There’s a charming story of a local entrepreneur whose hotel “Surfers Paradise” opened in 1925 and became the engine of local business success along the shore southeast of Brisbane. The owner of the hotel lobbied for several years to have the area renamed Surfers Paradise, and in 1933, the town of that name was born.

Fast forward 86 years. We’ve discovered that opals are a tourist product and local jewelry stores in Australia rarely stock more than a few inexpensive items. When I looked for stores that specialized in opals, the nearest places to us were tourist sites in Surfers Paradise. With the weather drizzly, we went on an expedition.

What a shock. We were stunned, amazed, and flabbergasted. Surfers Paradise is a megalopolis of high-rise hotels and condos. There is nowhere in Surfers Paradise that isn’t built to the sky or under construction. This isn’t a low key surfer’s settlement like Byron Bay, this is Nassau, Waikiki, and Miami Beach. It’s a popular place for beach weekends, shopping, dining, and clubbing. Bachelor and hen parties visit–we followed a group of young men wearing paper crowns and carrying a blow-up doll.

Surfing championships are held at this beach and others along the coast, making a lively summer season. We visited on a gray day in the off season and had to imagine the streets full of vacationers.

We had a nice lunch at Seascape restaurant overlooking the beach and did some opal shopping after that. We returned to our house in New Brighton, looked out over the estuary, and listened to the birds, happy to be living in a much quieter and more rural part of the region.