The Gold Coast certainly offers what you would expect: golden sandy beaches. If surf is your thing this place just gets better. People here seem to take sunbathing and keeping in shape very seriously, so the Gold Coast is a lifestyle too.
However the beach life is not the only thing happening and it is possible to combine different activities and scenery on your holiday. Darren and I had four days here and we made a deal: the first and last day was to be dedicated to beach and sun worshipping (or in Darren’s case the profuse usage of sunscreen),the second day was for Dreamworld and the third day was to be spent in the in Tamborine Mountain rainforest. Darren also promised me some shopping time, but he really suffered keeping that one.
We found a relatively cheap accommodation at the hotel Ipanema, between Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise. The location on the Gold Coast Highway was very good: we were just 300m away from the beach and less than a 20-minute walk from the main Surfers Paradise centre.
The coast stretches for 36km and there are plenty of bays to choose from. Going from one to another can be done using the light rail network G:link or as we did, by renting a car from a place near the airport. Walking is also an option, although not my favourite when temperatures are so high. You can also hire bikes and even have them delivered to your hotel.
Broadbeach is dotted with high-rise hotels and apartments. It’s a spot chosen by the locals to eat and play. It’s quite popular with surfers and sun seekers, but the beachside Pratten Park is also popular for picnics and barbecues in the shade.
In the afternoon we had a romantic walk on the beach from Surfers Paradise towards the Main Beach. The latter one being less crowded was my favourite.
Towards the north the inland side of the Spit offers calm, protected swimming beaches. The place was quite crowded when we went around lunch time.
Towards the south Tallebudgera Beach is a really good option for swimming, too, and has a more varied landscape.
Eating in Surfers Paradise
To find a good place to eat seemed quite difficult in the main Surfers Paradise area. We went to a really average Bavarian steakhouse and a Greek place that was popular but only for its convenient location. However, the best place to eat is in Tedder Street where we had a great meal at Domani.
Of course, there are always little back alleys with less popular shops where you might find a gem and in our case it wasn’t far from Cavill Road where we discovered a little square of Asian restaurants. We chose the Sunny Noodle House where the service was terrible but the dumplings and laksa were great value.
Activities and events
Three nights a week from 3pm until 8pm dozens of stalls spread along Paradise beachfront. They sell about anything from fashion to artwork and you can find some unique goods besides and nifty gifts besides the usual market goods.
In the same beachfront the Australian Street Entertainment Championship was held in a big tent. The show was free, but they asked for contributions, which in our opinion were well deserved. About six different performers entertained the crowd with comedy and acrobatics.
We chose the cloudy, drizzly day to go to Tamborine Mountain. Darren warned me to watch for leeches (they come out especially after rain) but it was him that found one in his sock fairly early on. There were plenty of others out and ready to get blood, clinging to our shoes trying to find a way in. One poor woman who had gone into the forest in flip-flops regretted her decision.
Tamborine Mountain also has a road full of shops selling mostly tacky garments, but there are some interesting finds, too, like the Cuckoo Clock Nest. Bird life is all around, although often invisible in the tall canopy, but you can frequently see rainbow crested lorikeets, sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs and other colourful birds.
Keep a look out in the Tamborine Mountain forests and you might spot a pademelon forest wallaby, or a kangaroo. We got a fleeting glimpse of a pademelon, and also found this inquisitive (and slightly guilty-looking) grey kangaroo.
It’s arguably the best park in the area because it has a mixture of rollercoasters, water attractions and nature. We didn’t do the water attractions, but we did go on most of the rides and had some animal experiences.
We risked an Easter Weekend’s sunny day, thinking we would be queuing for hours, but our worst queue was 40 minutes for Buzzsaw, and most of the rides were just 15 minutes or less to wait, despite us not buying the premium passes.
You could pay to have animal experiences, or you could randomly find them around the park. In this case we got to stroke a tiger.
And a kangaroo. It’s the result of a horse and rabbit getting drunk together.
For the kids, Dreamworld has a Madagascar and Shrek-themed area.
And a spectacular collection of racing cars is housed in the Hotwheels zone.
If you have three or four days to spare, the Gold Coast offers a huge amount. It’s got world-class beaches, pretty good shopping, beautiful rainforests and four accessible theme parks. Of course, you don’t have to try to get them all done in one go – you could just focus on relaxing on the beach – but as a holiday destination it provides an excellent mix of relaxation and thrills.