Gurney Drive is the most famous seaside promenade in George Town. Lined with condominiums, high-rise hotels and two well-known shopping malls, Gurney Drive is also touted as the place to go for some of the best Penang food.Gurney Drive is located at what was once North Beach. New Coast Road was laid along North Beach in 1936, before being renamed Gurney Drive in 1952 in honour of Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney, the British High Commissioner of Malaya who was assassinated by communist guerillas.
The beaches of Gurney Drive have been lost, initially due to coastal erosion, and then to the sedimentation of mud resulting from land reclamation within the neighbouring Tanjung Tokong suburb. More recently, mangrove trees were planted around Gurney Drive, in a controversial effort to turn the seafront into a mangrove forest.
However, the Penang state government has announced in 2016 that the shores of Gurney Drive will be reclaimed for a new world-class waterfront park, known as Gurney Wharf.
As early as 1930, plans were drawn up to build a coastal road which spanned George Town's northern coasts by extending North Beach (the area around Northam Road). In 1934, North Beach was extended by 510 yards into what is now Gurney Drive. The New Coast Road along North Beach was completed two years later.
In the late 1940s, land was reclaimed next to the road off Teluk Ayer Rajah, a bay between George Town city centre and the Tanjung Tokong suburb. This reclaimed land would be later known as Gurney Drive.
Seaside bungalows had been built much earlier in the area. Some of the colonial buildings still standing are the Loke Mansion and the St. Joesph's Novitiate, which was owned by the Catholic De La Salle Brothers and has been integrated into Gurney Paragon mall. Other mansions have also been merged into more modern condominiums, such as Kapitan China Chung Thye Pin's mansion, which is occupied today by One Persiaran Gurney condominiums.
In 1952, at the height of the Malayan Emergency, New Coast Road was renamed Gurney Drive after Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney, the British High Commissioner of Malaya who was killed by Malayan Communist Party guerillas in the state of Pahang the previous year. Initially, Burmah Road was to be renamed as Gurney Road, but New Coast Road was chosen instead.
If not for a sheer stroke of luck, Gurney Drive would have been named Pantai Merdeka instead. A George Town Municipal Council Commissioner suggested in 1956 that Gurney Drive should be renamed Pantai Merdeka. The council agreed and decided that Gurney Drive would be renamed Pantai Merdeka on 31 August 1957, Malaya's independence day. A bust of Sir Henry Gurney was to be constructed as well. The then Settlement Secretary refused to write to Lady Gurney about the matter, leaving the Municipal Commisioners to write directly to her. Lady Gurney stoutly accepted the change and offered to assist with the bust. However, after the Finance Committee was informed that the recommended provision for the bust amounted to $6,000 (Malaya and British Borneo dollar), it was decided not only to defer the construction of a bust, but also that the road should continue to be named Gurney Drive.
In 1962, casuarina trees were planted along a section of Gurney Drive. Another nonsensical suggestion came up from a George Town City Councillor, this time suggesting that Gurney Drive should be renamed Casuarina Drive or Casuarina Beach. To this day, the particular stretch of Gurney Drive lined with casuarina trees is a distinctive section of the promenade.
In the past, the waters off Gurney Drive was so clean, that Gurney Drive served as the venue of dragon boat races between the 1960s and the 1980s. Fishermen used to ply their trade at the sandy beaches of Gurney Drive, which were popular amongst local Penangites as well. The beaches of Gurney Drive are now lost due to coastal erosion and land reclamation activities within the neighbouring suburb of Tanjung Tokong, which caused Gurney Drive's sedimentation.During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Gurney Drive was one of the hard hit areas. Since then, the Penang state government has been raising mangrove forests around Gurney Drive by planting mangrove saplings. The controversial move has been criticised by some Penangites, as a foul-smelling mangrove swamp would block the scenic view of the northern seas and accumulate rubbish, reducing Gurney Drive's appeal to tourists. As a result of the move, Gurney Drive now attracts migratory birds as well as bird watchers.
Since 1977, condominiums and high-rise hotels have mushroomed along Gurney Drive. Today's Gurney Drive is home to some of Penang's most modern skyscrapers. In 2001, Gurney Plaza mall was opened, followed by the more upscale Gurney Paragon mall in 2013. The integrated twin condominiums of Gurney Paragon are touted to be Penang's second tallest skyscraper.
