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Australia: Bendigo, Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Sydney
Gold Coast, Australia: Enjoy being sandwiched between hinterland and the coast.
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
100,000 hectres of rainforest on one side. 70 kms of famous coastline on the other. In between is 300 days of sunshine, fine hotels & resorts, countless restaurants, bars, pubs, shopping opportunities and fun attractions. No wonder, Gold Coast is the most popular holiday destination for Australians as well as visitors.
I was one of the guests of Gold Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. That ensured that I would get to visit places which would be interesting and worth visiting. I was to be there for 3 nights. For the first night I was hosted at Marriot Resort & Spa. I reached Gold Coast in the afternoon from Melbourne (there’s a time difference of an hour between Melbourne & Gold Coast; letting you know because many like me wouldn’t be aware). Generally speaking, most of the hotels and resorts would be at a distance from the airport. Unless you have hired a car, you may want to use the services of a shuttle. Con-x-ion (interesting name) Airport Transfers can be safely relied on. In about 40 minutes I was on one of the higher floors of Marriot Resort.
It was nice and sunny. The room was at a diagonal to the ocean… offering me a good view of the hinterlands; the city on the left and the ocean on the right. Since the past few days, there was plenty of rain in the region and clouds were expected to hover for a few more days, I didn’t take a chance. I started taking pictures from my balcony… making hay while the sun was up there. Sure enough, the next 2 days that I was there, the weather Gods were not all that kind (from a photographer’s perspective). Yes, I did mention that it remains sunny for most of the days of the year. But well, I was bit unlucky on that count. No regrets though.
From a high vantage point, I was surprised to see a massive network of canals. And why not? Gold Coast has more than 500 kms of canals… more than Venice. Thus, the views on the non-ocean side rooms compete well with the rooms that face the ocean! Just be sure to ask for rooms on the higher levels… even if you have to pay a wee bit more… it’s worth it. Stay high in Gold Coast! No puns intended.
After a bit of clicking I was ready to be taken around the hotel. I was impressed by their aquatic playground, a centerpiece of the resort, spread across a hectare of landscaped gardens. There’s a 5-metre deep saltwater lagoon, home to more than 400 tropical fish where guests can scuba dive, snorkel and swim through waterfalls into rock grottos and spas.
After the rounds of the property, we were ready to ride Harley Davidson around town. I was on the pillion. The bike was in control of a true Harley Davidson driver… well built, tattooed with distinct character. They look scary but are fun guys. Wildfire Tours offer their bikes to tourist. A typical half-hour tour will cost $100 that includes the driver. You can be on your own too but I am not aware about the commercials. We zoomed past many city landmarks, leaving behind fast cars. It was a great 30-minute experience. This was my first real Harley Davidson ride. The bud bud bud was thrilling.
We got off at Q1 Resort & Spa just meters away from the lively beach of Surfers Paradise. Q1 is an iconic structure of Gold Coast. This tall residential and hotel tower offers unspoiled panoramas of the beautiful ocean and surrounding hinterland. The sleek and contemporary design of this lavish architectural creation provides for a stylish, state-of-the-art facility. A dedicated lift (2nd fastest in the Southern Hemisphere; first being the lift at Eureka Skydeck, Melbourne), takes you up on the 77th floor to QDeck in 43 seconds. From 230 meters above ground, level 77 offers spectacular 360 degree view of Gold Coast. After hovering around for some time, we enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks on top of the world readying us for a gourmet experience that awaited us on earth.
The coast has 3 very popular locations. Mainbeach, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise Surfers Paradise. Just 20 minutes away from Q1 is Broadbeach – another happening location. Broadbeach is the central dining precinct of the Gold Coast and has in its proximity The Conrad Jupiter (the only casino around) and the Broadbeach Mall. That evening we experienced a progressive dinner – Entrée at Beach House Grill Bar; Main at Lauxes and Desserts at East. Within walking distances of each other, it’s indeed a good idea to experience variety of food and ambience.
Like any beach house, Beachhouse Grillbar is perfect for all day long dining. Classic cocktails and wine complement the fresh seafood and steaks they take pride in serving. For our group, their Chef was on a roll. Entrée kept coming. At one time, I actually had to request to stop the indulgence. I needed room for other things to come.
Overlooking the Victoria Park, Lauxes Lounge is a beautiful restaurant. This uniquely designed restaurant has a wonderful cocktail menu and is quite a popular destination for cocktail parties amongst the highly fashionable local crowd. It serves delicious fusion of Japanese and modern Australian influences.
East, is a new concept – a unique blend of dining, late night and early evening entertainment. As night falls, the area converts into dance floors. Open only from Thursday to Sunday, guests are entertained by live stage shows and artistic performances. With our senses still intact, we were driven to our hotel for night’s rest. Transfers for the day were provided by Aries Tours.
In the morning we were ready to enjoy our breakfast with the tigers. We checked out and had our bags ready to be taken to Sofitel Gold Coast – my hotel for the next 2 nights. Gold Coast is famous for its theme parks. From amongst many around, we would get to visit Dreamworld and Seaworld.
A 30-minute drive saw us at the gates of Dreamworld. It has some tallest and fastest rides that provide thrill to folks across ages. Tiger Island is an enclosure that has many Bengal and Sumatran tigers. They play, swim and wrestle with their handlers every day. Breakfast was laid out in a restaurant facing the tiger enclosure. I had the opportunity to pat a massive tiger. Reminded me of my visit to Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
After encounters in the wild, we left for site inspection of Radisson Resort Gold Coast and Watermark Hotel & Spa. Both the hotels are popular with leisure and business travelers due to proximity to surfing beaches, nightlife and shopping.
