As a child who grew up in the mid 80’s early 90’s, the Gold Coast was one of our family’s favourite holiday destinations. Of course, the 80’s was when the Gold Coast really ‘boomed’. A lot of overseas investments saw high rises, resorts and a myriad of fun attractions pop up everywhere. The Gold Coast quickly became a kids wonderland of excitement and intrigue and a place many families would choose for their holidays, and still do.
For those who don’t know, the Gold Coast is a busy finger of coastline hugging the golden beaches between the NSW/QLD border at Coolangatta north to Southport. The Gold Coast was really a general term to identify the region due to the highly sort after real estate with prices that only the wealthy could afford. The Gold Coast is now considered a city in its own right with the many surrounding suburbs making up QLD’s second most populous city- behind Brisbane of Course. The great all year round climate, great swimming and surfing beaches, exciting ambience and an abundance of great activities make the Gold Coast a real ‘Hot Spot’ for families, retirees and many newly-weds will choose a stay on the Gold Coast for their honeymoon. It has an appeal about it that very few places in Oz can match. In my opinion nothing really even comes close.
Typically, the high-rise hotels, apartments and fancy resorts are the most popular choice for many visitors, however we recently discovered that a camping/caravanning holiday on the Gold Coast is just as (if not more) enjoyable. In fact there a quite a few Holiday Parks taking up some the Gold Coast’s best real estate. The network of roads in and out of the busy sunshine blessed metropolis are easy to navigate even with a van in tow. So, its simply a matter of unhitching and setting off to explore and enjoy. And that’s exactly what we did!
We chose the Broadwater Tourist Park in Southport, located on Marine Parade which backs onto the majestic Broadwater. We chose an ensuite site around 3 sites back from the water. It was such a great feeling kicking back beside our camper, looking out over the Broadwater watching multi-million dollar yachts bob up and down and witnessing some amazing sunrises each morning.
This holiday park is centrally located and is an easy 10 minute drive to the heart of Surfers Paradise and within an easy walk to Australia Fair via the Broadwater pathway. Heading in the other direction the main road will take you to the retail precinct of Harbour Town, home to some of Australia’s most popular DFOs- retail therapy guaranteed! (if shopping is your thing, that is).
We loved staying at this particular holiday park mainly because the facilities are top notch. The kids playground, pool area and jumping pillow was a hit with our kids too. The sites were roomy and the ones close to the water literally had million dollar views. The free pancake breakfast was also a nice touch.
If the intrigue of the ‘glitz and glamour’ lifestyle is what entices you to the Gold Coast then Cavill Mall is the place to be. This is the heart of Gold Coast and really only exists to appease the tourists.. but there is nothing wrong with that is there….. Here you’ll find numerous booking offices, a feast of eateries and cafes, gift shops and even a few high-end boutique stores. You may even encounter one of Surfers Paradise’s famous iconic Meter Maids. Now, I did just mention booking offices- there are attractions and activities galore. Where do I start? You can easily be overwhelmed with choice of activities and there is a good chance you may need to consider extending your stay. How about a relaxing sunset dinner cruise through the canals passing by multi-million dollar mansions owned by the rich and famous? Perhaps try a dinner cruise with an all you can eat seafood buffet dinner and cabaret entertainment? Going down the huge selection of options to choose from, maybe a scenic helicopter joy flight, fast paced jet boat ride or a more majestic hot air balloon ride over the hinterland. But, an absolute ‘must do’ activity would be to take a ride on one of the amphibious vehicles such as the Aqua Duck. These things are boat shaped buses, with monster tyres that drive through the streets and amazingly descend into the Broadwater for a tour of the surrounding waterways.
On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights the Surfers Paradise Beach front comes alive even more than usual. Vendors of jewellery, crafts, gifts, food stuffs- you name it, set up stalls at the evening markets. There is always something for everyone on offer with over 100 stalls to browse through. Be amused by the live entertainment, purchase a unique souvenir or maybe just enjoy the exciting atmosphere as you take a stroll through the crowds.
One attraction of interest in the heart of Surfers Paradise is Ripleys Believe It or Not- a fun and intriguing set of galleries with odd relics, interactive displays and optical illusions. And if that is your kind entertainment then you may need to visit the Dracula’s Haunted House just around the corner too. A journey through haunted mazes, illusions, deadly creatures and a myriad of special effects. This has to be one of our favourites attractions.
Once considered Surfers Paradise’s ‘little sister’, The neighbouring suburb of Broadbeach has certainly made its mark on the Gold Coast in recent years. The beaches are just as stunning but the CBD is definitely a little more refined. Here you will find classy eateries and restaurants and some of the best coffee the coast has to offer. The foreshore area is real asset to the locals but visitors also appreciate the huge kids playground and plenty of picnic and BBQ areas. Broadbeach is also home to Jupiters Casino. A 24 hour 5 star venue with plenty of entertainment, vibrant restaurants and bars. And I cant forget to mention the world class facilities for the weekend punters and high rollers. But trust me, you don’t need to be a gambler to enjoy yourself here. Make a night of it and take advantage of the many accredited baby sitting services available if you are keen for a night out without the kids.
