We had heard lots of bad things about the Gold Coast before our visit, and it definitely doesn’t have a great reputation amongst many Australians, as well as some of our friends living in the country. It is generally thought of as being a tacky and overdeveloped tourist destination which is best avoided, much like an Australian version of Blackpool.
However as with everywhere, we arrived with an open mind, ready to find the best it had to offer. We were actually pleasantly surprised, and the Gold Coast has plenty going for it, especially if you are willing to look a little harder.
But first, the bad stuff. Surfers Paradise, the most popular section of the coastline, was exactly what we expected. While the beach itself is nice, they’re not exactly in short supply in Australia, and the huge high-rise apartment blocks and hotels towering over the beach do sort what ruin it. As for the resort itself, you can see why it is popular with young Australian holidaymakers, but it was overcrowded and full of cheap looking shops and restaurants. Definitely not the sort of place we enjoy visiting.
Although we were tempted to cut short our visit to Surfers Paradise, we were persuaded to stay around for the SeaFire fireworks display, and in the end were glad that we did.
There was a huge crowd for the annual event, which had been originally planned for April, but was postponed due to Cyclone Debbie. The spectacular show started with skydivers, followed by a competition between the designers of the London and Beijing Olympic ceremonies, which lasted around 30 minutes. For what it’s worth we thought the Chinese display was the best. With the fireworks launched from out on the ocean, it meant the beach was the perfect place to sit and watch the displays.
Beyond Surfers Paradise we found plenty to like about the Gold Coast. First of all the weather was amazing during our visit, and despite it now being winter, it was probably one of the hottest places we have visited so far. With the area receiving around 300 days of sunshine a year, it really is ideal for a holiday destination.
There are some great beaches stretching along the coastline, and with there being so many, it is easier than you would expect to escape the crowds, with most people staying around the patrolled sections of the beaches. It is also obvious why the Gold Coast is so popular with surfers, with some great waves despite the relatively calm weather during our visit. Some of the best beaches we visited were Currumbin Alley and Miami Beach.
It was great to spend time in some of the Gold Coast’s suburbs, with our favourite being Burleigh Heads. We spent our Sunday morning at the popular Village Markets, where there was local produce, clothes, and an assortment of other goods on offer, all accompanied by live music.
We followed this with yet another great brunch at the Burleigh Social, before walking to the headland itself, and finding a spot on the grass to relax and enjoy the great weather.
While we can’t compare to the real version, we also enjoyed our time in the suburb of Miami. We had a lunch on the beautiful beach, before returning later that night for the Miami Marketta, a huge street food market which is just our sort of place!
With so many different cuisines available, deciding what to eat was challenging, but we were very happy with our choice of a Mexican platter, especially the flame-grilled nachos. There was more live music for entertainment, which even included Rachael’s favourite – the steel pans.
Travelling inland to the Gold Coast hinterland region, we also found lots to enjoy, including some great views of the Gold Coast skyline in the distance. Unfortunately our plans to visit the Springbrook National Park were curtailed by road closures, but we did enjoy a brief visit to the Currumbin Rock Pools, which is a popular swimming spot for locals.
We also made a short visit to Mount Tamborine, which is a common day trip for Gold Coast holidaymakers. After giving the van another tough workout climbing the steep and winding roads, we made quick stops at the Rotary and Knoll lookouts. We then walked the short 1km trail to the impressive Curtis Falls, before finishing with some drinks at the busy Fortitude Brewery.
The Gold Coast is not somewhere that we will be hurrying back to, but we enjoyed our few days there and it definitely has a lot more going for it than we expected prior to our visit. The beaches and weather were great, and we especially liked Burleigh Heads and Miami.