History and Development of Sea World
Following its origins as one of the Gold Coast's pioneering tourist attractions, Sea World has developed into Australia's leading marine park with a truly international standing.
1958 - 1971: The Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens
Sea World had its beginnings when local businessman Keith Williams pursued a vision to combine his love of water skiing with a Gold Coast tourism attraction.
He bought a parcel of riverfront land at Carrara and here he established the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens in 1958, presenting water ski shows that combined comedy, aqua ballet and action.
Many elements of these shows have survived and are incorporated into today’s action-packed Ski Challenge spectacular, which continues to thrill millions of spectators.
Even in its early stages, the Ski Gardens attracted national and international attention - in 1959, the Ski Gardens hosted the Australian Water Ski Championships, and in 1965 became the venue for the Ninth World Water Ski Titles.
1971: The establishment of Sea World
In 1971, it was decided to move the Ski Gardens closer to the heart of Surfers Paradise to 64 hectares of crown land on the Spit which was leased in 1970.
Establishing the new attraction was a huge undertaking with major dredging works to create the new ski lake.
The final ski show was held at Carrara and three days later the show opened on the Spit at Sea World incorporating Ski Land of Australia.
1972: Sea World gains identity as Gold Coast icon
On the present site of the Sheraton Mirage Hotel, Marineland had already been established, with dolphin and sea lion displays its major draw card and competitor.
Keith Williams introduced dolphins to the park to be competitive and established a purpose-built marine stadium.
In 1972, the name was changed to Sea World to reflect the park's new attractions which included dolphins, marine displays, a replica of the Endeavour, a swimming pool, licensed restaurant and gift shop; all designed to allow families to enjoy a whole day in the park.
As attendances grew, the next decade saw the addition of the Dockside Tavern, Customs House Gift Shop, Ice Cream Parlour and Railway Station for Sea World's two-thirds scale locomotive.
1976: Marineland purchased
Keith Williams bought Marineland and transferred the park's marine life displays to Sea World.
1978: Flume ride adds a new element of excitement
In 1978, the first of Sea World's major rides opened - the Viking's Revenge Flume Ride and Castle.
The Flume Ride was followed by the Wild Wave Rollercoaster with the Pirate Ship and Carousel opening in 1981.
1982: Corkscrew captures the public's imagination
In 1982, the Corkscrew Rollercoaster, was opened by the Premier, 72-year-old Joh Bjelke Petersen, who took the inaugural ride.
Following the opening of the Corkscrew Rollercoaster, attendances surged with a 20 per cent increase over the previous year.
1984: Sea World sold to Pivot Leisure
In November 1984, Keith Williams decided to concentrate his energies on developing a resort on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays and sold Sea World to Pivot Leisure, headed by entrepreneur, Peter Laurance.
Under Peter Laurance's direction, Sea World continued to develop into a truly international tourist destination. The floating of the theme park on the Australian Stock Market saw the establishment of the publicly listed Sea World Property Trust.
1986: Float provides capital for expansion
With the capital raised from the float, Peter Laurance set about expanding Sea World with a program to add new attractions throughout the park.
Under the program, Sea World grew from 10 acres to 60 acres. In 1986, Sea World also opened the highest priced single attraction of any Australian theme park, Australia's first monorail system, with a two kilometre circuit around the perimeter of the park.
Sea World became firmly entrenched as one of the nation's tourism leaders, winning the Australian Tourism Awards and Queensland Tourism Awards.
1987: Record attendance and new foundation demonstrates commitment to the environment
Sea World's annual attendances broke the one-million mark with 1,000,116 visitors for the year.
This was followed by the creation of the Water Park and Lassiter's Lost Mine ride, an underground adventure ride featuring animatronic miners and state of the art electronic effects.
Sea World's commitment to the conservation of the marine environment led to the establishment of the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation (originally the Neptune Oceanic Foundation) in 1987. The Foundation funds independent marine research projects benefiting the conservation of marine species.
