It was the name – the Gold Coast – that first hooked me when I decided that my next hedonistic holiday would take me to a land of glittering sands, frothing surf and pulsating nightlife. Plus, there was the prospect of exchanging dreary winter days for some sun. And before I knew it, I found myself packing my bags to catch a flight to Brisbane.
Unlike most travel brochures that make tall claims, the area is aptly named. Miles of golden beach stretches out from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. With 300 days of sunshine a year, and 10km of sand in either direction, it’s not hard to like at all.
I started my holiday in Surfers Paradise, watching kids make sand castles, colourful parasailing parachutes against the blue sky and surfers riding azure waves. Off the beach are casinos, designer shops and nightclubs. Just beyond is the Gold Coast Hinterland – thick forests, sprawling national parks and rainforest reserves.
Skin is in
At the Surfers Paradise promenade, I spotted a group of bikini-clad beauties getting a lot of attention from men. Apparently they were on duty! As meter maids! It’s all part of Gold Coast’s USP.
The story goes like this: In 1965, Bernie Elsey, one of the earliest developers of the Gold Coast, introduced the concept of the ‘meter maids’ to deflect local anger about parking meters. The concept caught on, and the maids became a part of the Surfers Paradise landscape.
Dressed in gold lame bikinis and hats, these young women patrol the streets of Surfers Paradise topping up parking meters to save tourists from being fined.
One of the star attractions in the area is the Jupiters Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. I had been assured that no visitor goes back without experiencing a gala stage show, cabaret or aerial acrobatics performance, or for that matter, without trying one’s hand at the gaming tables. With six bars and seven restaurants, dazzled is not the word to describe what I felt at Jupiters.
Eventually, I made my way to Mt Tamborine, located in the Hinterland. Tamborine National Park provides an experience of the Australian rainforest, including waterfall and wildlife experiences. Forty minutes later, I was on a 40-metre cantilevered skywalk, admiring the 30-acre canopy of luxuriant rainforest. Colourful butterflies, trees, parasitic growths, cool pools, colourful foliage and hordes of warbling insects flooded my senses over the next two hours.
The skywalk was followed by a mind-blowing ramble through the glowworm caves. I had to wear a luminescent badge around my neck so as to not collide into other visitors. With nothing but the guide’s torch to light up the dark womb of the caves, we walked gingerly inside, only to find thousands of glowworms twinkling around us. They seemed to be stuck both on the ceiling and walls.
Exhausted by now, all I could manage was a wine tour. An hour later, I stepped into one of Australia’s most-awarded distillery and liquor brands, Tamborine Mountain distillery.
Swilling some of the best liqueurs is a wonderful way to end a day of exploring. A trifle light-headed, I emptied my wallet on a couple of bottles to remind me of the trip. But that wasn’t the only memory of my trip – I had also had my time in the sun and filled my memory card and my head with beautiful images. Enough, I hope, to last me till my next holiday.
Go for the Gold... Coast
Many carriers connect India and Brisbane. Fly into Brisbane, then drive the 80km to the Gold Coast.
When to go:
The area is a great all-year destination, but November to April is the best time to visit.
Don’t skip the seafood. A mixed platter of grilled red snapper, fried clams, jumbo prawns and calamari is something you shouldn’t miss.
Coolangatta and Burleigh Heads have excellent surfing breaks. The DreamWorld Theme Park has koalas, tigers and kangaroos as well as adrenaline-pumping rides while Sea World has dolphin shows. Head to the Mount Tamborine area if you want something beyond beaches.
From HT Brunch, March 24
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