Varsity Lakes (formally named in 2003) is the upmarket name for the former suburb of Stephens and part of Robina on the Gold Coast. It is immediately west of Burleigh Waters.
Before the suburbanisation of the Gold Coast hinterland a large wetland extending from Burleigh Heads to Reedy Creek was known as Stephens Swamp. It was named after Thomas Stephens, mayor of Brisbane (1862), Queensland parliamentarian and grazier. Stephens acquired the wetland and improved it with drains discharging northwards to the Little Tallebudgera Creek.
Suburban Stephens began in the early 1980s with the formation of Silverbank Lake and the nearby estate in the south-west corner where the community centre was built. Across the swamp to the north-west, Arthur Earle, grazier, entered into an arrangement with Robin Loh, a Singapore developer, to create the lakes-based suburb of Robina. The private Bond University was opened on Robina's Lake Orr in 1989.
By the mid-1990s residential development had spread about half-way across Stephens. Gold Coast's newest island, Azzura Island, lifted the profile of the area. Azzura Island's allotments were nearly all sold on the day of their release. Houses along Christine Avenue and Varsity Parade followed the upmarket trend. Whilst there are units and townhouses around the educational precinct, the 2001 housing census for Stephens recorded 76% of dwellings as detached house and 22% as townhouses.
Local shopping is provided on the north side of Lake Orr at Market Square Shopping centre, and on the south side at Christine Corner. A wider retail range is found in neighbouring Burleigh Waters and at Robina. A railway station on the west of Varsity Lakes for the extended Gold Coast line was opened in December 2009.
Education is provided at the State Varsity College (2001), with the junior campus on the north side of Lake Orr and the senior campus on the south side. The population of Stephens (2001) was youthful: nearly one quarter of residents were 14 years old or less, compared with 18% for Gold Coast, and 66% of families had children.
The Stephens name continued with the community centre. Otherwise, bucolic Thomas Stephens, inhabitant of another century, was unremembered. Varsity Lakes' census population in 2006 was 11,796.