The huge Queensland coastal conurbation of the Gold Coast is one of Australia's favourite tourism destinations for its mix of cosmopolitan delights, superb beaches, water sports and surrounding natural beauty. Famous Surfers' Paradise is its heart, and the perfect location for a holiday in a rented campervan. There's a great choice of rental companies offering the latest models as well as a variety of camp sites with full amenities.
Part of the Greater Brisbane urban area to its north, the Gold Coast's suburban districts spread from Paradise Point to Tweed Heads, with the bulk of the activity centred in Surfers' Paradise. Low-rise Mermaid Beach is quieter, and Coolangatta, Bilinga and Currumbin districts are set on the city's southern border. The rural hinterland is mountainous, rainforested and home to several national parks.
The 30-plus beaches are the city's glory, with most patrolled by lifeguards and flagged for safe swimming areas. For those nervous about jellyfish, sharks and rip tides, Tallebudgera Creek swimming lagoon is the place for a cooling dip. The hinterland behind the city is nicknamed the 'green behind the gold'and is a natural wonderland of waterfalls, remote valleys, mountains, rock formations and creeks.
Most of the Gold Coast's sights are of the tourist variety, with theme parks including Wet 'n Wild, Dreamworld and Sea World giving great days out for families. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary showcases the cutest of Australia's native wildlife as well as less friendly crocs and snakes, and cuddling koalas is a popular highlight. The sanctuary also offers a challenging fun and fitness Adventure Parc.
Another much-visited attraction is the Glow Worm Cave on Tamborine Mountain, a man-made cavern home to literally thousands of the tiny sparkling insects. The Gold Coast's arts and crafts outdoor markets attract shopaholics from all over the state as well as tourists, with the best setting up on the beachfront every Sunday.
For lovers of primeval scenery, Lamington National Park's Binna Burra section is a World Heritage area containing sub-tropical forests, rushing streams and a scenic walk through cool, shaded glens rich with bird life. Set on Byron Bay is the Byron Bay Lighthouse, an hour's drive from the Gold Coast. This charming beachside resort is a hub for alternative lifestyles, and hosts pagan gatherings, a writers' festival and blues and rock events.
Broadwater Tourist Park sits on the waterfront of one of the Gold Coast's best holiday park locations and offers boating, fishing and water sports. A swimming pool, BBQ facilities, internet cafe and peace and quiet make the site a perfect family holiday location.
Ocean Beach Tourist Park is two minutes by car from the Surfers Paradise nightlife and has its own surfing beach and resort-style swimming pool. Restaurants and coffee shops, an intimate atmosphere and all the usual camping amenities are here.
Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park lies on the Tallebudgera Estuary's waterfront backing an award-winning, patrolled surf beach. Burleigh Heads National Park is a walk away with its lush rainforest, and the site provides a kids playground, WiFi access, a TV room and swimming pool.
The Gold Coast is well-equipped as regards roads and parking lots at the many attractions but, due to its popularity, traffic congestion on weekends can be annoying. Street parking is by meter in the central areas, and can be found free in the suburbs. Australia drives on the left, and drink driving is treated as a serious offence.
- Speed limits in the city: 50kph.
- Speed limits on national roads: 100-110kph.
- Help number: 000.