So many shades of blue we’re enjoying, this perfect summer day, from the sun lounges on our balconied terrace above the golden sweep of Coolangatta beach. Among them, aqua-tinted waves roll in, from the indigo depths where fishing vessels and pleasure boats ply, beneath the powder-blue skyline beyond…
A plane glides out from Gold Coast Airport, soaring smooth and high, as a rainbow-hued kite mimics it, fluttering near the shore. The tips of towering Norfolk Pines standing sentinel on the oceanfront briefly punctuate our view along the arc of the coastline to the shimmering white high-rise pillars of Surfers Paradise and Gold Coast central. Is this beach and its surroundings the quintessential holiday scene? We think so. And it’s taken us just half a day to drive here from home. No long-distance travel, no tiresome passport and immigration queues … no Bali belly.
Conventionally, travel stories are all about the destination: attractions, activities, how to spend your time. But what’s the point, if the essential component of a good holiday – your accommodation – is not right? After all, you’ll spend at least half your precious time away in the confines of your hotel, apartment, motor-home or tent. Mantra Coolangatta Beach has got it all, one of the best located and appointed hotels I’ve stayed at. Our one-bedroom ocean view apartment with cable TV and WiFi is perfection: bedroom (wall-mounted TV) overlooking the water to the horizon; comfy lounges and recliner-ottoman in the sitting and dining area with ditto picture-window views; superb well-lit bathroom with huge shower and excellent laundry facilities and dryer; fully-equipped kitchen, right down to a stick blender, microplane, small esky … and quality shopping trolley to roll your self-catering supplies from the new Woolies, or Aldi, around the corner. There are heaps of nearby bars, restaurants and our favourite: the hamburger joint that serves them with beetroot, Grill’d, as well as room-service delivery menus ranging from seafood through all the Asian cuisines to Mexican and Italian. With free secure undercover parking, rates start from $160 a night low season for a studio. The rack rate for our high season apartment was $372 but I’d ignore that: I found the same room over Christmas offered on the Mantra website for a total of $888 for three nights, so check offers at mantra.com.au.
OK, things to do: there’s much more to the Gold Coast than beautiful beaches and ever-popular theme parks. There’s even more than markets and superb shopping (although women from ill-supplied regional towns shouldn’t miss a day at Robina Town Centre, a modern mall where the glittering treasure troves of both DJs and Myer, as well as Target, Big W – and Kmart – and hundreds of specialty shops all co-exist in one delightful grab-bag of consumer nirvana!) Modern-day travel writers just love lists, so here we go: There’s the regulation fishing and golf (and tennis at Mantra), cruises on the Gold Coast’s waterways (lunchtime buffets with salty-fresh prawns from local trawlers), Stradbroke Island BBQ tours, sailing, seaplane and heli tours, sky diving, jet boat, jet ski and speed boat rides, Hummer safaris, paraflying, Segway touring, sand tobogganing. There’s scuba diving from introductory level on, snorkelling among 50 species of fish, fish feeding or, if you prefer just to float about – boogie boards with inbuilt clear viewing panels. Take a break from driving with a hotel pick-up on tours to Tambourine Mountain and its rainforest skywalk, glow worm caves, wine and cheese tastings, scenic flora and fauna experiences, Byron Bay, Bangalow, Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Thunderbird adventure resort and Australia Zoo visits – in small groups in air-conditioned WiFi-equipped Mercedes fleet vehicles, or even guided private-group tours by Land Cruiser. Or how about hot air ballooning, or riding the amphibious Super Duck? For those inclined to the esoteric there are tours in a reproduction big red fire truck, visits to the futuristic special effects and illusions maze, Infinity, to the Believe It Or Not “Odditorium” or the spooky Haunted House – or a ghost train journey to “being wined, dined and horrified” at a dinner served by eerie waiters during the vampire vaudeville show at Dracula’s Cabaret theatre restaurant. Or you could just go tenpin bowling!Many of the entertainments offer budget, concession and family prices.
For us, it’s merely moving between early morning beach and surf; mid-morning at our ground-floor open air swimming pool, spa, sauna and gym … and, as we contemplate this evening’s poolside BBQ, a siesta and then sundowners on our wonderful wide-open yet private balcony, gazing into that wide blue yonder.