast" was bestowed upon the city by real estate investors. The first settlement in what is now South East Queensland was as a penal colony at Redcliffe. The Gold Coast region remained largely uninhabited by Europeans until 1823 when explorer John Oxley landed at Mermaid Beach. The hinterland's red cedar supply attracted people to the area in the mid-19th century. Later in 1875,Southport was surveyed and established and grew a reputation as a secluded holiday destination for upper class Brisbane residents.
The Gold Coast region grew significantly after the establishment of the Surfers Paradise hotel in the late 1920s. The area boomed in the 1980s as a leading tourist destination and in 1994, the Gold Coast City local government area was expanded to encompass the majority of the Gold Coast's metropolitan area, becoming the second most populous local government area in Australia after the City of Brisbane. The Gold Coast is today a major tourist destination with its sunny subtropical climate, surfing beaches, canal and waterway systems, its high-rise dominated skyline, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland, making tourism one of its most significant industries. Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The city skyline viewed from the Gold Coast Seaway
Gold Coast City stretches from Beenleigh and Russell Island to the border with New South Wales (NSW) approximately 56 km (35 mi) south, and extends from the coast west to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in World Heritage listed Lamington National Park.
The southernmost town of Gold Coast City, Coolangatta, includes Point Danger and its lighthouse. Coolangatta is a twin city with Tweed Heads located directly across the NSW border. At , this is the most easterly point on the Queensland mainland (Point Lookout on the offshore island of North Stradbroke is slightly further east). From Coolangatta, approximately forty kilometres of holiday resorts and surfing beaches stretch north to the suburb of Main Beach, and then further on Stradbroke Island. The suburbs of Southport and Surfers Paradise form Gold Coast's commercial centre. The major river in the area is the Nerang River. Much of the land between the coastal strip and the hinterland was once wetlands drained by this river, but the swamps have been converted into man-made waterways (over 260 kilometres (160 mi) in length or over 9 times the length of the canals of Venice, Italy) and artificial islands covered in upmarket homes. The heavily developed coastal strip sits on a narrow barrier sandbar between these waterways and the sea.
To the west, the city borders a part of the Great Dividing Range commonly referred to as the Gold Coast hinterland. A 206 km2 (80 sq mi) section of the mountain range is protected by Lamington National Park and has been listed as a World Heritage area in recognition of its "outstanding geological features displayed around shield volcanic craters and the high number of rare and threatened rainforest species".The area attracts bushwalkers and day-trippers.
Gold Coast includes suburbs, localities, towns and rural districts.
Around 10 million tourists visit the Gold Coast area every year: of 849,114 international visitors, 3,468,000 domestic overnight visitors and 5,366,000 daytrip visitors. Tourism is the region’s biggest industry, directly contributing more than $4.4 billion into the city economy every year and directly accounting for one in four jobs in the city. There are approximately 65,000 bed spaces, 60 kilometres (37 mi) of beach, 600 kilometres (370 mi) of canal, 100,000 hectares of nature reserve, 500 restaurants, 40 golf courses and 5 major theme parks in the city. There have been various prospects and proposals raised for even more theme parks than the current five.
Gold Coast Airport provides connection across Australia with airlines including Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tiger Airways. International services from Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia also land at Gold Coast Airport with airlines including Flyscoot, Jetstar, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Airasia X. Brisbane Airport is less than one hour from the centre of Gold Coast, and direct trains operate.
Tourism is Gold Coast City's main industry, generating a total of $2.5 billion in revenue per annum.] Gold Coast is the most popular tourist destination in Queensland. It is Australia's 5th most visited destination in Australia by international tourists. It has over 13,000 available guest rooms contributing over $335 million to the local economy each year. Accommodation options available range from backpacker hostels to five star resorts and hotels. The most common style of accommodation is three and four star self-contained apartments. Tourist attractions include surf beaches, and theme parks including Dreamworld, Sea World, Wet'n'Wild Water World, Warner Bros. Movie World, WhiteWater World,Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, David Fleay Wildlife Park, Australian Outback Spectacular and Paradise Country.
Since the opening of what was then the world's highest residential tower in 2005 (it is now the fifth highest), the Q1 building has been a destination for tourists and locals alike. It is the second highest public vantage point in the southern hemisphere after the Eureka Tower in Melbourne. The observation deck at level 77 is the highest of its kind in Queensland and offers views in all directions, from Brisbane to Byron Bay. It towers over the Surfers Paradise skyline, with the observation deck 230 metres (755 feet) high, and the spire extending nearly another hundred metres up. In total, the Q1 is 322.5 metres (1058 feet) high.
Another famous tourist attraction are the Surfers Paradise Meter Maids, instituted in 1965 to put a positive spin on new parking regulations. To avoid tickets being issued for expired parking, the Meter Maids dispense coins into the meter and leave a calling card under the windscreen wiper of the vehicle. The Maids are still a part of the Surfers Paradise culture but the scheme is now run by private enterprise.
** The Gold Coast has been debating a controversial cruise ship terminal.
** Gold Coast Rapid Transit System a light rail rapid transit system running from the currently under construction Gold Coast University Hospital to Southport via Smith, Wardoo, Queen and Nerang Streets and then to Broadbeach along the Gold Coast Highway where the first stage of the project terminates. It is likely that a second stage from the Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale station will now be constructed due to the city's successful bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
** The existing heavy rail Gold Coast line will be extended to Coolangatta .