The Goldie still glistens...
The sunny Gold Coast boasts many locations to suit almost any holiday, all fabulous in their own right. Surfers Paradise is known for its party atmosphere – perfect for the outgoing couple - while the quiet Main Beach in Gold Coast's north will provide a romantic escape. The quaint village vibe at Burleigh Heads is an alternative for a relaxed beach break, or head to the mountains and experience the glorious hinterland.
First of all, get a place to stay. I've been visiting the Goldie for more than a decade and my favourite hotel is still the first one I ever stayed at, the Sheraton Mirage at Main Beach, primarily because you can get a room so close to the beach you can wake in the morning to the sound of the surf. Can't get much more romantic than that. The hotel has had a recent refurbishment and it has regained much of its former glory.
Check in, dress up and drop into Pearls, the Sheraton's lobby bar. Its strength is its subtlety (a refreshing change from Gold Coast glitz) and its mojitos, of course. Then, to eat. Tedder Avenue still holds court in Main Beach after dark. Chill comes highly recommended, primarily for its seasonal menu. We visited in autumn and the tempura-coated zucchini flowers with parmesan polenta and the Asian-inspired snapper were both yummy. (Chill does a reduced price menu Monday – Wednesday if you're having a mid-week 'weekend').
Get home, kick your shoes off and take a moonlit walk along Main Beach before falling asleep to the sounds of the roaring Pacific Ocean.
Let that glorious ocean tempt you back to the beach for a run north along the sand and a quick dip, and then re-fuel with fruit, coffee and eggs at the Sheraton's buffet breakfast. I'm not a huge fan of buffet breakfasts but the hotel does a pretty good job. The miso soup, with all its seaweed and chilli accompaniments, was tasty and fun.
If you have a head for heights, drive south to the Q1 tower at Surfers, which was – for a brief time – the world's tallest residential building. The entrance fee to the Observation Deck ($22) is a bit steep but the view from up there at 230m is amazing.
For a different take on the Gold Coast, head inland to the hinterland and climb the winding road to Springbrook National Park, which is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, a region of outstanding biological diversity. The park is full of stunning lookouts, refreshing waterfalls and walking trails, and there is birdsong everywhere. It is especially pleasant on a hot summer day as the temperature is noticeably cooler up there.
A trip to the Gold Coast wouldn't be complete without a plateful of oysters and a glass of champers at Shuck. They do a good degustation menu if you want to try a bit of everything. Or, if you want to experience the Gold Coast's more villagey feel, then head south past Surfers to Burleigh Heads. Here the Gold Coast relinquishes its skyscrapers and replaces them with an altogether more down-to-earth atmosphere. The neighbourhood around Connor, James and West streets has some good little cafes. Try From Earth & Water on West Street or Justin Lane pizzeria and bar around the corner on the Gold Coast Highway.
Or, if you fancy staying very local, leave the car in the hotel car park and stroll over the bridge from the Sheraton Mirage to the Marina Mirage shopping area where there's a variety of eating opportunities from fine dining to cheap-and-cheerful.
If the morning dip worked for you yesterday, chances are it will again. After your breakfast, saunter over the road to the Marina Mirage shops for some browsing. The place boasts one or two of Queensland's leading art galleries, such as Anthea Polson Art and Art Galleries Schubert. If you have a late flight, grab some sandwiches and head up Main Beach and spend the afternoon in the dunes, gazing at the ocean.
Take advantage of one of the seasonal deals, including romantic stays such as the "Beachside Escape Package".
Pearls (at Sheraton Mirage)