The Gold Coast, situated in south east Queensland, is one of Australia’s leading holiday playgrounds. With 70 kilometres of sun-drenched beaches, World Heritage listed rainforests, theme parks, shopping and nightlife – it is a world class, stylish holiday destination. In fact, the Gold Coast has been identified as one of the most desirable places in the world to live based on political, social, health, personal safety, economic and environmental factors.
The Gold Coast is located in the sub-tropical region of the Southern Hemisphere and enjoys warmth and sunshine the whole year round. Australian seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere – the average summer temperature is 25 degrees Celsius and in winter, it is around 15 degrees Celsius. You can expect over 300 days of sunshine each year, with the wet season being December to March, when the northwest monsoons move south from Asia bringing heavy rain.
Your flight will most probably land at Brisbane International Airport – which is a 45 minute drive north from the heart of the Gold Coast. Alternatively, if your Australian holiday began in say Sydney or Melbourne, you can opt to fly into the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta which is approximately 35 minutes south of Surfers Paradise, considered by any as the epicentre of the Gold Coast. Both airports have tourist information booths and car rental firms represented in their terminals.
All foreigners – except New Zealanders – require visas for all visits to Australia. The citizens of some countries can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is a tourist or business visa valid for up to three month stays. These ETAs are available online and through travel agents at the time of booking your flight to Australia. If you apply for your ETA through your agent, the fee for applying directly is usually waived.
Accommodation: With every kind of accommodation from exclusive 5-star hotels to farm stays and from sunny beachside cabins to sun dappled bed and breakfast properties, you’ll be spoilt for choice. A visit to http://www.gold-coast.net and a click on ‘accommodation’ will show you a variety of hotel choices, including location and cost, that you can browse and compare. Most visitors place themselves in the hub of Surfer’s Paradise, however if you prefer a quieter, less bustling location you could consider an apartment overlooking the waterways at Runaway Bay or a hinterland retreat in Mount Tamborine where rainbow lorikeets will greet you each morning.
Driving : Australia drives on the ‘left’. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the ‘right’ should exercise caution until they become accustomed to this – roundabouts can be especially tricky. Your travel agent will be able to advise whether your current driving licence is valid in Australia. Please check this several weeks before departure so you have time to apply for an International Driving Licence if required. Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways where speeding, driving under the influence, driving while operating a mobile phone and not wearing a seatbelt are not tolerated. If needed, most car hire companies will provide you with children’s car seats and these too are required by law.
Sightseeing and activities: When you have settled into your Gold Coast accommodation, you will want to plan what to see and do. If you are travelling with children, theme parks are going to be high on your agenda. The Gold Coast boats four major theme parks; Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and Wet and Wild. Our family’s favourite is Dreamworld because it has something for all ages (including a water park) and is home to the Australian version of the popular reality TV show Big Brother.
There are also a couple of wildlife parks on the Coast that run excellent educational talks at regular intervals throughout the day and are a great outing. At David Fleays Wildlife Park and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, you can get close to snakes and raptors, cuddle a koala and feed kangaroos. At both parks there are cafes, picnic and play areas where families can rest and play in the shade.
When visiting the Gold Coast you will also want to head to the beach, where you can catch a surf lifesaving carnival, join a surfing class or simply swim and build sandcastles. Some of the more popular beaches are Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads and Currumbin. There is also a very family friendly, sheltered beach at Paradise Point which includes a beachfront park, BBQs, picnic tables, plenty of shade, play areas and some great take-away outlets just a stone’s throw away.
Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of tourist deaths in Australia is found on its glorious beaches. Each year quite a number of tourists (and sometimes locals too) drown on its shores. Australian beaches – particularly the long strips common on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts – have extremely strong rips and pulls that most people are unable to detect or handle. Never swim on beaches that are not patrolled by life-guards. Look for the yellow and red surf life saving flags and swim between them to stay safe and in view of the local life-guard.
With nine times more waterways and canals than Venice – be prepared to enjoy many types of on-water fun on the Coast with sunset cruises, sailing, Jet Ski rides and fishing charters.
For a contrasting experience head inland and visit pretty hinterland areas such as Tamborine Mountain or experience the rural lifestyle at country towns such as Beaudesert. The Gold Coast has some of the most diverse flora and fauna regions in Australia with World Heritage Listed rainforests to be found near the border with New South Wales where you can walk amongst ancient Antarctic Beech trees, see the spectacular Springbrook waterfalls or head to the coolness of the Lamington National Park.
For golfers, there are more than 40 championship golf courses in the region. Three hundred days of sunshine per year, means golf can be on your holiday schedule regardless of the season and you can play at superb sites designed by Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus.
For golf widows, and widowers, shopping centres abound on the Gold Coast with some of Australia’s largest shopping precincts. Visit Pacific Fair, Marina Mirage, Harbour Town or Runaway Bay Shopping Centre on the coast or head to the hinterland to browse craft stores, farmers markets and art galleries.
Dining: At the end of a hard day’s shopping or sightseeing, choose from more than 500 restaurants and indulge in fresh seafood or authentic ethnic cuisine from Italian to Japanese and from Thai to Chinese.
Within an easy day’s outing from coastal areas, you can enjoy locally made wines on the Gold Coast wine trail, which begins in the suburb of Oxenford and meanders its way west towards Mount Tamborine. Many wineries offer gourmet food, cheeses, feature live jazz bands, and other types of live entertainment such as poetry readings and classical quartets.
Entertainment wise the Gold Coast is thrilling. There are events such as the annual Indy Car Race in October, horse racing, carnivals, out rigging and marathon events. Alternatively, you can go to the cinema, see a live musical or themed show, head to a nightclub or visit Jupiter’s Casino. Families can head for Surfers Paradise where free movies are screened regularly on a giant screen placed on the beach. People bring their own chairs and towels and when the sun goes down, the double bill of family friendly movies begins.
Over-exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes is responsible for many cases of sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion every year. In the long term, premature aging and skin cancer are also a risk. Even in cooler southern areas, proximity to the hole in the ozone layer means that the risk of sunburn is much higher than in the northern hemisphere. Fair-skinned people are especially at risk and it is advisable to use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30+. Sunny Australia has one simple message for the traveller “Slip, slop, slap!” Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat!
Australia as a whole enchants its visitors. From the friendly attitude of its people, to the breathtaking blue of its skies, it is a place unlike any other, with animals and scenery you will find nowhere else on earth and an unmatched diversity of people, flavours, aromas and sights.
This vast island-continent has a relatively small, urbanised population of just 20 million people. By contrast, the UK is home to some 60 million people and is 30 times smaller than Australia. The Australians are also a culturally diverse nation where multiculturalism is not merely tolerated, but embraced. Approximately 5.6 million people have immigrated to Australia since WWII – which is a huge percentage of the population – in fact, over one quarter of today’s population was born overseas.
People from all walks of life come to he Gold Coast to work, live, play and study – the lifestyle is relaxed, the people are friendly and if you are anything like us, you will return from your Gold Coast holiday and apply for Australian migration! We have lived her for the past six years and now call it home…
Dominique has been writing for over a decade and contributes to media worldwide.
Her articles have appeared online and in publications as diverse as Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Dubai’s Connector Magazine and the UK’s Cat World Monthly.