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Explore : The Gold Coast

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The Gold Coast is about 40 kilometres south of Brisbane and it is the most populated non-capital metropolitan area in Australia.  It covers from Ormeau in the north to Tweed Heads in the south, and stretches west to the Great Dividing Range, including Lamington National Park.

 

Despite starting out as a penal colony at Redcliffe, the Gold Coast soon developed a reputation as a great holiday destination for upper class Brisbanites.  However, back then it was known as the South Coast, but due to inflated prices for real estate during the 1950s, it earned its golden name.  These days, the Gold Coast continues to be a great place for a holiday, with its gorgeous beaches, high rise apartment blocks, theme parks, and a rainforest hinterland.

 

In fact, tourism is the biggest industry of the area, with around 10 million visitors every year contributing $4.4 billion to the economy annually.  The Gold Coast is also the third largest film production centre in Australia, behind Sydney and Melbourne.  Films such as House of Wax (2005), the Scooby Doo films, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Big Brother reality TV series were shot on the Gold Coast.  Also, the surf beaches are so popular that the Gold Coast has the largest professional surf lifesaving service in Australia.

 

Along the Coast

Our first day on the Gold Coast was cold, wet and windswept.  We went out for a rapid walk along the edge of the Gold Coast Seaway that lead into the Broadwater and watched the waves crash around the rocks.

 

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We stayed at the Surfers Paradise YHA and in the morning, the weather was much calmer so Juz got up early and went out onto Main Beach for a walk to watch the sunrise.

 

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Surfers Paradise

The commercial centre of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is a cluster of high rise buildings, shops and eateries, and an incredible beach.

 

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Burleigh Heads & Miami

This was a nice area that wasn’t as busy or touristy as up north.  We’d heard rumours that it was becoming “the new Byron Bay” but after visiting Byron Bay, we’re not sure we see it.  There was a great lookout on the headland just before Burleigh Heads that gave great views of the beaches on either side.

 

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Currumbin

We watched surfers elegantly ride the waves before checking out the Elephant Rock Lookout.

 

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Coolangatta

This is the southernmost town of the Gold Coast and is the twin city of Tweed Heads, the town on the NSW side of the border.  We went to Point Danger and the Captain Cook Memorial before heading towards the Hinterland.

 

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Hinterland

Known as the green behind the gold, the Gold Coast Hinterland features lush rainforest, walks and lookouts, wineries and various fresh produce like avocados, kiwifruits and macadamia nuts.  We loved our time in Queensland’s own Emerald City and it was through this area that we crossed the border into New South Wales for good.

 

Mount Tamborine

There is heaps to see and do in Mount Tamborine.  As you head south from Brisbane, your first stop will be The Bearded Dragon for a free reptile show, a taste of some very hoppy beers and looky-loo around the pub.

 

 

Once you get to the Gallery Walk, your tastebuds can really go wild.  The Fortitude Brewery offers tasting paddles and food while the nearby Witches Chase Cheese Company has the most delectable triple cream brie, ‘Tamembert’ and Misty Mountain blue cheese you will ever taste!

 

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There are also a few wineries, including the Mount Tambourine Winery with a fabulous chardonnay and rum port.  Don’t forget to visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery.  It’s been around since 1998 and they have a massive range of spirits and liqueurs.  Their post popular flavour is the Wattle Toffee Liqueur, but if drinking isn’t your thing, the cellar door is full of colourful Russian knick-knacks and there’s some very pretty statues and fountains outside.

 

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Amongst all the cafes and fudge shops, there are also souvenir shops, art galleries and the Cuckoo Clock Nest, a store with walls covered in cuckoo clocks and tall grandfather clocks.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

 

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Natural wonders include Cedar Creek Falls and the enchanting Curtis Falls, but if you really want to get close to nature, check out Thunderbird Park.  This place combines adventure with nature by offering horse riding, a tree top challenge, mini golf, thunderegg fossicking and laser skirmish.  They also do awesome pizzas.

 

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Springbrook National Park

Located in the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Springbrook National Park is full of waterfalls, lookouts and trees with both ecological and historical significance.  While the weather wasn’t great for us, the winding drive through the lush green forest was lovely.  Purlingbrook Falls had a great lookout that showcased the waterfall beautifully, while the Best of All Lookout gave us a great view from inside a cloud!  Sure, we didn’t get to see the actual view, but we really enjoyed the walk to the lookout and marvelled at the ancient Antarctic Beech Trees.

