Heritage Gold Coast, Part 5: Main Beach + The Spit

Springtime has hit so let’s head towards the coastline to thaw out. Main Beach offers the best of all worlds, segueing from high rises to bush to sea in a couple of blocks. This narrowing of the coast is formed by water more so than land. The Nerang River estuary opens into the Broadwater and out to infamously high ocean swells.

Looking out at those burly ocean waves from Main Beach, I try to imagine it is 1902. I visualise the two guys in a boat who began to lay 4000 miles of continuous telegraph cable on the Pacific seabed. The Southport Cable Hut, part of the Pacific Cable Station, connected Australia to North America until 1962. An unremarkable brick block seems to understate how remarkable this telecommunications infrastructure was. The tactile remains remind us of our humble yet courageous forgings.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Brisbane elite had become enamoured with South Coast beachside resorts. From Southport, visitors ferried across to the narrow long dune they dubbed ‘Main Beach’. This surge in popularity of beachgoing pursuits saw an alarming increase of drownings and fatalities. Surf lifesaving branches formed to monitor beach goers. A timber-clad clubhouse was built in 1927 but destroyed by cyclonic winds in 1936. Soon thereafter, the current Southport Surf Lifesaving Club was built to match the design and aesthetic of the neighbouring bathing pavilion.
Early beach babes would use rudimentary bathing sheds to get changed into neck-to-knees. In 1934, these were replaced with the Main Beach Pavilion, replete with change rooms, showers, lavatories, first aid room and even a dance hall. It is state heritage listed as an example of the development of the Gold Coast as a holiday destination and our local recreational activities.

In 1926 the Jubilee Bridge was built from Southport to cross the Nerang River, opening Main Beach allotments for sale. The vast majority of early constructions were holiday houses and guest houses. Although high rises and resorts now fill the streets of Main Beach, its amenity hasn’t really changed. A short walk from the upmarket dining and shopping precinct of Tedder Avenue is a parallel universe. There is timelessness in the big sky, postcard-perfect beaches and seemingly untouched coastal reserve.

The sheltered bay of the Broadwater was, and still is, a boating paradise. Humphrey’s Boat Shed was an unofficial institution for local and visiting boaties. It was a drawcard for private boaties, who still gather today on the sparkling Broadwater. Built in 1955, this shed was the most northern building on The Spit. Sadly, heritage listing couldn’t protect it from fire in 2005.
In 1896, high seas broke Stradbroke Island into two. Over time, longshore drift from South Stradbroke formed The Spit. Revegetation, retaining walls and other infrastructure were put in place.

In 1983, Doug Jennings, Member for Southport stated:

“…the Southport Spit, with its long surf and still water beach frontages, sand dunes, boating facilities, exhibitions, restaurants and parks, is an area where traditional family can have an outing and enjoy themselves away from the hurly burly and business tourist areas and this is the way it must be maintained.”

For decades, this unique stretch of dunes has been lovingly revegetated and maintained by volunteers. In 1999 the Main Beach Progress Association was successful in lobbying the state government to create a walking track along The Spit.

In 2002 Cr Baildon declared the 3.5km Federation Walk project had transformed The Spit into one of the city’s most popular environmental attractions. It is set in approximately 93ha of coastal dunes, home to littoral rainforest, native grasslands and pocket wetlands. Federation Walk is not only environmentally friendly but easily accessible, catering in its design for families, disabled and visitors with special needs.

Federation Walk Coastal Reserve is listed as a key area in the City of Gold Coast’s policy framework for sustainable nature-based recreation. The city recognises that, “significant environmental values need to be preserved so that the City’s growing population of residents and visitors will be able to access outstanding locations for nature-based recreation for generations to come.”

As a result, the growing Gold Coast is blessed with its own ‘Central Park’. Main Beach is a true convergence of the green, gold and glitter.

Join Friends of Federation Walk for their next tree planting session 8-9:30am on 25 Sep. Register at Eventbrite.

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