Surfers Paradise – the pulsating, lifestyle heart of the Gold Coast

The name Surfers Paradise is almost synonymous with the Gold Coast, with both widely recognized around the world. The thick forest of high-rise buildings towering over the beach has become the icon of this, perhaps Australia’s most famous beach (or does that honour go to Sydney’s Bondi Beach?).

While the beach was the original attraction here – as the very name implies – today we could easily say that the many off-beach lifestyle attributes of this lively town have taken over as the main appeal. These include outdoors cafes and restaurants, fine dining on cuisines from around the world, ample choice of bars, a full-service casino, nightlife and entertainment plus plenty of shopping in private stores and vast shopping malls. There’s also a good variety of attractions in the surrounding area, including the huge theme parks Sea World and Dreamworld, plus wildlife sanctuaries at Currumbin and David Fleay’s. Day tours include whale-watching cruises and mountain, rainforest ventures in the Gold Coast’s beautiful, mountainous hinterland and many more.

The beach, however, still remains the focal point of activity for most visitors during the day. The great majority of visitors are not real ‘surfers’, however just playing in the waves is both exercise and fun enough for most.

Surfers Paradise was not the first Gold Coast beach to attract visitors. Its immediate neighbour to the north was given the name ‘Main Beach’, because in the 1920s that is exactly what it was, both the first beach visitors from nearby Brisbane reached, and the main place they stopped for surfing and beach fun. The surf life saving club at Main Beach also preceded the establishment of that in Surfers Paradise in 1926.

Surfers’ Paradise has few true beachfront rooms, but those few are excellent

The heart of Surfers Paradise suffers the problem that is the quandary of beaches worldwide – a road runs right along the sand. This not only cuts off the possibility of true beachfront accommodations, it also means there are no restaurants, cafes or other establishments in which to sit, relax and enjoy an immediate view of the beach. Even the Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club is on the wrong side of that road, depriving it of a great beach location and setting it at a disadvantage compared to many of its rival clubs up and down The Coast.

However, as our map shows, the south side of Surfers does have five accommodations right on the beach, all of them holiday apartments. The first of these, One The Esplanade, is literally the first beachfront building where the road leaves the beach. Beside it is a small park, also by the sand. From here it’s only a 400 metres walk back to Cavil Avenue, generally considered the heart of Surfers, making this surely the top accommodation spot in Surfers Paradise. The other holiday apartments are only a few steps beyond this, and also enjoy great locations and excellent, uninterrupted views of and access to the beach and ocean. Rooms with ocean views – that’s most in these buildings – also offer a good chance of seeing humpback whales cavorting and spouting just off-shore during the annual migration from June to October.

a near perfect beach, part of the 15-kilometre strip

The beach at Surfers Paradise is a two-kilometre sector of the unbroken, 15-kilometre long stretch of sand that makes up the northern half of the Gold Coast. The sand is identical all the way; yellowish white and so fine-grained it squelches and squeaks underfoot when walked on. The water is clear and clean at all times save during storms, and a constant Pacific swell throws non-stop waves onto the beach. In short, here is a near-perfect beach – but of course it’s all the same along all 15 kilometres. Everything that makes Surfers Paradise stand out from its neighbours lies to the back of the beach, starting with its dramatic high-rise skyline.

The beach gets really busy in the peak summer season, December through March. During the rest of the year visitor numbers are much lower, though even during the winter months there is always be some activity on the beach, and lifeguards still patrol flagged swimming areas. Winter sees visitors from Australia’s southern states heading to the Gold Coast to enjoy a break from the cold. Here even the coldest months of July August enjoy sunny days with a daytime average of 20 - 25 degrees – pleasant on the beach, though the water temperature of 19 degrees is too cold for all but the hardiest to swim.

Luxury homes and wealthy lifestyle the envy of Australia

Wander just 500 metres back from Surfers Paradise beach and you will find yourself in a completely new world, a very urban, homely place where mum and dad worry about getting the kids to school each day. Or, just as often, the retired grandparents have their morning tea in the sun, looking out over their riverside backyard. Mix in a few golf courses, shopping malls and sports grounds, and you have a snapshot of everyday Australian life.

There is a difference, however – this is Surfers Paradise, in the middle of the Gold Coast, one of the most prestigious and desirable addresses in Australia. Anyone contemplating moving into one of those modern, luxury canal-side homes will need a spare million or two dollars. Aside from housing families with parents working in the thriving tourism and related lifestyle industries, Surfers Paradise is a favoured spot for well-to-do retirees from all over the country, especially older folks eager to escape the cold winters of the southern states.

Quite a few foreign owners keep holiday homes or apartments here too, for under Australia’s relaxed ownership laws any foreign national can buy property here.

by John Everingham