Seven Weeks in Paradise: Week 2 Gold Coast
On Wednesday we flew from Christchurch to Sydney, and on Friday we were back on the road. Next stop: Gold Coast.
Over 500 miles, ten hours, three drivers and many, many toilet stops later (three out of five passengers have bladders considerably smaller than average), we arrived at our accommodation in Burleigh Heads. We stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach, and every morning before six o’clock, we were woken by the sun rise. Even though the weather in New Zealand had been pleasant, this was our first experience of true Aussie sun.
We spent our first couple of days exploring. Burleigh has lots of restaurants and bars, and we managed to try quite a few different places over the week we were there — BiN 12 did great cocktails. We were only a short walk away from The Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade, which has a few independent shops, some restaurants, and an ice cream bar that chops up copious amounts of sweets to add to your tub. I thoroughly enjoyed my taco platter at Montezuma’s restaurant in the arcade, although my eight year old nephew announced that even though the beef was tasty, it was too salty. I found a beautiful writing book that I was definitely absolutely going to buy, until I saw the price… the student in me couldn’t justify spending $30 on a notepad.
After we had given ourselves some time to adjust to the sunshine, we were ready to venture further afield. Sunday morning was spent walking around the Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk. Here, we were able to walk along a pathway in the trees, and out onto a suspended platform with an uninterrupted view of the rainforest all around us. Sadly, no koalas appeared, but I’m sure we heard one.
On Monday, we drove to Surfer’s Paradise. Obviously, we had to get the obligatory photo underneath the sign that declares you to be in Surfer’s Paradise — who would believe us otherwise?! — but it’s a lot trickier than it sounds. The sign is on the side of the road in front of the beach, and in order to fit the whole sign in a photo, the photographer must stand on the opposite side of the road. The problem here, is that cars aren’t considerate of the awe-struck tourist, and don’t tend to stop for photographs to be taken. This results in the photographer having a time period of about four seconds in which to take a good photo, before another car inevitably ruins the shot. We got one eventually.
My expectations of Surfer’s Paradise only went as far as the beach — which didn’t disappoint. The sand was beautiful and the sea was just the right temperature. But as well as the beach itself, there were loads of shops and hundreds of places to eat. As we were there just before Christmas, we also saw a surfing Santa figure, which was a delightful change from the wintery Father Christmas who visits the UK.
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Surfer’s Paradise from above, so we went up to the Skypoint observation deck on the 77th floor of the Q1 tower. From here, we had a 360 degree view of the coast and inland. It was pretty spectacular.
Lunch was chicken souvlaki, and with it came my first introduction to the Australian white ibis. These are big, ugly birds with very long beaks that enjoy stealing food. They have no boundaries, and happily jump onto any abandoned table, or, as the woman next to me found out, just about anything that looks appealing. Needless to say I ate as quickly as I could.
We spent the afternoon sunbathing on the beach, and being true lazy tourists. It was wonderful.
Tuesday, was Byron Bay, and one of my favourite days of our trip. It was another really hot day, but the stunning views made it easier to cope with the heat. The walk around the lighthouse led us to the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, and from this path, we saw a pod of dolphins and a paddling turtle. The path allowed us to follow the animals around the coast line, and it was humbling to be so close to animals in the wild — while they were totally oblivious to their audience. We had lunch in a neat little café in the town, before spending another afternoon on a different beach.
Byron Bay was heaving, but it was easy to see why. A small stall selling whole coconuts stood on the edge of the sand, and the sea was a short walk across the beach. It didn’t take us long to pick a spot on the sand, dump our stuff, and join the throngs of people in the water. The water was cool, but not cold, and a welcome relief from the sun. The waves were the perfect size: big enough to dive under, strong enough to carry you along, but calm enough that I could right myself. If I could have spent another week just in the sea of Byron Bay, I would have.
Another day, another beach! Wednesday was spent back at Burleigh beach, but today, I spent more time on the sand than in the sea. The waves at Burleigh were much stronger than at Byron Bay, and I found it almost impossible to fight against them. Twice, I was pulled underneath the water, and once I was knocked off my feet and flung into two unsuspecting boys (legs still in the air). I barely had enough time to gasp an apology before the water shot me further along the beach and I washed up on the sand. That was the moment I decided that in a battle against the sea I would lose, and I was better off on the sand.
Another highlight of our Gold Coast adventure was a visit to the local Surf Lifesaving Club. These are similar to pubs in the UK, and are a popular place for locals to stop for food and drink. I had deep fried barramundi and it was delicious. Sushi seems to be another popular go-to food for Australians, and a sushi bar in Burleigh was definitely a level above the Yo Sushi I’m used to.* Friday evening was another foodie feast, this time at the Miami Marketta. The Marketta was an indoor street food market which boasted everything from mac and cheese burgers, to curry, paella, ice cream and cup cakes. I tried both the cheeseburger and aoli covered sweet potato fries — both were delicious. Just inside the doors of the market there was a small stage for a band, and the place was decorated with fairy lights. It was lively and ended our week at the Gold Coast on a high.
*For the record, I’m not saying anything against Yo Sushi, it still does a mean maki roll.