A Whole New State
Our first stop in Queensland took us to Surfers Paradise. This beachside city along the Gold Coast is known for its’ high rise buildings and idyllic beaches. It is often compared to Miami and on arrival, it was clear to see the similarities. A row of high rise buildings lining the beautifully blue ocean and the continual stretch of beach is what makes Surfers Paradise. Now it was time to see if this city lived up to its name.
We quickly checked into our hostel and dumped our bags before exploring the place we would be calling home for the next 2 nights. A short walk from the hostel brought us to the beach. In the late afternoon, we were disappointed to find that most of the beach was in the shade. The sun was setting behind the tall buildings, casting long shadows across the sand.
We headed back towards the streets and along the main strip. The strip felt very commercialised, with a McDoanld’s overlooking the beach and an array of branded clothing shops and chain restaurants. The contrast between our previous stop, Byron Bay, and this one was alarming. It’s not until you travel around Australia that you realise just how vast and varied it is. We had a quick browse through the surf shops and got approached by various tour companies.
By this point, it was the early evening so we headed back to the hostel. Our first night also happened to be a ‘big night out’ in Surfers Paradise. The hostel claimed that over 300 backpackers would be arriving and heading out on a bar crawl. We waited a while, drinking a cheap bottle of wine until it was clear that nobody was going to show up.
Instead of wasting our money we went out to see the night markets along the beach promenade. After browsing through the stalls and walking back along the sand we ended our night with a cheap game of mini golf just a few minutes away from our hostel.
Surfing at Surfers Paradise
The following morning we got up early and went straight to the beach. Having recently finished our 5 days of Surf Camp we were keen to test our skills at Surfers Paradise. We rented a couple of the big foam surfboards and wetsuits for two hours and went straight to the beach. Choosing a section of the water where there were no other surfers to laugh at us, we paddled out.
After an hour of nose dives and spectacular falls, it became clear that we weren’t quite as good as we thought. The waves we had been learning on at Surf Camp were tiny in comparison to the ones further up the coast. By the end of the two hours, we were exhausted, bruised and slightly disheartened. After dragging the boards back up to the rental shop we went back to the beach for a chance to sunbathe and swim in the clear water.
A Long Walk
As well as relaxing on the beach, we also decided to walk along it. At first, this was a pleasant way to see the city but the beach never came to an end! We were heading north and ended up walking to Sea World (boo), about 7 km away from Surfers Paradise. This did mean that the beach was almost empty and untouched. This was clearly an expensive area, with huge 5-star hotels and houses. After admiring this part of the Gold Coast we began our long walk back along the beach.
What Else To Do
Our stay in Surfers Paradise was brief and on a budget. Therefore we didn’t do a lot of the big Gold Coast attractions. But if you have more time and money to spend then you should definitely consider going to Movie World, Wet n Wild or some of the other big attractions on offer. There is normally a package you can buy which gives you access to all of the attractions for a set price.
I was underwhelmed by Surfers Paradise. I was hoping for a chilled out surf town with boutique shops and family run restaurants. But was met with big brands, chain-restaurants and pushy tour guides. Maybe if we weren’t on such a budget we would have had more fun exploring the theme parks.
The beach itself was lovely, with clear water, no rubbish and plenty of space but the overall city was not the paradise I was after. If you’re a good surfer and just looking to test yourself then the waves in Surfers are perfect for you, but there are other stops along the Gold Coast which are less touristy and definitely worth looking into.