The Gold Coast is not just Surfer’s Paradise. Admittedly, that’s definitely an awesome part of it, especially if you’re partial to a party and a few shots, but when we visited in February we wanted more from the white sands, crystal blue waters and lush rainforests. Gapyear.com went along with the I’m a Backpacker competition winners – Jodie, Sean and Ellis – to sample as much of the Gold Coast as possible in just seven days, and didn’t we do well?!
Jet boating is a great way to revive and refresh when you land in the Gold Coast. Our competition winners were in that boat within an hour of arriving at the airport. Enjoy 360 spins, stunning Gold Coast scenery, and getting drenched at the mercy of your awesome driver (if you have Pete that is, sure the rest are cool too though).
The Skypoint Climb in Surfer’s Paradise is Australia’s highest external building walk. Any chickens can go up to the 360 observation deck, and the brave among us, like we were, can go for the full experience and climb up the 230m point and round the building. The Q1 SkyPoint Climb is taller than the Chrysler building in NYC and has one of the fastest elevators in the world.
Tim the Watersports Guru – what a guy! We arrived late – Sat Navs and me do not get on – and were quickly whisked away to get wetsuited up. We boarded the little boat and Tim gave us a rundown of the area as we slowly boated out of the marina. As soon as we were out of the restricted area our driver put the pedal to the metal or whatever the equivalent is on a boat and we were out in the open sea. We were just happily chatting away and a school of dolphins came up beside us jumping in and out of the water, it was incredible.
They were definitely not the only sea creatures we were to see that day though – from turtles to sea cucumbers to starfish to stingray – you can read more about the adventure in Ellis’ article on the Watersports Guru experience.
We had a delicious barbecue with Tim and co to get our strength back and then went into nearby Kingscliff where he took us paddleboarding.
Then we drove into the little town and bought a delicious ice cream to scoff on the beach as we watched the sea come in and out.
Hinterland Rainforest and Binna Burra Lodge
We were up early and off so we could get the best of the day in the Hinterland Rainforest. Like all of our adventures it was within an hour’s drive of where we were staying in Surfers Paradise. This time though, it was up windy roads with sheer drops. I passed on the driving and Jodie took over.
We were met at the top of the cliff by Dean who after a few quick introductions showed us how to abseil 90m down the side of a cliff. As soon as you understand Dean has your back, and that it’s in his interests that you survive the trip too, you can just relax into your harness and enjoy the challenge, and the incredible view. After a few scrapes and embarrassing misfootings I made it down to the bottom in one piece. Once we’d all completed the course Dean rewarded us with a delicious gooey chocolate cookie and a cup of tea. Perfect.
It was time for the zip wire – or Flying Fox depending on where you’re from – a 165m wire from tree to tree up in the rainforest.
And look who we found coming out of the bush – apparently he’d just eaten a pademelon – a small kangaroo.
After all that excitement we were ravenous and the food up at Binna Burra Lodge did not disappoint. After stuffing ourselves silly we went on an hour-long cave walk up and down the Binna Burra cliffs.
We spent the early evening watching the sun set over the view with a bottle of XXXX up at the main house. Then we went back to our safari tents and rustled ourselves up a barbecue and a campfire. Although we failed on the campfire as we couldn’t seem to get the damn thing fired up.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Today was the day we were all going to hold a koala at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and we were very excited. It was also the day we were going to get a go on a Segway with Segway Pete. Segways are amazing – they balance you out so whichever way you lean it counteracts. As long as you trust it it’s pretty much impossible to fall off. We had a great time Segwaying around Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary up and down the hills and in and out of the animal enclosures. The machines are silent and eco friendly so they don’t disrupt the animals at all, it was brilliant.
As well as holding a koala we also saw kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, crocodiles and wombats too.
Jellurgal Aboriginal Centre
We spent the morning at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Centre where we learnt all about the Aboriginal tribe that once owned and settled in the area. After some traditional dancing in the centre we were taken on a walk up the Burleigh Headland to see ‘the Giant’s Fingers’. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and told us all about her people and what the area means to them.
