The Gold Coast is a coastal city in southeastern Queensland on the east coast of Australia. The city is 94 km (58 mi) south of the state capital Brisbane. It is the second most populous city in the state, the sixth most populous city in the country, and the most populous non-capital city in Australia. The Gold Coast has the largest cross-state metropolitan area population in Australia, due to the inclusion of Tweed Heads, New South Wales in its metropolitan area. The Gold Coast's metropolitan area converges with that of Greater Brisbane, forming part of an urban conurbation of over 3 million people.
While the origin of the city's name is debatable, the name "Gold Coast" was bestowed upon the city by real estate investors. The first settlement in what is now South East Queensland was as a penal colony at Redcliffe. The Gold Coast region remained largely uninhabited by Europeans until 1823 when explorer John Oxley landed at Mermaid Beach. The hinterland's red cedar supply attracted people to the area in the mid-19th century. Later in 1875, Southport was surveyed and established and grew a reputation as a secluded holiday destination for upper class Brisbane residents.
The Gold Coast region grew significantly after the establishment of the Surfers Paradise hotel in the late 1920s. The area boomed in the 1980s as a leading tourist destination and in 1994, the Gold Coast City local government area was expanded to encompass the majority of the Gold Coast's metropolitan area, becoming the second most populous local government area in Australia after the City of Brisbane. The Gold Coast is today a major tourist destination with its sunny subtropical climate, surfing beaches, canal and waterway systems, its high-rise dominated skyline, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland, making tourism one of its most significant industries. Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Lieutenant James Cook became the first European to note the region when he sailed along the coast on 16 May 1770 in the HM Bark Endeavour. Captain Matthew Flinders, an explorer charting the continent north from the colony of New South Wales, sailed past in 1802. Escaped convicts from the Moreton Bay penal settlement hid in the region. The region remained largely uninhabited by Europeans until 1823 when explorer John Oxley landed at Mermaid Beach, which was named after seeing a cutter named Mermaid. The hinterland's red cedar supply attracted people to the area in the mid-19th century. The western suburb of Nerang was surveyed and established as a base for the industry. Later in 1875, Southport was surveyed and established and quickly grew a reputation as a secluded holiday destination for the upper class Brisbane residents.
In 1925, tourism to the area grew rapidly when Jim Cavill established the Surfers Paradise Hotel, which transformed to Hard Rock cafe and Paradise Towers a resort apartment complex. The population grew steadily to support the tourism industry and by the 1940s, real estate speculators and journalists were referring to the area as the "Gold Coast." The true origin of the name is still debatable. The name was officially applied to the area in 1958, when the local government area covering Southport and Coolangatta was renamed "Gold Coast", although the urban area and the local government area have never had the same boundaries. The building boom was greatly enhanced when building restrictions were removed in 1952. During the 1970s, real-estate developers gained a dominant role in local politics, and high-rises began to dominate the area now known as Surfers Paradise and later in 1981 the airport was established.