ADD TO LISTSurfers Paradise's most visited attraction is the Surfer's Paradise. It also has some pretty nice beaches and swimming, and a decent number of travelers making their way through Australia stop by Surfers Paradise to check them out. Take a look at this Surfers Paradise travel guide to find out more about things to see and do there.
Questions answered about visiting Surfers Paradise
Travel Tips from people who've been to Surfers Paradise
Arriving on the Gold Coast with Tanya couldn't have been more different from my previous experience of stepping off the Sydney to Brisbane bus at Surfers Paradise and heading straight for my welcoming hotel bed. On that occasion, I had meticulously planned my tour in fine detail with the travel agent before setting out and already had somewhere to stay at every destination. In fact, I had laid down so much cash in advance to make sure that I didn't end up getting off the plane with jet-lag and not having anywhere to lay my head for the night that I must've pretty much paid for the shop to stay open for another year. Furthermore, they were so keen to thank me for keeping them in business that they sent me a personal letter expressing how much they hoped I had enjoyed the world trip I had booked through them and then were so eager to put it in the mail that it arrived before I had even left England. This time around, I had spent most of the budget on a handful of once-in-a-lifetime destinations and pretty much made up my mind that we would fill in the bits in between as we went. When Tanya and I stepped off the bus as the sun was rising over the Surfers Paradise Coach Station, therefore, we didn't have the faintest idea where we were going to be spending the next few days - or even whether we would be spending the rest of the day walking up and down the beach asking if anyone could put us up. To further complicate matters, it turned out upon arrival that the coach station doesn't exactly welcome people with open arms at all hours of the day or night. After we had stepped from the bus, stretched and inhaled the early morning sea air, the first thing that struck us as ever so slightly inconvenient was that the coach station was closed and that the only means of contacting hotels and youth hostels was via a bank of courtesy phones inside. So we patiently sat around on a dirty bench outside, accompanied by some equally dirty looking individuals who clearly made the coach station their home, until somebody eventually turned up with a key and unlocked the doors to let us in. The first few places we called were full, and from the tone of some of the receptionists I spoke to it began to seem as though turning up in Surfers Paradise without a reservation wasn't such a hot idea after all. Eventually, however, I managed to find a postcard sized advertisement stuck to the notice board for a hostel room located quite near to the sea front which could actually fit us in - the woman I spoke to on the phone sounded helpful and welcoming, and even said that she could lay on a minibus to come and collect us from the coach station. Australia and New Zealand really are amazingly ahead of the pack when it comes to the whole "student travel" concept. Some countries, such as the United States, are still very much in the habit of looking down their collective noses at you if you suggest that you won't be sleeping in high class costly accommodation throughout your stay - in fact, most want a list of hotels you'll be staying at before they'll even let you into the country. In Australia, however, it's almost as though people think there's something wrong with you if you actually plan your next stop more than two days in advance. Every town, however small, has a Youth Hostel or a boarding house of some sort - probably several of them, in fact - and every coach station or airport seems to allocate at least one wall to banks of courtesy phones and accompanying hostel advertisements covering every town within a hundred mile radius. Most hostels are able to offer single, double and twin rooms as well as standard dorm room accommodation, and it has started to become more mainstream for not only students, but couples and even older folks to use them as cheap motels while on the road. It's this eagerness to welcome just about anyone which is a major partof what makes Australia so appealing to the traveller. Our hostel was a far cry from the up-market hotels we had stayed in previously. After signing in at reception, which was a window on the side of the building, we were handed a key to a gate on the perimeter fence which would allow us to come and go from the grounds, and then given a quick tour of the facilities before being shown to our room. There was a small swimming pool with a couple of battered deck chairs laid out next to it, a drinks machine, a small recreation room and a kitchen - but not much else besides. But these places keep the prices down by keeping things simple, and most backpackers generally only go home