From its humble beginnings as a single hotel four decades ago, Surfers Paradise has mushroomed and now epitomizes all the worst aspects of the Gold Coast. An endless line of high-rise apartment blocks towers over shopping malls and exclusive real estate properties, and a thousand and one tourist attractions, many of them planted firmly and unashamedly at the kitsch end of the market, provide round-the-clock entertainment.
Surfers Paradise Beach is, of course, the big draw. If you can, take a stroll at sunrise along the 500-m sand-pumping jetty at the end of The Spit, north of Sea World. It opens at 0600 and for $1 you can walk out to the end and take in the memorable view of the entire beach and the glistening high-rises disappearing into the haze, all the way down to Tweed Heads. One high-rise building stands out above the rest: Q1 (Paradise Blvd, T5582 2700, Fri-Sat 0900-midnight, Sun-Thu 0900-2100, from $19, children $11, day and night pass $29/$16.50). It’s marketed as the world’s highest residential building. As you might expect you can of course take in the elevated views from its 77th floor observation deck both day and night, which is well worth a look. On Friday and Saturday nights its swish QBar serves up cocktails, live music and the odd high-altitude DJ to enhance the view. Gold Coast City Art Centre (135 Bundall Rd, 3 km west of Surfers, T5581 6500, http://www.gcac.com.au, Mon-Fri 1000-1700, Sat-Sun 1100-1700, free), presents a dynamic programme of local contemporary work as well as a more wide-ranging historical collection. It is also home to one of Australia’s longest running art prizes, now titled the Conrad Jupiters Art Prize, which has provided an exciting overview of contemporary Australian Art since 1968. The outdoor sculpture walk is also worth looking at.
Between Surfers Paradise and The Spit, Main Beach fringes the southern shores of Broadwater Bay and the Nerang River Inlet. The Marina Mirage shopping complex contains some of the best restaurants in the region, most of which offer alfresco dining overlooking Mariners Cove, the departure point for scenic cruises and helicopter flights. The Gold Coast is often labelled as Australia’s Theme Park capital, with millions visiting annually. The stalwarts are Sea World, Dreamworld and Movie World, with other less high-profile parks like Wet‘n’Wild and the Australian Outback Spectacular providing back-up. Entry for each is expensive, from $72 (children $47), but that usually includes all the rides and attractions. Note also there are any number of combination passes with which to make life easier, or indeed, more complicated. To visit three parks over five days will cost around $150. And you thought this was a holiday? The VIC can help secure the latest complex discounts, or you can contact Myfun direct on T133386. For cheaper online bookings (and to complete your organizational odyssey) see http://www.myfun.com.au. For information on the parks, see their individual sight entries....
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