This article examines the emergence of urban heritage walks on the Gold Coast, Australia. As a popular beachside mass tourism destination, the Gold Coast has a longstanding reputation for rapid development and for lacking historical and cultural depth. In this context, heritage walks present an opportunity to reorient the city’s identity and to stage a sense of heritage in the urban environment. Focusing on a case study of the Gold Coast’s Southport Heritage Walk (SHW), this article aims to analyse the discursive, material and political dimensions of urban heritage walks, and how practices of heritage unfold in places marked by rapidly changing urban landscapes and resident populations. Drawing on observational fieldwork, as well as interviews with key individuals involved in designing the walks, the article discusses the dominant narratives of history and urban identity enshrined in the SHW, and how these discourses are encountered and interpreted within the context of the contemporary materialities of lived space. Although the SHW aims to highlight the city as a place with a rich history and heritage, the walk’s missing interpretive markers and scarce remnants of built heritage instead emphasise the city’s ongoing tensions between development and preservation.
Abstract included in PLA’s Research Connections article in Parks and Leisure Australia Vol 23.4 Summer 2020, ISSN 1446-5604