With so much to see and do on the GC, even contemplating a weekend there can be enough to leave you drained. So, to simplify things and give you the confidence that you’re not missing out on anything, we’ve laid out a roadmap of must-dos – the hottest places to stay and play in the entertainment capital of the sunshine state.
For Romantic Couples
1. Arguably the most glamorous place to be seen on the Gold Coast, Palazzo Versace pulls out all the stops with a selection of year-round romance packages. The best of these is Scarlett Seduction, which includes a chocolate fondue and strawberries, chilled bottle of Verve, late checkout and breakfast for two in Il Barocco. There’s also the new Water Salon, fine dining at Vanitas, or the less formal Vie for European-inspired fare with a seafood bent. Hey, if it’s good enough for celebs like Kate Hudson, Pink and The Rolling Stones, it’s good enough for you and your loved one. (07 5509 8000, www.palazzoversace.com)
2. For a variety of great romantic dining options, we can’t go past: Absynthe for sophisticated French fine dining (07 5504 6466, www.absynthe.com.au); Chill on Tedder for its amazing $45 two-course lunch, (07 5528 0388, www.chillontedder.com.au); Songbirds in the Forest for seasonal delights from chef Trent Dawson, (07 5545 2563, www.songbirds.com.au – in fact Chill on Tedder and Songbirds have both scored Qld Restaurant of the Year gongs); Ristorante Fellini for unparalleled Italian creations from the Percuoco family, (07 5531 0300, www.fellini.com.au); and the very sexy Aphrodisiac degustation at Lauxes Champagne Dining Lounge (Lusty Lobster, truffle oil, chilli chocolate and oysters galore, 07 5531 5555).
3. For active couples, we love the sound of the Paddle and Pamper package from Ripple Massage and Australian Kayaking Adventures. Paddle across to Stradbroke Island, saying hi to any dolphins along the way, take in a late breakfast on the beach, go for a snorkel then paddle home. Which is where the real fun begins, with a visit from the mobile Ripple Massage team to soothe away the exertions of the day. Two-hour Chocolate Massage anyone? (0438 567 906, www.ripplemassage.com.au).
4. Other top ideas: Take a sunset drink on the deck at Qdeck on level 77 of Q1, the highest lounge and vantage point on the GC (www.qdeck.com.au); Hop across to South Stradbroke Island for a beach picnic, after picking up ingredients at the fabulously unpretentious Ferry Road Markets. In a place sometimes associated with too much glitz and glamour, these markets can be a refreshing time out, and a terrific foodie heaven if you’ve got a bit of self-catering in mind and want only the best produce (07 5591 2944). Lose yourself in the Lost World Spa at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the GC Hinterland, where you’re submerged in a vinotherapy tub of half an oak wine barrel (1800 688 722, www.oreillys.com.au); Refresh and renew with organic treatments and healthy activities at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat (1800 219 272, www.gwinganna.com).
For Young Families
1. Let’s face it: as soon as your kids learn of the existence of Theme Parks, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to take them there. But whether it’s Warner Bros Movie World, Dreamworld (with a connecting door to WhiteWater World), Seaworld (with a new baby dolphin!) or Wet ’n’ Wild, a great tip for the frugal-minded is that most kid-friendly hotels on the GC will sell discounted Theme Park tickets to guests, so be sure to enquire when you check in. Another unreal weekend deal is the Escape Pass, which will get you into any two out of Sea World, Movie World or Wet ’n’ Wild over a three-day span. (www.myfun.com.au)
2. For a super-fun place to stay, Treasure Island Holiday Park should be top of any family’s list, especially those with very young kids. They’ve just completed their new Kids Club rooms, and that’s to go with the three existing pools, the hire buggies, the bouncy pillow, mini-golf, tennis, games room and loads more. Your kids will literally wig out when they see what’s in store for them – allowing adults ample opportunity to slink off and do their own thing in peace. (07 5500 8666, www.treasureisland.com.au)
3. Paradise Resort Gold Coast is another family-friendly property that makes it very difficult for smart Mums and Dads to book elsewhere. They routinely release deals such as their famous “kids stay and play free” package, so monitor their website for the best times to book. Their million-dollar Zone 4 Kids club is like a day-care centre on steroids, with themed rooms (Space, Egypt, Coral, Magic Garden, Underwater World, you know the type of thing), pyjama parties, mini-Olympics, and one of those cage deals with 50,000 plastic balls. The TVs and Playstations in the Junior Bunkhouse Rooms are truly the icing on the cake. (1800 074 111, www.paradiseresort.com.au)
4. Other top ideas: Hire a board or sign up for a surf lesson and hit the waves at Surfers Paradise (1300 132 441, www.gorideawave.com.au). Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa also has a fantastic outdoor lagoon pool that kids go crazy for, plus a very decent Kids Club (07 5592 9800, www.marriott.com.au). O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the GC Hinterland caters to kids with everything from giant swings to flying foxes, glow worm tours, a tree-top walk and a cool Eco Ranger program (www.oreillys.com.au). The GC is also riddled with great parks for kids, so for a complete rundown on all the skate ramps, shaded playgrounds and even specific parks for tiny tots, check out www.gcparks.com.au. AT’s pick is the giant pirate ship at Palm Beach Parklands, Cnr Gold Coast Hwy & Thrower Drive, Palm Beach.
