It is cold, wet and miserable at 5am when your alarm clock starts howling, eerily mimicking the wind outside. It’s June, the middle of the Australian winter. You force yourself out of bed, open the curtains and despite the fact it is still dark, you can see the icy rain blowing almost horizontally at your window, as if it is maliciously seeking you out. For not the first time you wonder why you organised your annual holiday to a “beach destination” in the middle of winter. Despondently you splash some water on your face to wake up, grab your already packed bags and jump into the pre-booked taxi which is waiting outside. With this start to your day, you can only hope that Queensland lives up to its promise of “beautiful one day, perfect the next”.
Having snoozed for most of the flight, you arrive at Coolangatta airport a little before 9am and are pleasantly surprised to see that there is not a cloud in the sky. There is still a little bit of chill to the air but the day seems to be warming fast. Having spent the flight in a half-sleep, dreamlike state, the change seems surreal. It is as if you stepped through the C. S. Lewis wardrobe into a new, sunny world, leaving both home and the worries of everyday life behind. You take a deep breath and smile, perhaps this winter vacation will not be so bad after all.
The Gold Coast is a beach. With warm, golden sand stretching so far from the crystal clean ocean waters, it is little wonder the location itself has become its best draw card. There is also the promise of a relaxation of “the rules” though. Ever reputed to being laid back and a little bit naughty, this is the place you go to, to escape from the concerns of every day life. Here is a calendar of reasons why the Gold Coast is a great vacation destination, any day of the year.
January has an average temperature in excess of 28°C. It is also humid being in the middle of our storm season. Make sure you bring wet weather gear in case you experience one of our late afternoon storms. Your raincoat should not be lined with anything to keep you warm though, it is too hot, it just needs to keep you dry. If you love the way in the tropics, that moisture from the last downfall literally steams off your clothes, you will love our January.
Given the higher temperatures, it’s a great opportunity to cool off at the water based theme parks like Wet ‘n Wild, White Water World and Sea World. Still being during school holidays though, expect to spend some of your time queuing for the rides. The tropical storms have also been known to push through big surf , so if you are coming to the Gold Coast to enjoy our world class surf breaks, January through to the end of March are your best months.
February is another hot, humid and stormy month. So as is the case with January regarding the surf, the theme parks and wet weather gear, so is the case with February. The one big advantage February has over January is that with school holidays complete, you will find yourself spending less time in queues at the theme parks and more time screaming with excitement, as you take another steep plunge at a million miles an hour riding the next roller-coaster or water-slide. So if you are coming to the Gold Coast and theme parks are specifically on your agenda, February is definitely your best month.
One of the highlights of the month is Waitangi Day. This is New Zealand’s national day and given we have such a large kiwi population living on the Goldy, there are always a bunch of celebrations and events marking this day. I try to visit and take in at least one Waitangi Day festival each year as I really enjoy the slice of Maori culture that is celebrated at the festivals. One thing to note about these though, the Maori part of the festival is typically pretty small. Most of the festivals are like a big country fete or fair, with all the stalls and attractions you’d expect at such a carnival. So if you are interested in seeing the Maori parts of the celebration, make sure you get a program of the day so you can plan your time accordingly.
March invariably brings with it large, storm driven, ocean swells. These swells build and break on our shores, winding around our world class surf points like Snapper Rocks, Kirra and Currumbin Alley. The way they hit our shores is just right so they make deep barrels and clean wave faces that seem to wind around the coastline forever. They are mesmerising to watch, both beautiful and terrifying in their power. When you drop the top surfers of the world into these waves, letting them loose to fly up and down, perform dizzying aerial tricks and completely disappear from view into the hollow caverns of the waves, you have the Gold Coast in March.
Early on in the month, the surfing world turns its collective attention here as the first event of the annual World Championship Tour is fought out on our waves. With great breaks running from Duranbah in the south all the way through to South Stradbroke Island in the North, one thing is guaranteed for this event, the best surfers in the world will be testing their skills and each other in terrifying waves. So if you are in town during March, make sure you fit time into your schedule to witness this spectacle. It is something you will remember forever.
A little bit later in the month, the Malfunction Surf Festival cruises into town giving us a different perspective of surfing culture. Malfunction celebrates the roots of surfing, where surfing was about grace and oneness with the wave, rather than the fevered carving and athletic acrobatics that characterises the earlier competition. If you are a surfer who has a touch of nostalgia for the surfing days not too long past, you will love Malfunction. Aimed at longboarders and retro surfers, the five day carnival has a look at many aspects of the surfing culture, including art and memorabilia, surf vehicles, surf movies and it hosts a surf celebrity dinner. Naturally though, there is a competition, a competition where the best longboard riders in the world come and pit their skills against each other.
April is a month without any major festival, things on that front wind down a bit. The weather both dries up and cools down too so it is the perfect month to get outside and have a look around at some of the other attractions the Gold Coast has to offer. Did you know for example that there are over 30 golf courses on the Gold Coast. With cool, dry weather, April is the perfect month to get out on the fairway with some friends to drive, chip and putt.
Mt Tamborine, the Lamington National Park and the Gold Coast hinterland all are great “fresh air” options now too. If you want to explore these regions, you may need more than a month, there is so much to see and enjoy. From wineries and relaxation retreats to craft markets and country pubs.You can go 5 star, you can camp, you can try every standard in between. There really is something for everyone in the hinterland, all you need is the time to find it.