From the top there was incredible views out over Burleigh Heads and having her explain the history of the area gave a lot more context for us to enjoy it in. It was hot walking around on that peak so we were grateful for the cool of the visitor centre when we got back. It’d been a while since breakfast so we decided to tuck in to one of their delicious pies at the restaurant. Dee-licious.
Burleigh Brewing Company
What goes with pie? Beer, that’s what. Lucky for us we’d planned to visit the Burleigh Brewing Company straight after. After a quick look around all the brewing equipment we were given a free tasting and told more about the creation and success of the beers they have. The Burleigh Brewing Company is one seriously cool place and if I lived anywhere nearby I’d be there every first Friday to join the charity fundraisers they have. Our guide told us that the whole car park is full of people swigging their beer and just generally having a brilliant time.
After about three beers each in a very short space of time we decided the only thing to do would be to buy some more and go down to the Tallebudgera Creek to catch some sun. Down there you could rent boats and go paddleboarding too, but we just chilled and floated around in the water a bit and got some rest.
Dreamworld and White Water World
We arrived at Dreamworld as soon as the gates opened and made the stomach churning mistake of buying a big cup of coffee and pretty much downing it. Needless to say our trip on The Claw nearly ended in said coffee all over a few peoples heads as we were spun around sky bound.
We quickly recovered, or at least in my case put on a brave face, and managed a few more rides. Dreamworld is a great place to go for a day’s adventure. You can definitely get around it in the time and thanks to the fact it was school term we actually managed to get on a few rides twice.
Sadly we didn’t realise White Water World would close so early and with all our hanging out at Dreamworld we only left ourselves 45 minutes to get on as many rides as possible there. We managed a fair few, including one where us three girls went on an inflatable raft together and got launched down into a big bowl where we span around it before dropping down the chute. Definite favourite. The next best was the rows of slides where we could race each other down to the bottom.
Out of the whole week and all the amazing experiences I had on the Gold Coast, the three-hour jet ski session was my absolute favourite. We had an hour of training beforehand – just basics on the safety of being out there in the open water. Make sure you listen to this by the way, you get tested at the end and the lady will publicly name and shame you if you get the answers wrong.
Out on the water I had my own jet ski and after the initial shock of riding over the waves and feeling totally out of control we soon got to a flatter bit where I was more confident to go full throttle.
Out there in the mangroves by myself I started to feel a little lonely. I decided to get my karaoke on. And this is what made my jet ski trip so awesome. I was out there belting out a bit of Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Whitney – anything that would come to mind came to my mouth. By the end of the Jet Ski trip I was parched from screeching at the top of my lungs, but happy and satisfied at a karoke session well done.
Check out top gapper Macca’s jet ski experience for more information.
Harley Davidson Bike Tour
We also went on a Harley Davidson Bike Tour back up into the Hinterland. Well Ellis and Sean did. Riding pillion to two awesome bikers they whizzed through and around the Gold Coast with the wind in their hair and gripping tightly to the bikers. An incredible way to see the Gold Coast by the sounds of it!
And finally, why not top your week off on the Gold Coast with a skydive? Go with Gold Coast Skydive and you can land directly on the beach, like the I’m a Backpacker Get Me in There winner 2014, Jodie Young, did. She jumped from 12,000ft out over the Gold Coast and in her words, “the views were absolutely incredible!”
Getting around the Gold Coast
The best way to get around is to hire a car. You have to be 18 in Australia and just need the card part of your licence. You can hire a car from £20 per day – bargain if there are a few of you. It was really easy to drive around the Gold Coast as they also drive on the left hand side of the road like us Brits.
There are a few hostels and hotels on the Gold Coast but we chose to stay at the Surfer’s Paradise Backpackers Resort. They had dorm rooms for anyone on a budget and shared flats for anyone with a bit more to spend. There was also a pool to cool off, nightly volleyball games, planned excursions and it was only a 10-minute walk from the main strip of Surfer’s Paradise and 5 minutes from the beach.
And here’s all that info in a video…
Here at gapyear.com we’re pretty much experts on the Gold Coast now, so just let us know if you have any questions in the comments box below.