When jumping the ditch, it’s so easy to always pick Sydney or Melbourne, but as a chilly winter begins, it’s Queensland’s tropical climate that all but guarantees good weather.

With plans to check out Brisbane, we add a few nights to our holiday, broadening it beyond an urban experience and checking out the Gold Coast for the first time in years! What awaits us is a smorgasbord of surprises, unveiling the Gold Coast’s gems that we never expected to find.

The Gold Coast Has A Lively Rainbow Community

Steven Fahd and friends behind the bar at Hairy Mary’s.

Hairy Mary’s ( – the Gold Coast’s only gay bar, gives us a warm queer welcome to the Sunshine State. Owner Steve is one of the founders of Melbourne’s legendary Sircuit club, but he admits that on the GC things work a little differently! Our flight lands at Coolangatta Airport ( just after seven, and we head straight to the bar, which closes at 10pm. While Steve hopes to gain a later license, this early start and closing times suit the fit and healthy GC locals, who like to be up at 5am. The handsome bar staff are friendly and fun and we enjoy a couple of hours of sipping alcoholic ginger beers and watching lively local drag. Open five nights a week, Hairy Mary’s offers many reasons to keep returning including singles nights, pub quizzes and dance parties. It’s a real community hub.

The Gold Coast is Luxurious

We check in at the QT Gold Coast ( for our first three nights. We fell in love with this Aussie hotel chain (owned by the same company as Event Cinemas) while staying at their Wellington and Queenstown branches, and their GC property does not disappoint.

The rooms are inspired by modern beach huts, with epic ocean views and a clean, simple design that brings the impressive horizon in. They are packed with luxury features, including Kevin Murphy toiletries, Dyson hair tools, an incredibly comfy mattress and Missoni bathrobes. The lobby, elevators and hallways have a bohemian Palm Springs meets Miami vibe adorned with Slim Aarons’ classic photography of retro Aussie beach babes.

From the views to the art and interior design, this is the perfect residence to begin our holiday unwinding. There’s so much to enjoy and take in that you barely realise how little you are doing. This includes lots of in-house dining options, including poolside drinks and snacks at The Spring, which offers luxe cabanas with bottle service for when you’re feeling boujee on a sun-drenched afternoon.

QT’s Bizarre restaurant.

Bizarre is an epic buffet dinner experience with a marketplace feel, offering street foods from around the world. If you’re catching up with a few mates on your trip, this is the perfect setting and comes with a two-hour alcoholic drinks package upgrade for just $40!

Sadly, Yamagenwhich was the GC’s first fine-dining Japanese restaurant, is closed the nights we’re staying, but everyone we speak to raves about it and the craftsmanship of Executive Chef Adam Lane.

You can also find late-night bites at their bar, Stingray Lounge, which is buzzing when we check in late on Saturday evening. It’s renowned for having great weekend DJs and a massive list of tequilas on the menu!

Inside a qtQT Cabin.

We transfer over to one of the hotel’s ‘Cabins’ for our final night at the QT. There are just six of these rustic glamping-feel beach huts – often booked out by larger groups. Each cabin is a perfect retreat for a couple and offers a laid-back open-air vibe that feels unique from the rest of the hotel. Staying in cabins gives you access to an exclusive BBQ and fire pit area known as qtQT, which would be the perfect space for a party!

The Gold Coast Is Pristine

Currumbin Beach.

Heading out for some beach time, whether we’re visiting quieter spots like Palm Beach or Currumbin or checking out the bustle of Surfers Paradise’s Main Beach, all of them are spotlessly clean with gorgeous golden sand that makes a satisfying textual crunch underfoot.

The Gold Coast Celebrates Indigenous Culture

Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Expectations can be misleading. We visit the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre ( for a guided tour of Burleigh Heads – home of the Yugambeh People, one of the oldest living cultures in the world. I expected this tour to be filled with commentary on the significance of Australia’s rejection of an Aboriginal voice in parliament and the plight of their Indigenous communities. In actuality, we were greeted with a joyful presentation on the local land and a celebration of traditions and tribes. Walking through the protected forest, we stop at historical spots, and as if by magic, animals featured in our guide’s stories scurry past. This includes his ‘totem’ (spirit animal), the water dragon, who proudly poses for photos. The tour concludes with our arms being marked with local ochre (healing clay), and we depart feeling far more joyous than I had expected, our spirits lifted by the experience.

The Gold Coast Is An Arts Hub

Home of the Arts (HOTA)

Home Of The Arts (HOTA) ( is a vibrant cultural precinct and the heart of the GC’s arts scene. This 60-million-dollar space is a testament to investment in the arts. Set in 17 hectares of parklands, locals, families and tourists flock to the accessible art space spread over two brightly coloured buildings featuring galleries dedicated to significant local art, cinemas, theatres showing local and touring productions, an outdoor amphitheatre welcoming the likes of Ministry of Sound and Tina Arena (just in the week we visit), an award-winning fine-dining restaurant (Palette), a rooftop bar and eatery (Exhibitionist), and a state-of-the-art, 2000sqm exhibition space (Australia’s largest public space outside of a capital city).

