The Social Surfers Scene

Thelma Coopers Coffee House 1950
Thelma Cooper's Coffee House and Residence, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, 1950

Energetic, enthusiastic, electric, eclectic! Just some of the words that sum up the social scene that Surfers Paradise was built on.

Since the days of the original Surfers Paradise Hotel, Surfers has been an entertainment playground famous for its world-class nightlife venues, international events and pulsating atmosphere – from sunrise to sundown!

From Bernie Elsey's legendary 'Pyjama Parties' of the late '50s to surfie bonfire parties on the beach, people across Australia and around the world have come to Surfers Paradise to let their hair down and have fun.

An array of clubs, pubs and restaurants also sprang up as quickly as the surrounding highrise, bringing with them a cast of local characters and hoteliers ready to build on the area's reputation for hospitality and good times.

Families have always been part of the mix too. Jim Cavill's Surfers Paradise Zoo was a key attraction up until its closure in the '50s, while the entertainment complex Grundy's, with its beachfront waterslides, was a favourite amongst kids of the '80s.

During this time Surfers Paradise was also stage to a series of thrilling public events including prestigious Surf Life Saving competitions; the Coolangatta Gold and international surfing events; the Boost Mobile Surf Sho and Brothers in Arms.

And each year for more than two decades, the streets of Surfers Paradise lit up as a racetrack for some of the world's most exciting motorsports events – the Gold Coast leg of the global open-wheel IndyCar Series and now the GC600, one of the most popular rounds of Australia's V8 Supercars season.

These big-ticket events transform the precinct into a pulse-pounding race carnival, complete with off-track entertainment and events.

With its inspiring skyline, golden beaches, consistently great weather and year-round buzz, Surfers

Paradise comfortably maintains pole position as the good-times epicentre of the nation.

Metermaid Annette Welch 1965
Anette Welch, Surfers Paradise Meter Maids, April 1965 

1930s

  • Jim Cavill builds the famous Surfers Paradise Zoo

1940s – 1950s

  • The first boutiques open in Surfers Paradise in the 1940s
  • 1954 Margot Kelly's Hibiscus Room Restaurant plants the flag for fine dining in Surfers Paradise and was also one of the first restaurants in Queensland to obtain a liquor license
  • 1957 Bernie Elsey and friends start the famous Pyjama Parties at the Beachcomber and Sea Breeze hotels
  • Performers at these landmark events include Barry Crocker and a young family troupe known today as the Bee Gees

1960s – 1970s

  • Surfers Paradise establishes its reputation as Australia's nightlife and party capital

 1980s – 1990s

  • 1981 The family fun centre Grundy's opens in the complex that now houses Surfers Paradise Centro. Its four beachfront waterslides thrill thousands of youngsters
  • 1991 The inaugural Gold Coast Indy 300 is held in Surfers Paradise. Locals and visitors crowd the grandstands, while the world tunes in to watch

2000s

  • First-class nightlife re surges in Surfers Paradise at chic new venues including The Ruby Tramp, elsewhere, Vanity, Swingin' Safari and Central

Gallery