The Gold Coast in 36 Hours
His mission: a mini-break in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Facing great food, cool drinking spots and endless beaches, Bryce Corbett braves the Goldie.
Words: Bryce Corbett
Visions of tawdry motels, bikini-clad meter maids, garish skyscrapers and Bacardi-Breezered schoolies loomed. The prospect of existing on a steady diet of pizza-by-the-slice and barely drinkable coffee. Sophisticated is not a word that springs to mind. And yet listen to any one of the Goldie’s many proponents — from the Gold Coast mayor to the celebrity chefs who are increasingly inhabiting the joint — and it seems the area has come a long way since the days of the Pink Poodle Motel.
My first stop is at The Star Gold Coast. I have a lunch scheduled with The Star Entertainment Group’s CEO, Matt Bekier. I pull into the car park and enter the premises fully expecting to dodge Zimmer frames among dimly lit rows of pokies. What I find instead is a light-filled series of atria.
Bekier and I meet and eat at The Star’s Garden Kitchen & Bar — a large, open space that spills out onto a wide lawn rimmed by tropical foliage.
Over Mooloolaba crab cakes and a Craggy Range chardonnay, he explains the building frenzy currently taking place around us: a ‘six-star’ hotel, a series of luxury residences, and the purchase and complete refurbishment of the Sheraton Mirage Resort.
Next stop is the QT Gold Coast, my digs for the mission. Part of a now-international chain, the QT has recently undergone a facelift. The result is a hotel that perfectly captures the sunny, playful spirit of the Goldie. Accents of yellow, plenty of exposed wood and a vintage Kombi in the lobby — the hotel has a definite Beach Blanket Bingo vibe. I half expect to find Gidget by the pool.
The QT’s Japanese restaurant, Yamagen, has reopened after its own extensive makeover. Now more of an izakaya than brightly lit teppanyaki restaurant (as was its previous fate) it’s now all mood lighting and sleek lines. The sashimi tacos are delicious, the assorted kushiyaki (skewered meat or vegetables) are grilled just right and the signature sushi roll with seared scallop, cucumber, witlof and miso caramel is a rolled gold classic. If the cocktails (the gin-based Sake It To Me is a winner) and ludicrously comprehensive Japanese whisky list weren’t reason enough to dine there, the soundtrack ought to seal the deal: prepare for a winning mix of 1980s hits on high rotation.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I have a 7am breakfast date at Cafe DBar, the institution atop Point Danger at the southernmost end of the Gold Coast. After a heart-startlingly good coffee and superfood coconut bircher, I eschew the ‘Tim Tam Deluxe’ milkshake for a ‘Good Root’ juice of turmeric, blueberries, grapefruit and watermelon and feel all the more wholesome for it. After all, turmeric is the new black.
It’s technically winter, but the air temperature is 25 degrees and the sea an ambient 20 degrees, meaning a quick dip at Kirra Beach is exactly what the digestion doctor ordered. And just in time, too, as lunch is only a beach away.
House of Hubert is a recently opened cafe-restaurant in the tiny brace of shops just off Tugun Beach. I chow down on a Moreton Bay bug burger. It’s a perfect mix of lightly fried bug, avocado, pickled onion and mayonnaise on a brioche bun. (Brioche is also the new black.)
Cruising north along the Gold Coast Highway, through Burleigh Heads and on towards Mermaid Beach, it strikes me that on the modern-day Gold Coast, there are at least as many single-origin cafes and hole-in-the-wall espresso merchants as there once were tanning salons. All this coffee needs a counterpoint, however, and as the Queensland sun crawls over the yardarm, the clarion call of craft beer makes itself heard. Who am I to ignore it?
Tucked away in an otherwise nondescript Currumbin industrial estate is the Balter Brewing Company (with adjoining tasting room). Founded by pro-surfers Mick Fanning, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbidge, among others, Balter’s beers are at least as fresh and gnarly as the cutbacks its owners regularly perform on the pro-surfing circuit (*note to surfing readers: I know nothing about surfing, in the unlikely event that was not screamingly obvious). It’s early evening on a Friday and there’s an impressive number of post-work drinkers settling in for a session, their intake of brews with names such as Rusty Cage, Hank and Captain Sensible complemented by the food van parked outside.
An hour and several beers later, I’m strolling into Rick Shores, the latest Asian-fusion offering from the team behind Brisbane’s hip Thai eatery Longtime. The Coffin Bay oysters are fresh and Rick’s fried bug roll is a revelation (the lemongrass mayo is eminently scoffable). Plonked atop the rocks at the southern end of Burleigh Heads Beach, and with waves crashing at your feet, the location is second to none.
In the distance, just beyond the rim of my third glass of rosé, the glittering lights of the Glitter Strip beckon.
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Balter Brewing Company - 14 Traders Way, Currumbin; www.balter.com.au
Cafe DBar - 275 Boundary St, Coolangatta; www.cafedbar.co
House of Hubert - 5 Toolona St, Tugun; www.houseofhubert.com.au
QT Gold Coast - 7 Staghorn Ave, Surfers Paradise; www.qthotelsandresorts.com/gold-coast
Rick Shores - 43 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads; www.rickshores.com.au
Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort - 71 Sea World Dr, Main Beach; www.sheratongrandmiragegoldcoast.com
The Star - Gold Coast Broadbeach Island, Broadbeach; www.star.com.au/goldcoast