My last-minute decision to spend a night on Queensland’s Gold Coast led to a wonderfully lazy mosey about Surfers Paradise recently. Despite the short notice, there were plenty of hotel options available in the 4-star range and above, so I grabbed my sister and we hot-footed it down the M1 from Brisbane.
We stayed in the 4.5-star Watermark Hotel & Spa Gold Coast, just one block back from the beach. It has restaurants, a spa, even a hair salon, but the best part was I could lie in bed with a view of the sea. (Did I mention lazy?)
Anyhow, you don’t have to get wet to enjoy being at Surfers. We didn’t even bother with either of the hotel’s lovely pools. And visiting as we were at the tail-end of Cyclone Winston, the beaches were closed all along the coast. I was secretly pretty happy about that as I’m a timid swimmer and burn to a crisp in the sun.
My dream holiday is any one where I get to ditch the car and explore on foot. And being in central Surfers, we managed to stay within a six-block radius of our hotel and not be short on laid-back fun.
One of the to-dos on my list was the Q1 tower, one of the tallest residential buildings in the world at 322.5 metres (taller than New York’s Chrysler building). You’d think it would be easy to find but it became the cause of some debate.
We just couldn’t see the tree for the forest of towers clustered around Surfers. Seriously, when you’re at ground level looking up, it’s really hard to spot. Turns out, it was across the road from our hotel, staring us in the face every time we looked out our window.
No matter, we found it at last, and were delighted to discover it was hosting the SkyPoint Sea to Sky Q1 Stair Challenge – not that we wanted to participate, of course. But after our 42.7-second lift ride from ground to the SkyPoint Observation Deck on Level 77, we got to see the competitors who had run up all 1,331 steps cross the finish line. Kudos to the fireys who ran in full uniform, complete with oxygen tanks.
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The view from the observation deck was simply staggering – from surf to hinterland, and what seemed like the entire coastline north and south. And you can spot the few remaining older-style buildings, with their turrets, tiny rooftop pools and Moroccan-Mediterranean aesthetic – a little glimpse of the Surfers of days gone by.
Ever since the racy pyjama parties of the 1960s, Surfers has staged sensational events. When we visited, the Sand Safari festival was in full swing, featuring sand sculptures of Kung Fu Panda and other DreamWorks characters along the foreshore. Giant inflatable street art by Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas also took over the precinct, with glowing jellyfish floating above Cavill Mall and green tentacles reaching out from hotel balconies.
But Surfers itself is spectacle enough. Take a wander down the streets during the day and you might find tutu’d ladies on a scavenger hunt (we obligingly took their photo under a meter maid billboard). Wander at night and you might see a brood of hens preparing for a wedding, all pink feather boas and headdresses.
Stroll around Orchid and Elkhorn avenues to window shop the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada and Hermes; or amuse yourself counting the Ugg boot shops a few streets back.
Breakfast buffets abound at Surfers, in hotels and along the waterfront. Seaside cafes might be a little pricey but I like to look at the sea and I’m not much good at bargain hunting when I’m hungry so we coughed up.
Our ship came in at dinner at the delicious Samphire Bites, just across the road from our hotel at the base of the Q1 tower. Chef James Brady’s sumptuous share plates included the likes of smoked (ie still smoking) chips and dips, and maple and bourbon glazed pork belly with Persian feta and pickles.
Next time I’ll get there for aperitivo hour instead of devouring chips and bubbly in our hotel room. After dinner, we wandered down to Doughnut Time on Cavill Avenue to try the Vegan Fox creation (dark chocolate glaze with pistachios and freeze-dried strawberries) for dessert.
When I return to Surfers, I might try the jetboat rides, the whale-watching tours, simulated skydiving or climb the Q1 spire. Or I might just lie in bed with a view of the sea.