Surfers Paradise: Golden strip has glitz and glamour

The strip between the Gold Coast Highway and the Esplanade is the heart of Surfers Paradise. Picture: Supplied
The strip between the Gold Coast Highway and the Esplanade is the heart of Surfers Paradise. Picture: Supplied

Many Baby Boomers have fond memories of the annual family pilgrimage to Surfers Paradise.

It usually happened after Boxing Day, in the Christmas holidays.

Mum and Dad would pack the car and with kids in tow, take to the Pacific Highway, hoping the radiator wouldn't boil over on the long drive north.

There'd be a night's stopover, usually at Coffs Harbour, then a day's journey to a motel on what was then referred to as Queensland's South Coast.

These days, Australia's sixth-largest city attracts about 10 million tourists every year.

Motels would have a kidney-shaped swimming pool full of children and plastic toys, and entertainment would be day trips to Sammy the Seal shows, or licking ice creams along the beach.

It wasn't until the 1980s the Gold Coast changed its spots and started to evolve into the major tourist destination it is today.

These days, Australia's sixth-largest city attracts about 10 million tourists every year, although many have shied away during the pandemic.

But now borders are re-opening and restrictions are easing, a visit to Queensland's playground is a must.

A trip to "Surfers" includes art galleries, stylish cafes, glitzy shopping malls and evening drinks in your hotel, overlooking the beach.

Here are some ideas about what to do and where to visit once you hit your Gold Coast destination.

Accommodation

Let's start with the dreams first and the Gold Coast's many five-star hotels.

The strip between the Gold Coast Highway and the Esplanade, which runs along Surfers Paradise Beach, is the location of most chain hotels.

These include The Hilton (Orchid Avenue), Mantra Crown Towers (Palm Avenue) Mantra On View (View Avenue) and the QT Gold Coast (Staghorn Avenue).

All these hotels have rooms with views of the beach, as well as views of the hinterland.

Most have bars on the upper levels, a perfect place to unwind in the evening with a cold chardonnay or beer.

The Palazzo Versace is a luxurious, five-star resort, however, it's three kilometres north of Surfers so if staying there, you'll need to catch a cab to the CBD.

Dining

As you'd expect from a city that sits on the Pacific Ocean, there's seafood restaurants galore on the Gold Coast, with many lining The Esplanade.

This is the place where you will find everything from cafes selling fish 'n' chips, through to upmarket eateries offering smorgasbords of lobster and prawns.

Stroll down to nearby Mermaid Beach and Broadbeach where you will find a range of multicultural establishments selling everything from pizza and paella through to Greek, Indian and vegetarian restaurants.

Most of the hotels have their own restaurants along with service to the pool.

Indulge in a poolside snack and cocktail, or watch the night creep in one of the top-level hotel bars (open to guests only).

Shopping

Pacific Fair Shopping Centre at Broadbeach and Australia Fair Shopping Centre at Southport are the best places for retail therapy.

Catch the Gold Coast Light Rail, or "G", to Australia Fair Shopping Centre on Marine Parade.

As well as shops you will find cinemas, banks, restaurants, doctors' and dentists' surgeries and a customer service desk where you can hire a motorised scooter, wheelchair or stroller.

You can also catch the "G" to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, opened in 1977 on what was once swampland.

These days, Pacific Fair has about 400 shops, including the large department stores (such as David Jones) and excellent fashion shopping.

It is here you will find Bally, Bulgari, Camilla, Gucci and other high-end labels. The fair has its share of services, too.

Entertainment

Big-ticket items are DreamWorld, MovieWorld and Sea World, all scheduled to re-open in the next few months following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

But there is a lot more to see and do on the Gold Coast.

Free family activities during the day include bushwalking in the Gold Coast hinterland (there are three national forests from which to choose), swimming in the freshwater Currumbin Rock Pools, a visit to O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk (a 180-metres rainforest walk consisting of nine suspension bridges) and a visit to the historical tramway tunnel east of Canungra, once used as an ammunition dump but which is now an outdoor museum attraction.

When the sun goes down, there's Draculas Cabaret dinner and show, the Australian Outback Spectacular, a dinner-and-show package that runs from 7pm-10pm, and the Southport Cemetery Paranormal Activity Tour (8pm-10pm), a one kilometre walk through the cemetery in Queen Street that takes about two hours.

Transport

Apart from driving (either via the Pacific Highway or inland, via Route 15) you can fly to Gold Coast Airport, take the train direct from Brisbane or catch a bus from Sydney Central to Beach Road, Surfers Paradise (which takes just over 14 hours).

Whichever way you travel to the Gold Coast, you will be met with sunny smiles and warm handshakes.

While you're here...

...you might also enjoy