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Why 48 Hours On The Gold Coast Is What You Need This Summer

Why 48 Hours On The Gold Coast Is What You Need This Summer

The last time I visited the Gold Coast I was about six-years-old. My only memories of the trip are racing my brother on the Super 8 Aqua Racer at Wet ‘n’ Wild and losing my discman at Movieworld. It was a magical trip filled with junk food, happiness and a whole lot of sun my tiny Melbourne body wasn’t ready for.

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#throwback

I wasn’t sure what returning as an adult would be like. As our car pulled out from Coolangatta airport on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon and I spied the ocean off in the distance, a few thoughts rushed into head. Would returning to the Sunshine Coast as an adult tarnish my idealistic memories of this place? Was Schoolies still on? And the most pressing thought of all – would I ever find my discman again?

As we rounded the corner onto the highway I realised a lot had changed in 17 years. Both the Gold Coast and I had done some growing up.


This isn’t the Gold Coast you remember…

First of all, yes, those theme parks are still as good as you remember – the Tower of Terror is still scary and that Wipeout ride at Seaworld is still pretty cool. But did you know there’s a whole other world outside those magical parks? A world that’s filled with picture-perfect beaches and boutique coffee shops that’ll make your hometown feel like a distant memory? You can totally get your culture fix at the Gold Coast – all you’ll need is 48 hours and a whole lot of energy.

tower of terror


But isn’t it Schoolies week?

Heading to the Gold Coast in late November was probably a little out of the ordinary for me (as sadly, I am not 18-years-old anymore). Our driver, however, informed us that Schoolies was in its last dregs and that we’d be hard pressed to find any over-the-top partying where we were going.

That said, the Gold Coast is so much more than its reputation as the party-capital of Australia, a stereotype largely helped along by the annual Schoolies celebration. While the area is still a very popular spot for recent graduates to let loose every November, a deliberate move has seen the region, and Surfers Paradise in particular, actively clean up its image with a whole new crop of  awesome restaurants and bars bringing in a new breed of hip locals. Sure, November can be hectic, but the Gold Coast now caters for tourists and locals year-round with a perfect mix of exciting cuisine and culture, enjoyed with a casual beach-side vibe.


Where to stay

gt room
(Photo: QT Gold Coast)

Located on Staghorn Avenue, just a block away from the beach, QT Gold Coast appeals to the closeted hipster in us all. Expect to be greeted by friendly staff dressed in retro pit-stop outfits and enjoy a complimentary glass of homemade lemonade before being shown to the beach-cruiser bikes, free to hire for guests. You’d be mistaken for thinking you were in Melbourne’s inner-north, if it weren’t for these views from your room.

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Falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves is a luxury most city-dwellers can only dream of. The majority of the rooms at QT Hotel also face that golden coastline, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better view in the city – it’s pure paradise.

While the rest of the hotel is cosy, cool and collected, QT’s in-house restaurant Bazaar is certainly where the magic happens. It’s an “interactive marketplace” – calling it a buffet would be an insult – filled to the brim with cooked meats, fresh seafood and the mother of all dessert bars. The coup de gras is their compact version of a s’more, the popular American campfire treat. At Bazaar, the s’more has been reinvented in a small jar filled with a rich chocolate brownie topped with sweet marshmallow cream and dusted with cookie crumbs. Going back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) is a must.

qt bazaar
(Photo: QT Gold Coast)

If it’s flavour of the liquid variety you’re after, heading over to the Stingray Lounge and tempting yourself with a cocktail is a wise move. Stingray, while being a pretty great late night hotspot, is also home to one of the most impressive tequila collections in the country. Over 50 tequilas are on offer to add to some of your favourite cocktails, or you can go with straight tequila on ice. You’ll be surprised at how silky-smooth this party alcohol can be when it’s not immediately followed by salt and a lemon slice. Throw in some fresh fish tacos from the bar menu and you’ll be set for the night.

stingray
(Photo: QT Gold Coast)

Life’s a beach

I’ll be honest; I’m not one for crowds, so when it comes to beach going, I like to keep it low-key. Luckily, there are a few alternatives to the main drag along Surfers Paradise that will delight us solitude-seekers.

Narrowneck Beach is a peaceful little hideaway a few minutes north of Main Beach that provides the classic Gold Coast beach scene, minus shoulder-rubbing (literally) with crowds of tourists. Not into waves? Along the Nerang River, you’ll find a sandy little inlet called Budd’s Beach which is hidden away behind the northern edge of Surfers Paradise.

Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia Photos from along the coast line of the Gold Coast from The Spit down to Currumbin & everywhere in between like Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Miami Beach & Burleigh Heads. Flickr - www.flickr.com/photos/behindthesteeringwheel/sets/ Instagram - instagram.com/pauldambraau Pinterest - pinterest.com/pauldambra/boards/ Triptease - triptease.com/profile/paul-d-ambra/reviews Facebook - www.facebook.com/pdambra
(Photo: Paul D’Ambra/Flickr)

For a Gold Coast classic there’s The Spit, a four-kilometre stretch of beach that’s perfect for catching rays and trying your luck at surfing. There are dozens of surf hire places littered across the beach, but even sitting on the sand and watching is good entertainment.

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Rain, rain go away

Ironically, while I was taking a few days off from my regular life in Melbourne, the Gold Coast decided it needed a few days off from being a sunny beach paradise, delivering grey skies full of rain (the big irony being that it was 30 degrees and sunny in Melbourne – of course). But while the city is famous for its beautiful beaches and outdoor activities, there’s thankfully plenty of ways to experience the Gold Coast from the inside.

The QT Gold Coast has an excellent day spa which is perfect for relaxing on a rainy day (or a sunny day, for that matter). SpaQ has an array of treatments on offer to help soothe that sun-kissed skin and relax those weary muscles. There’s massage therapy, body exfoliation, facial masks and more, all perfect to prepare you for an evening out.

spaq
(Photo: spaQ)

And out to town you will go – your best bet for a rainy day? Getting some retail therapy, of course. Heads up, the old Gold Coast favourite Pacific Fair is getting a facelift. This well-loved shopping centre is currently undergoing a huge $670 million redevelopment that will turn the outdoor mall we all knew and loved into a bustling shopping mecca. When they’re done with this place (the reopening is slated for mid 2016) it’ll be unrecognisable from the meek shopping strip it once was.

There’ll be luxury brands, a huge marketplace for food, a brand new cinema and an open-plan shopping area that will be perfect way to chill out of on the hottest day of Queensland’s calendar as well as those few cool days. Did someone say shopping spree?

The writer stayed as a guest of QT Gold Coast and Pacific Fair.

(Lead image: Michael Dawes/Flickr)

Check out Qantas flights to the Gold Coast here.

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