1988: Tourism boom and Sea World Nara Resort opens
The tourism boom created by Brisbane’s Expo 88, helped Sea World shatter the previous year's attendance record with 1.199 million visitors to the park. Expo also helped in opening up new international markets to Sea World. The burgeoning Japanese market was successfully tapped.
Sea World Nara Resort, a joint venture between Sea World Property Trust and the Nara Group of hotels from Japan, was officially opened in December 1988.
1991: Warner Bros. & Village Roadshow add new attraction to Gold Coast
The Sea World Property Trust expanded its tourism investment with the opening of Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet'n'Wild Water World and the Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios, in a joint venture with the American company Warner Bros. and Australian entertainment company Village Roadshow.
The Sea World Property Trust still retained 100 per cent ownership of Sea World, 50 per cent of Sea World Nara Resort and 33.3 per cent of Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet'n'Wild Water World and the Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios.
1992: Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow renew direction
In July 1992, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow took control of Sea World when the companies acquired Peter Laurance's 66 per cent stake in Sea World Property Trust.
The close association with Warner Bros. Movie World, as well as Wet'n'Wild Water World and Sea World Nara Resort, does to this day provide opportunities to combine the attractions and resources in powerful destinational marketing campaigns.
1994: Bermuda Triangle opens and contributes to record attendances
In 1994, Sea World opened its most ambitious investment to date - Bermuda Triangle.
The unique ride which replaced Lassiter's Lost Mine bristled with hi-tech special effects to create an amazing adventure experience.
Sea World also opened the 3D theatre Sea Dream.
1995: Record attendance
With a national campaign to launch Bermuda Triangle, the overwhelming public response was a major contributing factor to the record attendances for the year.
1996: Expansion of Dolphin Facilities
In 1996, Sea World's ongoing commitment to assisting injured and stranded animals, resulted in the development of a Veterinary and Rehabilitation Centre. Through this specially designed centre Sea World has been very successful in the rehabilitation of marine animals.
December 1996 brought the opening of Dolphin Cove, one of the world's most environmentally sensitive, naturally formed dolphin habitats with four main lagoon pools containing 30 million litres of water.
1998: New Pirates 3D Adventure opens
In 1998 Sea World continued with its philosophy of providing new attractions for its guests by opening a new movie in the 3D theatre - Pirates. The film is transformed into a multi-dimensional experience by using a series of special effects that enables the audience to feel part of the adventure.
1999: Cartoon Network Cartoon Beach opens and Sea World welcomes Cartoon Network characters
In 1999, Sea World focused on providing a new family attraction. With the help of one of the world’s leading children’s pay TV channels, Cartoon Network, the theme park opened another new attraction - Cartoon Network Cartoon Beach.
Cartoon Network Cartoon Beach is an exciting, colourful and interactive adventure playground for children, including 5 children’s rides and an interactive fountain, all incorporating a cartoon theme.
2000: Kanook and Ping Ping wow crowds at Polar Bear Shores
Sea World unveiled its new attraction, Polar Bear Shores on December 26, 2000. This naturalistic exhibit became home to Australia’s only Polar bears “Kanook”, a female bear (from Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, Arizona) and “Ping Ping” , a male bear (from Beijing Zoo, Beijing, China) who were the first to move in.
Three years of planning and research finally paid off with guests being able to observe Kanook and Ping Ping in this near natural habitat at Sea World, and learn more about these incredible marine animals.
Polar Bear Shores is a naturalistic and stimulating Polar bear environment utilising the latest in Polar bear keeping technology and drawing on international research and knowledge. It recreates an Arctic summer tundra environment, and will extend educational frontiers and public awareness about these massive marine mammals, including the conservation issues surrounding them.
2001: Polar bear cubs Lia and Lutik arrive at Sea World
Sea World publicly introduced one year old Polar bear cubs, Lia and her brother Lutik to the Australian public on 26th December 2001.
The cubs travelled from Leningradski Zoo Park in St Petersburg Russia, to their new home at Polar Bear Shores and compliment Sea World’s existing bears, Ping Ping and Kanook.
