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If I ever go back to Australia I’ll explore as much of it as I can but on this trip all I wanted to do was spend time with Justine exploring the Gold Coast and getting in some quality beach time. First, a little background info. I thought that Gold Coast was the name of a region, and it is, but it’s also a city in the State of Queensland that formed in 1960 when several towns merged. It encompasses 540 square miles stretched along the east coast and has a population of around 500,000. It has 43 miles of beautiful beaches that stretch from South Stradbroke Island in the north to Coolangatta on the border with New South Wales.
The Gold Coast likes to brag that it has 300 days of sunny weather a year. Justine had already warned me that since she arrived at the beginning of January (the beginning of summer there) it had rained a lot (even with flooding rains in parts of Queensland) so I wasn’t surprised that it was overcast and spitting rain when I landed at the Coolangatta airport. I hit more light showers on my drive from the airport to the Bond University campus. Then a miracle happened. While Justine was packing her stuff in her dorm room the sun came out. The weather remained sunny for the entire two weeks that I was there. What can I say? I’m the Sun God! The daytime highs ranged between 21 and 28 degrees C. (Your brain probably needs the exercise so I’ll let you convert C to F.) The water temp was a constant 23 C.
Justine and I spent a lot of time on the beaches and each beach we visited has its own character. Burleigh Heads is a lot like Folly Beach here in SC but with better waves and more restaurants.
The beach at Burleigh
Broadbeach is like Hilton Head. Multi-million dollar homes and tony shops and restaurants.
Surfers Paradise, where we stayed, is like Myrtle Beach on steroids. If there’s a tourist trap, fast food restaurant, souvenir shop, surfer shop, tattoo place, or titty bar then Surfers has it. Surfers is also blanketed by high-rise hotels and condos. At 80 stories the Q1 is the tallest residential building in the world. (At least until Donald Trump hears about it.) Just down the street is a hole in the ground that will eventually be Soul, a 77-story residential building. The penthouse at Soul, which won’t be completed until late-2010 at the earliest, already sold for $16.8 million. More, but smaller, buildings are under construction.
The beach at Surfers
The condos at Surfers
This is when I knew I was no longer in South Carolina
When we weren’t at the beach we were exploring the Gold Coast. Since we weren’t going to the outback or the rain forest we visited the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary instead. It has one of the largest collections of wildlife in Australia.
He's a dingo, Joan
Since I’m a horticulturist I couldn’t resist visiting Tropical Fruit World if for no other reason than to show Justine that horticulture can be fun, or at least taste great. We got to sample tropical fruits that even I’d never heard of.
The Big Avacado
Since I’m a Kentucky boy with close relatives in the thoroughbred business we had to go to the Gold Coast Turf Club to see the racing. Unlike in the US, all of the races are run on turf instead of on dirt and the horses run clockwise around the track. I bet on Gun Salute to win in the 5th race. He broke into the lead out of the gate and maintained it for 1600 meters. Unfortunately the race was 1800 meters long.
Gun Salute ran 4th. That's Surfers Paradise in the background.
Rugby League (as opposed to Rugby Union) is the most popular professional sport on the Gold Coast so on the first Saturday that I was there Justine and I went to Skilled Park in Robina to watch the Gold Coast Titans play the New Zealand Warriors. The Titans are currently tied for first in the National Rugby League.
Titans 36 - Warriors 24
One morning we went for a cruise on the Broadwater. The Nerang River runs parallel to much of the Gold Coast, sometimes as close as a few hundred meters from the ocean, before emptying into the sea at the Southport Spit. At Surfers Paradise it broadens into an estuary known as the Broadwater. Around thirty years ago developers realized its potential and dredged much of the Broadwater to make artificial “canals” on which to build waterfront houses that now sell for multimillions. Lately people are buying some of the original homes in order to tear them down and build even bigger ones. (Gee, that sounds a lot like the SC coast.)
One of the canals with Surfers in the background
One of our last day trips was to Byron Bay, just over the border in New South Wales. On the south end of the bay is Cape Byron, the easternmost point in mainland Australia. Byron Bay was once a busy seaport for loading timber and agricultural products. Today it is an odd mix of surfers, backpackers, and millionaires. One side street we walked down was totally devoted to the needs of backpackers - internet cafes, hostels, stores selling phone cards, and travel agents offering cheap bus and plane tickets. On the main street we saw real estate agents offering million dollar condos and multimillion dollar houses for sale or rent. The surfer community was like a throwback to The Endless Summer (available on DVD at one surf shop in town). I saw more vintage VW microbuses drive by that day than I had ever seen near campus in 1968. While the Gold Coast can be compared to the SC coast, Byron Bay can’t be. Cape Byron, with it’s lighthouse, looks like something you would see on the Maine coast. Stretching for miles both north and south of the cape are sandy beaches, largely deserted except for the surfers.
Byron Bay from near the lighthouse
The Cape Byron Lighthouse
The beach south of the Cape
Justine on Byron Bay Beach
I mentioned at the start that I picked Justine up at her campus dorm. During my last full day in Australia I helped her move into her new digs - a 5-bedroom townhouse near campus that she shares with four other students. I took some photos but due to an oversight by both of us they were never burned onto the DVD that I came home with. I’ll post them when Justine emails them to me.
I’ll be back later with some random observations about the trip and with a link to more photos.