Reflecting on history: how the Gold Coast has evolved

A single map cannot tell a whole story, but each interprets a particular aspect of history; of ecological and geographic patterns, of land use and development.

Together, maps and historical environmental research confirm that the Gold Coast shoreline is a relatively recent formation. It is the result of an evolutionary process of tidal and weather patterns over tens of thousands of years.

Research into Australia’s sea-levels 20 thousand years ago has found that the Queensland coastline was once around 125m lower than present levels. It was also located much further east[1].

Fast forward more than ten thousand years and variations in the ocean’s movements and increased volumes from ice-melt created a sea level rise that submerged the current Gold Coast area by approximately 1.5 to 2 metres (during a period approximately 6,500-7,500 years ago)[1].

In the last 2,000 years, research shows that sea levels have again fallen[1], leading to the formation of the Gold Coast as it is known today.

This evolutionary process has resulted in many changes to the Gold Coast coastline and in particular, to the areas around The Spit, North and South Stradbroke Islands.

A map (1888) of part of the original Parish of Stanley is written to be one of the last maps to show Stradbroke as one land mass[2], preceding the break in the islands that occurred around 1896 which led to the creation of Jumpinpin Bar.

Image: 1888 Map of the Parish of Stanley from the John Sands Atlas, extracted from the Stradbroke Island Management Organisation 1984, Focus on Stradbroke Boolarong Publications 1984; 92-93 [2]
A second map (circa 1842) also shows Stradbroke’s formation as one land mass (click here to view map)[3]. This map also denotes River Arrowsmith and River Barrow (when you zoom in), which are now known as the Coomera River and the Nerang River respectively.

In 2012, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines produced a map that highlights the Queensland portion of the Gold Coast Native Title Group’s claim on the 1912 Moreton 2 Mile Map Sheet (click here to view map)[4].

It also shows where the Jumpinpin breach enabled water from the Logan, Pimpama and Coomera river systems to drain out more directly to the sea, which has over time altered the form within the Broadwater. What has resulted in this area is the rapid erosion of South Stradbroke Island and the rapid northward extension of the Southport Spit[5].

So the Spit, as it is known today, is actually a very recent formation, now with a very uniquely identifiable built landscape known as the Glitter Strip.

Feature Image: Queensland portion of the Gold Coast Native Title Group’s claim on the 1912 Moreton 2 Mile Map Sheet. Source: Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, 2012[4].


[1] Lewis, S. E., Sloss, C. R., Murray-Wallace, C. V., Woodroffe, C. D. & Smithers, S. G. (2013). Post-glacial sea-level changes around the Australian margin: a review, Quaternary Science Reviews, 74 115-138. retrieved <>

[2] Stradbroke Island Management Organisation. (1984). Focus on Stradbroke; New Information on North Stradbroke Island and surrounding areas 1974-1984,  Boolarong Publications; pp92-93

[3] Baker, W. (1843-1846). Bakers Australian county atlas: map of Moreton Bay, National Library of Australia, retrieved <>

[4] Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. (2012). Project map showing current boundary of Gold Coast Native Title Group’s claim overplayed on the Moreton 2 Mile Map Sheet 1 1912. retrieved 2016 <>

[5] Whitlow, R. (2005). A geomorphological outline of the Spit and the southern Broadwater, Gold Coast, Queensland: their environmental history & modifications, Gold Coast Combined Chambers of Commerce, retrieved <>

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