South of Brisbane lies the spectacular Gold Coast, 70 kilometres of coastline that blends sophisticated urban charms with some of the most beautiful natural settings in the world. While there are many state-of-the-art theme parks and amusements throughout the region, the knockout attractions are provided by nature with these 5 a must-see on your Gold Coast holidays.
The Beach at Surfers Paradise
Surfers Paradise, capital of the Gold Coast, is home to the region’s most popular beach. While there are quieter beaches and surfier beaches and some say even prettier beaches, the broad, powdery sand of Surfers Paradise has it all. Families will feel at home here, as will new surfers seeking gentle swells and helpful instruction. When night falls, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and open-late malls provide the up-tempo vibe Surfers Paradise is famous for.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
A blend of bushland and rainforest, this unique sanctuary features hundreds of Australia’s indigenous animals in natural settings. Visitors can explore on their own or join one of the many guided walking tours. One can also sightsee from the train that circles the park, or via a Segway Safari. There are numerous chances to get close to and feed kangaroos, lorikeets, koalas and other animals, while exhibitions and spots to rest and have a snack make this a complete day’s fun for the whole family.
Lamington National Park
With mountains, gorges, and over 500 waterfalls, this World Heritage park embraces one of the world’s largest remaining sections of subtropical rainforest, including Antarctic beech trees over 5,000 years old. It’s an important regional sanctuary for endangered species, especially several varieties of brilliantly colored birds and butterflies. Trails throughout the park are scaled from short and easy to longer and more challenging, and a special treat is the Tree Top Walk, a chance to explore the forest canopy on a series of walkways 15 metres above the ground.
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Cruising the coastal waters is enjoyable at any time of year and there are numerous excursions, to choose from. The waterways of a city like Surfers Paradise will treat you to views of sumptuous waterfront homes, while May to November is prime time for whale watching on the ocean. In May, June and July adult humpbacks can be seen heading north to breed in warm waters. In August the humpbacks begin their migration back south, and mothers with calves can often be spotted.
Hot Air Ballooning
Of all the attractions to be had on the Gold Coast, one that consistently gets high marks is hot air ballooning. Balloon tours operate throughout the area, and there’s fierce competition to make each trip memorable. Some tours traverse the coastline while others venture far inland to the Hinterlands, where visitors report being able to spot kangaroos bouncing along on the ground below. One extremely popular excursion sets out just before dawn, and visitors watch the sunrise as they toast the day in with champagne.
While visiting, don’t overlook a significant bonus attraction – the food. The Gold Coast is a hotbed of Mod Oz cooking, a delicious cuisine featuring local ingredients in dishes influenced by the Vietnamese, Thai, Italian and Greek immigrants who’ve come to Australia in the past two generations.
photo by: Rod L