Main Beach, a suburb of the Gold Coast, is located on the eastern side of the Nerang River estuary (the Broadwater), its name a reference to its role as the principal surf beach in the vicinity of the area's first major town settlement, Southport. Main Beach extends northwards along The Spit, a relatively recent sand formation formed following the creation of a sea entrance at the Jumpinpin Bar in 1890, and which since the 1970s has become the location of the Sea World theme park and two luxury resort hotels.
Main Beach was made a public purposes reserve for the benefit of Southport town. Visitors were originally ferried across the Nerang River to Main Beach, the principal facility being Meyer's Hotel (1887) at the corner of Cavill Avenue and the Pacific Highway. The Southport railway (1889) brought Brisbane working lads and their female companions, generally to the consternation of Sabbaterian Southport residents. Main Beach, however, remained a largely undeveloped place, edged by extensive swamp along the river. The better land was found around Cavill Avenue where Jim Cavill built his Surfers Paradise Hotel (1925).
The year 1925 also brought the opening of the Jubilee Bridge over the Nerang, increasing visitor numbers with motor tourists able to patronise Surfers Paradise. Some of the activity spilled into Main Beach, with a bathing pavilion opened in 1934. During the late 1930s land reclamation next to the Nerang River was carried out by sand pumping, a forerunner of the canal developments that began in the 1950s. A major Main Beach reclamation project, the Rankine Estate, was successfully marketed in 1957.
In 1951 the Broadwater became a base for a Sydney to Gold Coast flying boat service, and the Southport Yacht Club was also located at Main Beach, subdivisions for new residences in the early 1950s carrying a brick-only caveat. The resulting residential enclave at Main Beach was protected from through traffic when the Jubilee Bridge was replaced by the Gold Coast Highway Bridge in 1966. Commercialism was initially concentrated at Surfers Paradise, however, Keith Williams' 'Ski Land', established on a 50 acre lease at The Spit in 1971, began a chain of events that would result in the development of one of the Gold Coast's significant theme park attractions. Ski Land became Sea World, acquired the nearby Marineland porpoise park in 1972, and by 1981 was drawing more than 500,000 visitors per annum. Later in the 1980s the Sheraton Mirage international hotel was opened on the ocean side of The Spit, and the Sea World Nara Resort hotel on the Broadwater side was opened soon after in 1988.
In the 1980s there was intense high-rise development in Surfers Paradise, ultimately spilling into Main Beach, particularly around the Tedder Avenue café precinct.
Main Beach residents and visitors have the options of shopping in Tedder Avenue or at Southport, Surfers Paradise or at the Marina Mirage Shopping Resort (1988) which consists of 80 specialty shops. Open space includes a foreshore reserve on the Broadwater, ocean beach and about three-quarters of The Spit that remains as public park. A marina at the south of the spit, facing the Broadwater, is home to the Southport Yacht Club. About 200 metres north of the Yacht club there is the heritage-listed Humphrey's boat shed and slipway (1955), a reminder of early Gold Coast boating and recreation. House and flat rents at Main Beach were a median of $313 a week in 2001, the highest of any place on the Gold Coast. (Hope Island was next at $238.)
The census populations of Main Beach-Broadwater have been:
(including 32% tourists and visitors)
The median age of residents was 48 years, compared with 37 for Australia.
Alexander McRobbie, The real Surfers Paradise!: from seaside village to international resort, Brisbane, Pan News, 1988