Follow the sun: winter on the Gold Coast

winter on the gold coast

From its thriving cosmopolitan city with some of the best beaches and restaurants in Australia, to its hinterland rich with produce, wineries and wildlife wonders, the Gold Coast is a place to indulge the senses during the cooler months. So go on, follow the sun.

 

There’s certainly no need for AI art when conveying the beauty of Tamborine Mountain’s rainforest – it’s like an idyllic fantasyland plucked from the pages of a children’s book. Picture a flurry of Blue Triangle Butterflies flitting past a waterfall cascading onto mossy rocks shaded by ancient strangler figs, while a Richmond Birdwing – one of Australia’s largest butterflies with a wingspan of up to 16cm – lands on a bouquet of Jurassic-looking fern fronds. 

 

 

On the other side of a burbling creek, a green tree frog puffs out its chest in appreciation of the cool morning air while a chubby pademelon looks up from behind a thicket of undergrowth, its nose twitching, eyes bright. Platypuses are plentiful in the waters here (although they’re a rare sight), koalas slumber in the trees overhead, and at night the place is wild with the squawks, squabbles, squeaks and screeches of possums, gliders, bandicoots and an array of other wildlife that call the mountain home. 

Standing in the middle of the rainforest, you’d never guess that this wildlife wonderland is just a 45-minute drive from the centre of the Gold Coast. 

 

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

 

Visitors can get a taste of this flora, fauna, history and more by traversing the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. This 1.5-kilometre round walk is made up of winding forest floor trails and 300 metres of high-tech steel bridges through the highest points of the upper canopy, with a 40-metre cantilever bridge soaring a thrilling 30 metres above the creek and rainforest. Visit the Rainforest Eco Gallery after or grab a coffee in the Birdwing Cafe.

Flavours of the mountain

There’s no better way to uncover the delights of an unfamiliar region than with a local. Guides with tour company Kiff & Culture (Kiff is a South African word for something that’s awesome) pride themselves on operating tours based on local knowledge, with a focus on putting nature first, and offering ethical eats – aka paddock-to-plate gastronomy. One of its many tours is a full-day exploration of Tamborine Mountain, taking in the Sky Walk as well as wineries and a distillery. 

 

Wandering the vineyards at Witches Falls Winery

 

One of these is family-run Mason Winery, set on a picturesque property with beautifully kept lawns and gardens where guests can sit outside on the lawn, on the sprawling wooden deck, or relax inside the charmingly rustic winery and restaurant. Even when its busy, there is a sense of tranquillity that’s hard to beat, and the food is all lovingly prepared with local ingredients, and served with a smile. Enjoy a hearty steak or a chicken breast with homemade creamy sauce, or indulge in some smaller dishes such as tempura prawns or spring rolls with a wine tasting. The Albarino and chardonnays are particularly delicious and outstanding. 

Down the road at Witches Falls Winery, guests are seated in a cobbled courtyard with the vineyards in neatly pruned rows before you, the surrounding hedges and flowering vines giving it the feel of a Tuscan estate. Enjoy a wine tasting paired with local cheeses, where the delightful staff are so friendly it feels as though you are being welcomed into their home. The Vermentino and Fiano are lovely (they might even change a Savvy B drinker’s mind), and the cellar door sells lots of locally made gourmet goodies, so you can pack yourself a picnic or grab a souvenir while you’re at it.

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: Cauldron Distillery gins. Image: supplied.

 

Over at Cauldron Distillery, an amazing range of gins are crafted with love. Native ingredients are prepared by a team of dedicated distillers who celebrate their local produce. As well as experimental gins and vodkas – try the Christmas Cheer Gin and Rocky Road Chocolate Easter Vodka – there are other great beverages on offer such as a range of Vermouths and a coffee liquor called Caffe Freddo, that many a coffee lover has claimed is the best in the country. The Limoncello was a community effort: it became so popular that the Cauldron folk ran out of lemons, so loads of locals brought in fruit from their own properties in exchange for drink credits. 

