Trivia #1: Gold Coast is often compared to Miami (Florida, US)
Trivia #2: In the late 1940’s, Brisbane journalists called the coast, south of Brisbane, “the Gold Coast” as it was the place to get rich through buying and selling land in the post-war real estate boom.
Welcome to Gold Coast, a coastal city of sub-tropical climate where its surfing culture attracts surfers from all over the world, beginners and professional surfers alike, to this surfing paradise and tonnes of beach fun and nightlife at the eastern spot of Australia.
If you’re looking for surf and sand, beachfront bars, and a large serving of family entertainment, then Gold Coast looks like the place to be for your vacation.
Being the largest non-capital city with a population of over 600,000, Gold Coast offers constant waves all day and night with its impressive 35 sun-kissed beaches along its 70km coastline. Surfing is one of the major attractions but if you prefer to stay dry, there is so much more waiting for you!
Day 1: Brisbane (Country Paradise & Vineyard)
The moment our plane circled around the city in descent, I was awe-stricken with the vast beauty and the vast cerulean sky.
As I stepped out of the plane, my eyes were fixed on to the vast mountains and the white cotton-like clouds floating in the blue Australian sky. I think I will fall in love with this part of the world after my trip.
A cool breeze greeted me upon stepping out of the plane – as someone who hails from a tropical and humid Singapore where the weather is always a constant 33 degree celsius, I didn’t broke a sweat even though I was wearing a beanie and double layers of clothing. Though the sun rays can be quite intense and warm, one can still feel the occasional chill even after being decked out in warmer clothes – especially during windy days. So, do dress up in warmer clothes if you’re someone who is not used to cooler climates.
The airport staff were really polite, but having an professional image to uphold, it isn’t too surprising. Our first stop in this tour group wasn’t the hotel, but Paradise Country farm. Our luggage were towed along in a cart attached to our mini bus for ease of movement.
Paradise Country is an accommodation place housing to wildlife animals such as kangaroos and koalas which are only exclusively found in Australia.
The younger kangaroos seemed to enjoy lazing around, and were pretty shy to interact with tourists. The farm also offers photo taking opportunities with the koalas but only at certain timings which unfortunately weren’t in our favour.
The next stop brought us to the sheep shearing show where they demonstrated the shearing of sheep’s wool for production. For more information, check out: https://paradisecountry.com.au/
Our next destination was a 45 minutes drive to O’reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards. Though our itinerary stated only to do wine tasting and grape stomping, it actually offers much more than that.
Surrounded by nature, this hidden treasure offers a tranquil escapade amidst the towering trees – perfect for a family picnic. Against the pleasant backdrop of gentle river sounds and the occasional chirping of the birds, the lush natural environment is a welcome change from the bustle of the cities. Or even a quiet contemplation by the woods.
The interior of the bar was smartly presented and neat. Expensive bottles of liquor lined the wooden cabinets, giving the place a polished feel. Of the 3 glasses of wine we tried, Glona Sparkling Semel (2014) left a deeper impression on me. Well, I’m not exactly in an expert position to savour and appraise wine, but I do like the slightly sweet aftertaste.
Feeling weary yet at the same time thrilled for more activities, we checked into Novotel located in the heart of Brisbane city before regrouping for dinner at one of the many promising bars in the vicinity – in the end, we settled for the Hard Rock Cafe. To be frank, Brisbane is too huge to be explored fully, given our tight schedule and low energy level of our travel group, especially towards the end of the day.
By six in the evening, the skies fell into a dim glow of near darkness, while the rumours about shops closing early in Australia holds only half true in Gold Coast though I’m not too sure about the other areas. Novotel is situated in a 5 minute walk to Surfers Paradise Beach where they hold night markets selling exotic crafts, reptiles, tattoo services etc. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Across three streets are strategically lined with souvenir shops, one-stop eating places, tourist-related shops and bars to complete your night. Within the same compound of Novotel, is a mini shopping mall called ‘Paradise Centre’ consisting of Woolworth’s supermarket providing all your daily necessities.
Gold Coast Light Rail (G Link)
Diagonally across our hotel is Cavill Avenue station. The G link provides a convenient mode of transportation across cities in Australia. The self-service ticketing machine can be confusing for first-time users, especially when the names of some of the stations are very similar. The nearest casino is located at Jupiter Hotel at the last station facing west at Broad beach South station and cost AUD 2.60. However, the price doubles when it is near midnight – AUD 4.90. Do plan ahead if you intend to visit the casino.
As far as I know, there are two kinds of taxis in Gold Coast – the normal sedan (4-5 seats) and the van (8-10 seats). The van cost slightly more but remains competitive due to its usage of a fare meter, so, the cost per passenger is lower.
