Gold Coast locals and visitors alike are set to take to the water in a whole new way as the city launches its first public ferry service.
The City of Gold Coast Council has teamed up with local business Ferry I to deliver a five-stop, two-vessel, hop-on-hop-off (Hopo) ferry network that will run 16 hours a day. A two-year trial period kicks off December 8.
For Ferry I general manager Anthony Ardern, the addition of the Hopo ferry service to the Gold Coast's extensive network of waterways made perfect sense.
"The Gold Coast actually has more than 10 times the waterways of Venice and Prague combined," he says.
"And yet 80-90 per cent of Gold Coast locals don't know how good their waterways are."
With 15 years' experience in the water transport business, including management of Sea World Cruises, Wyndham Cruises and the Whales in Paradise whale watching cruises, Ferry I was the obvious choice to manage Hopo's introduction.
Ardern says providing the Gold Coast with a ferry system was a task almost entirely devoid of challenges.
"We had the infrastructure already, and the city has enough tourists to make it financially viable."
The five initial stops along the Hopo route were identified by Ferry I and Council from a list of 15. They include key tourist destinations such as Sea World, Broadwater Parklands, Marina Mirage, Home of the Arts, and Appel Park.
"The water is such a part of the Gold Coast identity, and tourists will find the hop-on-hop-off service easy and inexpensive to navigate," Ardern says.
"Surfers Paradise and Marina Mirage will be popular, and it'll be a great new way to get to the Mayor's Christmas Carols at Parklands."
Village Roadshow Theme Parks COO Bikash Randhawa says a ferry trip will enhance any trip to Sea World.
"Excitingly, we've worked closely with the Hopo team on a night-time service for our Carnivale events in January," he says.
"It's such a unique opportunity to experience the beautiful Gold Coast waterways."
Tourists won't be the only ones to benefit from the ferries; Ardern says commuter services will form a strong part of the service.
"By getting commuters out on the water, traffic congestion will be greatly reduced, particularly on Waterways Drive," he says.
"Early in the morning and late into the afternoon, those roads are packed. We believe the ferries will alleviate that, and we'll exist harmoniously alongside the existing public transport network."
Hopo has long been a passion project for Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who says the service is part of the city's 2031 Transport Strategy.
"Travelling by water is a great way to help reduce traffic on our roads, and to enjoy the Gold Coast's beautiful waterways," he says.
"It's a win-win."
Pricing has been designed with convenience and affordability in mind, Ardern says.
"A $25 all-day pass will let you hop on or off as much as you like over a single day, or one-off tickets can be bought for just $4."
The Gold Coast is the fastest-growing city in Queensland. According to Ardern, with that maturity have come expansions like Hopo.
"The Gold Coast waterways are perfect for a ferry service," he says.
"We want people to get out there and give it a go."
This feature has been produced in collaboration with City of Gold Coast
Australian Associated Press