Sea World was founded by Keith Williams in 1958. It was originally known as the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens, which presented “water ski shows that combined comedy, aqua ballet and action”. In 1971, the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens moved to land on the Spit. Major dredging works were required to build the new ski lake. A year later, the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens became known as Sea World with the introduction of dolphins, marine displays, a replica of the Endeavour, a swimming pool, licensed restaurant and gift shop. Extra additions over the next decade included the purchasing of competitor marine park, Marineland, and the transfer of animals and exhibits to Sea World as well as the addition of more shops and food outlets.
Keith Williams sold the park to Pivot Leisure. In 1991 Pivot Leisure, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow jointly developed and opened Warner Bros. Movie World, a Hollywood theme action park, at Oxenford on the Gold Coast. In 1993, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow jointly acquired Pivot Leisure's interest in Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and the adjoining Sea World Nara Resort.
In 1975, the Sea World train opened. "The train is a two-third scale replica of Queensland's famous number 6A10, which is now on display at the Queensland Railway Museum. The ride was designed and built by Sea World."
In 1981, the park's first roller-coaster opened. Originally known as the Wild Wave Rollercoaster, it was accompanied by the Pirate Ship and Carousel. The Wild Wave Rollercoaster changed its name to the Thrillseeker and closed in 2002.
In 1982, the Corkscrew rollercoaster opened. The ride is an Arrow Dynamics Sitdown Looper and features three inversions.
In 2003, Pirates in 3D was replaced with Planet SOS in 4-D. This film features an environmental message presenting the issues of global warming, ocean habitat destruction, and deforestation.
In 2004, the park opened "Shark Bay". This system of artificial lagoons allows sharks to be viewed from both above water and underwater. Sharks exhibited include large and potentially dangerous tiger sharks and bull sharks.
In 2005, the ski show received a makeover and became Waterski Wipeout. Also the water park got a makeover with the relocation of The Plunge from Wet'n'Wild Water World.
In 2006, the Sea World Eye was introduced for a limited time. Swiss manufacturer CWA Constructions built the 60-metre high wheel which featured 42 air-conditioned gondolas.
In 2007, Sea World introduced Sesame Street Beach. Sesame Street Beach replaced Cartoon Network Cartoon Beach with the addition of a new stage show and a new ride.
In 2008, Jet Rescue opened. Jet Rescue is a motorbike launch coaster made by Intamin which features jet-ski cars. It is themed to a sea-lion rescue. Also 'Ray Reef' opened featuring over 100 rays 'flying and gliding' under the water. It is Sea World's first new wildlife exhibit since 2004.
In 2009, Sea World updated and renewed several things. In early 2009, the Pirate Ship attraction closed and removed from the park. Waterski Wipeout performed its last show on 20 July 2009. Pirates Unleashed opened on Boxing Day as a replacement. In September, Sea World announced the opening of Ocean Rescue, a new film for their theatre replacing Planet SOS in 4-D. A new educational exhibit also opened in 2009 titled Shark Attack which replaced Dugong Discovery. The Corkscrew rollercoaster was rethemed and renamed to become the Sea Viper.
In 2010, the park closed Shark Attack, the Sea World Aquarium, Ocean Rescue, Bermuda Triangle and part of the Water Park to construct new attractions. In September, Castaway Bay opened in former location of the water park. It is a children's area featuring Sky Fortress (a climbing structure), Sky Climb (a set of high ropes) and Battle Sails (a water battle). Also in September, Ocean Rescue was replaced by Happy Feet 3D Experience. In October, Sea World closed the Bermuda Triangle for routine maintenance before closing the ride permanently. Its replacement is expected to be open by late 2011. Sea World also opened Penguin Encounter, an Antarctic penguin exhibit where Shark Attack And Sea World Aquarium once stood on 26 December 2010. During the summer school holidays Sea World ran Jet Stunt Extreme as a temporary jet-ski-based stunt show located on the Sea World lake. It operated for a limited season until 23 January 2011. Sea World has noted that it could become a permanent addition depending on the overall success of the show.
In 2015, the park will unveil a multi-million dollar African jungle exhibit. The exhibit will include gorillas, hippos, and crocodiles. Construction for the exhibit began in 2012 on the site of the former Pirate Ship ride slowly spreading out to reclaimed portions of the Sea World Lake. The attraction was originally intended to have a 2014 opening.
Beach Break Bay is a themed zone featuring several rides specifically designed for children. The area was originally themed to Cartoon Network when it opened in 1999 before being rethemed to Sesame Street in 2007. In late 2011, it was rethemed to have the generic theme of Beach Break Bay. The area features 6 attractions including the Carousel and Beach Ball Bounce.
