Gold Coast, Australia
Why you should go:
Five world-class point breaks. Beachbreaks that suck swell year-round. A climate so inviting, people feel the need to only partially dress. And an atmosphere that balances precariously between laid-back and all-out partying. It’s Miami with waves.
About the Gold Coast:
Surreal is perhaps the most apt word to use when describing the 40-kilometer strip of land that makes up the famous/infamous Gold Coast (or “the Goldy,” as it’s known to locals). From the very edge of the Pacific Ocean, it juts into the skyline like some futuristic city from a Spielberg film, creating an impressive yet environmentally disappointing backdrop to its many mind-blowing lineups. Like Michael Jackson’s surgeons, it seems early developers of the area had no idea when to “down the tools.”
The Goldy certainly has enough on offer to proclaim itself a Surfer’s Paradise. Running from the New South Wales/Queensland border right up to the spit at South Stradbroke Island (on a map of Australia, that’s a pinch above the most easterly point), the place is probably second only to Hawai’i when it comes to world-class surf breaks condensed into a small area of coastline. Names like Duranbah, Snapper Rocks, Kirra, Burleigh, and Straddie speak for themselves, but there are also plenty of other easy-to-find options on any given day on the longer beachies. Waves cater to everyone from beginners to advanced, mostly break on sand bottoms, and are easy to get to even without a car (public transport provides quick and easy service right through the week). Water temps range from nearly 80 degrees in the summer to a brisk 62 degrees in winter, and the swell is consistent enough to keep the huge surfing community happy for most of the year. Almost everyone on the Goldy surfs, so be prepared for huge crowds and a fair bit of aggro. Same rules apply as with anywhere: respect the locals and snavel the insiders.
When to go:
Cyclone season is where it’s at if you want to experience some of the Goldy’s 200-meter-long, sand-dredging barrels. Deep low-pressure systems form in the Coral Sea around midsummer (January) through mid spring (April/May) in Oz, creating all the juice the Goldy needs to fire on all cylinders. Occasionally, there will be “off” years, but it’s warm, you’re in boardies, and there’re naked bodies everywhere. Well worth the risk. Autumn (June throughAugust) and winter (September through November) provide your more consistent south swells from the Tasman Sea—a little cooler, but still capable of dishing out the goods.
Where to stay:
There’s more accommodation on the Goldy than there are Chins in a Chinese phone book, but booking ahead is imperative. If you want to do it in style like your heroes in the Top 44, try Gemini Court (phone 07 55760 300), which sits right on the edge of the point at Burleigh for a mere $205 a night (peak season), or you could bum it out in one of the many caravan parks for as little as $25 a night. Either way, if you’re going in holiday time, you have to book or you’ll be sleeping in the gutter. Check out www.goldcoasttourism.com.au and www.accomgc.com for all shelter options.
Where to eat:
If you want to eat it, there’s somewhere on the Goldy that serves it. Fast food is available on every second corner, but for those who are slightly more health conscious, good vegetarian restaurants are also plentiful. Try the Healthy Bee at North Kirra for some crazy smoothies, or follow the lead of many top pros and hit a Japanese Sushi Train for a quick Wasabi fix. Prices can vary depending on your tastes, but for the most part a good cheap feed is always easy to find. For more info, look up www.diningout.com.au.
*Paddle the shark-infested sea wall to South Straddie
*Visit Cavill Avenue and Jupiters Casino
*Swim with dolphins at Sea World
Look out for:
Queensland has the highest recorded instances of skin cancer in the world, so don’t be getting all “too cool fo’ yo’ ass” when it comes to putting on suncream. The best gear around is good old-fashioned zinc cream. It may look like well-placed bird droppings once applied, but it’ll save your skin in the long run.
While probably more expensive than more rural areas of Australia, with a bit of smart spending you can “do” the Goldy relatively on the cheap. A flight up from Sydney will set you back about $100 US. The casino, the night clubs, and the strippers are by far the biggest pocket drainers, but the good new is, with the Aussie dollar performing like that team that always loses to the Harlem Globetrotters, your precious greenbacks will go a long, long way.
While the attitudes of locals can be pretty laid-back, the Gold Coast is not the place to go if you’re looking for a chilled-out bit of peace and quiet with a few lazy waves thrown in. It’s a happening beast full of nightclubs, pubs, and theme parks. There’s less culture here than in a teaspoon of yogurt, but if you like to mix your surfing with a good hard party, you may never leave.