The Polar bear cubs, Lia (female) and Lutik (male) are 2nd generation zoo born bears, which means both their parents and their parents were born in zoos. Leningradski Zoo Park boasts 100 successful Polar bear births.
The two bears had been living in their enclosure at Leningradski Zoo since their birth in December 2000 and entered a quarantine period at the end of October in preparation for their journey to Sea World.
The young bears produce a contrast in behaviour from the older bears, allowing guests the opportunity to appreciate and understand all stages of their life cycle, which will act as a valuable educational tool and extend awareness about the conservation issues surrounding these magnificent marine mammals.
2002: Takeover of Sea World Property Trust
In 2002, all units held by the public in Sea World Property Trust were compulsorily acquired resulting in the Trust now being privately held by companies associated with Warner Bros. Inc. and Village Roadshow Limited. The Trust is no longer listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
2003: Animated heroes star in new 4D Environmental Film at Sea World
From the chill of the Arctic...To the depths of the ocean...And the thrill of the jungle...
In September 2003, Sea World opened a new 4D experience replacing the Pirates 3D Adventure.
With the immersive effect of giant screen 4-D, this state-of-the-art digital animation takes guests on a captivating journey covering three of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: global warming, ocean habitat destruction, and deforestation.
“Planet SOS” is presented by Sea World Marine Rescue, representing the Park’s ongoing research, rescue and rehabilitation programs.
2004: New animals surface at Sea World
Shark Bay is the world’s largest man-made lagoon system for sharks and houses some of the most awe-inspiring of the species in an innovative exhibit which opened in April 2004 and wins best NEW TOURISM DEVELOPMENT at the Queensland Tourism Awards. The exhibit also plays a major role in contributing to the understanding and appreciation of the Shark.
Sadly, Kanook, the Grand Duchess of Polar Bear Shores, passed away June 2004, leaving staff devastated by her loss, especially keepers who worked closely with her. Kanook was diagnosed with kidney failure in April 2003 and was been treated with intermittent steroids which kept her in good general health. Just like people and other animals, the condition is not rare and an exact cause is unknown.
Ping Ping was returned to Beijing Zoo, China, in November 2004 where he was reunited with his mother and other companion bears. Hudson and Nelson arrived at Sea World in November 2004 at the age of nine months to join young bears Lia and Lutik at Polar Bear Shores. They had been orphaned in the Canadian province of Quebec and had been taken in temporarily by Quebec Zoo who embarked on a world wide search for the most suitable home for the young cubs.
Pig our rehabilitated dugong is displayed to the public for the first time in his own exhibit “Dugong Discovery”.
2005: Waterski WipeOut & Plunge
Stepping back in time Sea World ski show has a face lift with the new ‘Waterski WipeOut' show. Sea World waterpark inherits “The Plunge” waterslide from Wet'n'Wild Water World.
2006: Wuru, The Shak & H2O: Just Add Water
A baby dugong was brought to Sea World in January after being found on a beach at Emu Park near Rockhampton and collected by a QPWS Ranger and an elder of the local Darumbal community who suggested the name “Wuru”, meaning “young child”. “Wuru” was moved into Dugong Discovery in July and was then introduced to “Pig” our resident dugong later in the year.
Two new television children's series begin filming at Sea world - 'The Shak' a funky and fresh new children's 'adventuretainment' on channel Nine and H2O: Just Add Water on channel Ten. "Lutik" our eldest male bear is transferred to Alaska Zoo to join an eight year old female bear "Alpun" as part of the international breeding program.
Sea World is home for a limited time of the Sea World Eye - an impressive 60m high giant observation wheel.
2007: Imagine Dolphin Show, Sesame Street Beach, Fish Detectives Seal Show, Dugongs relocated
Sea World’s ‘Imagine’ combines entertainment, education and an environmental focus to delight guests This dynamic new show will give guests the opportunity to learn all about the beautiful Sea World dolphins while witnessing their amazing agility and grace as they interact with their trainers at Dolphin Cove, the largest sandy bottom lagoon ever built for dolphins.
