No matter how many times she visits the Gold Coast, Donna McIntyre has plenty of fun.

Wish we were there, say the husband and kids as I email and Facebook them pics of the beach, the surf breaks, sunrises, my mouthwatering cafe meals and my hotel rooms from the Gold Coast.

I wish they were here, too. It's fun on my own, but the Gold Coast is always a great destination with family or friends. So much variety, it really does cater for everyone. And if you pick the right spots to stay, you can walk rather than drive. The hotels I stay in are mere metres from the beach, shops, and bars, and the lobbies either have their own cool cafes or are next to them.

And then there is the climate; warm sunny days during my early autumn stay and the water temperature in late March was an enticing 26C. Warm enough to make you want to dive straight in; not so hot that you don't feel refreshed.

The Gold Coast is all about choice. Each time I come here there seems to be more to do.


When the kids were younger we would divide time between the theme parks and the beach and try to squeeze in a bit of down time at the hotel pool to re-energise before checking out the shops and cafes.

This trip, sans family, it's about water activities, where to eat and shop and also a taste of culture with the beach-based Bleach festival ( one of many Gold Coast events and a precursor of what will be happening during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. But before you can eat or shop, it's always fun to get out in the fresh air: even better if it involves being on the water.

The climb at SkyPoint.
The climb at SkyPoint.


Not only is the mass of blue water a great landmark for navigating up and down the coast but it's clear and warm and wonderful to swim in. The lifeguards like you to swim between the flags, understandable in the big surf that most Kiwis are not used to. Tip: After landing at Coolangatta Airport, drive or walk to North Kirra Beach. A swim is just what you need if you've been up since sparrow's fart - so refreshing after a red-eye flight. If you want to be more energetic then you can walk or run round the corner to Coolangatta. And dotted along the coast are showers (normal height and knee-height) and drinking fountains.


I'm a novice so Tallebudgera Creek's lovely ladies Lee and Sarah at All Coast Paddle Board Hire were wonderful and encouraging with their instructions. There's only a little bit of current in the "creek" and often a wisp of wind but that all helps. Nice scenery and plenty of free parking. Relaxing as you gently paddle up and down the river mouth. And I didn't even fall in once.

Want a bit more adrenalin or a closet petrolhead? Head to Jet Ski Safaris at Marina's Cove. At 75km/h bouncing across the waves, following the slalom pathway of the guide in front, this provides thrills while still feeling surprisingly safe. The trip starts with instructions and a test before the self-drive trip. Then you ease your way out through the slower speed limit of the inner harbour until the guide and you think you feel in control enough to open the throttle. It's weird for a scooter rider at the start as a) there is no brake and b) the throttle handle is where the scooter brake is. It means reprogramming whatever part of my brain is normally used for this. We're lucky that there is minimal traffic on the way up to the islands north of South Stradbroke and the guide points out a house belonging to a very rich person where the likes of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie come to stay. It's all locked up today (definitely none of Depp's dogs) but it's cool going past all the mangroves. Then we stop for a refreshment on South Stradbroke Island, and return to the marina. Check out the shops at the marina. I walked away with two dresses on sale plus sandals to replace my favourites.



Peppers Broadbeach is a sophisticated establishment with suites (lucky me, mine was ocean-facing, pools, gyms, and close to the water. You can bathe or shower looking at the view (or pull down a blind if that feels too weird). Full kitchen, too, if you don't want to spend all your holiday budget eating out or if you just want to enjoy hotel living. Walk out of the enormous foyer and you have the Oasis Boulevard's cafes, bars and shops all on your doorstop. For breakfast I headed to the casually chic Brunch and Co, mere metres from the hotel foyer door. (

Over in Surfers Paradise, the QT Gold Coast Hotel is very hip and funky and decorated in a retro style way with lots of colour. Love the light display in the foyer and the staff uniforms. All conveniently close to Surfers and the shore.

QT Hotel on the Gold Coast in Australia.
QT Hotel on the Gold Coast in Australia.

The breakfast area, in the Bazaar restaurant, and Stingray bar lounge have so much choice. And the in-house SpaQ offers pampering that helps make this a truly relaxing destination. (

If you want an amazing overview of the coast head up to the SkyPoint observation deck on top of the Q1 building where, from 77 levels up, the coast and hinterland are laid out. You can eat and drink here, and do the sky climb if that sort of thing appeals. I don't have much of a head for heights and surprised myself at how comfortable I felt up here.



Qantas flies daily from Auckland to Gold Coast (via Sydney), with return Economy Class fares starting from $772.