Back on the coast, for a sensational place to enjoy an evening meal, head to Eddy & Wolff in Robina. Husband and wife duo Thao and Vien Nguyen have created a sanctuary of Asian-inspired culinary bliss, that’s not easy to find the first time you go. Stepping into this dimly lit den-like space is like discovering a hole-in-the-wall local hangout in Hong Kong or Tokyo. Dark and moody, with some of the friendliest, welcoming staff you’ll ever meet, Eddy & Wolff dishes up some of the tastiest, creative and beautifully balanced dishes on the Gold Coast. Although you’ll recognise some classic tastes and combinations, Chef Vien always puts a surprising spin on things – such as the smoked prik khing butter in a curry sauce to acccompany the scallops, or a choko broth to go with the barramundi and glass noodles. Choose your dishes or go for the Chef’s suggestions menu, which is paired perfectly with a fabulous range of wines, both classic and not-so-common varietals. 

 

Eddy & Wolff serve Asian-inspired culinary delights

 

Embrace art & sail away 

For art, culture, history and music, no trip to the Gold Coast is complete without a visit to HOTA – Home of the Arts. In this 17-hectare precinct, there’s a sculpture trail, performance centre, movie theatre, stadium for concerts, and the jaw-droppingly modern centrepiece that is a 2,000-square-metre Cubist-style gallery with five floors of gallery space. It includes 2-hatted fine dining restaurant Palette (serving art on a plate), Hota Café, and The Exhibitionist Bar on the rooftop, which has incredible views of the Gold Coast.

If you’re on the Gold Coast between now and August 4, the Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition is a must. Step into darkened spaces where the works of great artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Caravaggio come to life on enormous screens around you. It’s like seeing mythical people beyond mortal reach appear in the flesh, alive and well. The exhibition was created by the makers of Van Gogh Alive – Grande Experiences – and it’s accompanied by a powerful operatic music score to take the drama up yet another notch. 

 

Glass Dining. Image: supplied.

 

After an ample art fix, Glass Dining on Marina Mirage is an ideal place to fine dine for lunch on the waterfront, with boats bobbing metres away from diners. With a relaxed atmosphere and superb service to match the exquisite wines and food, it’s a local favourite, and popular for events. There are mid-week lunch specials, so fit in a sneaky mid-weeky experience with fresh and fabulous small plates such as oysters, duck liver and plum pate with crispy pancetta, or baby squid with an Asian slaw.

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: Climb aboard with Sunsailing. Image: supplied.

 

As all seasoned rock stars do, step out of Glass Dining on to the pier, and be picked up by a 38-foot yacht. Sun Sailing Gold Coast is run by husband-and-wife team Cath and Grant, with their trusty canine Wilson, who confidently trots around the beautifully restored yacht ensuring that no one misses out on cuddles, drinks, or tasty food platters. Explore the Broadwater Parklands, SeaWorld, the superyachts at Marina Mirage and Southport Yacht Club, Wavebreak Island and South Stradbroke Island in style. Cath also runs Murder Mystery events for groups, romantic evenings for couples, whale watching tours and a beautiful service for scattering a loved ones’ ashes.

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: Tuck into a delicious meal at Nineteen at the Star. Image: supplied.

 

To wrap up a glamorous day of lunching and yachting, Miss MoneyPenny’s is the ticket for a cutting-edge cocktail, or an indulgent degustation with matched wines. This super-cool restaurant on the ground floor of Avani Broadbeach Residences offers high-end social dining, so you can kick back and soak up the fun vibes while savouring the art of great service. The bar is enormous, there’s comfy, elegant couch seating, and the staff go above and beyond to make everyone feel at home. 

Miss MoneyPenny’s cocktail making classes, bottomless lunches, and the Chef’s Seven is the way to go for those who love fine dining paired with expertly chosen wines. The roast duck tortellini dish sheds some light on the many talents of Chef Tapos Singha, who worked at 3-hatted Est at Establishment and 2-hatted Luccio’s in Paddington. A miso bone broth consommé is poured across the delicate flower-like parcels in front of diners, setting off the flavours and accentuating the tenderness of this delicate and decadent dish. 

 

Try the delicious ceviche at Miss MoneyPenny. Image: supplied.

