Summer has finally arrived, and with borders reopening it’s safe to say we all deserve some much-needed sunshine (with sunscreen on, of course!). In Australia, we’re spoiled for choice with options for coastal getaways, however, it’s time we revisit an old favourite – one that has evolved from the holiday destination we once knew.
When you think about the Gold Coast, what comes to mind? Theme parks? Schoolies? Clubbing? Beaches? Regardless, most of us have our own fair share of memories of Queensland’s popular coastal city and it's understandably no longer as desirable as it was in summer’s past.
Yet, upon a recent pre-lockdown trip to visit a friend this year, I realised it’s no longer the wild vacation spot that we remember. I mean, it certainly can be, but after spending time amongst locals, you uncover the abundance of hidden gems that supply more than just booze and sunshine.
We have compiled seven lesser-known wonders that the Gold Coast has to offer:
Wining and Dining
2440 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach.
I discovered this destination while in the back seat of an Uber during a discussion about the Gold Coast’s transformation over the last few years. As our trip ventured through Mermaid Beach, our driver was thrilled to share with us the secret of this little Japanese restaurant located along the highway, hidden away behind a pair of inconspicuous barn doors. He told us, “look out for the red lantern”.
Etsu Izakaya is a warmly lit, intimate space that feels almost a crime to share with the rest of the world. With a beautifully curved feature wall, this cozy establishment features modern Izakaya-style dining with a fine selection of sashimi, sushi, tempura, and grilled foods to share around your table – plus a cheeky fusion dessert menu. Their unique cocktail list has something for everyone – from their house special seasonal cocktail Etsu Chu Hi (ask for what the day’s special flavour is), to Matcharina for the matcha-loving health enthusiasts, or Mr Miyage No.2 (their own Japanese take on a margarita featuring lime and shichimi-infused agave nectar. If cocktails aren’t your thing, they also have a wide selection of beers, sake, umeshu, wines and of course, non-alcoholic beverages.
Witches Falls Winery
79 Main Western Rd, Tamborine Mountain.
Witches Falls Winery, as its name suggests, is both beautiful and mystical. Located amidst the trees of Tamborine Mountain, their offering includes a 90-minute wine tasting, as well as tours of its winery (reservations only). While there is no on-site restaurant (although I’d also highly recommend having lunch at The Polish Place nearby), they do offer a wide selection of cheeses, chutneys and crackers, and have plenty of space to have a picnic should you bring a picnic blanket. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic little day trip, after which you can finish up by stopping by the Hang Glider Launch and Lookout – a popular spot amongst locals to watch the sunset over the valley (note: you’ll probably see some hang gliders too!).
Fingal Head Beach
Fingal Head, NSW
Whilst not technically in Queensland, no trip to the Gold Coast is complete without a day at the beach. Fingal Head Beach is located close to Gold Coast airport (but don’t fret – the waves should block out any potential noise pollution), and is known for its incredible 23 million year old lava rock formations. A little ways south via a small hike through the coastal rainforest are the Dreamtime Natural Pool and Dreamtime Beach; the area’s hidden gems if you want to escape the crowds. The dreamy imagery invoked by their names is essentially how the area appears; it is largely unaffected by its visitors and you will experience its natural charm in its seclusion.
North Burleigh Lookout
The perfect spot to view the sunrise or sunset; North Burleigh Lookout overlooks the Pacific Ocean with Surfers Paradise’s skyline lying to the north and Burleigh Heads to the south. As it lies between two central locations to the thriving social lives of Gold Coast residents, there are plenty of places to stumble upon nearby. For instance, just a little further north you will find the Miami Rainbow Stairs; a colourful installation that provides great photo opportunities.
Greenhouse the Bathhouse
7/37 Tallebudgera Creek Rd, Burleigh Heads
If you’re tired of the excessive screen time of lockdown work or study, I would suggest disconnecting from your phone (and life) for a relaxing 90 to 180-minute customisable experience. Greenhouse the Bathhouse* offers soak sessions across two hydrotherapy spas, a custom-built wet steam room, traditional red cedar sauna, magnesium plunge pool, sundeck and lounge areas. Packages can also add on clean meals and a complimentary side of bubbles or kombucha, or you can also opt for various massages or facials. This dreamy little oasis is the perfect place to unwind and, in the words of the Greenhouse team: “self-care isn’t selfish!”.
*It is worth noting that this is a unisex communal space, and bookings are essential.
Twin Falls Circuit
For the nature enthusiasts, the beautiful Twin Falls Circuit is a hiking trail sheltered by the surrounding rainforest, with the special opportunity to walk behind two waterfalls (prepare to become a little wet, or better yet, have a swim in the water below). This hike is suitable for all abilities, and is perfect for all weather conditions; the rainforest will shade you from the burning sun on those particularly hot days, or if it’s raining, you’ll be able to see the waterfalls in their utmost glory. For the more experienced and adventurous hikers, the connecting and more challenging Warrie Circuit features many more waterfalls and lookout spots that will have you in awe. This track is 14km long, so it’s best to make a day trip out of the Warrie Circuit – and don’t forget to bring food and water if you choose to hike it!
Cali Beach Club
7 Elkhorn Avenue, Surfer’s Paradise.
If you are after the signature Gold Coast experience, elevate it with a trip to Cali Beach Club. Having recently opened at the end of September, the $10 million rooftop pool club offers both day and night club experiences. Take your pick of relaxing in a luxury poolside cabana, taking a dip in one of their four pools, enjoying a film in their outdoor cinema, or savour the taste of their decadent menu accompanied with one of their fresh summer beverages.
We hope this summer you experience the holiday you’ve been dreaming for, and that on your next visit to the Gold Coast, you take the path less travelled. I guarantee your expectations will be exceeded, and that it’ll quickly become central to your summer vacation plans once again.