THE HEART OF THE GOLD COAST
Words and photos by Dallas Sherringham
Australia’s Gold Coast holds a special place in the hearts of Australian travellers.
For many families it was their first experience of an exotic destination and two weeks in a “flat” at Kirra, Coolangatta or Broadbeach was like travelling to the moon.
As a young boy living in outback NSW, I ticked off the months until they turned to weeks and then days until the big day finally arrived. We were off to Queensland on a two day journey in the two tone 1958 Holden.
To give you an idea how primitive it was, we took our Pye TV with us because you had to hire one on the coast - they weren’t provided. As a wide eyed youngster in 1963, the Gold Coast was as close to America as I was ever likely to get. There were streets named First Avenue and there high rise apartments with names like Shangrila and Waikiki; beaches had exotic names like Miami and Surfers Paradise.
Every major beach at a live show beside the surf club each morning with hundreds of visitors taking part. The Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was THE main attraction followed by Gilltrap's Auto Museum. The Water Ski Gardens on the Nerang River would eventually morph into Sea World.
To get to Surfers Paradise, you drove out across the flat from Burleigh Heads on a skinny road through the sand. From the back seat I gazed in amazement at the wonders unfolding before me.
Surfers had a few high rises and the famous hotel beside Cavill Avenue was right at the centre of the action even in those days. However the glitzy Chevron across the street was the Mecca of the well healed traveller.
Beautiful bikini clad girls in gold wandered the streets putting sparkling silver five penny coins in the parking metres. An amazing side trip was a drive around the Isle of Capri and Chevron Island, two man-made wonders where you could actually buy a home overlooking a canal.
I recently made another trip to the Gold Coast. I have been their many times as a father with five kids and later as a mature traveller. Through the years I noticed my Gold Coast quickly turned into a major city with four world class theme parks, fine dining opportunities, sophisticated night life and even a casino with a monorail.
Now the Gold Coast is set to gain a new boost of world-wide acclaim thanks to the Commonwealth Games being held there in 2018. The city is currently gearing up for the biggest influx of visitors ever.
I found that the coast still has the simpler lifestyle of my boyhood available if you go looking for it.
You can still sit on the rocks at Burleigh and watch the surfers swoosh and fly on white foamy monsters. The power and majesty of the warm blue ocean is still the major attraction on the coast.
You can still feed the birds at Currumbin and watch the water skiers at Sea World and the island real estate developments now stretch on forever. You can still buy a feed on king prawns and enjoy them on the sand overlooking South Stradbroke Island.
Meter Maids still save the tardy visitor with deposits of gold. People are friendlier on the Gold Coast than they are in the Big Smoke down south. I was taken aback by a coffee shop staff that made me feel like a long lost friend. The theme continued at Nobby’s Surf Club with it superb views and a fine restaurant serving barramundi and wedges.
And you can still sit on the balcony of your high rise apartment and watch the tapestry of life unfold before you.
However the Pacific Fair shopping centre, once famous for being an “outdoor” shopping centre is now a huge mall with stunning architecture. It is a “must see” on any coast visit.
The easiest way to get there is to “ride the G”. For the uninitiated, the G is the new light rail system that links all the major points between Pacific Fair and Southport. It costs $10 for a day pass and you can easily ride from, downtown Surfers to Pacific Fair.
I think it will be amazing when it links all the way to the Gold Coast Airport and downtown Coolangatta. Traffic has become a major problem on the coast, but the G promises to ease the congestion in its ultimate format.
I enjoyed my short stay on the coast. I know some Australians have abandoned it for cheaper holidays in Asia, but the Gold Coast can still be a relaxing holiday if you want it to be. There are still nostalgic treasures to be found amongst the modern facade of a world class city.
You see, the forever sea still draws thousands from around the world to enjoy its pleasures and the sun still smiles down every day. And so may it ever be.