A major centre for the activities and attractions of the Gold Coast near the mouth of the Nerang River. It functions as a commercial and administrative centre at the northern end of the city of the Gold Coast.

Location: 75 km south of Brisbane. It is situated behind the waterway known as The Broadwater (at the mouth of the Nerang River) which is, in turn, sheltered from the ocean by a lengthy sandy promontory known as The Spit which extends almost to the southern tip of South Stradbroke Island. The small opening between The Spit and Stradbroke forms the opening of The Broadwater which boasts a superb marina, Sea World and the Sheraton Mirage Hotel.

Main Beach and The Spit

At the expanse of sand known as 'Narrow Neck' an artificial reef has been constructed to protect Main Beach from heavy surf. To its north are the historic Main Beach bathing pavilion, the Southport Surf Life Saving Club on Macarthur Parade, then the lengthy narrow promontory known as The Spit. Seaworld Drive extends north all the way along The Spit, past the Sheraton Mirage Hotel and Sea World. On the eastern side of Seaworld Drive is an extensive foreshore greenery that extends all the way along The Spit. Most of it is known as Philip Park, which is crisscrossed by walking paths. There are two parking areas just south of Sea World with nearby barbecue facilities. South of the Sheraton is Hollindale Park, which has more walking tracks, public toilets, public telephones and there are picnic facilities at the southern end of Seaworld Drive. In the north-western corner of The Spit is Doug Jennings Park and, opposite, extending 500 metres out into the ocean, is a jetty beloved of anglers.

There is a marina behind the Sheraton Mirage and another further south which is associated with the Southport Yacht Club, at the southern end of Seaworld Drive. All manner of charter services, cruises and watersports hire services are available at the Mirage Marina. On the northern side of the Mirage comlex is Fisherman's Wharf which offers all manner of food, fashion and entertainment.

The Broadwater

As its name suggests, the Broadwater is a broad body of calm water at the mouth of the Nerang River. it is essentially enclosed between the mainland to the west and, to the east, by The Spit and South Stradbroke Island, with a small opening to the ocean, known as the Gold Coast Seaway which is located between the northern end of The Spit and the southern end of South Stradbroke. Further north the Broadwater's identity is lost as it becomes mixed up with the many tiny sand islands which lie between the mainland and Stradbroke, ultimately leading to Moreton Bay.

Broadwater Parklands on Marine Parade, Southport, is a delightful spot to spend several hours being entertained by just watching if you don't wish to paddle and sit in The Rockpools. The Parklands is well laid out with shade and sunny areas, always very clean and tidy with a lifeguard on duty. There is a cafe and great fish and chip restaurant close by.

Pacific Fair Shopping Centre

One of the largest shopping centres in all of Queensland, the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre has over 250 stores, a 12 screen movie theater and the only crystal photography studio in all of the southern hemisphere. Pacific Fair is located right in the center of Broadbeach and is only a five minute walk from the beach and casino. The Shopping Center can also be accessed by the public transit system and buses conveniently run throughout the day. There are numerous great dining options as well, from casual to fine dining, coffee shops to bakeries, desserts, chocolate boutiques and of course, a food court. This luxurious shopping center is well worth a visit, even if only to enjoy window shopping at some of the best boutiques stores in Australia.

Anzac Park

Just across the road from Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, Anzac Park is a good beachside recreational area particularly suited to families with little children. As well the Anzac Memorial, the park has plenty of seating, toilets, picnic areas and BBQS, a giant trampoline, an enclosed swimming area with a large beach and lifeguards, a water park, playground, jumping pillows and even a wheelchair swing. It's a popular place for a walk with interesting paths and great views, but also well used for special community events. It has large grassed playing fields with room to play cricket, football or any other ballgames. The beautiful few of the river on one side contrasts the skyline of Surfers Paradise on the other.

Chinatown Street Markets

Chinatown Street Markets come alive with Asian culture, children s activities and entertainment. The Markets offer a blend of cuisines from across Asia. Operating from 5pm to 9pm, held on the first Saturday of every month until November when the Markets break for Christmas and recommence in February. Davenpot Street and Young Street, Southport.

Scottish Prince Dive Site

The Scottish Prince, 800 metres off the Gold Coast's Southport Spit, features the wreck of a three steel-masted, 64 metre iron barque ship. The Scottish Prince sank as it was sailing from Glasgow, Scotland to Brisbane with a cargo of whiskey, mousetraps, linen and other assorted cargo, with only the hull of the ship remaining. These days, the Scottish Prince is covered in soft corals and sponges, making it a haven for crayfish, shovelnose rays, brown-banded catsharks and wobbegong sharks, and other tropical fish. There isn t much access to the inside of the wreck, however a variety of marine life will pop their heads out to say hello. The Scottish Prince is protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwreck Act, so make sure you take nothing but photos and memories.

The Seaway Dive Site

The Seaway is the most popular shore diving site in Queensland, and is found at the mouth of the Nerang River at Southport. There are several different areas that can be dived at The Seaway, with the Short Pipe and Sand Pipe area the most popular, and the easiest to access. In depths to 15 metres divers will be amazed at the variety and amount of fish life found at this site  schools of trevally, mulloway, gropers, moray eels, turtles, stingrays, wobbegongs, stonefish, scorpionfish and a host of tropical fish species. A feature of The Seaway are all the unusual species that can be seen, including sea horses, cuttlefish, pineapplefish, nudibranchs, dragonets, anglerfish, velvetfish and pipefish.

Sea World

Sea World, facing The Broadwater, is a huge 25-hectare marine park (the largest of its kind in Australia). It offers a combination of rides, shows and attractions, including such hair-raising machines as the Three Loop Corkscrew and Lasseters Lost Mine. Unlike Wet'n'Wild (see subsequent entry), which is basically participation-oriented, Sea World is essentially a range of shows and rides. The crowds are attracted by the spectacular waterskiing displays and the dolphins, sea lions and penguins which perform for the crowds. So successful has Sea World become that there is now a specific hotel - the Nara Sea World - attached to the complex. It offers free entry with accommodation under certain circumstances.

Brief history

The spit area was a regularly used fishing ground by the local Aborigines. Coomera was a site for initiation ceremonies. James Cook passed by but did not come ashore in 1770. Explorer John Oxley passed through the area in 1799 and again in 1802 but whites did not come to live in the area until the 1840s with the arrival of timber getters. The first permanent white settler arrived in 1869 to farm cotton and sugar cane. Within five years a township was established, though it was not gazetted until 1918.

A ferry service that allowed passage over the Nerang River helped establish the tiny settlement as a Cobb & Co. staging post on the Sydney to Brisbane road. By 1889, when the railway arrived, the port for the local agricultural area was becoming increasingly developed as a seaside resort. The area continued to grow and be developed under the name 'Gold Coast' (1959). The canal-based residential development and high rise accommodation has caused environmental concerns in recent years.

Origin of name: when the present townsite was surveyed in 1874, it was prophetically named Southport by state politician and newspaperman Thomas Blackett Stephens after a resort in Lancashire, England.

Runaway Bay

Southport Rockpools