Dreamworld History

In 1974, John Longhurst bought 85 hectares of land to build his dream. With a few attractions and a lot of heart, Dreamworld opened to the public on December 15, 1981.

More than 30 years on, Dreamworld has developed immersive visitor experiences through product and customer initiatives tailored for domestic and international guests and developed new and innovative learning experiences for education tourism.  Dreamworld provides cutting edge options and incentives for business and conference delegates and has been successful in leveraging national and international brand associations with leading entertainment partners including Big Brother, Dreamworks and The Wiggles.

Dreamworld is a responsible member of the community implementing leading environmental and conservation initiatives for a sustainable tourism future and contributes to the local community and culture through participation, sponsorship, sourcing suppliers and supporting charitable organisations for animals and people.

In 2006, Dreamworld opened a brand new water ride park. WhiteWater World is the most advanced water ride park in the world, a $60 million investment packed with water-powered wow and the only water park in the world boasting all four of the hottest waterslides on the planet. Detailed below is a snapshot of the significant events and milestones Dreamworld and now WhiteWater World have experienced.

The Dream of Dreamworld

The site that Dreamworld now occupies once belonged to John and Sarah Williamson, an English cattle raising family who in 1874 decided to name their house Hollywood Cottage, and thus placing this name on a hardwood beam, which was then placed above their front door. Their original cottage still stands intact on Dreamworld grounds, as part of Gold Rush Country, where the descendants of the Williamson’s stayed on until 1989.

Ninety-five years later John Longhurst, on a flight between Hawaii and Japan, envisioned what would later become Dreamworld. Longhurst was a man from a simple background, having begun his work life as a truck operator and mechanic, later being a successful lawn mower manufacture, which then lead to successfully graduating as a builder and boat maker.

After purchasing 85 hectares of land in the Coomera area, Longhurst then brought a second hand bulldozer, and had to be taught how to drive it. For a period of two years, Longhurst worked a twelve-hour day, gouging out 800 meters of waterway, 30 meters wide and 3 meters deep; it was later filled with water and called the Murrissipi. This would be his signature upon the opening of his kingdom.

Ken Lord, a Sydney furniture retailer, later combined forces with Longhurst, and successively began to develop the site. Designers from Disneyland and Disneyworld were employed to manufacture the overall design of the park, which was further elaborated and finished by Australian architects, by using photographs of early Australian pioneer buildings. No expense was spared in the creation of stage one, so management were in agreement that every section of Dreamworld such as buildings, grounds and attractions would be of the highest quality possible.

Next came the need to find attractions, and with the idea of including the Imax theatre, Longhurst became very excited as he recalled the first time he sat in an Imax theatre to see “To Fly”. This film was later used to launch IMAX Theatre at Dreamworld.

At a very high cost, Longhurst later purchased a vintage Baldwin steam locomotive, where it proudly ran a three-kilometre track around the Park. The Baldwin locomotive was built at the turn of the century, and was used during the First World War in France. 

Following the old-fashioned idea, Longhurst then purchased fourteen replicas 1911T Model Fords at the modest price of $5,000 each.

To satisfy all age groups, two more attractions were introduced to the Park: The Rocky Hollow Log Ride and several animatronic characters in the Australian Koala Theatre. This was anticipated by Longhurst to be major drawcards to the Park.

Another attraction that was closet to Longhurst heart was the building of the captain Sturt Paddlewheeler, as two years were spent on the development and advertising this site.

Business History

Bruce Jenkins’ Dreamco purchased Dreamworld from its original owner in 1989. Due to Dreamco’s financial trouble in 1990, Ernst & Young, Receivers and Managers were appointed by the Mortgagee, IOOF Friendly Society, to take control.  From 1991/92 the new restructure management team, with much hard work managed to refocus its marketing activities. In doing so, Dreamworld managed to increase visitors to the park by 51%, which are now around 1.8 million per year.

Even though Dreamworld was in receivership, as a non-aligned, independent theme park, they invested over $40 million on marketing and capital throughout the park, within the five years from 1991/92. In 1994, Dreamworld successfully ended its liquidation under a Scheme of Arrangements coordinated by Ernst & Young.

In 1995 the Park was sold to Singaporean Businessman and investor Mr Kua Phek Long. The Foreign Investment Review Board granted final approval for the acquisition in 1996. In the first year of ownership Mr Kua invested a further $20 million dollars upgrading as well as expanding the park.

In 1999, Dreamworld was acquired by Macquarie Leisure Trust, which is managed by Macquarie Leisure Operations Ltd, a subsidiary of Macquarie bank. The trust has 7000 shareholders. (SSX code: MEL). On 31 August 2009, Macquarie Leisure was renamed Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD). Ardent Leisure Group is no longer managed by the Macquarie Group. Ardent Leisure is one of Australia's most successful owners and operators of premium leisure assets including Dreamworld, WhiteWater World, Skypoint, d'Albora Marinas, AMF and Kingpin Bowling, Goodlife Health Clubs, as well as a growing portfolio of family entertainment assets in the US through Main Event.


1974

Developer John Longhurst purchased 85 hectares of land at Coomera, and begins developing his dream, using 30 hectares.

