South of Brisbane, a day-trip distance if you’re rushed, the >b. Gold Coast is a Down Under impression of Miami Beach. Although it may be overexploited, it’s so dynamic and there are such a lot of opportunities for things to do that you can hardly fault it. And the beach — anything from 30-50 km (19-30 miles) of it, depending on who’s doing the measuring — is a winner in any league.
’11e koala is Queensland’s official mascot. Its only occupation is eating eucalyptus leaves, the odour of which impregnate its whole body, providing both anti-septic protection and a deterrent to predators.
More than 20 Gold Coast surfing beaches patrolled by surf lifesavers form the backdrop for activities ranging from swimming, sailing and boating to surfboarding and windsurfing.
The trip down the Pacific Highway south from Brisbane (78 km/49 miles and roughly an hour’s drive) is a study in Australian escapism. In the midst of forest and brushland grows a seemingly inexhaustible supply of amusement parks. luring transient fun-seekers with attractions for all the family: these diverting parks — there are seven major ones — have names like Dream-world, Sea World and Wet en’ Wild. Warner Bros Movie World (open: daily 10am-5pm), one of the biggest, offers a Hollywood-style experience — the only Hollywood theme park in the southern hemisphere — including stunt shows, special effects and large-format amusement rides.
The Dreamworld park (open: daily 10am-5pm) operates an attraction claimed to be ‘the fastest, tallest ride in the world’, the Tower of Terror. Visitors thrill to action-packed rides with names like Wipeout and Thunderbolt, watch adventure films on a six-storey-high screen or (if they want something quieter) cuddle a koala. Other Gold Coast theme attractions include Sea World (open: daily 10am-5.30pm).
The koala was once hunted for its Tut but is now a protected species
noted for its dolphin displays, and Wet ‘n’ Wild (open: from 10am daily, closing times vary throughout the year). which contains a giant wave pool, a 45-degree toboggan water drop and a seven-storey speed slide. Nature-lovers can also enjoy Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (open: daily Sam-5pm), where masses of squawking rain-bow lorikeets are fed each morning and evening. Currumbin is down towards the southern extremity of the Gold Coast, which ends at Point Danger.
Beyond lies New South Wales. The essence of the Gold Coast is Surfers Paradise, as lively as any seaside resort in the world and much addicted to high-rise living. When Feed the rainbow lorikeets you’re not sunbathing, at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary swimming or surfing. you can go bungee jumping next to Sea World or just window-shop, cat out. socialise or wander through the malls, one of which, Raptis Plaza, is adorned by a full-scale replica of Michelangelo’s David.
The pace is hectic, and the revelry never stops. To unwind, take a leisurely boat cruise along the South-port Broadwater or canals of Surfers Paradise. A new Surfers Paradise landmark, not far from Sea World. is Palazzo Versace, the world’s first Versace Hotel, billed as ‘six star’ and filled with all kinds of designer trappings.
Surfers Paradise is approached through a thicket of petrol stations, fast-food outlets and motels — a reconstruct of the outskirts of many an American city, and in very similar taste. The conglomeration is skyscraper in a peculiar way — essentially tall, slim apartment blocks interspersed with bungalows.
The high-rise skyline of Surfer’s must now rank with 1 ipanema, Miami and Cannes for architectural overkill. The tanned, relaxed ‘beautiful people’ you see on the beach today were probably pale, tense office-workers just a couple of days ago: the irresistible sun works wonders. The lush green backdrop to the Gold Coast is known as the Hinterland.
The area encompasses luxuriant subtropical rainforests, waterfalls and bushwalking tracks, mountain villages and guest houses, craft galleries and cosy farm-stay accommodation.