Gold Coast, Australia
My first brush with Gold Coast was at the tender age of ten; I remember the beach, the koala sanctuary, and the new pen pal i made at the hotel’s breakfast buffet table, who never replied any of my letters. Ah! Bittersweet memories, that. Fast forward fourteen years and I felt my heart had recovered from rejection (the five stages of grief are real), and the time had come to take on the Gold Coast again.
This time the trip was part of a campaign with Tourism Queensland and Scoot Airlines, and I was issued the challenge of rediscovering the city in the best way possible. And if you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ll know that I legitimately cannot resist any sort of challenge, even if it consists my worst fears. I just can’t. Life is short, y’all! That was actually how I got over my fear of heights – someone challenged me to jump off a cliff in Italy. And I did. Boom!
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll document my favourite parts of the trip in more detail down the road, but for now I thought it was about time I cobbled together a post on my top five absolute favourite things to do in Gold Coast, for anyone looking to go…
1. Take a Surfing Lesson
This is arguably my favourite part of the trip, hands down the best decision we made.
The first impression you have rolling into Gold Coast is the incredible waves that are just crashing nonstop on the beach. The place is called Surfer’s Paradise, for goodness sake. It would be a travesty not to even attempt it. I mean, we didn’t have to be good, but we could at least try, right?
Turns out it was so great that we actually went back on our last day for another lesson – and if our itinerary had allowed for it, we would have done another, and another lesson! Surfing is AWESOME. I have to first up clarify that I am not good at it, nor am I naturally inclined to balancing on a board while a wave smacks me from behind. But it doesn’t matter. It’s so incredibly fun, and it’s a total workout! We paid $60 for a 2 hour lesson, which is $30 per hour. THAT IS SUPER REASONABLE FOR A HOLIDAY ACTIVITY. And it’s a new skill, which you can practice again when you go to any country that has surf spots, like Bali.
I HUNDRED PERCENT recommend surfing. The place I went to was Go Ride a Wave, which is located on the beachfront of Surfers Paradise. If you book it in advance it’s cheaper, obviously.
http://gorideawave.com.auSurfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club
Address: Cavill Ave, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217, Australia
Phone:+61 7 5526 7077
9am – 5pm
Lessons start like 930am everyday or something, so book early and turn up on time!
It was my first time going on a hot air balloon – and a pretty unforgettable one. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m actually terrified of heights. I always have been, and although it’s better now, I still get the jitters when I look down from a high place where I could slip and fall and basically die. But the opportunity to take a hot air balloon seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I really didn’t want to give it a miss.
Turns out taking a hot air balloon is one of the most peaceful experiences in the world. It’s incredibly calming, and at no point do you feel like youre in danger. The ballon gently rises and then floats steadily over the best views really slowly, and it doesn’t feel in the least like it might ever tip over. The edges of the basket go all the way up, so you cant accidentally fall over. And when you take a sunrise slot like we did… it’s simply incredible.
Now, hot air ballooning isn’t cheap. It’s about AU280 per adult. But, like skydiving and paragliding, it’s something that I count as a once in a lifetime experience, and it can’t be done in Singapore. So I felt like since we were already in the Gold Coast, it was definitely an experience worth investing in.
The package we got was from Hot Air Gold Coast, which was 280AUD and included a champagne breakfast after. It was really great!!! Would recommend the entire experience if you have cash saved up, because it’s one of those things that is really once in a lifetime, and you cant really do it everywhere, only in really specific places in the world.
3. GO TO A THEME PARK!
I know this isn’t the coolest option to some of you because Gold Coast is so known for its theme parks that people may feel like it’s too unexciting now or whatever, but i dont care, i freakin love theme parks!! I went when I was a kid and I loved it, and I just had to go again. We did Dreamworld this time, which has a ton of really great rides, and we must have gone at a really good timing too because there was virtually no queue for any ride we wanted to go on, even the really hardcore ones!
I am a major roller coaster addict, kind of like Marie Ann Schmidt in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Because sometimes you just want to scream, and a coaster is the only place no one will stare at you weird, right? Ok, that’s a bit too dark. Never mind. Netflix originals, you guys!
But Dreamworld doesn’t just have rides, it also has its own wildlife sanctuary, where kangaroos bounce around happily waiting for tourists to buy them treats, and really weird birds fly around happily.
You have to pay to take a picture with a koala, but otherwise most of these activities are free. And everything you pay for, a large percentage goes directly to their Wildlife Conservatory fund. If you hang out around the wildlife sanctuary in Dreamworld and ask any of the people working there, they’ll happily explain to you the way this works. But either way, it’s really great – and all the animals there look pretty chill and well taken care of.
4. Have a fine dining experience
Now, this is something that may or may not float your boat, because it depends on how budget conscious you are. But a fancy dinner is something that, dollar for dollar, costs a lot less on the Gold Coast than it does in Singapore.
We went to Kiyomi, a really nice Japanese restaurant in Gold Coast. The place was elegant, service was impeccable, and food was on point. It was basically fancy, okay? The omakase we had was seven courses, and I remember it costing about a hundred per person, though when I cross checked it online it said 140/pax. Still. If you’re going ala carte, the dishes are pretty decently priced too – definitely not as expensive as a fine dining experience back home. Is it cheap? No. But if you’re in Gold Coast over a special occasion, anniversary, birthday, etcetera, you might wanna consider splashing out here instead of back home. It’s definitely a more affordable way to try fine dining, IMHO.
5. Take a private tour of the Hinterlands
I left this for last because it was so impressive, but it’s also one of the more costly experiences, coming in second to balloon riding. Southern Cross 4 Wheel Drive tours very kindly hosted us for a private half day tour of Mount Tambourines, and this is exactly what it sounds like – a four wheel drive tour, complete with a guide!
I’ve never been keen on following a tour group or a guide when traveling because I do find that I prefer to plan my own time, I hate the idea of waking up at six to join a bunch of people i dont know on a giant tour bus and be yelled at all day by someone with a megaphone. But the few tours that I did do – walking tours in Budapest, Rome, etcetera – I did find that I got to know the respective cities in ways that I never would have had I just roamed around myself.
With Southern Cross 4WD, the benefits of intimately hosted tours really shined through. We got to pretty much customise the tour to our needs (aka stopping at certain places to take pictures, etcetera) and still we managed to learn so much about Gold Coast in such a fascinating way. Our host brought us through the rainforest and showed us the different types of really freaking fatal insects that lived in holes in trees and what not, and the way he described them to us.. man, it was full of love. It made everything so much more interesting. He also knew the best spots to stop and take pictures, the best places to get a nice glass of wine in between stops… and he taught us to throw a boomerang!! Talk about the full Outback experience.
If you’re keen on trying this out but want to save money at the same time, you can hop on their normal tours instead of booking a private one. Their normal tours are only about 10-12 people big anyway, so I feel like yeah, it’s still pretty intimate.
This I definitely recommend because we really felt mindblown by how much we enjoyed it!!! It’s also something you can’t do on your own – theres just no way you can get the same experience from googling the information, you know? So yeah. Definitely a recommend.
So, yeah, that’s about it. I did lots and lots of things in Gold Coast, but these were my favourites! I have a whole other post I want to write about the incredible food we ate… but that’s a post for another day. Hope it was helpful to those of you looking to hit the Gold Coast anytime soon – and don’t forget, SURFING LESSONS. You will never regret it.
Thanks for sending us on this campaign, Tourism Queensland! Luv.