1981

On 15 December 1981, Dreamworld was officially opened and dedicated by then Premier of Queensland Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson. Initially the park was open from Tuesday to Thursday 10am - 5pm, with around 220 employees.
Opening attractions and rides:

  • Main Street - Imax Theatre
  • Central Station - Rocky Hollow
  • City Hall - Log Ride
  • Vintage Cars - Captain Sturt Paddle Wheeler
  • Cannon Ball Express (now the Dreamworld Express)

1982

Country Fair opened the world’s longest steel double loop rollercoaster, the Thunderbolt.
Gum Tree Gully opened.

1983

Blue Lagoon water park opened.
Roulette ride (later known as Stingray) was installed into Dreamworld
Belinda Brown, the park’s third character was introduced joining Kenny Koala and Coo-ee the Gumnut Fairy.

1984

Dreamworld commenced seven day trading.

1986

Gold Rush Country opened, featuring the Mine Ride, Log Ride and Rapid River Ride. 

1987

Koala Country opened. Koala Country is linked by train and walkways from Rivertown and Rocky Hollow.

1993

Country Fair precinct was renamed to Ocean Parade
Wipeout ride opened at a cost of $6 million.

1994

Under a scheme of arrangement Dreamworld trade out of receivership.

1995

Tiger Island opened – one of only two interactive tiger exhibits in the world. Tiger Island provides a safe haven for its Bengal tigers to live, swim and play with each other and their handlers.
Riverwalk Restaurant opened. Located on the southern banks of the Murrissippi (refurbished and renamed Billabong BBQ and Buffet in 2002).
Cougar cubs Inca and Sierra arrive at Dreamworld from NSW.

1996

Dreamworld acquired by Singaporean businessman, Mr. P L Kua.

1997

Tower of Terror opened. The equivalent of three football field across the Park, the Tower rises 38 storeys (118 meters vertically). Riders travel at speeds of up to 160 km/hour and experience 6.5 seconds of weightlessness before free-falling backwards.
Dreamworld commenced the wildlife education programs, “Wildlife for Kids”.

1998

Leisure Wide Property Trust purchased Dreamworld from Mr Kua.
Giant Drop launched on the Tower of Terror structure.
Moscow Circus Xmas attraction at Dreamworld
4 tiger cubs “Awesome Pawsome” born at Dreamworld to Mohan and Samara (Sita, Sultan, Taj and Rama)

1999

Macquarie Leisure Trust takes over Dreamworld from Leisure Wide Property Trust

2000

Kennyland precinct opened in Village Oval precinct.

2001

Cyclone rollercoaster opened in Dreamworld.  This ride was purchased from Luna Park Sydney due to noise complaints and relocated in pieces.
Tiger Kato transferred to Dreamworld from Sydney

2002

Bushranger show ceased production.
Kennyland closed for construction of Nick Central.

2003

Lara Croft Tomb Raider walk through scare maze opened.
After 22 years services, Thunderbolt Rollercoaster retired and demolished
Tiger Raja arrived at Dreamworld from Germany

2004

The Claw opened in Ocean Parade.
Nickelodeon partnership and Nick Central opened

2005

Gum Tree Gully was transformed into Wiggles World precinct.
Skylink Chair Lift retired from service.
Xtremeworld Xmas attraction at Dreamworld

2006

Blue Lagoon waterpark closed.
WhiteWater World opened
Mine Ride was retired in Gold Rush
Flowrider opened in Dreamworld

2007

Vintage Cars was relocated to make way for new Motocoaster thrill ride launched with Mick Doohan as naming partner.
Pirates of the Pacific Xmas attraction at Dreamworld
Tiger Rahni arrived at Dreamworld from Germany

2008

V8 simulator attraction opened using Bathurst track.
Kite Flyer kids ride installed in Nickelodeon Central.
3 tiger cubs born at Dreamworld to Raja and Rahni (Jaya, Ndari and Shanti)
Tiger cub Sali arrived at Dreamworld from Perth Zoo

2009

Ardent Leisure Limited take over from Macquarie Leisure Trust.
Stingray ride retired from Ocean Parade.
Ardent Leisure acquires Q1 Observation Deck (now known as Skypoint Observation Deck)
Vortex ride (Gravitron) decommissioned and demolished for new attraction (AVPX)
AVPX laser tag opens in Dreamworld

2010

The Wedgie launched in WhiteWater World.
Little Rippers bowl slide launched in WhiteWater World.
Tower of Terror II launched in Dreamworld.

2011

The White Lion Lair launched in Dreamworld next to Tiger Island.
Buzzsaw thrill ride launched in Gold Rush precinct.

2012

Captain Sturt paddle steamer retired from operation.
Stingray ride (Roulette) was decommissioned and demolished.
.Stage 1 of Dreamworks launched, including Madagascar and Shrek.
Stage 2 of Dreamworks launched, including Kung Fu Panda – Land of Awesomeness
Pandamonium thrill ride launched as part of Kung Fu Panda precinct.
Avalanche Mountain demolished for new Pandamonium ride.
Tiger cubs Baru and Ravi arrive at Dreamworld from Sydney

2013

Baldwin and Perry locomotives retired from operation
AVPX laser tag closes for retheming to Kevil Hill theme.
Dreamworld Corroboree precinct launched.