Sea World’s resident dugongs, ‘Pig’ and ‘Wuru’ were relocated to a multi-million dollar exhibit at the Sydney Aquarium.
Seaworld opened Australia’s very first Sesame Street attraction including newly themed rides such as Bert and Ernie’s Big Dive; Oscars’s Sweep the Beach; Elmo’s Sea Safari; Big Bird Bouncer; Zoe’s Sub Splash; and The Cookie Monster Cup Carousel. Guests also experienced a brand new live stage show Bert and Ernie’s Island Holiday! Featuring a full cast of dancing and singing Sesame Street characters.
Seaworld launched new seal show Fish Detectives seeing the return of characters ‘Buddy’ and ‘Clawde’ in a new comedic adventure. Featuring feats of strength and agility from the seals, guests marvelled as the clever seals solve an environmental crime.
2008: Jet Rescue
The opening of Jet Rescue which is a hydraulics powered rollercoaster themed around an exciting marine rescue. Riders join a thrilling quest, reaching speeds of 70km/h and pulling 2.5Gs. Riders climb aboard their very own Jetski and zoom around the amazing track, flying and twisting past pristine rock pools, giving guests an opportunity to join one of Sea World’s famous marine rescues and return a rescue hero.
2009: Ray Reef, Sea Viper, Pirates Unleashed
Seaworld opened its newest marine exhibit Ray Reef, an interactive educational exhibit based around one of the world’s most misunderstood marine creature – Sting Rays. The Ray Reef lagoon includes over 100 Rays of a variety of species, showcasing their graceful ability to manoeuvre underwater as well as allowing visitors to touch and observe the Rays in a truly interactive exhibit.
Seaworld re-themed the hugely popular Corkscrew rollercoaster into the new and improved Sea Viper, where riders hang on to the edge of their seats with exciting new low profile carriages.
Seaworld introduces a new show in the Seaworld Lake entitled Pirates Unleashed. A fun filled live action adventure following two rival crews in search of treasure, featuring impressive acts of physical endurance, acrobatics and precision cutlass play.
2010: Castaway Bay, Penguin Encounter
Seaworld officially launched its brand new interactive adventure playground. An Australian first, the Battle Boats ride features pirate themed boats, each armed with eight water cannon with kids able to spray fellow Battle Boats passengers as well as unsuspecting parents. The Sky Fortress is a huge fort like attraction (standing 6 metres off the ground) featuring five fun filled levels of rope bridges, tunnels, slides, games and puzzles.
Seaworld opened its’ $12M Penguin Encounter exhibit, a slice of Antarctica with up to 3 tonne of snow created daily, plus icy rock formations and a crystal clear pool for the penguins to explore. Penguin Encounter is home to the world’s second largest penguin species, the King penguins as well as the agile Gentoo penguin.
2011: Jet Stunt Extreme and the introduction of Nickelodeon
Seaworld launched a new show ‘Jet Stunt Extreme’ which included aerial flips and jumps during a high energy live performance twice a day at Sea World’s Lake. The show includes dynamic Jet Ski stunt sequences, starring some of the industry’s top competitors.
Seaworld announced details of the world’s first Spongebob Squarepants Parade. The multimillion dollar parade being a large-scale attraction for fans of all ages and was developed exclusively for Seaworld by the creative team behind Spongebob Sqaurepants.
Seaworld launched live stage show, Dora’s Best Friends Adventure featuring Nick Jr.’s Dora the Explorer in a musical show.
Seaworld Resort and Water Park joined forces with Nickelodeon to bring an amazing new Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer Aquatic Adventure Zone to the Resort. Features included three bright and colourful water-play areas themed around Spongebob Squarepants characters, a Dora the Explorer interactive sculpture which includes special character voice-overs offering guests a truly unique play experience. Other highlights of the Zone being a spectacular dancing water display, a giant spray bucket and interactive water sprays.