The Hidden Side of the Gold Coast

Paul Ewart

There’s much more to the Gold Coast than Surfers Paradise, high-rises and theme parks. From hinterland spa retreats and microbreweries; to local famers markets and world-class fine dining - we bring you the hidden hotspots that should be on your radar. It’s the Gold Coast… but not as you know it.

Dinner with a view

While homogenous fast-food chains are still ubiquitous in the Gold Coast, change is afoot - if you know where to look. Passionate food lovers now have an array of restaurants in which to indulge their habit, all with a focus on local, fresh produce. To see this in action look no further than Burleigh Heads at the southern end of the Gold Coast. A suburb that has transformed from motley backwater to a hip, Byron Bay-esque foodie go-to, one of the jewels in its crown is Rick Shores. Positioned on one of the most prized beachfront locations on the coast, water literally laps under the restaurant windows, meaning that diners can gorge on delectable Asian-fusion fare while watching surfers carve it up outside, with the iconic Gold Coast skyline in the distance.

The view from Burleigh is impressive any time of day. Photo: Paul Ewart

Equally worth a visit, the Fish House is one of the Gold Coast’s most lauded restaurants. Here fresh, quality seafood - and excellent wines - are the order of the day. The Patagonian Toothfish is to die for - marinated in miso, it could easily rival Nobu’s famous Black Cod.

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Get your Om on

After gorging on the abundance of foodie fare, join the other local wellness warriors for a session at Burleigh’s Yoga Room. Specialising in Iyengar-inspired Hatha yoga an abundance of props and expert one-on-one tuition make it great for beginners and longtime yogis alike.

Retreat to the forest

Private plunge pools, giant baths and cosy, wood-burning fires; Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat ticks serious boxes. It’s undoubtedly the most luxe operation in the area and a stay here amongst its lush 250 acres of rainforest and meadows will earn serious brownie points with your belle or beau.

A tranquil retreat. Photo: Paul Ewart

Bordered on three sides by World Heritage National Park, the property is tucked deep in the forest at the end of a peaceful valley on the NSW-Queensland border. Over eight kilometres of tracks take in fern-lined gullies, 400-year-old rainforest trees and hammocks strung over bubbling crystal creeks - just like the name of the resort suggests.

Thirteen private bungalows are scattered discreetly in the forest, ensuring that - if you so wish - you don’t need to see a soul for your entire break. Talk about getting away from it all!

Coffee fix

As with their food, the new breed of Gold Coast foodies are fussy about their coffee too. Luckily for visitors, this has meant an influx of great cafes and coffee shops. Commune Cafe is one such example - in fact, it’s one of the busiest on the coast. Its hip, mismatched tables and chairs cater to crowds of punters daily and it has cemented its status as one of the best brunch spots in the area.

However, local favourite, Burleigh Social, comes out on top. A staple for the last few years, a yummy menu - which includes a popular Paleo breakfast of smoked salmon and sweet potato hash - and a spacious backyard of communal picnic tables mean that on a sunny day, it really can’t be rivalled.

Saddle up

Picture this: trotting through miles of pristine bush against a mountainous backdrop. The wind in your hair as you take in spectacular valley scenery and traverse forests, creeks, ravines and rivers. Who would have thought that less than an hour’s drive from the Gold Coast airport you can make your cowboy - or cowgirl - fantasies come true.

Get back to nature - on horseback. Photo: Paul Ewart

Numinbah Valley Adventure Trails operate on a working 2,500-acre family owned cattle property in the beautiful Numinbah Valley. They offer one to three-hour escorted trail rides catering to all levels, plus all rides include a traditional Billy tea and damper served at the stables afterwards. Pick ups from Surfers Paradise and the Broadbeach area are also available.

Paddle hard

Gold Coasters are understandably proud of their sandy sea inlets, which provide calm and sheltered waters - waters that are perfect for stand-up paddle boarding. Do as the locals do and make a beeline for Tallebudgera Creek at the end of Palm Beach. The nearby Action Outdoor Hire will help kit you out.

Brews up

Burleigh Brewing Co are microbrew pioneers. After setting up shop back in 2006, in a decade they’ve turned their range of beers into a Queensland institution. Following on from a recent expansion and renovation project, the brewery headquarters has now become a destination in itself. Set amongst the brewing and packaging facilities, the cavernous bar and adjoining al fresco area are packed with locals and on Friday nights the ante is upped with live music and a food truck serving delicious wood-fired pizzas. Grab a tasting paddle or just dive in and order a schooner - no matter what you get, you can’t go wrong.

So many beers to choose from. Photo: Paul Ewart

Spa hound

Set in the World Heritage Lamington National Park, O’Reilly’s Lost World Spa offers treatments alongside spectacular views over the surrounding ancient rainforest and ranges.

Using all natural Australian-made products, the nature-inspired treatments include muscle-melting massage and therapeutic facials; alongside ‘Vinotherapy’, which utilises the anti-ageing action of grapes harvested from the nearby O'Reilly's vineyards, the Sodashi signature massage comes very highly recommended. There’s also a stream room and stunning infinity edge lap pool located in front of the Lost World Spa with endless views to the mountain ranges.

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To market, to market

There’s no better showcase of the region’s talent pool - from crafts and fashion; to fresh produce and patisseries - than at the Village Markets. The market runs on the first and third Sunday of every month at Burleigh Heads State School (from 8.30am to 1pm), and the fourth Sunday of every month at Paradise Point Park (from 8.00am to 1pm).

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