As part of the Penang Transport Master Plan, the proposed Penang undersea tunnel project, mooted by the Penang state government, is intended to link Gurney Drive with mainland Peninsular Malaysia. This will create a third link between Penang Island and the mainland after the Penang Bridge and the Second Penang Bridge. Also, a planned monorail line between KOMTAR and Tanjung Tokong suburb has been slated to cover Gurney Drive.
In 2016, the current Penang state government has announced that the coastline of Gurney Drive will be reclaimed to create a new waterfront park known as Gurney Wharf. The project, which is to be undertaken by a Penangite developer firm, Eastern & Oriental Berhad, aims to build a world-class waterfront public recreational area and will consist of four distinct reclaimed seaside areas :
- Seaside Retail F&B
- Water Gardens
- Beach Grove
- Coastal Grove
Land reclamation will commence in March 2016. In the process of planning the project, Eastern & Oriental Berhad had engaged world-renowned consultants at its own cost, such as Grant Associates (Singapore's Gardens by the Bay) and Jerde (Tokyo's Roppongi Hills).
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre is a recommended place for sampling some of the best Penang food, although some Penangites may find it too commercialised. The hawker centre started off in the 1970s, relocating a few times within Gurney Drive before finally setting up shop between the Gurney Plaza and Sunrise Tower near the Gurney roundabout. The hawker centre has arguably the widest variety of street food anywhere in Penang, such as or chien (oyster omelette), satay, rojak, char kuey teow, Hokkien mee, lok lok, pasembur, Jawa mee and many more.
However, the prices in Gurney Drive Hawker Centre are also much higher, due to its popularity amongst tourists. Therefore, it is recommended to find out the price of each dish beforehand and to order by pricing (i.e., ordering a RM3 bowl instead of a "large" bowl). As the hawker centre tends to get crowded, it is also advisable to arrive early and, if possible, to sit near the food stall one orders from.
There are also a number of restaurants and cafes within Gurney Drive. Most restaurants here specialise in seafood.
- Bali Hai Seafood Market
- Chilli's Grill & Bar
- Crepe Cottage
- Mr Pot Cafe
- Public Cafe
- Gurney Hotel
- Gurney View Inn
- Evergreen Laurel Hotel
- G Hotel
- G Hotel Kelawai
- Gurney Plaza, one of the most popular shopping malls in George Town.
- Gurney Paragon is more upscale and caters to the affluent.
Getting to Gurney Drive
Coming from the George Town city centre, Rapid Penang buses 10, 101, 102 and 103 pass near Gurney Drive. Only route 10 is applicable in the opposite direction.
Those from the neighbouring suburbs of Pulau Tikus and Tanjung Tokong can use Rapid Penang's Free Pulau Tikus Loop bus to get to Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon, whereas those from the suburb of Tanjung Bungah can only take bus 104.
104 : Tanjung Bungah - Jalan Gajah, Tanjung Tokong - Evergreen Road, Tanjung Tokong - Fettes Park, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Pepper Estate, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus - Pangkor Road - Kelawei Road, Pulau Tikus
Free Pulau Tikus Loop : Kelawai Road, Pulau Tikus - Tanjung Tokong Road - Fettes Park, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus - Pangkor Road - Kelawai Road, Pulau Tikus
If you are coming from the south, such as the Penang International Airport or the Sungai Nibong bus terminal, Rapid Penang bus 102 also takes you to Gurney Drive via George Town. Those from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and the suburbs of Gelugor and Green Lane can take Rapid Penang buses 102 or 304, while those in Bayan Baru and Queensbay Mall can take bus 304.
102 : Penang International Airport - Sungai Nibong express bus terminal - Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Batu Uban entrance - Gelugor - Green Lane - KOMTAR - Kelawai Road, Pulau Tikus - Tanjung Tokong Road - Tanjung Bungah Road - Batu Ferringhi - Teluk Bahang
304 : Sunshine Square, Bayan Baru - Queensbay Mall - Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Sungai Dua entrance - Gelugor - Green Lane - Penang General Hospital - KOMTAR - Bagan Jermal Road, Pulau Tikus - Gurney Plaza
Alternatively, tourists can use the Hop-On Hop-Off double decker buses to Gurney Drive.
Penang State Government
N.25 Pulau Tikus State Assemblyman : Yap Soo Huey (Democratic Action Party)
Malaysian Federal Government
P.048 Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament : Zairil Khir Johari (Democratic Action Party)