Livin' it Up on the Gold Coast
How the Gold Coast has become one of the adventure destinations of the southern hemisphere
I have to admit, when the Gold Coast Tourist Board decided to send me out to the Gold Coast in Australia to show me it's now one of the adventure destinations in the southern hemisphere, I was extremely excited. Nothing makes me happier than flying by the seat of my pants (quite literally in this case) doing as many adventure activities as possible. Throw in the fact that it coincided with the rugby Lions Tour and it was all set to be an unforgettable trip. Luckily for me, it was.
As you probably saw from my updates on Facebook and Twitter, I was put through my paces and every day I did a number of adventure activities such as abseiling, quad biking and surfing. For me though, there were one or two really stand out moments.
One experience that really surprised me was stand up paddle boarding. I first came across stand up paddle boarding last year when Dave Cornthwaite paddle boarded a 1,000 miles down the Mississippi River. I thought "if Dave can do it, so can I". After all, this is the man whose motto is "say yes more."
The majority of backpackers and travellers have an idyllic image of Australia with its beautiful beaches and wonderful weather; with that in mind you'd think this would be the perfect place to do stand up paddle boarding. That's why I was shocked to turn up to Currumbin Bay to a grey sky that could give any in the UK a run for its money and it pissing down with rain. Did this dampen the experience? Literally, it did, but not in this context.
Justin Mitchell, the owner of JM Paddleboards, said: "In seven years, every single person who's paddled boarded with us has stood up in their first lesson," and that's the beauty of it; it's simplicity. How many people can say the same thing about surfing?
Not only is stand up paddle boarding easy (and it really is), it's also incredibly relaxing. Despite the fact that it was raining, I found the whole experience really peaceful, and I can imagine that in the right conditions it's one of the most enjoyable activities out there. I guess that's why it's the fastest growing water sport in the world right now.
Another water sport that I fell in love with was jet skiing. Zooming around the backwaters of the Gold Coast with Ryan from Jet Ski Safaris was such an amazing experience. I thought it was going to be tame, a leisurely tour on the water, but in the end it was the complete opposite; I'm pretty sure I was on full throttle for an hour and a half. At times we were flying through the air over the wake of waves, and when we took on the ocean, well that's a story for another time. If you're an adrenaline junkie and you love the exhilaration of living life on the edge, then this is the activity for you.
Out of the water and up into the air, both Tiger Moth Open Cockpit Joy Rides and Cloud 9 Seaplanes delivered the most stunning views of the Gold Coast. When you think of the iconic aerial images of this part of Australia it's usually with these two companies that you get to see it.
When you're flying above the coastline you really get to see the area it in all its resplendent beauty. It's easy to see why it's called the Gold Coast with mile after mile of golden, sandy beaches.
I likened the Tiger Moth Open Cockpit Joy Ride to a great roller coaster ride in the sky; it really was like strapping yourself into the experience of a lifetime. Forget any theme park, head straight to Pimpama and book yourself in for a flight.
And finally, a memory that will be with me until the day I die was the first test match of the British and Irish Lions against Australia at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. I've been to a fair few rugby games in my time and I've never experienced an atmosphere like it. I was proud and honoured to call myself British; we were truly four nations united. And the fact that we won made it even better.
Every now and then sporting events truly live up to the hype and highlight everything that's good about a country. This was one of those occasions and for the 30,000 tourists who visited the east coast of Australia they were treated to a spectacle like no other.
As a destination, the Gold Coast already has it made with arguably the best beaches and the best weather in the whole of Australia, but after sampling some of the other things to do while you're there, I can now see why the Gold Coast is one of the adventure destinations of the southern hemisphere. Now all you need to do is get yourself there...