Travel to the Gold Coast, Australia for surf, rainforests and Versace

Vacation Down Under like the Aussies do on the Gold Coast. Photo: Gold Coast Tourism

BRISBANE, March 26, 2013 —To spend your holidays in Oz like the Aussies do, head to the Gold Coast in Queensland. 

The main draw of the Gold Coast is its famed white beaches and knock about beach towns.  However, locals know that the Gold Coast also has a few well-kept secrets, like the sub-tropical rainforest and the hilltop hinterlands. 

Gold Coast is located less than an hour south of Brisbane.  Qantas flies direct from Los Angeles into Brisbane, a trip that takes a little less than 14 hours. The pain of the long haul flight is lessened by an Australian-based crew that sets the tone for friendly service and an unrivaled wine program that features high quality Aussie wines. 

Surf and Sand

For the quintessential Gold Coast experience, head to Kirra. This neighborhood has clean beaches, frothin’ waves, and plenty of sunshine.   This laid back, low-key community is known for its resident surf culture and you’ll see everyone from little kids to pros hitting the waves.

Nirvana-by-the-Sea, a sleek new high-rise set amid local homes on the beach, offers visitors an opportunity to live like a local.

Apartments have lacquer furniture, white modern kitchens and glass doors, but all that modernism is tempered with natural materials like rattan, shells and stone. 

Although the apartments have different layouts depending upon where they are in the building, all of them have large balconies facing the sea.  Master baths are blissful with rain showers and deep marble tubs overlooking the beach.

Two-bedroom apartments run $375 per night with a three-night minimum.

BONUS:  The Quick Silver Pro is held down the road from Kirra at Snapper Rocks, one of the country’s most famous surf breaks. If conditions are not right at Snapper, the ‘Quiky Pro’ moves to Kirra Point.  (In the fall of 2002, local Surfer Damon Harvey managed to ride a wave the entire distance from Snapper Rocks to Kirra for about four full minutes earning him a slot in the Australian record books as the person to ride the longest ocean wave.)

Couples Retreat in the Rainforest

Pethers Rainforest Retreat is a romantic retreat set amid the lush sub-tropical rainforest in the hills above the beaches of the Gold Coast.  An intimate property, there are just ten secluded “tree houses,” private bi-level houses perched on stilts in the thicket of the woods.

Inside one of the tree houses at Pethers on Australia’s Gold Coast/Andrea Poe


An expansive deck pulls you outdoors towards the noisy kookaburras and colorful lorikeets, but the amenities indoors won’t leave you wanting.  A wet bar stocked with bubbly and chocolates, a deep soaking tub surrounded by windows, and a lofty interior make holing up with a loved one dreamy.  A charming basket of breakfast is delivered to your door each morning with Australian fruit bread, yogurt and mini quiche.

Tree house rates begin at $300 a night.

BONUS: Plan to dine at Pether’s onsite restaurant.  Come before sundown for a cocktail at the small, clubby bar and take in the view.  Like the tree houses, the main lodge is thrust into the center of the forest.  An elevated open fireplace and Chinese antiques ensure that once the view has receded after dark, the dining room is every bit as engaging.  Order local specialties like grilled spatchcock (a cross between a quail and a chicken), barramundi (a white fleshed fish) and raw oysters.

Family Fun in the Hinterlands

O’Reilly’s  has been an Australian institution since it opened atop a mountain, deep in the hinterlands of the Gold Coast in 1926.  In those days, a horse would have to carry guests up to the lodge.  And, although the roads are now paved, it’s still no easy feat driving up the long and winding road.

When you do arrive, you’ll want to hit the walking paths and suspension bridges called the Tree Top Walk weave through the property’s 700 acres.  Because O’Reilly’s is surrounded by another 20,000 hectares of protected land in Lamington National Park, it’s easy to get close to wildlife like pademelons (similar to wallabies), wild turkey and platypus.

Near the main lodge, rooms are retro rustic, but showers deliver a powerful flow of hot water, perfect for sore muscles.  The recently built mountain villas near the Lost World Spa and infinity pool are tricked out with sleek kitchens, multiple bedrooms and decks offering panoramic views of the valley.

Rooms start around $240 per night.

BONUS: Wildlife experts live on property and lead daily nature walks.  Don’t miss the opportunity to trek out at night with naturalist guide, who will lead you—with dim flashlights—through the forest to the banks of brook where glow worms, a bioluminescent fly larvae, illuminate the night.

Luxury Living on the Gold Coast

You can practically smell money at Palazzo Versace.  It’s located at Marina Mirage, where yachts idle out front and big spending shoppers cruise shops like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce & Gabbana. 

Plant yourself in the expansive lobby that’s domed with a weighty Italian crystal chandlier for unparalleled people watching: local honeymooners canoodling, Chinese businessmen frantically checking their cell phones and Russian oligarchs bending elbows at the bar.

Plush rooms have marquetry floors, vibrant Versace throw pillows and Italian tiles. Versace bath products—surprisingly subtle in fragrance—make a long soak in the Jacuzzi tub a study in indulgence. 

The fact that the hotel is not directly on the beach has not stopped it from attracting a beach crowd.  The property’s designers have proven that anything is possible in this fairytale by providing a small poolside beach. No wonder private cabanas, which come with attendants, fruit and sparking wine, are reserved early.  Failing to spend an afternoon poolside in the face of so much hedonism just might be considered a mortal sin.

Poolside beach at Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast/Andrea Poe


Rooms start at $399 and suites at $4,000 per night.

BONUS: The Fashionista High Tea is served every afternoon.  Locals come for special occasions: mother-daughter getaways, baby showers and birthdays.  Towers of tea sandwiches and confectionary masterpieces like chocolate enrobed fruit ganache reflect the color trends from the season’s fashion runways.  (Really.)




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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Contact Andrea Poe


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