Not for nothing is Queensland called ‘Sunshine State’. You wake up from your slumber and squint at the bright sunshine when the pilot cheerfully announces landing at six in the morning. The quaint little airport belies the size of the sprawling city that promises sun, sand and surfing. Mish from Gold Coast tourism and our chaperone for the next few days receives us and bundles us into a bus. So when is the best time to visit Gold Coast you ask. “Right through the year because the water and the air never gets too cold,” Mish says.
Breakfast is at Cafe DBar in Coolangatta with a sweeping view of the serene beach. The sunny cafe, mostly crowded, other than serving sumptuous food also showcases art. You take a stroll along the beachfront when a lady taps on the shoulder and points to a whale skimming the surface.
We drive to Skypoint in Surfers Paradise, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The top floor, with glass for walls offers a 360 degrees panoramic view of Gold Coast.
Gold Coast is a sunny, sought after destination with 57 kilometres of undulating, seemingly endless beaches. The city is warm, be it the people or the weather making it conducive for water sports or just lazing around. The beach front is dotted with accommodation depending on the depth of your pockets. The Star Gold Coast, a five-star hotel shaped like a stack of boomerangs is our host and is being spruced up for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
Next morning, we head to the BMD Surf Life Saving club, a volunteer driven organisation, established 70 years ago. Over 300 volunteers patrol Northcliffe beach. Steve, one of their oldest members shows us the evolution of life saving gear over the decades. Children from the age of five overcome their fear of the waves and train to save lives.
Post breakfast it is back to Skypoint to scale Australia’s tallest point, all of 270 metres high. We get into an over-sized costume with various clips and belts. A heavy chunk of metal attached to your harness is slid into the railing to make you feel safe. You have to slide it while climbing. We labour up precariously even as Brody, our guide, runs ahead. It’s exhilarating atop a ramp with the wind whipping your face as you get a bird’s-eye view of Gold Coast. We’re on top, Down Under.
After the sea, sand and skyscrapers, it is time to taste Aussie rural life at Paradise Country with sheep, horses, koalas and kangaroos. The accommodation varies from modest tents to air-conditioned caravans, strategically parked. There is a sheep shearing show every day. You can cuddle koalas before shopping and eating at the airy cafeteria. They also run a Movie World theme park which boasts a brand new, hair-raising hyper coaster and an all-star parade of your favourite DC comic characters.
At dusk we are ferried to a vibrant food court called Night Quarters near Helensville train station. It is more like a weekend fair, an ideal family outing. Wedding planners are showcasing how they can make the day memorable. Michelle, a co-owner takes us on a tour as we inhale the various aromas emanating from the food stalls. Everyone wants you to taste their culinary creation. The choice is easy if you’re vegetarian.
Day three starts with the promise of a healthy breakfast but not before a bout of yoga.
The menu is full of food containing nuts, sprouts, eggs and honey not to mention the fruit ‘smoothies’. Mish tells us to carry a change of clothing as we are going to take the Paradise Jet Boat ride. We spot dolphins and ogle at opulent water-front mansions. We change and rush to witness a pack of hungry pelicans being fed.
It’s our last day at the Gold Coast. Mish has to visit her ailing father so the lovely Lara greets our groggy gang at 3.45 am in the hotel foyer. We drive for about 40 kilometres for the hot-air balloon experience. After a briefing we hop into a basket, ready to float. It’s a beautiful clear morning and the ascension is effortless. Objects shrink rapidly as we settle at an altitude of 2,300 feet. You feel like an eagle, gliding and levitating.
Tourists need to shop and so we go to Pacific Fair, a tastefully designed and well laid out mall. The best of brands rub shoulders with ‘dollar stores’. You buy sneakers but realise it is the wrong size, after returning to the hotel. Pacific Fair is a stone’s throw away and it is just 6 pm but Lara informs you the mall will be closed. “It is a quality of life decision made by the Government,” informs Lara. Since the staff are low income earners they won’t crib but the Government feels the time should be reserved for family and recreation.” Even bars and restaurants close early but for weekends.
The people of Gold Coast while tirelessly manning the beach and making sure tourists have a great time, do not forget to care for their own citizens. As you board the aircraft you realise that nobody has addressed you as ‘mate’. The slightly over-sized shoes will be the sole uncomfortable memory about this beautiful destination.
The author was in Gold Coast on the invitation of Air Asia and Queensland Tourism
Gold Coast is also home to world-heritage listed rainforest and receives an average of 10 hours of sunshine everyday.
There are flights from Delhi, Amritsar, Pune, Jaipur, Chennai and Hyderabad to Gold Coast otherwise one can fly to Brisbane from where it is just an hour’s journey. The domestic and international terminals of the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta are only a 30-minute drive from Surfers Paradise