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July 22, 2015

Gold Coast Adventures #1: Surfers Paradise

Text by Shirin Mehta. Photographs by Ashima Gupta

In this travel series, Verve chronicles it’s adventures in Australia’s Gold Coast in Queensland, with its endless beaches, exciting amusement parks, green hinterland, great food and the largest tropical forest in the world

The winds swirl around, creating a rippling halo of hair around my face. I am standing at the very summit of SkyPoint Climb, outside the iconic Q1 Building in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, far above the 77th floor where we had started, 270 metres above sea level. Verve’s art director Ashima Gupta and I are walking outside the building, setting the adrenaline on an upward spin. Team leader Pete, may have led at least a 1000 climbs in the past three years but he exudes a first timer’s excitement. Climber Luke from New Zealand is on his third time and excited. At Mission Control, on the ground floor, we had been thoroughly briefed and outfitted in a climb suit, two-way radios and harnesses that attached us securely to the railing.

It takes but a few moments to get used to the height and then the stupendous 360 degrees view of Australia’s famous Gold Coast, 50 kilometres of rolling surf and sand, socks us pleasantly between the eyes, like a giant surf-wave. This is truly awesome and puts the area immediately into perspective with the seemingly endless beaches with an unlikely silhouette of giant high-rises, edged on the inside by water canals lined with fabulous houses, islands and bridges, and rolling further inland into the bush land and mountains with the world’s largest tropical rain forest. The sun shimmers on the water of the canals. The sea is awash with surf. Pete tells us about the whales that may be spotted in the months of their migration and that, one time, he swam with 20 dolphins in that sea. Having breathed in the glorious vista, we climb down for some high tea that includes scones with cream and jam and smoked salmon sandwiches. The entire procedure had been 90 minutes of blood-pumping fun.

Queensland in North-Eastern Australia has been dubbed the Sunshine State for obvious reasons. The Coral Sea, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, borders Queensland on the east and the state boasts six World Heritage-listed preservation areas, including the famous Great Barrier Reef (but that is another story). The weather is great all year around and the winter period in May and June revels in warm temperatures and minimal rainfall, making travel ideal. This is a state of many landscapes, I am to discover, ranging from sunny tropical coastal areas, amazing beaches, lush rainforests to dry inland areas, all waiting to be discovered and explored. The Gold Coast is where the fun happens with surf and sand, bush and beach and five major amusement parks in the northern areas – an ideal place for a family holiday. (Singapore Airlines and Silk Air operate over 80 flights weekly from India to Singapore and connects three flights daily into Brisbane. Silk Air will be starting new direct flights to Cairns from May 30, 2015 for you to explore the hidden secrets of the Great Barrier Reef.)

Surfers Paradise: The Esplanade

On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, on the Coral Sea, is Surfer’s Paradise, the Gold Coast’s party and tourist mecca, with its iconic beaches, skyscraper skyline and vibrant shopping and entertainment strip at Cavill Avenue replete with surf equipment, resort wear, boutiques and high-end designers. (We pop into Max Brenner, ‘chocolate by the bald man’ for some white choc chai, chocolate brewed with spices like masala chai.) A city of half a million people, several of the towering high-rises are let out to holidaymakers. Jane Hodges, our guide who walks with us down the Esplanade bordering the beach, lined with discreet showers and comfortable benches, speculates on how the Gold Coast got its name. The most pragmatic story among many, relates that surfers started coming to this coast in such huge numbers that real estate developers saw a golden moment to make money – which they did.

The spectacular surf, and hence the surfers, seem to be missing today and the sea looks rather flat. Ideal for those who are lying on the beach or taking a dip in the cool waters, between the red and yellow flags set up by the iconic surf lifesavers and lifeguards. From a colourfully hand-painted van emerge a couple of young women sporting the coast’s fashion look – brilliantly-coloured flowing maxi dresses, chic sandals, hair carelessly tied in top knots. Their tanned skins glisten as they walk laughing to the beach. That evening, as on every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, more than 70 stalls spring up, stretching over half a kilometre of beachfront promenade along Surfers Paradise beach. We discover a selection of locally made crafts and accessories, artworks, beauty products, kites, music; there is even a photo studio. We sit on a bench and look out to sea, wanting never to leave. Until a steak, ribs and seafood dinner at Hurricane’s Grill with views of the sweeping Esplanade, beckons.

Stay tuned for more Gold Coast Adventures.

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