Australia’s Gold Coast is reinventing itself as a tourist destination – and the great news is that, from Singapore, it’s a relatively short and cheap flight away. SHAMUS SILLAR visited recently to sample the region’s latest sky-high activities and small-batch sips.
#1 Get an aerial perspective
As soon I arrive at a holiday spot, I like to get my bearings. I generally do this by climbing a mountain or some other high vantage point. (“Can’t we just unpack first?” says my long-suffering wife.) Here, in Australia’s sixth-largest city, the quickest way to get your bearings is via Gold Coast Helitours, a chopper charter group offering seven scenic tours, from a five-minute “taster” up to 45 minutes of soaring over ocean, rainforest and more. Bring your camera! goldcoasthelitours.com.au
#2 Scale the summit
For a different bird’s-eye view of the Gold Coast, sign up for the SkyPoint Climb. This 90-minute adventure takes you to the top of the 270-metre Q1 Resort Building (pictured, above) – and not just the top level, but outside the building on a purpose-built structure of stairs and ladders. It’s Australia’s highest external building climb. You can even lean out into thin air with just your waist cable to hold you up, as I did. (Getting my bearings again.) skypoint.com.au
#3 Fly across the canyon
A short drive inland brings you to the Gold Coast’s glorious rainforest hinterland (known as “the green behind the gold”). It’s here you’ll find TreeTop Challenge and Adventure Park, whose Canyon Flyer attraction consists of seven consecutive zip-lines threaded across a plunging gorge. I loved every minute of this three-hour odyssey, which saw us careen over the gorge at around 70kmh. Great core workout too (or so I’m told…). treetopchallenge.com.au
#4 Watch the colours change
If you’re a G&T fan, you may know Ink Gin; it’s available in Singapore and is the one that turns from purple to pink when you add tonic! The distillery is set on a picturesque farm in the Tweed Valley, a short and scenic drive from the coast. The family-run business, Husk Distillers, also produces delicious agricole, a trendy rum made from freshly crushed sugar cane juice. We took a private tour, but it’s opening soon to the public, with a bar and a cellar door. Definitely one to watch. huskdistillers.com
#5 Have a cocktail and a cut
The Gold Coast suburb of Miami is making waves – pun intended – as a café and bar hotspot. Newly opened Granddad Jack’s isn’t just a small-batch gin and whiskey distillery, it’s a bar serving wicked cocktails and cheese boards, with a traditional-style barber occupying one corner for that hipster beard trim! There’s a great family story behind the business too. granddadjacks.com
#6 Toast to Tamborine
More quaint than cutting edge is Tamborine Mountain Distillery, set up in the hills just a short drive from the zip-line park. Tip: You’ll probably want to do your zip-lining first before coming here to taste the huge range of delicious craft liqueurs infused with the property’s own citrus fruits and Australian native flowers. tamborinemountaindistillery.com
#7 Feast on street food
Combine a Singapore hawker centre and a back alley in Barcelona and you get Miami Marketta, a laneway of two dozen food vendors plus a highly ’Grammable bar called the Gin Parlour. Listen to live music while sampling bulgogi or a slow-cooked brisket, washed down with craft beers or house-infused spirits. Loads of fun. miamimarketta.com
#8 Satisfy those sushi cravings
Japan has long been a massive market for Gold Coast tourism operators; you can even find some street signs on the Coast written in English and Japanese. No wonder, then, that excellent Japanese restaurants aren’t hard to find. Current hotspots include Kiyomi at Broadbeach, fine-dining Yamagen at Surfers Paradise, and ultra-cool Etsu at Mermaid Beach. If you prefer something beachy and casual, OSushi at Coolangatta never disappoints.
#9 Order modern morsels
Part of Peppers Salt resort (see #12), Season serves contemporary Australian food featuring locally sourced organic ingredients. The tasting menu I tried was world-class, with highlights including a ceviche of Queensland scallops with fermented green chilli and finger lime, and a coconut and crustacean mulligatawny. seasonkingscliff.com.au
#10 Get sand on your feet
I stayed at three Peppers properties during my trip, all operated by hotel group Mantra, and all with luxe touches and ideal locations – by the ocean and within 30 minutes of the airport. Peppers Broadbeach looks out over the Gold Coast’s famous sweep of beach and features two modern towers of suites and “Sky Homes” for everything from a family holiday to a romantic retreat. peppers.com.au/broadbeach
#11 Find the perfect panorama
Peppers Soul is a 77-storey stunner rising from the heart of Surfers Paradise – the Gold Coast’s “party central”. Not that you’ll know there are countless bars and restaurants below as you stand on your balcony taking in the roar of the ocean. The luxury one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments also have full kitchen facilities. peppers.com.au/soul-surfers-paradise
#12 Unwind for a while
A low-set resort wrapped around lagoon-style pools, Peppers Salt Resort & Spa has a spa with wellness therapies, onsite restaurant Season, and a stunning – and often blissfully empty – beach. Even though it’s south of the Gold Coast, in the town of Kingscliff, this Peppers is closest to the airport. peppers.com.au/salt
The distinctive yellow planes of Scoot (flyscoot.com), the low-cost arm of Singapore Airlines, fly direct from Singapore to the Gold Coast in around seven hours – and usually for well under S$500 return. I take these flights a lot (I have family in Byron Bay, an hour south of the Gold Coast), and they offer excellent bang for buck. You can pre-book meals, though I just order mine on board. I also like to pay the small upgrade fee for a “Stretch” seat, which gives you more room to move, is quieter, and allows you to disembark first. Once you land, you’re just 20 or 30 minutes from nearly all the places I’ve mentioned above, including the hotels. All too easy, really!
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