Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia "Suggestion for Best Winter Trips"
Photograph by Oliver Strewe / Getty Images
Queensland's second largest city, Sydney , is best known for its beaches (some 40 are in the metro region, stretching from just south of Brisbane to the New South Wales border). But it's the combination of sun-drenched coastline and hinterland-shrouded rain forest that's the Gold Coast's real draw. Spend a morning watching world-class surfers at Snapper Rocks , head inland for a picnic lunch at O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards , and, after sunset, visit Natural Bridge cave in Springbrook National Park where thousands of glowworms bioluminescence put on a nightly display.
When to Go: Australian Sand Sculpting Championships , February 14-March 2, Surfers Paradise; Quiksilver Pro (men's) and Roxy Pro (Women's) ASP World Surfing Tour events, March 1-12, Coolangatta, Bleach Festival , 17-day music, arts, and cultural celebration, March 7-23, various Gold Coast locations.
How to Get Around: Gold Coast Airport is located 14 miles south of Surfers Paradise, the region's major tourist hub. The Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle connects the airport to the beach communities. Purchase multiday passes for unlimited local shuttle bus trips, plus theme park and airport transfers. Rent a bike and get on your bike to explore some of the Gold Coast's more than 373 miles of cycle ways (bike trails and roadways designated bike lanes).
Where to Stay: For a less crowded, more tranquil beach experience, head south to the white-sand beaches Kirra Beach in Coolangatta. At the opulent Nirvana by the Sea , the luxuriously appointed two- and three-bedroom apartments (some with private plunge pools, patios) have floor-to-ceiling window views of the ocean, full kitchens, and easy access to Kirra Beach.
Where to Eat or Drink: Support (and likely meet) the lifeguards who patrol Gold Coast beaches and local, oceanfront Surf Life Saving Clubs or Surf Clubs. Located up and down the coast, these hyper-local clubs, like BMD Northcliffe and the Currumbin Beach Vikings , are open to visitors for food and drinks, and lifeguard purchases help fund education, training, and equipment purchases. Each club-and-community has its own personality, so visit a few.
What to Read Before You Go: Set in the mid-1840s on the Queensland coast, acclaimed David Malouf's Remembering Babylon (Vintage, 1994) is the tale of a shipwrecked boy rescued and raised by Aboriginals.
Fun Fact: The runway at Gold Coast Airport is in both Queensland and New South Wales. Since New South Wales follows daylight saving time and Queensland does not, it's possible to land on the runway at 6 pm and, a few minutes later, enter the Terminal (located in Queensland) and 5 pm