Just around the corner from Jupiter’s Casino is one of the quirkiest theme restaurants in Australia- Dracula’s. You enter the restaurant area via a ghost train where costume clad waiters and kooky performers will give you an evening to remember. Combining theatre, puppetry, comedy and horror effects- a Draculas experience is something that you simply wont find anywhere else. Check their website to learn more.
One place I remember fondly from my childhood is the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Sure you can cuddle a koala and feed a kangaroo but nothing was more exciting than the Lorikeet feeding. I remember as kid we would go there and form a circle with a plate of bird feed and trying to stand as still as a statue. We would experience the most vibrant and colourful birds land on us. I think I still have a few photos of that from my childhood. Today, they offer a lot more for visitors including bird shows, Aboriginal performers and an adventure playground for the kids. Make sure this place makes it into your itinerary.
For families looking for an affordable destination for a caravanning or camping holiday, the Gold Coast certainly ticks all the right boxes. Apart from the quirky, glitzy and glamorous attractions on offer on the Gold Coast, one of the major draw cards has to be the numerous amusement and theme parks. The Theme Park Capital of Australia… Dreamworld, Seaworld, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Movie World, Timezone, White Water world….. and that’s only a few of them. Of course these are mainly focussed on keeping the kids happy but nothing stopping the adults having a blast there too! A very popular inclusion to the line up of attractions is the Australian Outback Spectacular by R.M Williams. A journey highlighting untold stories from a selection of classic Australian characters, stories of heroism and where you can watch some legendary yarns come to life. All played out in the purpose built arena, whilst you enjoy some great tucker. It would be wise to check their website for up to date show times and ticket prices.
If the theme parks are going to play a large part in your itinerary then you are in luck. The Gold Coast Tourist Park is situated right at the doorstep (or pretty close anyway) to most of the main theme parks making it possible to to get the most out of each visit without having to worry too much about travel time. The Gold Coast Holiday Park has all the necessary facilities for a great stay (long or short) and is regarded by many travellers as one of the best holiday parks in SE QLD.
Some of our favourite places to visit during our stay, apart from the places I mentioned above was The Spit at the entrance to the Broadwater. It was great to be able to cast a line from the rock wall (although I didn’t have much luck), perhaps it was the pod of dolphins swimming past that chased way any hopes of me catching my dinner? Further along from the breakwall we could pull up and have our own section of beach which was protected from waves and was perfect for the kids to swim. A picnic under the shady trees was a great way to waste half a day. The other highlight of our holiday was a trip into the Hinterland to the quaint town Canungra, a visit to Lamington National Park and the steep and windy road to Tamborine Mountain. The drive through the Hinterland is absolutely stunning. The lush rainforest canopies, high peaks and picturesque views back over the Gold Coast are simply magnificent, and all within an hours drive from the beaches.
In 2018, Gold Coast will play host to the Commonwealth Games and as such the city centre, streets and transport infrastructure has had some rather impressive improvements of late in preparation. The completion of the city tramway is a welcomed addition making it very easy for commuters and visitors to explore the precincts and visit the major shopping hubs like Australia Fair and Southport central. If you time your visit right (usually around October each year), you can see the Gold Coast really come alive when it hosts the famous GC600. A very important event on the V8 Supercar racing calendar second to the famous Bathurst 1000 race event. But be warned accommodation can be scarce, so get in early to make sure you secure somewhere to stay. Some of the streets around Surfers Paradise will close whilst these super-powered vehicles reach speeds in excess of 250kmph during a 3 day carnival of speed and horsepower. Worth keeping in mind if you consider yourself a bit of a V8 fan!
There is so much more on offer on the Gold Coast and without any ounce of exaggeration, you wouldn’t possibly be able to do it ‘all’…… The Visit Gold Coast website is all that you need to help plan a visit to the area and see what’s on offer, where to stay and how to book tours. With over 12 Holiday Parks all within 20 minutes of the heart of the Gold Coast it really makes it an easy choice for your next camping holiday.
Top 10 ‘Must Do’s’ on the Gold Coast
- Visit at least one Theme Park
- Take a walk along the foreshore
- Visit the Beach-front Markets
- Relax at ‘The Spit’
- Do a Canal Cruise
- Visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
- Visit a restaurant for a night out (perhaps Dracula’s for something memorable)
- Take a ride on the Aquaduck
- Visit Australia Fair Shopping Complex
- Take a drive to the Hinterland