Coast with the Most
Take a break on the Gold Coast and you’re in for a (healthy) surprise with some adrenaline- pumping fun thrown into the mix.
TrueBlue Magazine - Aug/Sept 2019
Words: Michelle Hespe
When you think of the Gold Coast, images of high-rise apartments, flash hotels and theme parks dotted along a strip of golden sand spring to mind. This conception is very true, but there‘s another side to the Gold Coast that more and more tourists – including hordes of families – are continually being drawn to.
Few people realise that the Gold Coast was originally known as the South Coast, due to it being south of Brisbane. Then, from the late 1950s, inflated real estate prices and other goods and services aimed at those with deep pockets led to the nickname ‘the Gold Coast’. In the 1980s the Goldie, as it’s often dubbed, boomed as a tourist destination. Then, in 1994, the City of Gold Coast local government area was expanded to encompass the majority of its metropolitan area, making it the second most populous local government area in Australia after Brisbane.
Today one of the great things about the Goldie is the Gold Coast Highway, which slices right through the mass of houses, apartments and seemingly endless motels and hotels. So it’s easy to navigate, and injust 15 minutes you can be out of the city hustle and into the tropical rainforests of the Gold Coast Hinterland. For families you get the best of both worlds: non-stop entertainment, and downtime surrounded by nature. Today, lo and behold, a certain degree of urban sophistication has also crept its way into the golden mix.
Broadbeach and Miami
It’s a bit rock star staying right in the middle of Broadbeach – with the casino behind you and 17 kilometres of beach and the Pacific Ocean sprawled out front. Here Avani Broadbeach Gold Coast Residences is perfectly positioned to take in the nightlife, buzzing restaurant scene and the spoils to be reaped at the casino, if you’re child-free or on business.
You’re also only a few minutes’ walk from the G:link tram, which takes you up and down the coast to Surfers Paradise, Southport and beyond. The hotel’s modern, streamlined design in neutral shades with punches of fun colour make for a lovely and easy base. Or if you want to stay out of town, away from the buzz and by the ocean, you can’t go past the Oaks Calypso Plaza on Coolangatta Beach. It’s palm tree-lined pool is heated year-round, creating an oasis for parents and kids. And it’s just a five-minute toddle to the beach with restaurants, cafés and a mall, which is home to a lovely cinema for that rainy day.
However if you do have the younger ones ones in tow, then you’ve also got it made when it comes to visiting the theme parks and evening shows the Goldie is famous for. We’ll get to those soon...
The one thing everyone should do, no matter who their crew consists of, is visit Miami Marketta. It’s the hottest spot in town right now, and is bringing a bit of Melbourne-esque laneway dining style to Queensland. A single road that is empty by day, at night this space is transformed into a thriving nighttime spot with more than 25 types of cuisine, craft beer and wine stalls, not to mention a gin parlour with more than 90 types of gin. Spin a lottery drum to choose your gin if you can’t make up your mind. There’s market stalls and live music with people from all walks of life getting up for a boogie. The best part: the kids will have a ball with so much excitement while Mum and Dad can relax and indulge in delicious food and beverages. Don’t miss the dessert hall, where you can buy one of the biggest, fluffiest lamingtons you’ll ever see or eat in your life.
Theme Park Fun and a Spectacular Show
Even if you’re not an adrenaline seeker, there’s no getting around it – you can’t visit the Gold Coast (especially if you have kids with you) without fitting in a theme park or a show.
Movie World is the crowd pleaser for fun park rides, and it’s home to the tallest, longest and fastest HyperCoaster in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s 1.4 kilometres of hair-raising fun. There’s also one of the most thrilling SpaceShot rides you’ll ever experience – BATWING. It shoots straight up to almost 60 metres in breathtaking speed and then finishes with bungee-like bounces. Don’t miss the Superman Escape (another thrilling rollercoaster where Superman himself propels you out of harm’s way) or the Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster, which is actually not as tame as it first looks.
At Sea World you can go scuba diving or snorkelling with sharks, thousands of fish and stingrays, or jump on a thrilling ride called the Jet Rescue Roller – all the more scary because you’re strapped in by only a lap bar, with nothing around your shoulders, while holding on to jet ski handles as you fly over the coaster. The Thunder Lake Stunt Show is a family pleaser, packed with acts on jet skis, water skis and trucks taking to the impressive water arena.
If you can fit in two shows while in town, the Australian Outback Spectacular is the ticket for families, and Dracula's Nine Pints is seriously awesome in an edgy burlesque kinda way.
Australian Outback Spectacular takes guests on a tear-jerking (and often hilarious) journey into Outback Australia, where a community of farmers are battling with the heartache and breakthroughs of drought. In a transformative arena brought to life with mind-boggling immersive technology, rejoice in the community’s courage, bravery and generosity.
Dracula’s current show Nine Pints throws you headfirst (via a Ghost Train and ghoulish cocktails) into a thrilling evening of comedic cabaret. Indulge in an intimate three-course dinner and a show like nothing you've ever seen, where aerial acts, live rock, dark mime and burlesque magic will have your heart and mind racing.
Back to Nature
It may be called the Gold Coast, but the hinterland of this region is a verdant paradise of rainforest-clad mountains, valleys filled with burbling creeks, rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls, and hills covered in farms producing some of the country’s best organic produce.
A legend in this region is David Freeman of Freeman’s Farm, which has some of the most stunning views back across the mountains towards Burleigh Heads. David’s great, great uncle Arthur started growing bananas on this remarkable 300-acre patch of earth more than one hundred years ago, and today it is a slice of organic heaven, with (as David says) a ’botanical walk of health featuring 100 different fruit trees’.
Guests can take a seat among the crates and paper bags brimming with delicious market produce – at a chiminea fire in winter, or on the grass before the avocado and banana plantations in summer. It’s all about getting back to nature and drinking in the sunshine and views at Freeman’s Farm. Plus there’s always a lovely local to meet – no doubt a devout fan of organic food and a holistic approach health.
A 15-minute drive down the road will take you to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can take a mini train around the sanctuary focused on preserving Australia’s endangered species.
Visit the Wildlife Hospital, where you can see nurses and doctors in action assisting all creatures great and small. Then have a cuddle and your photo taken with a (surpisingly heavy) koala. Don’t miss an exciting show called Crocodile Behaviours, where you can watch in fascination (perhaps with a pinch of terror) as Currumbin’s biggest saltwater croc, Boss Hog, jumps for his chicken dinner and shows the audience what dinosaurs are really made of.
You could spend an entire day or even a weekend at this sanctuary, so make sure you meet as many critters as possible. As they say, take time to smell the roses.
Jump Into Japan
Powder to die for, monkeys to swoon over, and a culture that’ll have you becoming another of Japan’s many lovers.
Cairns may be the gateway to some of Australia’s most memorable wilderness experiences, but there are plenty of reasons to linger in this blissful Tropical North Queensland city.
Valley of Slower Pace
There are no luxury resorts in the Huon Valley. No branches of McDonald’s or KFC. Not even a set of traffic lights. But what you will discover is perhaps Tasmania’s best-kept gourmet secret, with rivers, orchards, friendly locals and hearty food.