THE GOLD COAST OF QUEENSLAND

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Oneof the most popular holiday areas in this country year round is theGold Coast of South East Queensland. This is understandable, asit has so many attractions for all age groups. First, there areall the fabulous beaches, then there is the great weather, for most ofthe year it is perfect. Holiday makers are very unlucky if theyexperience a bad summer storm, though these do occuroccasionally. The aptly named Gold Coast is but an hour's drivesouth of Brisbane via a very good highway and stretches for 30 or morekilometres north to south, incorporating a number of beachsidetownships, one after the other. In the last 30 years, this quietbackwater has grown into a vast, world class holiday resort,definitely superior to the French Riviera.

Thousandsof people have purchased holiday accommodation here; some have chosento retire to this area, while many others have bought property to letout to tourists. And the building boom continues around themanmade canals, with hundreds of private jetties at the bottom ofgraciously lawned gardens, with access to the ocean.

Gold Coast accommodation is available at all prices, from multi million dollar penthouses inthe high rise apartments with ocean views, to the lowly tent campingsites in beachside caravan parks. There are backpacker hostels,guest houses, bed and breakfast establishments, self contained familycabins in caravan parks, plenty of reasonably priced flats and motels,as well as many slightly more expensive apartments. There arealso luxury condominiums and a plethora of the very finest beachside,multi storied hotels from which to choose, (such as the tallTravelodge with its Kids Klub, or the elegant Marriott, both atSurfers Paradise, or the Hyatt Regency at Sanctuary Cove and the RoyalPines Resort at Ashmore) - so there is literally something to suiteverybody.

TheGold Coast has its own airport at COOLANGATTA,not far over the New South Wales border and holidaymakers can arriveby direct flights from Sydney orSurfers ParadiseMelbourne. Naturally there are a number of car hire agencies inthe airport foyer. There are also many more of less well knownnames up and down this stretch of coast, particularly at SURFERSPARADISE. There is publictransport available to reach most places on the coast and thehinterland, but it is always easier if you have your own.

Asfor shopping and eating out, the Gold Coast has it all - hundreds of times over. Each of these townships has its ownshopping centre, some much larger than others. One of thelargest and longest established is PACIFICFAIR and many of the free touristbuses stop there regularly. One of the grandest can be found at SANCTUARYCOVE MARINA,while SURFERS PARADISEhas the liveliest and greatest number of single shops and is gearedspecifically to tourists. And on Friday nights there's acolourful market on the beach at 'Surfers' too. The eateriesrange from simple takeaway services of every conceivable variety andethnicity to cafes, sports clubs, medium priced restaurants and thereally grand, with world class cuisine and service (all the top hotelshave one of these).

Andwhen you have arranged your accommodation and transport, what is thereto see and do? Scores of different options presentthemselves. It is up to you to choose which interest you mostand which you can afford. Most people want to see the majortheme parks and tickets can be obtained to cover entry to three ofthem, if desired, as it saves afew dollars. The three main ones are DREAMWORLD,MOVIE WORLDand SEA WORLD.Dreamworld is a family fun park built on Disneyesque lines, bot not asbig as Disneyland USA. However, it does have enough going for itto keep the whole family busy for many hours on end. There areso many rides (hair raising and otherwise) and the exciting TigerWorld, where people can see rare white tigers interacting with theirkeepers at certain times of the day. Visitors can also get upclose and personal with many of the koalas, forDreamworld ResidentDreamworld has a very successful koala and tiger breeding program.There's a Mississippi style paddle steamer on the little lake, rows ofold world buildings, people dressed in many outfits to entertain thevisitors, a carousel, a steam train, water rides, car rides and plentyof native wild life to meet at close quarters. And of coursethere are a number of eateries and snack bars, where one can restbetween explorations. Activities are happening here all day long, younever know what will be around the next corner.

MovieWorld is a real Warner Brothers' movie studio, where films areactually being made much of the time. Visitors can take an opentrain to a movie set and learn how those spectacular stunts areachieved. They can enjoy a show in the 3D theatre, meet a hostof movie characters such as Batman and Robin, Bonnie and Clyde andmany more. They can watch a wild west stunt show, cheer themarching band, visit the fire station, take a mine train ride,photograph views from the chairlift, enjoy the bushranger show, getcaught up in a shoot out, try their skills in the shooting gallery, oropt for a helicopter flight over the parks. And that's not the half ofit.

SeaWorld is the oldest of the theme parks, but it is still a top drawcardfor Australians and overseas visitors. It has live shows almostcontinuously and when they are not inaction, there is still much to see and do in this park. DolphinCove is the largest natural dolphin habitat ever created at a marinepark. It includes three interlinked show and trainingpools. The main undercover viewing area seats 2,500 people, withroom for another 500 seated on the lawns. Fourteen dolphins andwhales inhabit these pools, which also hold a variety of tropical andweed eating fish to keep the pools clean and create a naturalecosystem. Then there all the sharks to watch and the playfulsea lions, which take part in some of the aqua shows. There's a waterski spectacular at regular times, a grand central train tour, somereally hair raising rides to take (if you are game), a toboggan ride,the white waters waterslide, the speed slide and many more.There's a walkway to Adventureland, a monorail, an erupting volcano, areplica of Captain Cook's ship - the 'Endeavour', a lighthouse, apirate ship, the Vikings Revenge flume ride, Lasseter's Lost Mine rideand much more. Eateries there are aplenty, plus the photo and souvenirshops - even a chocolate shop for chocaholics.

