Gold Medals on the Gold Coast - Let's all go Waltzing Matilda
As the nations of the Commonwealth descend upon the Gold Coast of Australia for the 21st Commonwealth Games, which starts tomorrow 4th April. We at AsktheTraveller take a broad look at what makes this destination such a strong draw for holiday makers and discerning travellers.
From Darwin in the north, Adelaide in the south, Perth in the west and the gold Coast (Brisbane) in the east this vast country has a wealth and variety of things to do and see unlike anywhere else in the world. We haven't even mentioned the interior - which to some is a vast wasteland, but to a local expert becomes an opportunity to experience the richness this land has to offer.
The Gold Coast itself has golden beaches that stretch around 57 km along the coast. Hire a car and take a leisurely drive to visit some of these spectacular, renowned beaches. The popular surfing breaks are at Burleigh Heads or Main beach with more sheltered beaches at Coolangatta and Currumbin.
If you’re with the children, then they’ll be loving some of the theme parks. You can purchase a Mega Pass which will give access to Wet n’ Wild, Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World and Paradise Country which is a wildlife experience and Aussie farm. Dreamworld tickets, for the thrill seekers, can be purchased separately.
Incredibly, you can drive into the hinterland alongside the coastal areas and visit a heritage listed rainforest, an ancient volcano, O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walkway in Lamington National Park, follow the cycle trail through wineries or book a 4WD Rainforest Eco Safari. There really is something for everyone in this part of Australia.
Head north to Cairns and Port Douglas and you have the delights of Far North Queensland on your doorstep plus the gateway to the must see Great Barrier Reef. Why not spend some time on the Whitsundays, a great place to kick back and get over your jet lag.
Sydney and Melbourne do not need too much explaining, but the surrounding areas are wonderful too, be it the Blue Mountains and Pokolbin or driving along the Great Ocean Road. One of my personal favourite destinations is a flight or ferry ride south of Melbourne; Tasmania. Not everyone has the time to include Tasmania in their itinerary, but if you do, you will not regret it. In fact, you could easily spend 2 weeks just on this island, but if time is not on your side, try to include Hobart, Port Arthur and hire a car to explore this area. If you arrive by The Spirit of Tasmania ferry at Devonport, you’ll be exploring Cradle Mountain, Launceston and a host of conversation areas and national parks in the north of the island.
Australia’s Red Centre is well worth a stop if you’re travelling coast to coast. Experience the outback and a wealth of Aboriginal sights where you can learn about their customs, history, art, dreamtime and of course see the magnificent Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Far to the north of the Northern Territories you have huge national parks and the city of Darwin. Visitors to this region are drawn in particular to Kakadu National Park. Some of the Aboriginal artwork here dates to prehistoric times. The National Park is a huge biodiverse nature reserve with wetlands, sandstone rock and rivers. You can find over 2,000 plant and animal species here, so it’s easy to see why it’s such an important UNESCO world heritage site. If you include the Northern Territories in your itinerary, this national park should not be missed.
Adelaide in South Australia used to be considered a sleepy place, but it is fast transforming into the lifestyle capital of Australia. There’s the Barossa Valley nearby for world class wines and gourmet food. The city has a world class art and music scene alongside a fast growing bar scene. If you’re a foodie, you must visit Adelaide. There are treats around almost every corner. A large market and you can escape to the Adelaide Hills for lunch. If you have the time, you can head 275 miles by car to Kangaroo Island for another incredible spot for fishing, seafood, wildlife and more wineries. Adelaide is also where you can join the Ghan, a train through the huge outback with short tours of Alice Springs and Katherine en-route to Darwin (or visa versa)
Australia is a must-see destination, but although it’s so far away, don’t try to visit as much as you can in one trip. If you only have a couple of weeks, pick a region and stick to that. If you have 3 or 4 weeks, then widen your itinerary and throw in an airpass. If you’re lucky enough to have longer, then choose how you want to travel. Motorhome, car, guided coach tour, airpass, train or a mix of a few of them. Distances can be huge, so it’s important to make sure your itinerary is sensible, particularly when driving or in a motorhome.
Back on the west coast - Perth
In March, the inaugural flight QF9 touched down in Heathrow having flown non-stop for just over 17 hrs on the 9,009 mile journey from Perth in Western Australia. Aviation has come a long way; in the mid 1930’s it took around 12 days to get to Australia by air and by the late 1940’s that had dropped to 4 days. Now it’s 6 movies, a few hours sleep, a few meals and you’re there. Ok, it’s still a long time to be sitting down, but it opens up Western Australia to the 2 week holiday.
Situated on the Swan River where it meets the coast, Perth is the 4th largest city in Australia.
You get an idea of just how big Australia is. Brisbane on the east coast is approximately 4 ½ hrs away, which isn’t far off the flight time from London to Cairo.
On the edge of the city is the huge Kings Park which offers great views over the city. You can also join an Aboriginal bush tour and see the huge Boab tree which is 750 years old!
The locals are very outdoorsy and one of their pastimes you should share is to have a leisurely breakfast overlooking the ocean. The stunning Cottesloe Beach is a spectacular location and perhaps take a dip in the Indian Ocean afterwards. Or if you’ve been exploring all day, head there in the evening for sundowners.
A 90 minute ferry ride from Perth is Rottnest Island. You can visit here on a day trip or there is a range of accommodation to choose from. Here you will find the tiny marsupials known as quokkas. You can join one of the daily guided walks to find them.
Head north from Perth for approximately 155 miles and you’ll arrive at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. You can drive the 2 ½ mile loop or walk around it in about an hour. If you are here at dawn or dusk, you’ll witness the striking shadows which are cast by the formations. You are also likely to see wild emus.
Just south of Perth, is the fun city of Fremantle, known to the locals as Freo. There are lots of places to dine or grab a coffee and people watch. Visit on a Fri-Sun to see the markets along the cappuccino strip. Try the craft beers at the landmark heritage pub the ‘Sail & Anchor’.
If you like your wine, then you are in luck! Just a 3 hour drive south of Perth is Margaret River.
Exceptional wines can be found here, particularly the cabernet and chardonnay. 3 wineries of note to visit are Howard Park, Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate. This area is also known to attract serious surfers. You can enjoy the stunning scenery here for a few days, before heading back to Perth stocked up with wine and cheese.
All in all this is a great destination if you love the outdoors, enjoy eating in delicious restaurants, exploring craft beer bars, great entertainment, hitting the open road to explore, incredible beaches, shopping in local markets and craft stores. Not forgetting incredible wineries.
What’s not to like? This region ticks all your boxes, whether a family holiday, a couple, or a group of friends. You’ll not be disappointed.
Go for Gold..........Go on, AsktheTraveller.