to sleep anyway. As far as food is concerned, you either label your stuff up very carefully and leave it in the communal kitchen in the hope that it's still there when you come back, or you eat out. Backpackers tend to be an amiable bunch, and evenings can be spent sitting around chatting or following each other to parties, whatever takes your mood at the time. It's not for everyone, but it's also easy to see why the travelling lifestyle is becoming attractive to more and more people every year. Our room was something of a shock initially, and I think Tanya was a little taken aback by the jump in standards from our last port of call. As we were signed into a private room, we were on a separate block from the dorms but our front door key nevertheless let us into a small living space which was potentially shared between three or four couples staying in adjoining rooms. For the first night, we had the block to ourselves and got used to using its limited kitchen, worn seats and television before we were joined on the second day by another couple who used their room so fleetingly that I think we only saw them once the whole time we were there. Our room itself wasn't much bigger than a broom cupboard - I think Tanya actually described it as being like a prison cell when we first opened the door. There wasn't a lot of light, the window was almost non existent and we pretty much had to climb over the bed to get in. The so-called en-suite bathroom was just about large enough to contain the sink. But it was home, and we happily fell into bed and drifted off to sleep after our long overnight coach journey. We didn't have a lot of time on the Gold Coast, so we spent our first day at Wet N' Wild, as I had been telling Tanya how much fun there was to be had there ever since it had become obvious that we would be heading through Surfers on our way towards northern Queensland and I realised that I might actually get the chance to float serenely around the Lazy River again. Unfortunately, due to my usual lack of ability to describe things on the scale of Wet N' Wild in a way which others can get their heads around, she seemed to have made up her mind that we were going to see something on a similar scale to a local indoor water park she had enjoyed visiting in England some years ago - something akin to comparing Disneyworld with a small circus in a field outside Watford. Needless to say, we didn't really know where to start and spent the day trying to cram in as much as possible and slowly getting braver as we worked our way up from the Lazy River to the scary looking black tube which emerged from a plastic mountain seemingly hundreds of feet in the air and twisted and turned as it shot it's riders mercilessly towards the pool beneath, where they would emerge screaming with a mixture of joy and terror before beating each other up in the race to get back to the top and do it all over again. On the second day, we headed for DreamWorld, the third of the major attractions on the Gold Coast after Wet N' Wild and Warner Brothers Movie World. The coach driver dropped us off at ten in the morning with stern instructions to be back at five if we fancied the idea of getting back to our hostel the same day as he only made the trip once a day and wasn't about to come back for anyone. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the parks often lay on evening entertainment, especially Wet N' Wild with it's "Dive In Movies" - events which are really quite difficult to attend if you have to be back on the bus by five! The main attraction at DreamWorld is something called The Tower of Terror, a ride which really does push back the boundaries of stupidity and proves once again that if you tell people that something is exciting they will happily jump from a cliff and worry about the consequences of ending up flattened out on the ground below like something out of a Road Runner cartoon afterwards! The tower itself is thirty-eight storeys high, and slopes off at the bottom into a long track which disappears into a tunnel. So, having decided that you have no more reason to live, the attendant (who has momentarily removed his cape and laid his scythe to one side) leads you into the tunnel where you are strapped into a waiting carriage. A few moments later, you get to be shot out of the other end like a bullet out of a gun at 0-160Kph in seven seconds whereupon you scream along the track and are propelled at something approaching escape velocity up the thirty-eight storey tower until Newtonian law kicks in and gravity slows you down at the top. Then, of course, you have a few glorious moments of peace during which you begin to pray that it's all over, before you suddenly fall back to earth again, pulling 4.5 G-Force. "The Tower of Terror: Don't look down" says the advertising blurb. