A mecca for tourists and schoolies alike, Surfers Paradise is Australia’s ‘party town’.
Having spent a significant percentage of 2019 to date travelling interstate and overseas, Dinah and I decided what we needed was a break closer to home. With a one-week window of opportunity at the end of May, we hitched up our caravan and headed south to the Gold Coast, destination Burleigh Heads and the Burleigh Beach Tourist Park.
A 20-minute drive north to Surfers Paradise or a 20- minute drive south to Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads is perfectly positioned to see, do and explore all that the Gold Coast has to offer. My impression is that the northern end of the Coast is ‘glitz and glamor’ while the southern end retains much of the traditional feel and natural beauty of the Coast. Surfers Paradise, or Circus Paradise as an ageing music event poster on a building construction hoarding called it, is Australia’s self-proclaimed ‘party town’; a mecca of clubs, pubs, shops, and restaurants bordering the legendary white sands of Surfers Paradise beach. This place is a magnet for both overseas tourists and schoolies – a destination that the tourist brochures refer to as ‘energetic, enthusiastic, electric and eclectic’. Not really our taste, but fun to visit once every 10 years!
Beautiful one day, perfect the next
May is the perfect time to visit the Gold Coast. Beautiful sunny days with clear skies and very few tourists, so getting a car park in central Surfers Paradise was easy. It had literally been decades since Dinah and I last explored these streets. Much had changed, most notably the skyline. Where once there was just a smattering of high-rise apartment buildings and hotels, now skyscrapers dotted the skyline as far as the eye could see. Some very impressive buildings indeed. Q1 (an abbreviation of Queensland Number One) is a 322-metre skyscraper in the heart of Surfers Paradise. This largely residential tower was the world’s tallest residential building until it lost its title to the 337-metre Marina Torch in Dubai in April 2011. Regardless of the 15-metre difference in height, Q1 is still a mighty impressive structure, offering spectacular views all the way north to Brisbane and south to the New South Wales border from the Sky Point Observation Deck.
Back to earth and with our feet firmly planted on the ground, we wandered the streets. The beach has always been and remains today the focal point of Surfers Paradise and indeed, its reason for being. You can travel the planet, but I maintain that Queensland beaches are the best in the world. And Surfers Paradise beach is right up there with the best of them. Now in May a little too chilly to swim, the beach was largely deserted save for a number of intrepid board riders searching for an elusive beach break. The emptiness of the beach only served to accentuate is beauty – kilometres of sand stretching north to Southport and the Spit, then south to Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach, Nobby Beach and Miami. But come summer, tens of thousands of tourists and locals will occupy every square metre of these golden sands. Walking along the Esplanade, gone are the hamburger stalls and beach clothing shops of the 1960s. Gone also are the famous Gold Coast metre maids, gold bikini-clad beauties that walked the streets feeding the parking meters to save visitors an unpleasant parking fine. Now its prestige accommodation, chick beach-front eateries and bars and shopping malls, with walkers, cyclists and skateboarders taking advantage of the beachfront boulevard vista overlooking the surf and sand.
Since the days of the original Surfers Paradise Hotel, this has always been an entertainment playground, famous for its world-class nightlife venues, international events and happening atmosphere. Surfers paradise hosts a series of major events including prestigious Surf Lifesaving competitions, the Vodaphone Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercars race s well as free artistic and cultural community events throughout the precinct, including the Surfers paradise Beachfront Markets which operate every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. And in 2018, the crowning glory – host city of the Commonwealth Games. Borobi, the Games’ mascot still stands proud on the Surfers Paradise boulevard welcoming all to the Gold Coast.
Just south of Surfers Paradise is Broadbeach, or ‘Broadie’ to the locals. Now this place really has changed! Once considered the little brother to big sister Surfers Paradise, high-rise apartment buildings have long-since replaced the one and two-story red brick blocks of flats and motels. Even the Broadbeach International Hotel, home of the famous Les Girls cabaret show and the biggest swimming pool in the Southern Hemisphere, has gone. Take a walk down the Broadbeach Mall. Here you’ll find one of the Gold Coast’s dining divas, with everything from gourmet delis to bistros and brasseries. And right across the Pacific Highway, The Star Gold Coast with its 24-hour casino, bars, lounges, and exotic shows. Adjacent to The Star is Pacific Fair, one of Australia’s largest shopping centres with more than 400 retail outlets. I recall working on the opening advertising campaign for Pacific Fair in the late 1970s when I worked for an advertising agency in Brisbaneand if my memory serves me correctly, playing the part of a London bobby in Pacific Fair’s launch television commercial. How did the jingle go…“Pacific Fair, Pacific Fair. There’s a whole world of shopping there.”
Beyond the dozens of international fashion and retail outlets, Pacific Fair offers a complete shopping and entertainment experience, including a number of really excellent specialty food courts for casual dining. I guess its all the time Dinah and I have spent travelling in the region, but it seems we gravitate to Asia food. And Pacific Fair doesn’t disappoint. We both enjoyed an excellent Laksa, as good as we’ve found in the Hawkers Markets in Singapore.
While we didn’t actually take advantage of it, a great way to commute along this northern part of the Gold Coast is by Light Rail. The Light Rail travels from the most northern part of the Coast right through to Broadbeach and the Star Casino, stopping at numerous stations along the way, including central Surfers Paradise at the famous Cavil Avenue.
We didn’t choose the Gold Coast as a holiday destination specifically for Surfers Paradise, however we did enjoy our visit to its northern end. In many ways, Circus Paradise is a hard act to follow, but that’s the nice thing about the Gold Coast. There is something on this magnificent 60 kilometre stretch of Australia’s east coast for everyone.
Main picture: This well-worn stretchy poster sums up Surfers Paradise perfectly
- Gateway to ‘party town’
- A tribute to the Surf Lifesaving movement on the Surfers Paradise Esplanade
- The iconic Surf Lifesavers tower stands as a sentinel at Surfers Paradise beach
- Hard to miss, the Commonwealth Star sculpture on the Esplanade
- The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games mascot, Borobi
- The world-famous Surfers’ skyline
- Cavil Avenue from the Pacific Highway corner looking east
- Seems all that glitters isn’t gold
- The grand staircase, Pacific Fair forecourt
- Stunning roofline architecture in the Pacific Fair foodcourt
- Landscaping that ensures that this place is much more than a shopping mall
- International brands aplenty
- Great Asian food in the Ground Floor central foodcourt