Day 2: Sea World & Helicopter
The next day, the gentle warmth of the sun served as a natural morning call to me. I observed that the air conditioner will be automatically turned off if I opened the sliding door to the balcony, which makes sense because no matter what time of the day, the outside is always colder, and it gets inevitably worse at night in the winter season.
After our self-service buffet breakfast, we headed for Sea World. Inside, we were greeted with a beautiful interior against the backdrop of the great blue sky – tall, palm trees spread across lush grass fields and calm cerulean waters surrounded with neat white buildings. Not far away, we caught some seagulls taking flight towards the sea. Beautiful. It was truly a close to sea experience.
Our first stop was the seal show consisting of a short comical story which I wouldn’t spoil it for my readers. The dolphin show commenced next and the audience was clearly wowed by the amazing acrobatics put up by the highly intelligent and gentle marine creatures. The dolphin show was spectacular but I was particularly drawn to the inspiring message of the need and urgency to protect our oceans.
We passed by the polar bears den, penguin cove, sting ray aquarium, turtle’s tanks as well as the helicopter ride booth. Free roaming started after that, which we headed to the helicopter booth after paying a visit to those marine animals mentioned above.
Helicopter rides, being not part of the tour package cost 96 AUD for a 10 minutes bird’s eye tour and view around Gold Coast. There is an onboard capacity of four passengers (excluding the pilot). Having seen lots of Hollywood action flicks, I prepared myself mentally to brace the onslaught of gust generated by the propeller blades during boarding. However, I realised that it was not as bad as I had thought though safety precautions are best advised. We spoke through the use of headset microphone as it was too noisy for communication. Within seconds, Sea World quickly faded into a tiny land parcel in the coastal metropolis of Brisbane.
Moving forward to the next activity in the evening, we arrived at the Jet Boat Extreme Boarding Bay near Fisherman’s Wharf tavern which served top grade fish & chips made from 100% fillet and I was told that no flour was used in the food preparation. Impressive.
Stripping off our valuables and footwear, we climbed into the 18-seater jet board and cruised in low acceleration out into the ocean and sped through a fairly straight course before making a 360 degree drift (usually with a hand sign to warn us prior to execution). The session took about 20 minutes, and by the end of it, our promise of a soaking wet adventure was realised.
Day 3: Movie World (Warner Bros)
Yet another fascinating adventure into another world – the Movie World, namely, the Warner Bros theme park. If you are a fan of Warner Bros movies, you are in luck because you will be seeing your favourite characters ‘live’ in action!
The first thing that caught everybody’s eyes was the gigantic Superman Escape roller coaster…and its screams from high atop. Rows of european-looking shophouses in beige and maroon lined the district with a mini stage at the crossroad junction. Mascots such as the Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird and the Scooby Doo gang arrived to perform at scheduled timings.
We arrived on time to catch the stunt driver show where race cars pit against each other in a little story. There was also a short animation clip where the audience can get to be part of it simply by performing timed actions. Expect hotdog stands, cotton candies and popcorns on top of pizzas and ice creams to go along with your entertainment. From then on, it became a free roam session for our group.
While at Warner Bros, you can dress yourself or your kids up in super hero costumes, visit batman-exclusive themed stores or take a shot at festival games and win some cute plushies back home.
If you are expecting a more high octane experience, look no further than the DC Doomsday Destroyer (known for its 360 degree turn!) or try out the Superman Escape ride (voted as the top 5 scariest ride in 2016). Or even go for the Wild West Fall – a plunge down from a great height that is guaranteed to soak you with a tremendous splash! If you are still standing after all these extreme rides, how about testing your courage against the Batman Spaceshot, a 60-metre free fall ride designed to rattle even the bravest among us.
Finally, after a series of extreme rides (and wobbly legs), we visited the kid-friendly Roxy 4D theatre for a change of pace. It was pleasantly entertaining and the little surprises put a nice ending touch to our Warner Bros experience.
Personally, I’m more inclined to warmer climates but just by spending a few hours in Gold Coast has made me come to love the place, the friendly folks, and the food (big servings).
I didn’t really capture much of their food because there is nothing too exotic to write home about except that we had lots of meat and fries throughout our trip. Gold Coast is truly the place for beach party nights with its bars and music running all night long. If you’re into outdoor water activities, you will love it here too. Shopping-wise, there are several shopping malls further down from the heart of Surfers Paradise where I stayed.
By the way, do not miss the chance to take the hot air balloon ride as it is one of the very few places on earth you get to see the sunrise in the sky – another one of those once-in-a-lifetime experience. Do book early to avoid disappointment.
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