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that you probably couldn't even begin to move your head at 4.5 G-Force, so even attempting to look anywhere at all other than straight ahead at the sky isn't really going to be an option! A cable car took us for a pleasant ride to Koala Country, a petting zoo for the children where Tanya and I had our photo taken with a Koala and wandered around amongst the Kangaroos. Koalas are incredibly timid animals, and it is apparently very easy to literally scare them to death simply by being anywhere near them - so states such as New South Wales have passed laws making it illegal to hold them. Here in Queensland, however, the laws seem to be slightly more relaxed and it appears that contact with a Koala isn't yet illegal - although, of course, it is very heavily regulated and monitored and the situation may well change at any time. We didn't know about any of the rules and regulations at the time, of course, but it seems that many places in Australia will still allow you to either "cuddle" a Koala as long as it is only out of its keepers hands for a few seconds, will allow you to have your photo taken standing next to a Koala which is nestled in a fake bamboo tree on a photographic set, or will make it appear that you are holding the Koala in the photo although in fact you are actually holding a piece of bamboo to which the Koala is attached. All moral objections aside, our Koala seemed quite happy and sat contentedly in our arms while the photo was being taken, before being handed back to the keeper - both of us came away with a massive smile on our faces, but I would nevertheless recommend thinking very carefully about the moral implications of handling the native wildlife before rushing to Australia to "cuddle a Koala". A pleasant stroll back along the path from the petting zoo reveals an array of death-defying roller coasters, log flumes, ride-the-rapids and so on. Along the way, visitors can stop to look at cute looking newborn tiger cubs being looked after in a separate nursery section next to the tiger enclosure, or wait around for the next show and watch a trainer get in with the fully grown parents and demonstrate just how skilled he is at not being eaten. It's hard to believe that the little bundles of fluff next door will grow up to become these huge man-eaters. They even have a very rare white tiger at the park, something you really aren't going to see anywhere else outside of the Siegfried and Roy show in Vegas. There is certainly plenty to do at DreamWorld, but my main complaint would have to be that too much of the place is obviously designed to part you from your cash in return for a tacky tee-shirt or a mug with "I've seen the Tigers at DreamWorld" or something similar written on it, and for (at the time) a little less than fifty dollars, I expect a little more than this. After queuing for fifteen minutes to get onto a ride that lasts for all of thirty seconds, you really do start to wonder why they don't send a team over to Disneyworld to see how it should be done. One thing DreamWorld does specialise in, however, is putting on spectacular shows for visitors of the type you might expect from the big American theme parks such as Sea World in Florida. In fact, DreamWorld is now home to the Australian Big Brother house and has its own custom built amphitheatre to house the audience who turn up to watch every week while it's on air. If you happen to be seven years old or (like me) just feel like pretending you are sometimes, there's always the SpongeBob Squarepants show to keep you entertained, where kids can meet all of their favourite characters while touring Nickelodeon Land. The main problem I always find with the daily shows at theme parks, and I found nothing to change my opinion here, is that you usually have to arrange your day around them - rather than being able to say "right, we've got a few minutes, let's go and see the dolphin show", you tend to have to sit down with the printed daily schedule you're provided with on entry and plan out exactly where you need to be at various times throughout the day in order to not miss anything. The two shows that you absolutely must see while in the park, however, even if it totally messes up your plans to spend three hours lining up for the Tower of Terror and two throwing up afterwards, are the aforementioned dolphin show and the far more comedy based display of Sea Lion acrobatics next door. The Sea Lion show, in proper Hollywood style, is presented as an adventure in which the animals and their trainers are characters cast in a sort of Indiana Jones story which unfolds on a central stage. Those sitting near the edge of the tank can usually expect to get wet! On the way back to the entrance you can join a steamship tour of the lake, and this really is very well done indeed. Half way around, a cowboy show begins on an island in the middle of the lake and they soon get everyone involved in a lot of slapstick fun of the "look out behind you" variety. As the boat stops at various pre-determined points, the actors move along the riverbank from an Old West town to the county jail, shooting each other and robbing