2014

Reef Diver ride decommissioned and demolished for new ride (TailSpin)
TailSpin ride launched.
Green Bean Coffee Shop opens
Dough Bros pizzeria opened in Central Café
Sandwich Bar opened in Central Café courtyard
Triple Vortex opened in WhiteWater World

 2015 ABC KIDS WORLD opens
Motorsports Experience opens containing:
  • Brock’s Garage
  • Hot Wheels SideWinder
  • Grid Burger & Sports bar 
  • New V8 Supercar Redline Simulators
Tiger Cub Kai born July
Tiger Cubs Akasha and Adira born November 
New BeatBox show launches during late nights at Dreamworld
Dreamworld opens till 9pm over Summer
 2016 Tiger Cub Kindy opens
Ice Cream Parlour is renovated
Churros stand is renovated
New Kerb side truck opens seasonally
Fruit Cart opens seasonally
Presto’s Café at Kai Kai launched
Kevil Hill closes for Tiger Cub Kindy enclosure
Tiger Island reopens September
Tiger Cub Kindy closes September 
Dreamworld turns 35 years old 15th December
 2017  LEGO Store opens 28 February
 


AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS 


Dreamworld has been awarded many tourism and marketing awards over the years. These include:

2016  
2015 Trip Advisor Winner Certificate of Excellence - Best Amusement Park - South Pacific

2014

2014 Qld Premiers Award for Reconciliation
2014 Major Tourist Attraction Winner – Queensland Tourism Awards

2013

2013 Major Tourist Attraction Winner – Queensland Tourism Awards

2012

2112 New Business Development Winner – Skypoint Climb – Queensland Tourism Awards

2008

2008 Major Tourist Attraction Finalist – WhiteWater World – Queensland Tourism Awards

2007

2007 Meetings & Business Tourism Finalist – Dreamworld – Queensland Tourism Awards
2007 The Richard Power Award for Tourism Marketing Finalist – Dreamworld – Queensland Tourism Awards
2007 New Tourism Development Finalist – WhiteWater World – Queensland Tourism Awards

2006

2006 Hall of Fame Inductee – Dreamworld – Queensland Tourism Awards
2006 Major Tourist Attraction Winner – Queensland Tourism Awards
2006 Meetings & Business Tourism Winner – Dreamworld – Queensland Tourism Awards
2006 New Tourism Development Finalist – Wiggles World Dreamworld – Queensland Tourism Awards

2005

2005 Tourism Product Marketing, Hall of Fame – Queensland Tourism Awards

 

Product Excellence Award – Best Attraction Category – Australian Tourism Export Council

 

Brass Ring Awards – Best theme park brochure – IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions)

 

Best Media Campaign 500k+ So Many Worlds in One – Cream Awards Brisbane

 

Winner – Innovation – So Many Worlds in One, Australian Marketing Institute State Awards
Winner – Branding – So Many Worlds in One, Australian Marketing Institute State Awards
Winner – Marketing Communications – So Many Worlds in One, Australian Marketing Institute State Awards

2004

2004 Major Tourist Attraction winner – Queensland Tourism Awards
2004 Tourism Hospitality and Recreation Award – Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards

2003

Product Excellence Award – Attraction Category – Australian Tourism Export Council

2002

Tourism Product Marketing – winner Queensland Tourism Awards
Meetings and Events Industry (MIAA) National Award (Best Speciality Venue category) winner and inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame (awarded in 03/04)

2001

Meetings and Events Industry (MIAA) National Award (Best Speciality Venue category) winner

2000

Major Tourist Attraction winner – Queensland Tourism Awards
Meetings and Events Industry (MIAA) National Award (Best Speciality Venue category) winner

1999

Major Tourist Attraction winner – Brisbane Tourism Awards
Meetings and Events Industry (MIAA) National Award (Best Speciality Venue category) winner

1998

Major Tourist Attraction winner – Brisbane Tourism Awards
Customer service Development Award – Tourism Training Queensland – Gold Coast Region
Theme Park category winner – Gold Coast City Garden Competition
Meetings and Events Industry (MIAA) National Award (Best Speciality Venue category) winner

1997

Customer service Development Award – Tourism Training Queensland – Gold Coast Region
“Ancillary” Category winner – Gold Coast city Garden Competition

 

Awarded by Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture, Queensland Group for Excellence in Landscape Architecture – Open Space & Recreational Design, Tiger Island Development

1996

Best Specialty Venue Without Accommodation – Meetings Industry Association of Australia Award
Tourism Marketing & Promotion Award – Queensland Tourism Awards

1995

Best Specialty Venue Without Accommodation – Meetings Industry Association of Australia Award
Tourism Marketing & Promotion Award – Queensland Tourism Awards

1993

Best Specialty Venue Without Accommodation – Meetings Industry Association of Australia Award

1992

Major Tourist Attraction – Queensland Tourism Awards

1987

Number One Tourist Attraction – Australian Tourism Awards

 

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