The History of Dreamworld on the Gold Coast
Dreamworld is one of Australia’s largest theme parks with over two dozen rides and four roller coasters, and has long been one of the Gold Coast’s main attractions. The park itself is made up of several themed areas as well as special rides, animal exhibits, shows, food outlets and merchandise shops. The following is a brief look at the history of this priceless Australian icon.
Design and construction
The vision for the park came from John Longhurst, who in 1974 put his plan into action by purchasing 85 hectares of land in the Coomera area that would be the grounds of the future Dreamworld. Visitors who are staying in Gold Coast accommodation or at a resort in Surfers Paradise would then have easy access to the park.
Initially, he began personally developing the land, with his first project being the construction of the Murrissipi waterway that would be his signature in the park. Longhurst later joined forces with Ken Lord, a Sydney furniture retailer, whose additional funding helped to move the project along faster. With his input, Longhurst was able to hire designers from Disneyland and Disneyworld to create the overall design of the park, while working with Australian architects that would ensure the park had an Australian feel to it.
The first attractions that would be available at the grand opening on November 15, 1981, included an IMAX theatre, a Baldwin Locomotive, Rocky Hollow Log Ride and the Captain Sturt Paddle-wheeler.
Following the opening of the park, the rest of the 1980s saw a quick succession of new developments. The first was the new themed area called the Country Fair, as well as the most popular attraction: the Thunderbolt Roller Coaster. New rides and games were added such as the swing ride called Zumer, the plane ride called the Red Baron, a go-kart track called Grand Prix and the Australian Koala Theatre. New themed areas include Gum Tree Gully, Koala Country, Gold Rush Country and the Blue Lagoon water park that featured the popular rides Aqualoop Flume Ride, Krakatoa’s Revenge tube ride and the Toboggan Ride.
The first major attraction to be developed in the 1990s was the 10th themed area, Ocean Parade, whose star ride was The Wipeout. Other memorable features include Tiger Island, the Tower of Terror, the Riverwalk restaurant and the Giant Drop. The park also welcomed its first litter of Bengal tiger cubs that were named Sultan, Rama, Taj and Sita. Wildlife educational programs were developed and, by the end of the decade, the park had changed hands, now being owned by the Macquarie Leisure Trust.
In the first year of the new millennium, Koala Country was redeveloped into a four-hectare wildlife sanctuary called the Australian Wildlife Experience. A first for the park, the reality TV program Big Brother commenced broadcasting from Dreamworld studios, and a new theme area called Nick Central opened. Other major attractions built in this decade include the Cyclone — the biggest gravity roller coaster in the Southern Hemisphere — as well as the Claw, the Sunset Safari, the Flowrider and the Hydrocoaster. The first ever Wiggles World also opened up at this time as the park changed hands once again to the Ardent Leisure Group.
Dreamworld continues to grow and expand to this day, with the newest attractions including the Illuminate Light and Laser Spectacular, the Tower of Terror II, the Dreamworld Cinema, the Shockwave, Kid’s World and the BuzzSaw roller coaster.