With its famous saltwater lagoon (the one with real fish!) and prime Surfers Paradise position, the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa is one of Australia’s favourite five-star beach escapes. Formerly known as the Marriott Hotel, a $35-million renovation and rebrand elevated the beloved address into the luxurious JW fold — and Rhonda Bannister heads back to check it out.
For 30 years, the Surfers Paradise Marriott Hotel was an iconic and much-loved Gold Coast institution where I enjoyed many relaxed weekends and romantic interludes in the casual yet refined atmosphere. There’s always been something truly magical about this hotel, and as we pull up the curving driveway to the entrance of the new JW, I whisper a silent prayer it has remained the same charming and gracious getaway I’ve always loved.
Looking around at the lobby’s sweeping staircase, rattan punkah fans, and vast flagstone floor immediately takes me back to the early 90s and the excitement of the Gold Coast Indy 300 motor race — Surfers Paradise in full party mode. The Marriott was always party central, hosting the who’s who of motor racing with their elegant soirées and dinners.
Nostalgia aside, this classic beauty is now looking fabulously fresh thanks to a year-long, $35-million makeover. The journey to JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa was overseen by the building’s original architects and interior designers, Australian design studio DBI, so the timeless elegance and charm are still here but enhanced with a new level of discreet and mindful luxury.
Space has been reconfigured, making room for the JW Signature Concierge Library, a private spot with bookshelves, stylish settees and armchairs of cream and taupe, exuding style and elegance. The natural beauty of stone, timber and lush plantings scattered throughout brings a symphony of serenity and comfort, a fitting welcome to guests arriving for a few days of luxurious escapism.
We head directly to the lobby bar, Chapter & Verse, for a glass of bubbly to celebrate a weekend doing nothing more strenuous than swimming, dining, drinking and relaxing. Then it’s a quick stroll around the incredible lagoon complex which includes a freshwater pool, saltwater lagoon, and a series of caves and waterfalls (more on that later) before lunch is calling and we’re back at the bar. Another glass of bubbly and a couple of delicious JW salads (all ingredients sustainably sourced locally or picked from their garden) later, and we’re ready to check out our room.
Best room for two
The Marriott’s rooms have been redesigned and refreshed — but those mountain and ocean views are as good as ever, with upper-floor suites on offer for special celebrations. Our King Ocean View room is stunning. Spacious and beautifully appointed with locally sourced stone, fluted glass and lightly stained timbers offset by a palette of white, grey and turquoise, it’s a setting that invites connection and intimacy. Add the plush bedding, deep soaking tub, and a private balcony where we sit to watch the glorious sunset over the hinterland, and you have a romantic’s dream come true. Or, in our case, prayers answered as we gladly raise a toast to the next chapter of one of our favourite getaways.
Food & drink
Citrique, the resort’s flagship restaurant, places fresh local produce and seafood at the heart of its menu and features a show kitchen where guests can enjoy live cooking presentations. The celebrated Seafood Buffet is served every Friday and Saturday night, and I give it 10 out of 10 for freshness and variety. The platters groaning with fresh oysters, prawns, scallops, Moreton Bay bugs, mussels and smoked salmon are a testament to the hotel’s commitment to offering the best from the land and sea. My only advice is to enjoy the fresh and cooked seafood to your heart’s content but avoid the dessert buffet — it’s irresistibly decadent!
If you prefer Japanese cuisine, Misono offers a variety of updated dining experiences, including an intimate Izakaya sushi bar, a tearoom, and a whisky bar with an outdoor terrace. The star of the show is the communal teppanyaki, where the chef’s knives fly almost as high as the flying rice! It’s theatrical, noisy, and so much fun, especially if you’re dining with friends.
Wherever you choose to dine, end your night on a romantic note under the twinkling stars on the deck of Chapter & Verse with a glass of wine and the soothing sounds plucked from the strings of the resident musician.
Don’t be surprised if you spend most of your time lolling around the resort’s enormous sandy saltwater lagoon, voted Australia’s Best Hotel Pool in Wotif’s 2021 Uniquely Aussie Awards.
Couples and kids alike delight in the chance to snorkel with 200+ tropical fish, zoom around the artificial reefs on a Sea-Doo scooter, swim under gushing waterfalls, and explore the hidden caves. And the area’s white-sand beach, sun loungers, and private cabanas offer plenty of places to chill. My favourite spot? By the meandering freshwater swimming pool, with its lazy-river feel and bubbling Jacuzzis, sipping on a cool cocktail!
Couples will also love spending time at the day spa (reopening on July 23) or the thrill of hitting the water on a jet ski or kayak. And yes, there’s a fabulous gym, but you’re on holiday, so take some time out! If you’re here with family, you’ll want to book the Family by JW interactive program focused on culinary and creative experiences.
Enjoy a romantic escape in the Gold Coast Hinterland
Out & about
This Gold Coast resort has always been at the heart of the action. Positioned between the ocean and river at the northern end of Surfers Paradise; it’s a quick walk across the highway to the sea. From there, it’s a 20-minute beachside walk to the lovely village of Main Beach and the Southport Yacht Club and, in the other direction, the myriad shops and cafes of Surfers Paradise. Or, easier still, jump on the light rail and see it all. Walkers and joggers will love the Surfers Riverwalk that runs up to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre with access right outside the resort.
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Share travel writer (and GC local) Craig Tansley’s Gold Coast highlights.