Australia’s sixth largest city, the Gold Coast hugs Queensland’s southern coastline, and is renowned for its beautiful beaches that seem to stretch forever, glitzy high-rise hotels, attractions galore, and a hinterland of rainforests and waterfalls to explore. It also has a carefree spirit and friendly locals, a restorative balm that will have you feeling relaxed in no time.
It was while enjoying the tender pumpkin gnocchi at Baskk Italian, overlooking Coolangatta’s stunning beach, that I became aware I was swaying to the soulful tunes being played. Just moments after getting off the plane, I’d already switched gear into holiday mode.
Visitors are spoilt for choice, with patrolled beaches ideal for swimming and surfing, a river perfect for jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, and kayaking and canals that snake through the city, from where you can view fabulous houses on a gentle river cruise. Additionally, if you are visiting between June to October, joining a whale watching cruise is highly recommended, as whales migrate along the coastline. I hopped onboard Sea World’s whale watching cruise, where two inquisitive Humpback whales circled our boat, putting on a display of spectacular breaching, flapping their tales up and down with a thud.
You can’t visit the Gold Coast without visiting the attractions. My fault, I should’ve stayed longer, so I had to decide between Movie World, Wet n’ Wild, Sea World and lots more. I ended up spending an entire day at Sea World, having downloaded the app in advance to plan my visit. My favourite shows were meeting the seals and Boston the sea lion – who weighed in at 300kgs, and the dolphin show which was incredible. Sea World is a standout destination for families, with kids absolutely loving all Nickelodeon themed rides and shows, while kids and parents alike can enjoy encountering polar bears and penguins and gaze with wonder at sharks and other sea creatures in the giant aquarium.
Next time I’ll be sure to add a Sea World helicopter ride to my visit. Those that did it said it was amazing. For those who are thrill-seekers, visiting the observation deck of the Q1 building, which boasts an impressive height of 230 metres, allows for jaw-dropping views of the Gold Coast.
If there is a memory that will remain etched forever, it is of Harper, the rescued orphan Koala at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which in my view is the best animal sanctuary in Australia. It has a hospital for injured wildlife, with a flying fox and koala treated on the day I visited. Inquisitive kangaroos hopped towards me for a back rub, and Harper, the koala, clambered along a tree trunk before climbing onto me for a hug. The sanctuary is home to koalas, wombats, cockatoos, flying foxes, dingoes, emus, echidnas, Tasmanian devils and many more, and the sanctuary also has a zip line course that’s lots of fun.
READ ALSO: Rediscovering travel
Forming a stunning back drop to the Gold Coast is the mountainous hinterland, with national parks of lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, deep valleys and lovely hiking trails. Lamington National Park is a world heritage listed pristine wilderness, home to over 120 bird species and ancient Antarctic Beech trees. Tamborine Mountain offers a lush green countryside of fruit orchards, wineries, and a charming town with craft shops, galleries and delicious locally made fudge. I’ve previously stayed at O’Reilly’s, a legendary destination for bushwalkers, and I’ve explored Tamborine Mountain with Southern Cross Tours, so it was great to catch up with them again for an enjoyable afternoon with our driver/guide Ian to Springbrook National Park to take in the views of waterfalls, valleys and tall eucalypt forests. All three destinations are within easy reach of the Gold Coast, providing a rewarding nature based experience.
Good times destination
You can recognise a Gold Coast local by their relaxed manner, sun bleached hair, casual clothing of thongs, shorts, and during winter, cheerful joking about how cold 23°C feels like. To meet some friendly locals, head for Miami Marketta, which is abuzz with live music, delicious food, arts and crafts, fashion and jewellery. Additionally, visit one of the many funky weekend markets, or enjoy a meal at a local surf club like BMD Northcliffe Surf Club for great food and a relaxed vibe, overlooking the beach.
My final stop was to Pacific Fair shopping centre, which offers an amazing range of activewear, luxury and Australian fashion, great food outlets and a complimentary luggage storage service.
On the flight home, I wore my Gold Coast themed purchases of pink sandals and matching pink sunhat, and felt the flight following the coastline was the most scenic I’d ever taken. When we landed the Virgin Australia pilots unfastened the cockpit door and smiled goodbye. Arriving home, I felt rebooted and refreshed – the Gold Coast is where the positive energy is and don’t we all deserve a sprinkling of that right now?
READ ALSO: 5 walks around Brisbane to do this weekend
The Gold Coast is ideal for visitors of all ages and perfect for multi-generations travelling together. The infrastructure, from its easy-to-access airport to its convenient bus and light rail system, hop-on-hop-off ferry, and pedestrian friendly promenades make getting around easy (visit translink.com.au for more information).
The Gold Coast stretches for 57 kms along the coastline. Surfers Paradise has the highest concentration of dining, shopping, night life and accommodation.
I stayed at the centrally located and comfortable Novotel Surfers Paradise with fabulous views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Dining out is one of the joys of the Gold Coast. Café culture is well represented, and dining can be exceptional. Recommended is Baskk Italian in Coolangatta.
Southern Cross Day Tours offers excursions to see the rainforests and wildlife of the hinterland regions of Tamborine, Lamington and Springbrook National Parks and private charters can be arranged.
Virgin Australia flies to the Gold Coast from all capital cities.
Before making plans, check the latest government travel requirements that may include preapproval for entry.
For inspiration on activities and attractions, check out Destination Gold Coast.