Queensland: Gastro on the GC

By Donna McIntyre

Donna McIntyre shops and eats on the Gold Coast.

You're on the Gold Coast, enjoying the sun, surf and nightlife. And while it's nice to cook a few meals when you feel like chilling in your hotel room, there's a diverse number of restaurants in stunning locations, with amazing decor and views, serving the most mouth-watering fare. It's hard to go wrong on the GC with all that freshly caught fish and great produce.

Cafe DBar, Coolangatta
It's as far south as you can get in Queensland, hence the address, Boundary St. The view is fantastic if you sit at the top level looking out over Point Danger to the surf. But there are garden and inside seats, too. The menu selection is great. I went for a substantial Paleo breakfast (eggs, bacon, kale, tomato) just for the hell of it, and because my body was still on New Zealand time and hungry. The gallery next door has art, jewellery, clothing and cards. Afterwards, walk past the Point Danger lookout and down to Snapper Rocks and its sheltered inlet for swimming or head to the beach at Coolangatta.

Elk Espresso, Broadbeach
Great food and friendly service, across from a park, too, if you've brought the kids and they want to run off any excess energy.

I opted for Elk's autumn salad, a mix of heirloom carrots, Israeli couscous, goat cheese and beets - very fresh and yummy. The cafe is slightly away from the busy-ness of the coast, too, so it's easy to get a park, something to consider, especially at weekends.

Surf clubs
These always have stunning beachfront locations and serve good, affordable family-friendly food. Best to check out the one closest to your accommodation but some good ones are the clubs at Kirra, Coolangatta and Kurrawa.

Miami Marketta
This is something a little different and definitely eclectic. The Marketta is open Friday and Saturday nights for street food and on Wednesday nights for tapas. It features bands, some ethnic-style clothing and bars and, if you go in a group, you can all choose from a different stall, then regroup to eat and listen to the local musos under the twinkly overhead lights. The Marketta started life as an arts precinct with the idea of growing to embrace street food and the music. I recommend the authentic German sausage stall.

BSKT, Mermaid Beach
You are so close to the beach you need to remember to take your togs and towels for a dip afterwards. The food is deliciously healthy. Allow time to find a park in neighbouring streets at the weekend as this cafe and the beach are popular. There's also a yoga room upstairs if you are feeling virtuous.

Glass Restaurant, Main Beach
This waterfront restaurant at Marina Mirage (next to the Palazzo Versace) is a fine place to take time out from shopping or get used to being back on dry land after jet skiing. The emphasis is on seafood - and you can't go wrong sticking with that - but there are provisions for meat eaters, too. And as well as having the water views you also get to enjoy the flash launches. I stopped for lunch but the views would be even better at dusk.

The Fishhouse, Burleigh Heads
Feel like a posh dinner? You will enjoy the fine-dining experience and attentive, knowledgeable service at the Fish House.

You can't get much closer to the beach and the views are incredible, stretching as they do, all the way up the coast to Surfers. The venue is a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds, featuring oysters, scallops, coral trout from Cairns steamed and served with sliced ginger and shallots. Absolutely irresistible. The village atmosphere at Burleigh Heads makes it easy to dine, shop and enjoy the beach. A favourite pastime is to enjoy a weekend brunch in the cafes in James and Connor Sts before heading to the village market at Burleigh Heads State School that takes place every second Sunday. Love pizzas and surf shops? Then move closer to the beach in Justin Lane before going for a swim or a walk to the lookout in the Burleigh Heads National Park.

Seascape, Surfers Paradise
Continuing on the seafood theme at Surfers, Seascape is a wonderful venue with a bistro and fine-dining room and, also on its way, a rooftop area. Owner Fouad Eid pays huge attention to detail, from the amazing acoustics in the dining room (if you're sick of noisy cafes, you have to come here) to sourcing the finest ingredients, including six fresh fish species daily, scallops from Alaska and butter from France. Fish is the focus but he also has steak, chicken and lamb.

Bar nothing
It's the Gold Coast and there is no shortage of watering holes on this famous stretch of sand. Head across to Jupiter's Casino and the Garden Kitchen and Bar at Broadbeach.

The Jandals and singlets should be ditched for the night. The spacious Garden Bar is on the ground floor and offers fresh produce in sophisticated surroundings. You can also return in the morning for a coffee and breakfast. If you're in Surfers, check out the Stingray Bar at QT Resort and Spa. Funky and fun, it's also a great hotel to stay in.

At Broadbeach, bar favourites include the Aloha Bar and Bavarian Bier cafe, or for chocoholics, Max Brenner for a warm chocolate drink before bed.

Need to know

Where to start? The Gold Coast is home to lots of boutique shops and there's the malls to explore, too. But we all know, too, that some of the best holiday purchases are those impromptu finds and impulse buys. Here are a few suggestions.

Burleigh Heads
Still has street-front shops near the beach and is great for clothing, especially ethnic, natural fabrics and surf shops. There's a great runners' shop too, small but specialised. The village markets on the first and third Sunday of each month are popular with locals and visitors, especially the hipster and alternative clothing, stalls, plus homeware, candles, furniture and jewellery you're unlikely to find anywhere else.

At Broadbeach the shops are clustered around the hotels and just across the highway is Pacific Fair, re-launching itself as bigger, better and bolder. If you haven't been here for a few years as you had thought it was looking tired, do return. After its soon-to-be-completed three-stage makeover it will have 400-plus specialty stores, two supermarkets, two department stores and two discount department stores. Great fresh produce, too, movie theatres, cafes and restaurants and five hours of free parking in 6450 parks, plus it is strolling distance to Broadbeach and the G:Link coastal tram station.

The mall at Robina is inland from the coast past Varsity Lakes. It has great specialty stores, including some cool tea and coffee retail shops I spent way too much time in ... all I can say is those Aussies must love shopping.

More info: queensland.com

- Spy.co.nz

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