Native BirdsAnotherhighly popular Gold Coast attraction is CURRUMBINSANCTUARY, which is possibly theoldest in this area. It was established in 1947 and is still goingstrong. This 27 hectare property was gifted to the NationalTrust in 1976 and today the hospital section treats around 4,000 sickanimals a year. Here visitors can meet with hundreds of rainbowlorikeets, which fly, squawking loudly, down from the tall trees atfeeding times. It is then that they will perch on people'shands, shoulders and even their heads to feed, while one of the wildlife officers talks about them.

Thereis a train which constantly steams around the sanctuary and visitorsmay get on and off it at any of the mini stations whenever theyplease. They can also relax aboard for the complete route, if theywant to become familiarised with the place. There are manyfenced and shaded paddocks, where native animals can be seen living intheir normal habitat and there is a special Creatures of the DarkForest centre, built around a large old rainforest tree, wherevisitors should take their time to acclimatise their eyes, beforetrying to spot the little nocturnal creatures that inhabit this hugeaviary. There are activities going on in the Sanctuary atvarious times all day long, in which everyone is welcome to takepart. There is also a Kodak booth and a lovely patio cafe, wherepeople can sit out on a shady deck and enjoy their surroundings withtheir refreshments.

Thenthere is JUPITER'S CASINOat Conrad Jupiter's hotel. Here one can gamble to one's heart'scontent 24 hours a day, eat in one of the excellent restaurants andsee a world class show before dining. Jupiter's is a five starhotel, so rooms are also available at any time.

Thatfamous diving duo, Ron and Valerie Taylor, run the GREATWHITE SHARKEXPO on The Spit at Main Beach andhere these dangerous creatures can be seen, up live and veryclose. Then, on the highway at Oxenford there's the ever popularWET'N'WILD WATERPARK, where all the pools andslides are now heated. There are flumes, a twister waterslide, agiant speed slide, a mighty wave pool, a rampage toboggan drop andBuccaneer Bay for the kiddies. Coach tours there are aplenty, eitherfor a whole or a half day, picking up passengers at theiraccommodation and dropping them back there after the tour. Mostof the 4WD minicoaches go into the high hinterland national parks forthe rainforest and mountain spectacles, while others (usually the bigmain coach lines such as Grays and Australian Pacific) take off forthe Sunshine Coast to the north of Brisbane, where there is anotherplethora of man made attractions to enjoy.

Cruisingis big business on the Gold Coast and there are probably at least adozen cruise boats one can take for anything from an hour, an evening,or all day. These may be a cruise around the canals to see thehomes of the rich and famous, a two hour cruise to upmarket SanctuaryCove, a Stradbroke Island cruise, or a dinner cruise with Polynesianfloor show. Shangri La Cruises even offer aquaplaning for theirpassengers, as well as T-bone steaks for relaxed barbecue lunches onthe beach.

STRADBROKE ISLAND is just off the Gold Coast(20 minutes by boat) and is a popular day trip, for its world classbeaches and clean ocean waters. It also has fine resortaccommodation, for those who do not want to get up and go, but whojust want to veg out in idyllic surroundings, with everything close athand and fine food always ready to be eaten.

TheGold Coast hinterland is a strong contrast from all the brilliant sun,golden beaches and rolling surf. An hour's drive westwards willhave you up in the most beautiful rainforest on MOUNT TAMBORINE and here you are inanother, cooler, shadier world, where many of our little nativecreatures may be encountered. There are a score or morepicturesque villages, each with their own attractions, such as THUNDERBIRDPARK, where you can fossick for thunder eggs; or the POLISHPLACE where you can enjoy Polishfood and see the mini Polish Museum and stay in one of their big Aframe luxury cottages,. with a wall of glass (and your balcony,complete with tame parrots) between you and the superb panoramastretched out below. O'REILLY'Sand BINNA BURRALODGE are two other hinterland,rainforest properties where legendary, self contained accommodation isavailable. Then there's MOUNTTAMBORINE VINEYARD,the DUTCH CLOGWORKSHOP, the GERMANCUCKOO CLOCKNEST, lots of galleries and lovelyrestaurants, cafes and tea rooms, a fuchsia farm, a spiritual healingcentre, weekend markets, bed and breakfast properties galore and manycottages to rent on a daily or weekly basis. This is a bushwalkers'paradise, as there are four unspoilt national parks on the flanks ofthe mountain and all abound with waterfalls much of the year.

Whatbetter way then to sample the delights of the Gold Coast than to spendsome time on the coast and some up in the mountainside forests?