Surfing the Gold Coast: Lessons Learned and Bruises Earned


When most people go to Australia, the big tourist locations are Sydney in the south and Cairns in the North; however, with a landmass near the size of the continental United States, Australia has so much more to offer to the Adventurer who likes to get a little wet.  One of the “well known” jewels is the Gold Coast, to the South of Brisbane. When you arrive at BNE (Brisbane’s main airport), you can board a train and be in the Gold Coast in just over an hour. From there it is a short bus ride to Cavil Circle in Surfer’s Paradise. The train ride also gives you a chance to slow down and have a little “classic travel” on your trip.  The rails move slow enough for you to see the mountains, the temperate rain forests, and the coastal region for yourself, without a guide telling you what is going on, just you and the world. Once you arrive the tan sands wills how you why this is one of the top “off the beaten path” tourist destinations in Australia. 

Any trip to Queensland is not complete without a trip to the Gold Coast.  This haven for those who love the water is about an hour south of Brisbane by train or car and can provide you with days of fun for much less than the more expensive hotels of Queensland’s capital.  When I go to Gold Coast, I specifically go to Surfer’s paradise, even though until last time I had never set foot on a surfboard. The mixture of water and wilderness in the area around Surfer’s Paradise is a mecca for tourism.  It is worth the trip and worth the jaunt south from Brisbane. It is something that should not be missed on any trip to Queensland, Australia. 

Assuming you are a water enthusiast since you are reading this, it is hard to make a trip to Surfer’s Paradise without taking on the namesake activity, surfing.  If you are like me and have never surfed before, then you will want to get some lessons. There are several companies that will give you lessons, just make sure to find one with a license.  The best thing about a good company is that they will make sure you learn on “safe” waves. Too often people want to ride the curl in Maui when they have enough trouble riding a skateboard- let alone a surfboard.  A good school will take about four hours to get you standing up on a surfboard, generally after a few classic “wipeouts.” Once again, make sure that your school is licensed and insured and you will have a good time.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in Surfer’s Paradise is that surfing is not the only thing that you can do.  There are dozens of areas in Surfer’s Paradise to snorkel or SCUBA dive. This area has some amazing reef structures that are often ignored because of the Great Barrier Reef to the North.  Make sure that you take some time to check out these less known and thus, less crowded reefs. If you want a few things to do on the land, Dream World is Australia’s current equivalent to Disney World (though there are rumors that the Aussies are getting a Disney too).  This is a park on par with Six Flags or Cedar Point in the United States. If you want something more natural, I recommend Lamington National Park. This park has two sections. The first is woodland pathways through the parks where you can see aboriginal caves with cave art still in them.  The second is a more “touristy” section called “O’Reileys” where you can walk across a boardwalk built into the temperate rainforest. There is also the option of just staying in Surfer’s Paradise. The beaches are among the best in the world, just watch the flags for riptides. Cavil Circle has several attractions, such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, that are a fun side trip.  If you want to relax, there are dozens of places to shop or catch a bite to eat around town walking distance from most hotels. 

If you are going to take surfing lessons, I recommend Get Wet Surf School.  They will pick you up at your hotel and take your right to the location, then return you back to the hotel.  AS for hotels, if you are looking to go the budget, the Alpha Hotel was good last time I was there. The rooms are no-frills and are one street back from the beach, the restaurant is good and the BBQ area is very nice.  If you are looking for an upscale hotel, I recommend the Mantra Hotel. This hotel is right on the beach and gives you quick access to the water. There are dozens of snorkel and SCUBA outfits along the coast, so I will let you explore those.

For those of you who want to venture inland to Dreamworld or Lamington, I recommend Southern Cross 4WD Tours.  Once again, I recommend that you ask your agent to contact them as the rate they will be able to get is better than the posted rate and they can help you insure the whole package.  This part of Australia is less crowded than the tourist traps of Cairns and Sydney, which gives you a lot more open water and a lot more reef to yourself. So if you have the chance to go to Australia, make sure to ask your agent to set you up for a few days along the Gold Coast. 

About the Author

Dr. Smithmyer is the Vice President of International Affairs for Brāv Online Conflict Management, an international consortium of conflict resolution professionals. Dr. Smithmyer is also a columnist for NRN doing mostly political and international business columns. When Dr. Smithmyer is not working with people to make the world a better place, he enjoys snorkeling the waters of the world.

Dr. Smithmyer has traveled extensively in the United States, Australia, Vietnam, and the Bahamas. He has also presented in the U.K., India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Smithmyer is one of the most lettered men in the world with nine degrees. As an adjunct professor in his spare time, Dr. Smithmyer uses his business experience and travels to help bring the world to his students and even brings the students to the world through experiential learning trips.

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