Australia’s GOLD COAST offers a dizzying array of things to see and do, so here’s how to make the best of a short stay at the famed beach destination
The Gold Coast in the Australian state of Queensland is one of the world’s best known holiday destinations with its stunning beaches, spectacular theme parks, scenic hinterland and vibrant nightlife.
Presuming you have your family in tow, this recommended itinerary will help you get the best out of three days in the Gold Coast. Given the time constraints, it would probably be best to rent a car (or van for large families) once you arrive at Gold Coast Airport or Brisbane International Airport (depending on which airline you fly).
Accommodation options in the Gold Coast are varied and plentiful, but first-time visitors would probably be best off choosing budget-matching lodging in the famous Surfers Paradise area – if only for the convenience of having lots of food, shopping and nightlife nearby.
A good way to plan your stay is to theme each day, with Day 1 focusing on the beach, Day 2 on theme parks and Day 3 on nature.
Day 1 – Sun & Surf
Ease into the holiday by taking a morning stroll along the Gold Coast Oceanway, a 36-kilometre network of beachside pathways. The Oceanway is made up of a series of sections which range up to four kilometres long and are extremely popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists.
Once you’re all warmed up, a whale watching cruise would make a great family excursion. Whales In Paradise (whalesinparadise.com.au) operates regular whale-watching tours from Surfer’s Paradise (departures at 7am, 8.30am, 10,30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm). Sightings of majestic humpback whales are guaranteed during the three-and-a-quarter-hour cruise, which includes a ‘Rich & Famous Waterways Cruise’ through the inland Nerang waterways along which the opulent homes of celebrities and wealthy folk are located.
Spend the rest of daylight basking in the sun at one of the many beaches that make up the Gold Coast’s 70- kilometre coastline.
If it is Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, once dusk comes, head to the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets along the esplanade. This coastal stretch of 100-plus stalls offers a vast array of unique products, ranging from fashion and jewellery to arts and craft.
Day 2 – Theme Park Mania
As far as theme parks go, it gets no better than at the Gold Coast. It may be quite an ask to get two theme parks crammed into one day, but if you have the gumption and energy to do so, these we feel would be the best picks.
Dreamworld (www.dreamworld.com.au) is Australia’s largest theme park with more than 40 rides, slides and attractions – including the famed Giant Drop which at 119 metres was once the world’s tallest free-falling ride and was featured in the 2010 season of The Amazing Race Asia.
Those not into adrenaline-pumping rides can enjoy a host of other attractions and activities, including a visit to Tiger Island which has 10 adult tigers plus two recently-born cubs. At Dreamworld Corroboree, you can learn about and experience Indigenous culture and Australian wildlife.
For younger kids, they’ll get a thrill meeting characters from animated movies such as Madagascar, Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda at the DreamWorks Experience.
Sea World (seaworld.com.au) is a must-do for marine-life lovers. Here, you can get a bunch of stuff ticked off the bucket list such as swimming with dolphins and even a close encounter with sharks. The park has a number of daily education shows including the absolutely fabulous Affinity Dolphin Presentation and the extremely entertaining Seal Guardians Presentation.
There are also has a number of thrill rides such as the Storm Coaster and Sky Flyer, along with shows and activities for children at Nickelodeon Land … where they can meet the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants himself!
Day 3 – Back To Nature
No trip to any part of Australia is complete without sampling the unique flora and fauna of the outback … even if it’s in a controlled environment.
A convenient experience is provided at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (currumbinsanctuary.com.au) about 20km south of Surfers Paradise, where you can feed kangaroos, cuddle koalas and even walk a dingo.
The sanctuary has a number of daily shows with one of the highlights being the new free-flight bird show dubbed WildSkies, featuring Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, along with other indigenous species such as the Australian pelican, parrots and more.
The sanctuary runs conservation programmes and has its own wildlife hospital, so the cost of your visit will also support a noble cause.
After lunch, a half-hour drive north from Surfers Paradise will get you to Tamborine Mountain (visittamborinemountain.com.au), a 23-square-kilometre plateau perched 525 metres above sea level. Forming part of the greater Tamborine National Park, the rain-forested area offers a host of natural and man-made attractions such as glow worm tours, treetop walks, horse-riding, hang- gliding and a zip line ride across a canyon.
On the way back to Surfers Paradise, a stop at the Nerang National Park would be a good way to round off the day. There, you can enjoy a pleasant bushwalk on the Casuarina grove track, which runs alongside a pretty creek and is a 2.7-kilometre return trek. Keep a close watch upwards for koalas and cockatoos feeding in the treetops.
AirAsia flies four times a week to Gold Coast Airport from klia2, while Malaysia Airlines has five flights a week from KLIA to Brisbane International Airport (from where it’s about an hour’s drive to the Gold Coast). Another option is Malindo Air’s one-stop flight from KLIA via Denpasar, Bali.
Tips For Travellers
While the Gold Coast averages 245 days of sunny weather yearly, it can get rainy in the summer months of December through February.
Temperatures are mild throughout the year, with maximum summer readings rarely exceeding 28°C. Winter (June to August) is usually sunny and dry with temperatures ranging between 11°C and 21°C. Autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) are the best times for outdoor activities, with both seasons seeing temperatures of between 16°C and 26°C.
Given the amount of time you would spend outdoors, make sure you apply ample sunblock before heading out and keep your head protected at all times.
If you venture to the interior, bring a jacket as it may get colder and wetter in the hinterland.
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