the bank and stuff. For some reason, however, I could find no mention of this show in the DreamWorld brochure or on any of the signposts around the park - I can understand why they want it to be a surprise when it happens as most visitors are under the impression that they're joining the paddle steamer for a relaxing trip rather than an exciting show, but I can't help feeling that they may be stabbing themselves in the back a little bit by not even suggesting that something might happen to spice things up along the way! After all, what young kid on a trip to a theme park wants to go on a boring paddle-steamer trip when he could be watching people in silly hats shooting each other? The predicted thunderstorms didn't materialise and the skies stayed bright all day, giving us plenty of time to make our way between the attractions at a leisurely pace and enjoy the many shows the park had to offer. While getting a bite to eat at one of DreamWorld's numerous street side cafes, we made the acquaintance of one of the more enduring characters we would meet on our entire trip - an overprotective visitor of the avian variety who quickly became known as "our seagull". We first became aware of Mr Seagull as a curious white head which would appear over the gutter of the cafe outside which we were sitting, disappearing again whenever we looked in his direction. Soon afterwards, it started to dawn on other birds in the area that they might be in for a free meal and they all started fluttering to the ground close by and hopping nervously towards our table in the not unreasonable hope of a stray crumb or two. This was when our seagull began to get really annoyed. He systematically attacked every single other bird which came anywhere near us. Flying down in a rage,he would launch itself kamikaze style at anything which even looked as though it might be a little interested in our table, and then return to the roof to stare at us hungrily and keep watch for anything else that looked as though it might want a snack. Eventually, when he was satisfied that he had us all to himself, our seagull finally came down from his perch and spent the best part of ten minutes hopping around under our table picking up every last crumb, sometimes just standing about and looking at the floor by our feet meaningfully as if to say "Well go on, drop something else then." The other birds watched from a distance,clearly having learnt a long time ago who was in charge of crumb gathering operations at DreamWorld...My complete travel journals are at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and /globalwanderer2
So here I am on the Gold Coast for Christmas - and I can tell that I'm in for an exceptional time. The weather is as different from Sydney as I can imagine - down there it was just sunny, here on the Gold Coast my blood is in serious danger of boiling. I'm told that Cairns will be even hotter when I get there next week, so I think I might leave most of my clothes behind before moving on! The beach at Surfers is a several mile stretch of pure white sand packed with beach babes in bikinis and dudes on surfboards. I wouldn't be exaggerating one bit to say that the water actually glints in the sun all day long, and that Surfers Paradise really is about as close to an ideal beach resort as you could get. I'm also staying close enough to the major Gold Coast tourist attractions such as Warner Brothers Movie World, SeaWorld, Wet N' Wild and DreamWorld that I'm certainly not going to be short of things to entertain me for the next few days. From the moment I arrived, everybody has been smiling at me in the street and greeting me with a cheerful G'day as they pass with their multicoloured surfboards tucked under their arms, and I'm told that there will be no change of pace or difficulty finding anything to do just because it's Christmas. Sorry, I should say Crimbo. I've learned from the Aussies that there's no point wasting time saying a whole word when you could be heading down to the beach, which is exactly where I intended to spend my first day here. After laying my towel out by the sea and soaking up a few minutes worth of the Gold Coast sun, I began to realise why it was that everyone around me looked like a slice of overdone toast and why the typical Gold Coast local looks like a full blooded Aborigine. With the lilting tones of Beach FM pumping out old school tunes from loudspeakers all along the beach, time seemed to pass quite rapidly and it was all I could do to avoid being lulled off to sleep to the sounds of The Beach Boys and waking up hours later with first degree burns. In fact, the Australians are starting to take serious notice of the fact that they have the highest incidence of Skin Cancer in the world, and have begun a highly publicised awareness exercise in which everyone is encouraged to Slip, Slop, Slap - Slip on a Shirt, Slop on some Sunscreen and Slap on a Hat. I'd love to have been in the meeting when they thought that one up - I certainly had