Have you seen the old Surfers Paradise?

This wonderful historic photographic series dotted along the stretch of Surfers Paradise beachfront is like a treasure map to the Gold Coast’s most glamorous era.

They probably sound easy to spot – huge historic photographs of the Gold Coast of yore, played out on billboards and street huts along Surfers Paradise’s Esplanade. And yet if you aren’t specifically looking for them, they are curiously easy to miss. Perhaps it’s because they’re competing with the magnificent beachfront behind them, or the masses of tourists and surf locals in front of them. Perhaps it’s because they are so… unexpected.

Vintage Gold Coast: Historic photos of Surfers Paradise
“1958” billboard in Surfers Paradise.

“This… you’ll say is the life! Relaxing carefree days and fun-filled evenings – the unmatched atmosphere of gaiety and glamour.”

Two meter maids rise above the Esplanade like guardian phoenixes on high. A joyous lifesaver runs towards the waves in competition. A bikini model promotes the Stafford Tog Shop. Holidayers lounge by the pool at the Beachcomber Motel.

These wonderful historic photos are dotted along the stretch of Surfers Paradise beach like a treasure map to the Gold Coast’s most glamorous era; when the glitter strip of the 1950s and 1960s was a chic, international destination, with a laid-back vibe but cosmopolitan style. I spotted eight exhibition boards and three high billboards in total. Did I miss any?

 

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Next stop: 1965, Surfers Paradise – The Place to Holiday. Original picture by Gold Coast City Council.

It’s Warm! It’s Friendly! Gay, informal and fabulously exciting – there are no strangers in this holiday paradise. Luxury on a shoestring or lavish living out of this world…This is Australia’s premier holiday resort.”

Vintage Gold Coast: Historic photos of Surfers Paradise
1965. Surfers Paradise – The Place to Holiday.

 

orner of Elkhorn Ave: Stafford Tog Shop billboard. Paula Stafford introduced the bikini to the Gold Coast in the 1950s at her iconic Tog Shop.
Corner of Elkhorn Ave: Stafford Tog Shop billboard. Paula Stafford introduced the bikini to the Gold Coast in the 1950s at her iconic Tog Shop.

 

Dressing room pit stop: Beachside facilities in Surfers Paradise, circa 1960. Original photo by Tom Mills.
Dressing room pit stop: Beachside facilities in Surfers Paradise, circa 1960. Original photo by Tom Mills.

A snapshot of the beachside facilities in Surfers Paradise in the early 60s – when there was change from a shilling.”

Further along: 1964, Longboard Locals. Original photo and words by Danny Church.
Further along: 1964, Longboard Locals. Original photo and words by Danny Church.

 

Vintage Gold Coast: historic photos of Surfers Paradise

 

It’s a far cry from the Goldie of the 80s and 90s, which saw the once-glamorous Surfers Paradise become inundated with tacky souvenir shops and over-development, but the new millenium has shown us something different: a newfound appreciation for nostalgia.

That means more than just Surfers Paradise of course – it’s Coolangatta, it’s Nobby’s Beach, it’s Mermaid, Miami, Main Beach, Broadbeach, Burleigh, Kirra, and everything in between. I love reading everyone’s comments and seeing old images on the extremely popular photo-sharing site Have You Seen The Old Gold Coast?. And it’s awesome watching local commerce keep up with this memories movement – from the rise of retro coffee houses like Elk Espresso, to burger shack Betty’s Burgers, to hotels like the fabulously retro QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise or the refurbished La Costa Motel in Coolangatta. People are proud to remember.

1947. Surf's up. Photo and words: Bill Hookway.
1947. Surf’s up. Photo and words: Bill Hookway.

“The boys travelled down from West End (Brisbane) every weekend, sleeping in the clubs, just so they could hang out at the beach.”

1930s poster: Nippers. Surf Lifesavers in the making.
1930s poster: Nippers. Surf Lifesavers in the making.

 

Next up: 1967, Beach Erosion, original photo by Ray Middleton
Next up: 1967, Beach Erosion, original photo by Ray Middleton

“Raging high tides and pounding seas were threatening the Esplanade during the worst erosion in Surfers Paradise’s history.”

Vintage Gold Coast: meter maids.

Next time you’re in town, be sure to take a walk down memory lane to see this pictorial history poster exhibition on the Surfers Paradise boulevard in person. (Hint: walking is the much better option here. It is difficult to park along the Esplanade and besides, when you slam on the breaks at each stop and block traffic to take photos of the TOILETS, which is where most of these photos are located, people start to give you strange looks…)

It’s a lovely touch by GCCC to re-insert some of the old school charm back into the modern day madness that has become Surfers Paradise. Just don’t forget to pay homage to the meter maids on your way out.

 

*Images: MC for Cinemazzi.

 

Have you spotted this picture walk in Surfers Paradise? Let me know in the comments below if I missed anything!

the author

Marie C

Feature writer by trade, movie maniac by night, Marie-Christine grew up watching films from the projection booth at the local drive-in and now she's lucky enough to write about them.

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