It's the trifecta of a Gold Coast holiday: beautiful beaches, thrilling theme parks - and sensational shopping. When the skin's seen too much sun and the heart can't handle any more adrenaline, the retail therapy on offer is just what the doctor ordered. There really is something for everyone — and every bank balance.
When I first visited the Gold Coast, the only markets were at Carrara. They're still there (and still popular) but they've been joined by dozens of others. One of my favourites, which has been operating for more than 20 years, is the arts and crafts markets, which change from one beachside location to another each week. My visit coincides with their setup in Broadbeach (the first and third Sunday of each month, between 8am and 2pm) so I make a beeline for Kurrawa Park to buy some unique trinkets for family back home. I'm spoiled for choice, with more than 150 stalls selling fashion, jewellery, toys, fresh produce and a whole lot more. The markets are a riot of colour, music and delicious aromas, and have the added advantage of location: if the sun is too warm (or if, like my husband, the thought of opening your wallet makes you break out in a sweat), drop your bags and dive into the ocean for an invigorating swim.
Australia's largest outlet shopping centre is open seven days at Biggera Waters, and is easy to reach by car (or even easier via the free tourist shuttle). Harbour Town has recently spent more than $20 million on expansion, and now boasts more than 240 stores with up to 70 per cent off original prices. Big names too, like Nike, Ralph Lauren, Victoria's Secret and Calvin Klein. Give yourself a good half-day here at least; stores are packed to the gunnels and sometimes you need to dig through a fair bit of rough to find the diamonds. We arrive with less than an hour to go before closing, so split up for efficiency. I'm rather put off by vacuum-wielding retail staff who have doors half-shuttered in advance of the 5pm closing and don't dent my credit card too badly, but my mate puts me to shame by coming back laden with four pairs of Timberland boots (for less than the price of one back home). Successful treasure hunt? Tick.
It's the biggest shopping centre in Queensland (and the fourth largest in Australia) and has undergone a $670 million renovation since I was last here, so my expectations are high. Not high enough though, it seems: Broadbeach's Pacific Fair now resembles a lush resort, with multiple water features, a large central staircase, lush greenery and a massive digital chandelier. But I'm here for the shops of course, and with more than 400 it makes sense to plan my shopping time in the new visitors' lounge over a complimentary refreshment (you can rent lockers here too). The flagship H&M and Zara stores are must-visits for me, and department store David Jones is consistently good, but I'm particularly impressed with the new Australian Designers section for fashion not readily available back home. I also can't resist a stroll through the Luxury precinct: Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Prada and more. The only shopping I do here, however, is of the window variety — next time you go, you may see a small mark where I pressed my little nose up against the glass of Christian Louboutin.
They say shopping is better than a psychiatrist — and I certainly feel the Gold Coast has provided a comprehensive course of therapy. Book my next appointment, please!
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to the Gold Coast.
Further information: See queensland.com.