Castaway Bay opened in September 2010. It is contains a new children's area featuring Sky Fortress (a climbing structure), Sky Climb (a set of high ropes) and Battle Boats (formerly Battle Sails, an interactive water battle). It is located at the northern half of the Water Park.
Jet Rescue is Sea World's latest roller coaster. The ride is themed around the journey of a Sea World Rescue Team on a mission to save marine life. Riders board a jet ski and race at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) around a highly twisted and banked track.
Sea World Monorail System was the first mono rail system in Australia. It allows guests to travel between three stations throughout the park.
Sky High Skyway offers a unique bird's eye view of the park. The ride takes guests from the top of the park, near the entrance, to the castle which houses the Sea World Theatre.
Dora's Best Friends Adventure is a live stage show featuring Dora and Diego adjacent to Beach Break Bay. It began on 17 December 2011.
Fish Detectives is the latest incarnation of Sea World's seal show. The show features similar tricks to previous shows with only the storyline and music changing. The show is based around the fish store Alota Baloney, where Big Al is making big profits by catching too many fish. The detective team, made up of humans and sea lions, are on the case to catch Big Al and solve this environmental crime.
Imagine is the latest incarnation of Sea World's dolphin show. The show features similar tricks to previous shows with only the storyline and music changing. The show is set in Dolphin Cove which is the largest sandy bottom lagoon ever built for dolphins containing five different pools and more than 17 million litres of water. Each show caters for 2,500 guests with additional grass seating available.
Jet Stunt Extreme is a live jet-ski-based stunt show located on the Sea World lake. It previously operated for a limited season over the summer of 2010–2011. Due to the success of the show it replaced Pirates Unleashed and became a permanent addition from September 2011 onwards.
Dolphin Nursery Pool is part of Sea World's highly successful dolphin breeding program which has resulted in dolphin births. The exhibit allows guests to see young dolphins develop under the protective watch of their mothers.
Penguin Encounter is a 96-square-metre (1,030 sq ft) Antarctic penguin exhibit featuring a 220 cubic metres (7,800 cu ft) pool with under and above water viewing.
Penguin Point is an exhibit featuring Little Penguins. Unlike Penguins on Parade, the previous penguin exhibit at Sea World, Penguin Point has a larger, more open style. It contains a variety of substrates including gravel, rock and grass as well as a large pool. The exhibit can house up to 60 penguins.
Polar Bear Shores is Australia's only Polar Bear exhibit. It was one of the most technologically advanced exhibits for Polar Bears when it opened in 2000. Guests can view the polar bears from three viewing platforms: ground level, underwater and above ground. As of 2013[update] there are four polar bears in Polar Bear Shores: Liya, Hudson, Nelson and Henry (a Polar bear cub).
Ray Reef allows guests to meet, feed and learn about one of the ocean's most misunderstood inhabitants. The exhibit features over 100 rays.
Rescue Point Lighthouse showcases the achievements of Sea World's Research and Rescue Foundation.
Seabird Rehabilitation Aviary is designed to house birds under care and rehabilitation. According to the official website, "many of the sea birds housed in this area will never return to the wild due to severe disabilities which have been caused mostly by mans’ ignorance and careless ways. For example, we have received pelicans that have had a broken wing from being caught in fishing line. Their wings have since been amputated. Those that recover from their injuries are free to leave at any time."
Shark Bay is the world's largest man-made lagoon system for sharks. The exhibit consists of four zones allowing for viewing and interaction. The zones include a touch pool, an inter-tidal zone, a reef lagoon and a shark lagoon. Four 10 x 3-metre windows allows all guests to see the sea life featured in these pools.
A Sea World helicopter landing at the park's helipad.
Animal Adventures. For an additional fee, guests can take part in Animal Adventures where they can swim with Sea World's marine life.
Pedal Boats is an upcharge attraction where guests can board a 2 or 4 person pedal boat and navigate around the former ski lake.
Sea World Books is Sea World's latest franchise. The franchise offers educational children's books about various marine animals.
Sea World Cruises and Sea World Whale Watch make use of Sea World's "luxurious cruiser". During the winter months (when whales are travelling up and down the Gold Coast), Sea World operates Whale Watching tours. For the rest of the year, Sea World takes guests on a ride around the calm canals of the Gold Coast.
Sea World Helicopters allow guests to choose between 5 different tours of the Gold Coast ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. For a further additional charge, guests can purchase a souvenir DVD of their flight.
As the name suggests, Sea World Resort and Water Park is an adjoining Resort and Water Park to Sea World. In 2008, the Sea World Water Park became part of the resort with regular park guests having to pay an additional fee to make use of the water park. More information about the Sea World Resort and Water Park can be found on its official website. In 2010, part of the Water Park was demolished to make way for Castaway Bay.