In September 1965 Woolworths Pty. Ltd. put forward a proposal to the Gold Coast City Council to build a drive-in shopping centre at the end of Queen Street, Southport. The plans for the £1 million Sundale Shopping Centre were eventually passed and on 14 July 1967 and the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that the Southport Hotel, which occupied the site, was about to be demolished.
The twelve acre shopping centre complex took two years to construct and included parking spaces for 7,000 cars.
The shopping centre included escalators, lifts and stairways which provided access to three levels of shopping, entertainment and other amenities.
In addition to the options within the centre, the top level, known as the Gallery Level, provided panoramic views of the Nerang River, Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Ocean.
Sundale was a focal point for many residents and visitors to the Gold Coast. Its modern design, ongoing entertainments and displays on the centre stage and huge sculptures suspended from the ceiling encouraged people to spend time moving through the complex. The Christmas Carols held in the centre on 21 December 1969 attracted a crowd of 8,000 people.
Prior to the opening of Sundale, the Gold Coast Bridge spanning the Nerang River had been built to replace the deteriorating Jubilee Bridge. The new bridge was officially opened on 16 December 1966 by Sir William Mansfield and, after the opening of the shopping centre, provided easy access to shoppers from all areas of the Gold Coast.
Such was the connection people felt with Sundale and its prominence in the landscape, that the nearby Gold Coast Bridge soon became connected not with the river, its builders, officials or even the city after which it was named, but with the adjacent shopping centre. Long after Sundale ceased to operate, the Gold Coast Bridge is still frequently referred to as the Sundale Bridge.
By 1990 Sundale’s position in the retail world was over taken by other shopping centres such as Pacific Fair in Broadbeach and the nearby Australia Fair, formerly Scarborough Fair. In 1989 Sundale was placed on the market for $50 million. It was bought for $11.1 million in 1995 and subsequently sold for $54 million in 2002.
Sundale was demolished in 2003 to make way for several apartment towers and other homes. Following the end of its time as a shopping centre and prior to its demolition, the basement carpark of Sundale was used for other purposes including a second hand market and a fruit and vegetable store.
Sources of information and further reading
- “New Shopping Centre Opens Tomorrow.” The Gold Coast Bulletin, (Southport, Qld.), 26 Mar 1969, p. 26.
- “New Dawn for Southport.” The Gold Coast Bulletin, (Southport, Qld.), 15 Jan 2003, p. 7.
- Elliott, John. Southport – Surfers Paradise: An illustrated history to commemorate the Centenary of the Southport State School. Sourhport: Gold Coast and Hinterland Historical Society Museum, 1980.
- Galton, Barry. The Gold Coast Bulletin: a history of a regional newspaper (1885-1985). Southport: Gold Coast Publications, 1985.
- Longhurst, Robert. Southport: Images of Yesteryear 1880-1955. Surfers Paradise: Gold Coast City Council, 1994.
- McRobbie, Alexander. Gold Coast Heritage: a multicultural triumph. Surfers Paradise: Pan News, 1996.