Destinations – The Gold Coast

Queensland’s southeastern-most corner lives up to its name.

Where: The east coast of Australia-from the perfect peaks of Duranbah on the border of New South Wales to the world’s most famous chain of right points (Snapper Rocks, Greenmount, and Kirra) to powerful Burleigh Heads and far north past the ever-growing skyline of Surfer’s Paradise to the desolate (and occasionally flawless) beachbreaks of South Stradbroke Island in the north.

What: Pound for pound, the Gold Coast is probably the most wave-rich region on Earth. It’s basically a series of right-hand sand-bottom points and the occasional punchy beachbreak that pick up swell year round. Considered by many to be heaven for regular-footers, the Goldy has drawbacks, too-huge crowds and countless pros make catching a wave a chore, but once you do, you’ll understand why you dealt with the hassle. Let’s put it this way: It’s not unheard of to see a 30-second tube ride at Snapper.

When: The Goldy gets waves all year, but the primo months are January through April (the hot, rainy season), when tropical cyclones can make Kirra twelve-feet and perfect. But even when it’s not pumping, there’s almost always a decent wave to catch somewhere on the coast. Beware March on the Gold Coast-this is when the Quiksilver Pro is in town and catching waves at Snapper becomes nearly impossible. “Hey, Parko, I got this one!” Sure you do, mate.

Why: The first time you roll up to Burleigh and see someone get spit out of a perfect (seriously … perfect) barrel, you’ll know why. Great waves, beautiful girls, the best beer in the world, healthy food (just don’t eat in gas stations), and truly authentic surf culture-need more reasons?

How: The flight from L.A. is pretty lame-thirteen hours direct to Sydney, then a short one-hour hop up to Coolangatta. We strongly recommend flying Qantas-one of the world’s great airlines (never crashed … knock on wood). You can almost always fly there for under $1,200. Qantas’ Web site (www.qantas.com) usually has good Web-only deals worth checking out.

Places To Stay: You’ll want to stay in Coolangatta, where you literally walk out of your hotel and onto the Superbank. There’s no shortage of accommodations on the Goldy, unless you come in March and have to battle the surf industry for empty rooms. You’ll find everything from camping and budget motels to five-star high-rises.

Places To Eat: The Goldy has great Thai and Italian food, but you’re definitely gonna want to do breakfast at a juice bar, where the wheat-grass flows and the smoothies are farm fresh. Make sure you eat a couple meals at one of the local surf clubs, too. They serve excellent food, and you’ll see real Aussies. Also, make sure you hit the Elephant Rock Cafà‡ in Currumbin-healthy food, beautiful view.

Sheilas: Australians have never been accused of being uptight, and you’ll find yourself successful if you just be yourself, enjoy a pint of VB, and leave the “America is the best” attitude at home. Relax, you seppo, and you might just hear those magical words come out of a beautiful Australian woman’s mouth: “All right, get yer gear off.”

Crowd Factor: The Goldy’s single biggest drawback is its crowd situation. The surf I.Q. is the highest in the world, and people will drop in on you. Just watch the locals, and do what they do … and don’t snake Occy-it’s a cardinal sin.

Stuff To Bring: You don’t need much on the Goldy. The Australian sun is potent, and you’ll want to apply gobs of sunblock. T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, a hat, three good boards (at least one fish for the smaller days), and a good attitude are all you really need. Australia is the first world, so if you forget medicine or electronics, they sell that stuff.

If The Surf Is Flat: Take a day trip to Byron Bay (a sleepy hippie town an hour south with a perfect point for longboarding, good food, and hot, bohemian Swedish backpackers), a drive up the Currumbin Valley, or even a dayy at Sea World with the fam. The Goldy has it all.

-Joel Patterson