The Gold Coast and I have a long-standing relationship.
The Glitter Strip was our Mum’s Christmas holiday destination of choice through the 1970s and early 1980s. Although, to be honest, there was not much glitter involved in these trips.
Christmas lunch was held in a hot, fibro shack at Mermaid Beach. We feasted on a hot chook and coleslaw from the strip of shops on the Gold Coast Highway at Broadbeach – the same shops where we bought mum the same 4711 eau de cologne every year.
We wanted desperately to go to Sea World but I suspect it was a whole lot cheaper to go to Marineland across the road. Because that’s where we went.
The year that Mum booked us into the Florida Car-O-Tel at Miami was the year that, as kids, we felt we had ARRIVED. This was an apartment complex, across from a patrolled beach, with two pools. TWO POOLS. I think I may even have sent postcards to my friends boasting about the number of pools … because you can swim in more than one at the same time, right?
When my Nan and Pop retired to the North Coast in 1979, we visited the Gold Coast less often. Our beach allegiances became tied to the strip of sand north of Brisbane, now called the Sunshine Coast and my home of the past 23 years.
As an adult, trips to the Gold Coast have varied from “Toolies” trips at the end of each uni year, nights driving down from uni in Brisbane to Jupiters Casino (because at the time that seemed like a fun way to spend a night) and latterly as a parent for various theme park excursions – mostly day trips.
We last visited two years ago when the Hilton Surfers Paradise opened and to catch up with friends who moved there from the Sunshine Coast when our now teenagers were babies. One particular baby (Miss SY) is only a couple of months away from her Schoolies visit to the Gold Coast (I KNOW).
The Gold Coast may be an iconic destination to many but to me it’s a destination built of holiday memories, layer upon layer, Sara-Lee-pastry-style.
Memories which all came flooding back to me last weekend (and one of my roomies, Mrs Woog).
In a coup for the Queensland tourism industry, the 2013 Problogger Conference (if you are thinking about starting to blog or already do and missed out, you can get a virtual pass here and listen to all the sessions) was held at the QT Gold Coast (more on this fabulous hotel below), bringing 450 bloggers from all around Australia (and some US speakers) to the region.
Not only was this huge from the Australian blogging profession’s point of view – it was the first time a blogging conference had been held outside of Sydney or Melbourne – but many of the visiting bloggers also shared their experience of the hotel and the Gold Coast across their own blogs and social media platforms.
That’s a whole of grass-roots tourism promotion and I’m not afraid to join in the promotion as well.
I may be using the fact that I was actually at the Gold Coast for a two-day conference as some kind of excuse for not getting sand between my toes but in reality, I was happy simply with just being able to see the beach from our hotel room.
You too might be quite happy with this version of a beach holiday, so I thought I’d share some things to do on the Gold Coast that don’t involve the beach. Things I did – and holiday memories I made – last weekend.
I’m already engineering a plan that gets me back to this hotel pronto. Mr SY yesterday read my roomie Baby Mac’s post on the buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Bazaar restaurant and that was enough for him to get on board too. This is the second QT Hotel I’ve visited (you can read about the QT Sydney here). I cannot stress enough how much fun it is to stay at a hotel that doesn’t look like another in its chain – or the hotel chain next door.
The staff at the QT Gold Coast were the most friendly I’ve ever met, there are fun visual points of interest at every turn and the decor completely suits its Surfers Paradise location. If you’re as *mature* as I am then you’ll remember the Gold Coast International? Yep? Well, this is the same hotel … just brought into this century … on the inside at least.
Snaps to the free lemonade and iced tea (served in jars, OF COURSE) and equal snaps to the paid drinks available at The Stingray Bar, also served in jars. Here’s the hot tip: Friday nights go off … or maybe that was just our champagne-fuelled, impromptu dance floor observation at 10.30pm when the DJ started belting out a mix of Don’t Blame it on the Boogie and Madonna’s Holiday.
On the room front, if you’re travelling with more than two people, do yourself a favour and book an ocean view king suite. These rooms have a separate lounge with a sofa bed and the main room and ensuite includes a bath, double vanity and long shelf that proved very useful for displaying the amount of accessories bought to wear across three days by three grown women.
As you already know if you’re a regular on this blog, I may be able to opt out of a trip to the beach on a weekend or holiday away but the same cannot be said for my need to treat myself to a little spa time. I’d already given the spaQ at QT Sydney the big thumbs up and I’ve got double thumbs up for spaQ at the Gold Coast. When we booked our accommodation months ago, do you know what we did at the same time? Yep. We booked an hour each in the spa. I shouted Mrs Woog for her 40th and she made the executive decision that we’d all have facials. Actually, that’s not quite true. She decided on a facial for herself. Beth and I opted for the same to avoid losing the spray tans we’d invested in just the day before.
We steam-roomed first in the Hammam-inspired room and then were lead to our separate treatment rooms where my face was treated like it should be treated on a more regular basis using uskincare products, awesome Australian products that combine herbal and scientific technology and research for awesome results. I had the Regenerative Pure C Facial ($130) which did bring on a boost of radiance that could not only be put down to the flush from the champagne we opened to celebrate our time away. Favourite product used? The Bamboo polish – an exfoliator you can use from head to toe that invigorates with ginseng and ginkgo but then calms with lavender.
The night before the conference got started the lovely Shelley and Celeste from Tourism Queensland whisked a few of us away for a dinner that I will remember for a very long time. Hellenika sits in the strip of shops at Nobby’s Beach, below where (back in the day) Magic Mountain was home to a chairlift and waterslide. When you rock up to a restaurant on a Thursday night and it’s absolutely pumping and then you instagram a photo of said restaurant and people are telling you not to leave without eating the slow-cooked lamb or zucchini chips, then you know you’re in for something good.
And something good was what we got. We sat down to the banquet menu ($55 per person) starving (because apparently champagne is not a food group after all) and left rolling out the door unable to even contemplate food for about 12 hours. Highlights? The aforementioned slow-cooked lamb, saganaki (grilled haloumi-like cheese), salty pork belly with leeks, calamari and whole snapper, which was de-boned in front of you on the table. Missed out on the zucchini chips, which is a good thing because that means I have to make it a mission to go back, don’t I?
On Sunday morning I dropped my roomies, Baby Mac and Mrs Woog, back at the airport to fly back to reality (FYI, it’s a 30-minute drive if you’re flying in and then staying in Surfers Paradise … I think cab fares were about $75 … and an EXTRA 10% if you wanted to use an EFTPOS card to pay!). On the way back north I stopped into The Village Markets at Burleigh Heads State School (where they are held the first and third Sunday each month; and on the fourth Sunday at Paradise Point Parklands).
These markets are some of the best I’ve ever seen, thanks to a beautiful boutique-y mix of fashion, interiors and food stalls, served up to a backdrop of local live music. They’re five years old and were started when former students Marissa Bowden and Sarah Schoeller came up with the business plan for them as part of a university assignment. I managed to buy more jars and straws at The Spring Shop (blogger Catherine has a stall here); flamingo bunting (I KNOW!); cold-pressed juice to revive me for the trip home and cupcakes to bring home for the kids. I could have gone mad at Kiss Create on upcycled vintage pieces and at the SunLounge Collection where a few pineapple art pieces more than caught my eye. Next time …
So tell me … did you holiday on the Gold Coast back in the day? Where did you stay? When did you last visit the Gold Coast? What did you love doing and seeing?