Bartender at The Exhibitionist Bar, located at HOTA

Until Sunday 4 August, this space is showing the interactive Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition – an utterly spectacular collection of Italian art’s greatest period with projections of great pieces from European galleries and the Vatican, immersed further by stunning arias from the era’s best-known composers. Having exhausted ourselves recently, navigating the crowds at the Louvre (where many of these paintings are housed) to have such a close-up view of these priceless masterpieces with an orchestrated soundtrack is beyond a treat. It is clear that many of the visiting patrons have never spent time in galleries before and are in awe of HOTA. Grandparents and mothers lead intrigued tamariki into the Children’s Gallery, and imaginations, young and old, seem enriched.

We could have stayed at the exhibition for hours, but we are booked for lunch on the rooftop at the stunning Exhibitionist bar that enjoys sweeping views of the Surfers Paradise skyline. There, we get acquainted with many of the rainbow staff who share their stories of living on the GC, all clearly grateful for the arts community that HOTA creates and gathers. They recommend we return for a Berlin-themed queer party HOTA is hosting this month, and it feels like we have discovered the GC’s true beating heart.

Water Parks Aren’t Just For Families

Wet ‘n’ Wild – Australia’s largest water park.

If you only do one theme park on the GC, make it Wet ’n’ Wild ( Heading there on a weekday, childless adults outnumber families, and there aren’t enough chiselled abdominals to leave us feeling insecure. Australia’s best water park offers 19 attractions, and due to a lack of research, we stumble on to the wildest thrill slide, ‘Tornado,’ first. Scream-inducing, splashtacular fun was had by all.

The Gold Coast is romantic

Sun Sailing

Protected from the swell by South Stradbroke Island, the GC’s Broadwater is the ideal sailing location for a smooth romantic ride. So we board the 38ft yacht of friendly couple Catherine and Grant (a Kiwi) for some sailing at sunset ( Sun Sailing offers two-hour tour options (weather-dependent), including a morning tour with coffee and champagne for people who want the rest of their day free. Under the guidance of their trusty spoodle, Wilson, you set sail out past Wavebreak, South Stradbroke and the Sovereign Islands as the winds guide your course. We watch the sunset over the water before drifting back with sparkling wine and a cheese platter in hand.

Eat Like A Local

Frida Sol’s delicious tacos.

Elevated above a bevy of great-looking eateries is Kiwi-owned Frida Sol (, a tasteful Mexican that pays homage to Frida Carlo and is adored by GC locals. We start with a bowl of house-made corn chips and gwoc’ complimented with a smoky mezcal margarita and tropical signature cocktail ‘Mama Cass.’ Cocktails are the focus of Frida Sol – with mixologist Hugo whipping up daily specials like deconstructed Manhattans and smoky tequila Old Fashioneds. Over morish tacos, Frida’s Cantabrian owner Ryan tells us that the GC has such a culture of early risers that the beachside coffee shops are serving by 4.45am!

The Gold Coast is Stylish

Tarte Beach House.

I’m glad we don’t open that early,” laughs the manager of Tarte Beach House – Currumbin ( next morning. Tarte sits creekside, serving divine pastries on ornate ceramics while strapping local men submerge themselves in the river. Tarte embraces a Paris meets the Hamptons aesthetic fit for the pages of Vogue, and the food looks just as good as the decor. Our seduced eyes are bigger than our (expanding) tummies, and we indulge in their renowned raspberry and white chocolate muffin tops (‘they’re literally the best part of a muffin’, the manager accurately tells us about these sweet, crunchy and moist cakes) and the epic double salmon bagel, which, even sharing, we could barely finish!

The Mysa Motel’s magnesium pool.

We’re off to check into our next accommodation, The Mysa Motel (, an elegantly kitsch restoration of a classic 70’s motel, designed with Instagram posts in mind. If you like to be left alone on holiday, Mysa’s seamless self-check-in ensures no need for small talk, and a generous welcome basket awaits. The tastefully renovated rooms are spacious and stylish, and the motel is located at an intersection just one block from Palm Beach, next to a strip of great restaurants and bars, plus a supermarket and bottle shop for unparalleled convenience.

The GC Has World-Class Restaurants

Beach side dining at Rick Shores.

After a swim in Mysa’s magnesium pool and a lovely stroll on the powdery sand of Burleigh Beach, it’s time for some more slick eating at Rick Shores ( Located in an enviable position with views over the water facing Surfers Paradise’s skyscrapers in the distance, layered seating ensures all diners get that seaview at this stunning beach restaurant with a polished concrete brutalist aesthetic. Opt for the bargain $90 tasting menu to try famous dishes like their Morton Bay Bug Rolls and Pork Belly & Apple Salad with fennel, mint and kaffir lime. Most of the tables around us are celebrating a birthday, and as buff tattooed surfers emerge from the water like Daniel Craig’s Bond, we too are feeling exuberant.

Eat Like A Celebrity

Bam Bam Bakehouse’s Bam Bam Benny.

Our final GC stop before we drive to Brisbane is Bam Bam Bakehouse (, a cafe regularly frequented by Sam Neil, Jude Law and Margot Robbie (she even had her bridal party there). Tucked around a corner, if you’re not searching for it, you won’t see this hidden treasure. Renowned for great coffee and stunning pastries, the menu includes their renowned Bam Bam Benny – served on a flaky croissant, and local favourite, a warming Nasi Goreng. Expect queues if you want to sit down, so why not grab your (must-try) almond croissant to go and enjoy it at Mermaid Beach, just a stone’s throw from Bam Bam?

This trip was supported by Tourism & Events Queensland. For more information on Queensland’s best holiday destinations and to book your next Gold Coast trip, visit

Article | Oliver Hall.

Photos | Tourism & Events Queensland.