For almost forty years Meyer’s Ferry provided the only crossing across the Nerang River from Southport to the developing areas of Elston, Burleigh and Coolangatta. The crossing was located at the river end of what is now Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise.
In January 1877 a German immigrant by the name of Johann Meyer bought a parcel of land, about three miles south of Southport, from James Beattie. The Meyer family first grew corn and potatoes on the land before deciding to grow sugar cane and erecting a small mill on the property. The sugar mill only lasted a few short years.
In 1880 Johann started a ferry service across the Nerang River to Elston, which later became known as Surfers Paradise. At first the ferry carried people, horses and carts with the Cobb & Company coach service using the ferry to cross the river on their Southport to Tweed route. The opening of the Brisbane to Southport rail line in 1889, bought an influx of visitors to the area, and the ferry service was in high demand. The Meyer family also provided a horse and buggy service from Southport to Main Beach for the many visitors who came to the Coast.
In 1887, as more travellers came to the area, Johann built a hotel on the Elston side of the river. The Meyer’s Ferry Hotel was located on the riverfront at the bottom of Cavill Avenue and was the only accommodation available in the area at the time. Unfortunately it burned down in 1893, but Johann later built a new hotel that was situated on what is now the corner of the Gold Coast Highway and Cavill Avenue.
After Johann’s death in 1901, the hotel licence lapsed and the building was eventually demolished. No public accommodation was available in the area until the Surfers Paradise Hotel was built by Jim Cavill in 1925.
Meyer’s Ferry continued transporting cars and people across the river until 1925 when the Jubilee Bridge was built linking Southport to Main Beach. Residents appealed the closure of the ferry service and it was reopened for a short while. However, in 1928 it ceased operation completely.
Sources of information and further reading
- Reminisces of Early Southport, Particularly of that part known as Meyer’s Ferry (1947, April 9). South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld. : 1929 – 1954), p. 13.
- Longhurst, Robert (1994). Nerang Shire: A History to 1949. Albert Shire Council, Nerang, Queensland.
- McRobbie, Alexander (1991). Gold Coast Heritage: A Multicultural Triumph. Pan News, Surfers Paradise, Queensland.