to ask what it meant the first time I saw Slip, Slop, Slap written on a street sign. To anyone unfamiliar with the campaign, it could just as easily mean Slip on a Banana Skin, Slop out the Toilets and Slap in the face! Still, the point seems to be slowly eating it's way into peoples heads, even if a hat and a shirt aren't exactly seen as trendy fashion accessories on the beach. Not wishing to look like a beetroot quite so early in my trip, my day on the beach became a couple of hours on the beach. Safely done up in tee-shirt and hat, I wandered down Orchid Avenue and along Caville Mall (McDonalds here is universally referred to as Macca's on Caville) looking for possibilities for a fun night on the town. The porter at the hotel, who is a possible contender for tallest man in the Universe, looked down upon me from a great height this morning while suggesting a number of places I should look out for and offering me a ton of free passes - which I translated to mean that these were all the places where he would get a commission! In particular, I was advised, a bar called Shooters was very popular with the local Bikini-set. His words, not mine. I found Shooters on the first floor of the Mark Building on Orchid Avenue, amusingly situated immediately adjacent to a shop called Condom Kingdom which seems to sell about six thousand varieties of condoms - most of which have secondary functions I probably wouldn't want to go into here. I had images of the clientele lining up in twos from one establishment to the other at the end of a really successful night out and I made a mental note to put Shooters up there at the top of my list of places to visit! When the sun eventually goes down here after a hard days shining, Surfers Paradise becomes a party town. The bars quickly pack out with revellers, many of who look as though they've just walked straight across from the beach - there seems to be little use for a dress code in a place where putting on anything more than a G-String results in you melting into a puddle of sweat after five minutes. I'm impressed with the choice in Surfers Paradise when it comes to things to do in the evening. Shooters is an authentic American Western Saloon which does appear to be very popular and contains a dance floor as well as pool tables and a lounge area, The Penthouse is a club which contains four floors of differing music styles to keep everyone happy, Bourbon offers mainly R&B and Soul, and The Crazy Horse is a Girlie Bar and Table Dancing club. Littered along the street between the clubs are bars and shops which seem to stay open until almost dawn most nights, so there's truly something for everyone - unless you happen to be a Monk. Tired from my trip, I settled on my first night for a good meal at the local Hard Rock Café where my server was called Kelly and was so smiley and cheerful and, well, Australian, that I wanted to take her home in a doggie bag. The fact that she was wearing next to nothing also helped. I was also somewhat impressed that she came and got me personally from the bar when my table was ready, rather than doing the really annoying thing they do when you're on your own at a restaurant in the USA which is to announce over the intercom: "Jones, Party of One, your table is ready" so that you have to endure the sympathetic stares of everyone as you are led to your table! This, in my opinion, is only marginally better than having a waitress yell across the room "Oy, sid? Bloke with no mates on the barstool over there - tell him 'is tables ready, will yer?". Full from the largest meal I think I've had on the trip so far, I swaggered over to Shooters trying to look sophisticated and found that the brutish thug on the door wouldn't let me in without Photo ID. I had forgotten that anyone who looks under thirty gets asked for ID over here, and I'd left my passport in the hotel. Next time, I'll remember to bring my passport with me and I'll get a different bouncer who won't want to see it. That's usually how it works.
My complete travel journals are at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
I pricked up my ears at a conversation between a young couple in the hotel bar this morning:
"So," the girl was saying, "Will you have to get a new heart?"
"Naw" her companion replied, "This one ain't so bad. Should last a bit longer."
There was an awkward silence before the girl spoke again: "Well it's up to you, obviously, Scott - but if I had a hole that size in my heart I'd want to get a new one pretty quick."
Two or three other British tourists were taking an interest by now - After all, this isn't the sort of thing you normally hear over drinks and friendly conversation in a bar.
The girl spoke again:
"Well, Scott, don't come running to me if you get sunstroke"
There followed a slight delay while my brain untangled this new information, and then I had an almost uncontrollable urge to swivel my chair around and scream at them: "HAT, You drongo, he's got a hole in his HAT, for Christ's sake!"
