Sunday Sessions at Fisherman’s Wharf was always popular in the late 1980s. (Supplied: Robert Edmonson)
Times may change, but the Gold Coast has always been a place that families call home as well as a holiday destination.
And as cost-of-living pressures continue to bite into household budgets, curious local resident Michael Spaniak wondered if the Gold Coast was now more expensive and less family friendly than 30 years ago?
A total of 225,773 people were recorded at the 1991 census, making the city the second largest urban centre in Queensland after Brisbane (1,145,537).
In 2018, the Gold Coast population was estimated to be 606,774.
Skating rinks like Miami’s Rollerdome were a popular family attraction in the 1980s. (Supplied: Biggary Carr)
Karen Wright, 64, is a descendent of some of the city’s pioneering families and has lived there all her life.
She said she remembered feeling safe walking home on the streets of Surfers Paradise after a big night out.
“I think it was more family-orientated then than it is now.”
There were roller-skating rinks in Southport and Coolangatta aimed at a younger crowd.
On weekends, shops only opened on Saturday mornings, making more time for family activities.
“Sunday was always a family day,” Ms Wright said.
“You either went to the beach, the mountains, Currumbin (Sanctuary) or things like that.”
In 1976, Ms Wright and her husband bought their first home, a three-bedroom brick house in Southport, at a cost of $28,000.
They managed to pay off their mortgage in 13 years, although interest rates ranged from 14 to 17 per cent.
“It’s a lot harder nowadays to live and pay for houses,” she said.
“It is a higher cost of living now.”
Cost of living
A search of the Gold Coast Bulletin from December 1988 shines some light on the costs of living at the time.
A fully landscaped house and land was on offer in Nerang for $93,900; nowadays you’d be lucky to find one in the same area under $400,000.
A four-bedroom home with in-built pool and garage on Hooker Boulevard in Broadbeach Waters was up for rent at $300 a week.
Fast forward to 2019, and a home with the same amenities on nearby Darnay Road was up for $775 a week.
A giant seafood platter across from the beach at the long-gone Currumbin Hotel was $7.50; the Currumbin Vikings Surf Club seafood platter for two currently costs $75.
Bundaberg Rum (700ml) was $14.49 and a dozen long necks of XXXX Bitter would set you back $17.95.
Today, the rum is more than twice as much and the beer is over three times that price.
The average annual inflation rate since 1988 has been 2.8 per cent, according to the Reserve Bank, with a basket of goods and services valued at $100 rising in cost to $227.62 in 2018.
A family-friendly destination
Data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics shows a generally upward trend in flight passenger numbers over the years.
There were 981,916 domestic passengers into Coolangatta Airport in 1990, a time when there were no international flights.
Eighteen years later, and 5,398,985 domestic and 1,080,098 international passengers arrived at Gold Coast Airport.
Coolangatta Airport saw almost one million visitors in 1990. (Supplied: Queensland Airports Limited)
The local tourism industry has its sights firmly set on families, and over Easter this year a $2.5 million campaign was launched involving theme parks and the State Government.
Destination Gold Coast chief executive Annaliese Battista said it resulted in most hotels at or near capacity.
“Our bread and butter [is] families,” she said.
“We’ve unashamedly gone after [families] and reminded them of the fantastic experiences that we have to offer.
“Particularly with our theme parks and we’ve definitely hit the right notes.”
A family-focused campaign saw a huge increase in tourists over Easter. (File photo) (AAP: Dan Peled)
The campaign was so successful that it was being extended with an additional $1 million in funds.
“Marketing is not an exact science, but [there are times] you can prove a direct link between what you’re doing and results, as we can with the family campaign,” Ms Battista said.
“We want to give the industry on the Gold Coast some more heads in beds … and some more bums on seats.”
The 2019 Austrade National Visitor Survey showed 90 per cent of Gold Coast visitors were domestic, with around 60 per cent of those driving to the coast and spending record amounts of money.
“Essentially, people staying on the Gold Coast spent $3.5 billion, which is a 19.7 per cent increase year on year,” Ms Battista said.
“That’s just fantastic for the Gold Coast tourism industry and the economy in general.”
Home of theme parks
The Gold Coast is renowned for its theme parks — Sea World opened in 1971, with Dreamworld and Grundy’s Entertainment Centre opening a decade later.
In 1991, the iconic Magic Mountain high above Nobby Beach closed after almost 30 years in operation.
But that year also saw the opening of Warner Brothers Movie World in the growing suburb of Helensvale, and the Indy 300 kicked off on the streets of Surfers Paradise.
Flooding in 2005 destroyed entry cost and visitor records for Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which had opened in 1947.
The sanctuary’s wildlife hospital opened in 1989 with the hiring of its first veterinarian — it is now one of the busiest animal hospitals in the world, boasting five vets, more than 290 staff and 450 volunteers.
Dr Alex Griffiths founded the sanctuary after he began feeding the local lorikeets to keep them off his prized flowers.
It became an attraction for local families and over the decades has grown to incorporate animal encounters and education about native flora and fauna.
Alex Griffiths founded the sanctuary in part as a way to stop lorikeets eating his prized flower garden. (Supplied)
Sanctuary spokeswoman Jayme Cutress said this family focus continued to help it grow.
“It’s the support of local families that allows us to continually keep improving the sanctuary and becoming more family-friendly,” she said.
“We couldn’t do it without them.”
Who asked the question?
Michael Spaniak is curious to know how the cost of living has changed over the years. (Supplied: Facebook)
Jimboomba local Michael Spaniak was inspired to ask his question off the back of another submission.
A commenter had wondered whether the Gold Coast was now just geared towards extracting money from visitors.
Mr Spaniak turned the query into a question we could investigate: “Is the Gold Coast more expensive & less family-friendly than 30 years ago?”
While you’re here … are you feeling curious?