For A Boys’ Weekend
1. Think of a lads’ weekend away on the Gold Coast and the sheer volume of brilliant golf courses springs immediately to mind. Royal Pines, The Glades, The Colonial, Hope Island – whisper these words to any avid golfington and watch the cogs whirr. A great way to simplify the process is via holiday specialists like Go Golfing, who can get you great rates on green fees, carts and even accom. They also have packages with other little sweeteners like free airport transfers, discount restaurant bookings and free boxes of Callaways, proving that they really do know their target market. (1300 552 855, www.gogolfing.net.au)
2. Surfing is another obvious drawcard for the GC, and we love the look of the new Komune resort in Coolangatta for that very reason. It only opened in Feb 2010, just in time to handle the hordes that descended for the Quiksilver Pro, but already it’s gaining momentum as a very cool and laid back stopover – and in fact is the recipient of AT’s unofficial “Resort Most Likely To Be Hosting A Magazine Cover Shoot When You Check In” award. Rooms range from budget shared through to luxury penthouse, DJs play on weekends, a huge timber decking and pool overlook the curling surf, there’s a mini outdoor cinema, the resort team can book all your activities like fishing, surf lessons and scuba diving, and ten bucks at the beach bar will net you a pizza and a Corona. Not too shabby. (07 5536 6764, www.komuneresorts.com)
3. For a weekend you’ll never forget, look into the now-legendary Tamborine Mountain Distillery (but be sure to stop halfway for a classic English pub experience at the excellent Fox & Hounds Country Inn, www.foxandhounds.net.au). Distillery owners Michael and Alla Ward have something truly unique on their hands, with their multi-multi-multi-award-winning range of liquid gold now attracting overseas interest to the GC Hinterland. Do yourself a favour and try their Wattle Toffee Liqueur or Moulin Rooz Absinthe. Beacon Rd, North Tamborine, (07 5545 3452, www.tamborinemountaindistillery.com)
4. Other top ideas: To eradicate any guilt you may be feeling from your weekend of golf and Tamborine Mountain Distillery indulgence, check out the Holidays For A Good Cause website, where you can make a ten percent contribution to a charity of choice when booking; Try your luck, and your endurance-level poker skills, at Conrad Jupiters (www.jupitersgoldcoast.com.au); If it’s not a long drive down the first fairway at Royal Pines, the next best thing is a fast and furious drive at the V8 SuperSchool 10mins north of DreamWorld, where Hot Laps start from as little as $50 (07 5546 2381); Taking on The Wedgie, Australia’s first full-loop waterslide at WhiteWater World, seems a fitting way to pass the day, and after all that there’s only one “dare” left undone – swimming with sharks at SeaWorld (www.myfun.com.au).
For A Girls’ Weekend
1. AT has heard it on the grapevine many a time that the Main Beach Shuck Bar and Restaurant is where all the rich Gold Coast men hang out, so if that’s your game, nab a table for you and the girls and just keep ordering watermelon martini Shuck Shots until the world – or at least this exclusive corner of Tedder Avenue – becomes your oyster. Another fun Girls Weekend game to play here is getting one of those aforementioned rich men to order the house’s most expensive bottle of wine for your table. And to save you looking it up, it’s a 2002 Penfolds Grange at $1100 a throw. Game on. (07 5528 4286, www.shuck.com.au)
2. What aspect of the style-playground that is Palazzo Versace doesn’t fit in with a classic Girls’ Weekend Away? High fashion window shopping (and actual shopping) in the lobby level Versace Boutique, poolside reclining in a Versace Cabana at the brand new Water Salon, chilling out with your friends in a three-bedroom Condo Villa with rooftop terrace and spa . . . the entire place is a bespoke monument to fashion, fun and frolicking. The Versace Spa itself is already famous for its pampering prowess, but keep your eyes peeled as later in 2010 it looks set to double in size as massive renovations and improvements are set to take place. (www.palazzoversace.com)
3. If you’re not into being stereotyped as a fulltime shopping/manicuring machine, Dreamworld and adjoining WhiteWater World are currently on a mission to get more women through their turnstiles. Here’s their pitch: stop being so ladylike and give their range of thrill-based rides a crack. So if you can more easily picture yourself patting a Bengal tiger or playing laser tag in the Alien vs Predator arena than visiting a spa, check out www.dreamworld.com.au
4. Other top ideas: Stay at Q1 Resort and Spa just 100m from Surfers Paradise beach (www.q1.com.au); Shop at the Marina Mirage, which delivers one of the more thorough immersions in local and overseas designer fashion (www.marinamirage.com.au); While there, don’t pass up the chance to dine in the fishbowl that is Glass Dining and Lounge Bar. As soon as you arrive and see the view you’ll know how it got its name (www.glassrestaurant.com.au); Golden Door Spa & Health Club at Mirage Resort does great rates for groups of five or more, so get your gang of girls together for 50 minutes of bliss (www.goldendoor.com.au); Breakfast at Mermaids at Burleigh Heads on Goodwin Terrace is a perfect spot to recover from a night on the town and contemplate one of the world’s best surf breaks (https://oskars.com.au/).