But of course I didn't, because I'm British and we like to maintain our stiff upper lip. So instead I ordered a Martini - shaken not stirred - balanced the enormous floppy hat back on my head and headed out to develop a melanoma on the beach... This afternoon, I took a trip out to Wet N' Wild on the hotel's courtesy bus and spent the day riding the usual assortment of water-rides and flumes and generally relaxing as is the norm on the Gold Coast. I had been looking forward to this for a while - Warner Bros. Have been running a series of advertisements back home in our local cinema for Wet N' Wild and Movie World for some time, which has always struck me as a massive waste of time as I can't imagine too many British folks dashing out of a cinema in London at the end of Psycho Killer Mutant Chainsaw XIV to book the family on a plane to the other side of the planet just so they can ride down the crazy river in an inner tube. First of all, the hard facts. Lets be honest, if you've seen one Wet N' Wild you've seen them all. Florida, Vegas, California, Tenerife, the Gold Coast - they're all more or less the same but on slightly different scales. The biggest and best in my humble opinion, and the one to head for if you really do feel the sudden urge to get extremely wet thousands of miles from home, is Florida. The selection of rides here on the Gold Coast is, however, more than enough to keep you occupied for the entire day and give parents a chance to bake in the sun while the kids go off and play in the kids area. The main problem is that the weather leaves little energy to do anything, and by the time I had picked up an inner-tube and climbed the hundred steps up the side of a fake mountain, I was too exhausted to truly enjoy the experience of throwing myself down a blue, green or black tube to a certain death. Luckily there is a ride called the lazy river which is more of a slow flowing circle of water which weaves around the park and on which you can drift along on your inner-tube until your energy has returned enough that you want to throw yourself off something again. The lazy river really is a great idea for breaking up an otherwise hectic day of trying to kill yourself, although I have to say it would be somewhat better if it weren't for the obligatory teenagers who seem to find it amusing to swim around against the current, without inner-tubes, splashing everyone and suddenly appearing from below to push you out of your tube and scare the life out of you! Inner-tubes can be hired for the day from the entrance, or you can often just grab one that has been discarded. The park is dominated by a huge wave pool in which you can settle back for a relaxing float before, after fifteen minutes, somebody turns the wave machine on and you find ten foot waves crashing down all around you. I have to confess to absolutely loving the wave pool, even if there is an irresistible urge to swim against the current to the far end of the pool which you are absolutely not permitted to do for safety reasons and which results in irate lifeguards gesticulating madly at you. The wave pool also has an interesting feature which you won't find in Florida - Dive In Movies! That's right - come here on selected evenings and you can bob about in the deep end trying not to drown laughing at Mr Bean on a huge screen towering over you. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - only in Australia! The rides change regularly of course, so there's no point in listing them all here as they will no doubt have changed in the time it takes you to book your flight, but there really is something for everyone - everything from pools for the kids to splash in to hair raising, death defying drops on practically vertical slides into what seems like two feet of water. There are lockers to stash your stuff for the day, a shop from which to buy anything swimming related which you might have left at home, and a wide range of eating places ranging from poolside burger bars to sit down cafes. I think I could safely say that, if I lived anywhere within a fifty mile radius of Wet N' Wild, I'd be here every weekend. I enjoyed Wet N' Wild so much that I spent the entire day there before returning in a somewhat wrinkled state to the hotel in the evening to discover an interesting phenomenon. Due to an inability to see out of the back of my head, I had inadvertently missed out small portions of my back while slapping on the sun lotion earlier in the day and I now have a sunburned patch on my back that looks uneasily like the Sure Deodorant Tick-Mark. In fact, I'm not altogether convinced that one of those teenagers didn't come along while I was sleeping by the wave pool and wipe off a tick shape just to make me look silly. I wonder if I can finance the rest of this trip by selling the advertising space on my back!
My complete travel journals are at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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