 

 

Natural Bridge

Part of Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge is a beautiful rock feature that was formed over millions of years by water eroding rock.  It is certainly worth the trip, especially if you visit late in the day to spy the glow worm colony illuminated after sunset.

 

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Information & Accommodation

Trams run along the Gold Coast and are a great way to get around.  For more information, visit the Translink website.

 

For the budget conscious, Surfers Paradise YHA is a great place to base yourself as you explore the Gold Coast. For more information, visit their website.   There is also a Coolangatta YHA if you need to be closer to the Gold Coast Airport.

 

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For accommodation in the Hinterland, check out the Cedar Creek Lodges.  They are on the higher end of the scale, but if you’re visiting for a long weekend or a romantic getaway, it’s totally worth it. For more information, check out the website.

 

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Adventure : Thunderbird Park

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Thunderbird Park is the ultimate destination in Mount Tambourine.  You really don’t need to go anywhere else.  Set on 120 acres of rainforest, Thunderbird Park can take care of your meals and accommodation while you go on an adventure in the trees, challenge your friends on a mini golf course, fossick for prehistoric treasure or indulge in a massage in your lodge.

 

The Activities

There are so many activities at Thunderbird Park to cater for people of all ages and groups of all sizes.  Animal lovers can go horse riding, large groups can book themselves in for laser skirmish amongst the trees, there are some walking tracks around the park and several rock pools along Cedar Creek that are perfect for a swim.

 

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Tree Top Challenge

This was our favourite attraction at Thunderbird Park – an elevated ropes course in the trees with over 100 challenges like ladders, suspension bridges, rope crossings and exhilarating flying foxes.  As you make your way through the course, the challenges progressively get more difficult and the platforms get higher too.

 

Combining activity with fun, it’s a fantastic workout.  Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the courses – we played on the ropes for nearly three hours but Dave could’ve spent all day on them!  Bookings are essential and your admission covers equipment hire, training and access to the course for the entire time you’re at Thunderbird Park.

 

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Mini Golf Championship Course

The Championship Course is the newest addition to Thunderbird Park, with its grand opening on the 1st of January 2015.  It’s currently 9 holes, with future plans to extend it to 18 holes, and the professionally designed landscape includes rocks, sand bunkers, bridges and water hazards!

 

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Thunderegg Fossicking

This was great fun – we were given a bucket and a pick and sent to the mine to search for thunder eggs.  Thunderbird Park is home to the world’s largest deposit of thundereggs, prehistoric remnants that are over 200 million years old.  They’re created by bubbles in solidified volcanic lava.  Over the years, minerals seep into the bubbles and pressure causes crystallisation.  Any thundereggs that you take back to the Rock Shop can be cut open to reveal various shapes and colours inside.

 

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The Terrace Kiosk & Rainforest Restaurant

Breakfast with the Birds is available daily in the Rainforest Restaurant between 8am and 10am.  It’s a buffet style breakfast with both hot and cold items, or you can opt for more traditional breakfast dishes from the menu.

 

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Lunch at the Terrace Kiosk is available from 9am to 4pm.  We got the Italiano pizza with a small side of chips.  Both the pizza and the chips were great and a fantastic way to fuel up before doing the Tree Top Challenge.  They also do coffee and snacks, and because they’re licensed, you can even enjoy a beer or wine on the terrace.

 

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Dinner in the Rainforest Restaurant was wonderfully intimate.  We had the choice of ordering another pizza or trying something different – a chicken stir fry.  We went with the stir fry and it was delicious, full of tender chicken and fresh vegetables.

 

The Essentials

Accommodation options include powered and unpowered sites, bunk rooms or the luxurious Cedar Creek Lodges.  We stayed in a Creek Lodge, complete with a balcony overlooking the banks of Cedar Creek, a kitchenette, spa and heated towel racks, and a wood heater to keep us warm.  Our visit turned into a special weekend getaway.

 

 

Thunderbird Park has the capacity to cater for couples, families, groups and school camps, as well as conferences, events and weddings.  Wi-Fi access is available at the main building and there is an ATM near reception.

 

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For more information, call 07 5545 1468 or visit their website at http://www.thunderbirdpark.com/