For lunch, we were at Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise. ‘Four Winds’ is their revolving restaurant on the 26th floor. They serve delicious multi-cuisine, buffet lunches. Flavour of the food is enhanced thanks to the breathtaking view around. One revolution completes in 60 minutes… just ideal to dig through multi-courses.
Our next stop was Palazzo Versace. The only hotel from the famous designer (soon, a new one will come up in Dubai). Of course, not everybody can afford to stay in this designer property but that should not deter you to visit this fascinating place. You may not get the chance to view the rooms, but nothing to stop you from enjoying a visit to their lobby, restaurants and gallery. Our visit to Palazzo Versace was complete after a cooking demo directly by their Executive Chef. I think I can now make world class Lamingtons – a simple sponge cake dipped in chocolate or strawberry sauce and smothered with coconut shavings. Legend has it that this Australian cake was an accidental invention when the cake fell off from the bakers hand into stuff around!
Post cooking class, we reached our hotel Sofitel Gold Coast to freshen up for the evening. Sofitel is perfectly located in cosmopolitan Broadbeach. Only 200 meters from patrolled beaches, beachside parks and an array of savvy shops, cafes and restaurants. The hotel also features access by monorail to Jupiters Casino. We dressed up for the evening’s Gala Dinner to be hosted at Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa. A stretch limo, from Corporate Limousines, would drive us to the venue for an extravagant evening – a special privilege as guests of the Gold Coast CVB.
Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa is the Gold Coast’s only resort set right on the beach. When viewed from air, the shape of the resort resembles to that of a crab! Aerial Angels Productions, organized a fantastic show during the Gala Dinner. Opera singers, acrobats and light effects ensured that we were glued to our seats. Like all good things, this evening had to end too.
While we enjoyed breakfast with the tigers yesterday, today was the opportunity to breakfast with dolphins! Just a few minutes drive from downtown Surfers Paradise, got us to Sea World Resort & Water Park. In a quiet corner of the Dolphin’s Cove, we enjoyed our breakfast. Dolphin Entertainers had at command a pair of dolphins who gave us an awe-inspiring performance. The dolphins bid us farewell but not before allowing us to touch and feel them. The park provides with various opportunities for the adrenaline rush! Helicopter ride is one such. The cost is upwards of $50 depending upon the duration of the flight.
Post breakfast, we were in the safe hands of the instructors from Australian Surfer International Surf School. These fun guys offer courses to visitors and locals of course. From a 2-hour crash course to advanced training you can do it all when in Gold Coast. The fee is upwards of $100 and includes surf boards and transportation to appropriate beaches. The guys came over in their colourful vehicle to pick us up at Sea World. Just a walk across the road was a beach ideally suited to surf and body board. Most from our group jumped in their swimwear and splashed around. I was on the shore enjoying the tuitions being parted. With a little tan, we walked back to Sea World, changed and hopped on the helicopters. In about 8 minutes we were dropped at Couran Cove Island Resort.
The resort is set amongst a natural rainforest and a pristine surf beach. The resort can also be accessed by boat from Sanctuary Cove Marina. Resort’s private catamaran makes regular trips during the day ferrying their guests. Well appointed villas, standing on stilts in the lagoon make for a pleasant stay. You will be intrigued, as I was, by their Olympic Room – a hall full with a private collection of memorabilia from various Olympics. Our lunch was on sit out overlooking the lagoon punctuated with boats and yachts. Resort’s ferry brought us ashore in about 20 minutes.
For the day, we were looked after well by JPT Tours for all our transfers. From the marina we headed to Harbour Town Shopping Center – a colourful and vibrant shopping destination with over 120 outlets selling quality branded fashion and home wares. Whilst fellow colleagues enjoyed a 60-minutes splurge, I relaxed at the Visitor Centre. Good to know that access to the Visitor Centre lounge is complimentary and the centre provides battery operated wheel chairs for those needing them to move around the Shopping Centre.
We returned to the Sanctuary Cove Marina and boarded a luxury catamaran that would take us to McLarens Landing, set in a beautiful natural bushland overlooking a calm water private beach. That was the venue to enjoy our farewell dinner. Tall Ship Cruises, did a good job with their catamaran… nice friendly crew and equally energetic cocktails on board. Enjoying the setting sun, we slowly cruised along. On the banks were the homes of the rich & famous.
We were welcomed and then entertained by two fantastic fire dancers. A lavish BBQ dinner made for good company. After couple of hours of fun, we sailed back to end the day… our last one in Gold Coast.
We were to depart for our respective destinations post breakfast – which was to be served at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Only minutes away from Currumbin Beach, this sanctuary is nestled amongst 27 hectares of eucalypt and rainforest. A typical day at the Currumbin Santuary starts with a visit to the Lorikeet Arena to feed the wild lorikeets which have been visiting this site for over 60 years. From around this area, the sanctuary grew to what it is today – home to koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes, birds and host of other native creatures. Visitors have the option to take the Green Challenge – 65 high ropes challenges over 4 courses including rope bridges and ladders. A nice little train takes you around the sanctuary calling at various attractions.
After breakfast, I took the shuttle to Brisbane. It was a comfortable 90 minute drive.
Gold Coast Image Gallery Photo viewer
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