It’s often said that there’s nowhere in the world quite like Florida. That’s not entirely true, however. Sure, strictly speaking everywhere is unique, but if you want to travel somewhere exotic that offers similar attractions to the Sunshine State, then Australia’s Gold Coast needs to be somewhere close to the top of your travel list.
Queensland is often referred to as the Sunshine State, just like Florida, and although we dearly love Brisbane, too, if you are only going to visit one destination in the state, then the Gold Coast is the place to go.
The clue is in the name. Gold Coast actually encompasses several different beaches, so be clear about what you want to do before deciding which one to visit. For example, Nobbie’s Beach is ideal for families, so if you’ve got youngsters with you who just want to splash around in the water or play in the sand, this is just the place.
Broadbeach is ideal for surfing – if you’ve never tried it before, there is nowhere better to start. More experienced surfers might want to head to the slightly more extreme conditions that are typically found at Burleigh Bay. For the biggest swells, a boat trip over to Straddle Island (locally known as Straddie, of course) is well worth the time and effort.
A Night at the Casino
Florida has 78 casinos. Queensland has just four, one of which is in the Gold Coast. Now Australians are famous for their love of gambling, especially on the pokies, which is the local term for what we call slot games in the rest of the world. Over the past couple of years, many Australian casino fans have shifted to online play. The AustraliaOnlineCasinoSites website shows what a wide choice of casino options there are in cyberspace. By all means check out the reviews and the online platforms for yourself if you wish. But also make sure you pay at least one visit to Gold Coast’s famous Star Casino.
Formerly known as Jupiter’s, this incredible building covers seven acres on Broadbeach Island. When it opened in 1985, it was the largest hotel in Australia, and although it no longer holds that record, we would unscientifically crown it as the most spectacular in a heartbeat. The casino itself boasts 1400 pokies and 70 table games that include 3-card poker, blackjack, roulette, sic bo and many others.
Of course, the casino is only part of what the Crown has to offer. A wide choice of food outlets serves every purpose and budget, whether it’s a beer and a burger in front of the football in the sports bar or fine dining at Kiyomi.
Florida has the Everglades. Gold Coast is literally surrounded by National Parks and wildlife reserves. For example, Nerang National Park is just 15-20 minutes from Surfers Paradise by car, but it is like a different world.
Nerang is a picture-perfect open forest environment, Ideal to explore on foot, by mountain bike or even on horseback. It is home to many of Australia’s endangered species, including koalas, gliders, flying foxes, cockatoos and numerous butterflies. It is also of cultural significance to the local indigenous Kombumerri clan.
Nerang is just one of several national parks and conservation areas around Gold Coast where you might catch a glimpse of Australian wildlife in its natural surroundings. Of course, there’s an equal chance that you might not, they follow their own schedule. If you want to guarantee a koala encounter (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t), head over to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This Zoological Garden was established in 1947, and as well as providing those all-important koala photo-opportunities, it also cares for literally hundreds of other animals that are either in permanent captivity or being rehabilitated for release into the wild.
Do Something Dangerous – It’s the Aussie Way
There’s no crocodile wrestling on the Gold Coast, you have to head up to Darwin for that, but there are plenty of other ways to endanger life and limb for an adrenaline rush. Here are a few possibilities that might tickle your fancy:
- Sky diving – the skydiving center at Coolangatta has been providing unforgettable adventures and helping people conquer their fears since 1988, so you know you are in safe hands. That’s quite literally, as all sky dives are assisted and no experience is needed. The center also offers a range of adventure flights.
- Walk among the treetops – the Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk is a slightly less extreme way to come face to face with your fear of heights. The entire walk is 1.5 km, so is suitable for anyone with moderate fitness and mobility. Encompassing a combination of forest trails and steel bridges, the highlight is a crossing 30 meters above the picturesque rainforest and creek.
- Learn to fly in an afternoon – who needs expensive flying lessons when the friendly folks at Gold Coast Watersport can give you a 20 minute crash course in parasailing. The skipper will then lead you across the Broadwater and it’s up, up and away! See you later, maybe.
Did Someone Say Adventure?
Of course, everyone associates Florida with Walt Disney World. Can Gold Coast offer anything similar? You bet it can. Dreamworld is Australia’s biggest theme park, with dozens of rides of every type, including seven extreme thrill rides for hardcore enthusiasts.
There is also a zoo, with both indigenous animals and others from further afield – whatever you do, don’t miss paying a visit to Tiger Island! Even if you’re not a big fan of rides, Dreamworld is well worth a visit as there are so many other things to see and do.