 

Continue the culinary ride exploring the Goldie’s most glamorous restaurants with a dining experience at Nineteen at the Star (at the Star Casino) – it should be slotted into any true foodie’s itinerary. The décor, service, food and wine menus all translate to the epitome of fine dining, with meals such as beef tartare, and steak, salad and mashed potato raising the bar on what a classic and classy dining experience should be. If you enjoy being treated like royalty, this will be your new favourite place.

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: Step into elegance at Kost. Image: supplied.

 

Embracing the coast with the most

A newcomer on the Gold Coast dining scene is KŌST Bar & Grill, which boasts stunning decor, and equally artful dishes inspired by the raw, natural and ever-changing beauty of Australia’s coastline. Clever gold KŌST branding on its tables and marbled floors make it a content creators’ dream – as do the beautifully calming palette of pale pistachio and sandstone, with gold and grey accents in all the right places. The menu has many classics on it (think chargrilled octopus, lobster, lamb cutlets and Wagyu rump steaks) but it’s the way in which all produce great and small is prepared, cooked and presented that makes KŌST so exceptional. 

For a more laidback, elegant dining experience with jaw-dropping views from Burleigh Heads of the beach and the iconic Gold Coast skyline, The Tropic is the place to be. It has a Mediterranean-meets-Australian menu, pastel-perfect décor, and wonderful service. Share platters of oysters and buckets of prawns, bowls of superfood salads and mains such as fish and chips, pasta and pizza, with a big side of utterly awesome atmosphere. It’s also one of the best people-watching hubs in town.

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: The new deluxe Spa by JW. Image: Markus Ravik.

Swimming & sleeping in style

Much like a well-watched movie star hitting the red carpet with sophisticated aplomb, Dorsett Gold Coast has arrived, offering a fresh take on opulence and style on the luxury hotel scene. The hotel’s suites embody the essence of the region – with calming blue and aquamarine hues in the decor punctuated by luxurious touches of bright teal and gold. 

The lobby is a masterpiece of design – white marbled floors blended into soaring white ceilings the backdrop for a modern sculptural display that consists of hundreds of delicate shell-like lights seemingly floating above. As night falls it is even more resplendent.

However it’s the hotel’s pool that has everyone talking. Suspended above the casino’s entrance is Isoletto Pool Club, and part of the stunning pool has a glass wall, meaning those lucky enough to be swimming in it can be seen by passersby far below on the city streets. Surrounded by lounges and many niches to relax with some privacy, and it also has its own clubhouse with a bar, so you can order snacks and cocktails to enjoy poolside. 

 

Winter on the Gold Coast: The stunning Deluxe King Suite at Dorsett Gold Coast. Image: supplied.

Speaking of pools, for decades JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa has been famous for its saltwater lagoon pool complete with real fish, so guests can hire snorkelling gear and take a dip with the aquatic residents. There are winding canals between its other pools, with a current making drifting along a cinch, a waterfall with a hot spa beneath the cascading water, and a bar serving drinks, snacks and light lunches. 

The hotel hosts the award-winning Citrique restaurant on the ground floor, where diners can enjoy a degustation created by Head Chef Paul Smart; a smart teppanyaki restaurant Misono (made Insta-famous by Chris Hemsworth’s rave review videos) with chefs who know how to have fun with both the food and the music; and a lovely lobby restaurant with a poolside courtyard called Chapter & Verse. It’s ideal for a high tea or an afternoon cocktail.

 

JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa lagoon pool. Image: supplied.

 

The Spa by JW has recently had a renovation, and it’s an oasis of calm, with spa therapists who truly understand the meaning of relaxation and the attainment of peacefulness. From the moment guests step into the soul-soothing space, there is a sense of leaving the world behind, although stepping into your beautifully appointed suite here is also akin to finding a haven away from home. And isn’t that why we all travel?

 

For more to explore on the Gold Coast, including how to know which theme park is right for you, where to find the best dog-friendly dining and more, click here!

 

Travel to the Gold Coast

Rex flies to the Gold Coast. Book your flights here and check out the route map below.

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