May is crooning month on the Gold Coast. Each year, over 70 blues artists from OZ and the US, and over 100,000 blues lovers make their way to Broadbeach to appreciate 5 days of blues music in a massive street festival environment – The Broadbeach Blues Festival has come to town. The line up of artists and festival gets better and better every year. Click through to Blues on Broadbeach for more information.
June hosts Wintersun as its marquee event. Motor heads, line up for this one, I have a feeling you will love it. This annual nostalgic rock ‘n roll event brings together a street parade and a carnival with a difference. It is held in Coolangatta and adds into the mix of live music events, a hot rod car show. This car show makes international news each year, such is its quality. For more information, click through to the Wintersun website
The Burleigh Solstice Festival is worth a look during June too. This popular fiesta of color, sound and tastes is held in the middle of Burleigh, simply to celebrate the longest night and shortest day of the year.
Keep in mind that the Gold Coast is on the edge of tropical Australia. So while the southern states of Australia are enjoying their icy, winter rains at the moment, most days on the Gold Coast are sunny right through. It is a little cool in the morning, but the days quickly warm up with the temperature invariably exceeding 20°C by lunch time. It really is a great time to be on the Gold Coast.
For the water lovers, the water is only slightly cooler, falling to around 19°C. If you surf, bring a spring suit to keep the wind chill at bay. Swimmers – bathers are fine. The water is just not that cold.
July brings the world’s best endurance athletes to the Gold Coast to participate in the now famous Gold Coast Marathon. The Gold Coast Marathon, held in July’s first week, has become more than a race, it has become a weekend of fun and fitness, a celebration of our modern day athletes who accomplish these amazing feats of endurance. I really enjoy participating in one of the events at this carnival, both for my annual fitness challenge and to get washed up into a festival based on good health, rather than excess and decadence. It makes for a really great weekend, especially if you have a group of health nuts with you, supporting and being supported.
The best thing about doing the Gold Coast marathon though is that you get a holiday on the Gold Coast too. This I believe is why the Gold Coast marathon has become so famous, so fast. Why don’t you take up the challenge, there are many events for runners (and walkers) of all different levels of fitness, so there is no reason not to. More information on this great weekend can be found at the following website: GC Marathon
August is your month if you love to celebrate your taste buds by offering them culinary delights. The annual Tastes of The Gold Coast Festival (usually held in August, occasionally in July) brings the best of the Gold Coast’s food and wine together, to be feasted upon in Australia’s most pictureque setting. It is a true celebration of the Gold Coast way of life.
Imagine for example, eating a fragrantly marinated, perfectly cooked steak with some greens and field mushrooms. A glass of the smoothest red wine brings out the flavors in a way you never expected. As dinner finishes and you wait for dessert, you enjoy watching the ocean breakers smash upon the rocks only meters from your table. A bit further out to sea, the sun sets in a darkening sky of crimson, violet and indigo. Contentment comes easily as you allow yourself a second to really take in the moment.
This is the type of experience you can expect if you come to the Gold Coast in August. Visit Tastes of the Gold Coast to get the dates of this year’s festival.
September is when the Swell Sculpture Festival hits Currumbin Beach. From the amazing to the interesting, the funny and bizarre, Swell is a globally unique, outdoor sculpture festival. We went there in 2009 to find the inspiration we needed to create the invitations for our engagement party (pictured right). And who can forget the VW Beetle in 2008, a complete mosaic of tiny glass tiles. From giant band-aids for the earth, to totem poles and wood carvings, this foreshore turned gallery is a sight to behold.
The idea of Swell is for artists, both local and international, to create sculptures which are large and durable and specific for outdoor display. Not only does this bring some spectacular sculptures to the Gold Coast, but it also provides a free outdoor event for both locals and holiday makers, with plenty of live events organised in an outdoor art gallery on the beach.
The weather is starting to warm up again and the chill is starting to leave the pre-dawn mornings. Surfers, when you get to September and beyond, you can probably leave your wetsuits at home. Only the most cold sensitive people will still need a spring suit now.
October is the month of big races on the Gold Coast. It doesn’t matter if you love the smell of petrol fumes and burnt rubber or prefer the salty tang of a surf driven ocean spray, in October we have a very special race day for you.
For car race enthusiasts, we have the (previously Indy) Super GP weekend. Super GP is a car racing carnival that tears through the city streets of Surfers Paradise. Often the balcony of your hotel room will be the perfect vantage point to watch the race, although you may want to head down to the street and get caught up in the spirit of race day with the thousands of other car racing nuts.
Unfortunately, this race has recently been plagued by issues both of a financial and political nature. It is still a little unclear what the future holds, so lets hope for a swift return to something resembling its former glory. The Super GP carnivals of years gone by, certainly were looked forward to by all Australians.
On the ocean front, the Coolangatta Gold Ironman race is contested on the beach and in the surf. If you think you can paddle an ocean kayak for 23kms through ocean swells, run a short distance on the sand, swim 3.5kms in the surf, run a further 4kms in the sand, paddle a surfboard for 5.5kms and then run a final 10kms - still in the sand, you should enter this mammoth ironman event yourself. If you are mortal like the rest of us, you can watch these endurance athletes from the beach instead. One of the great aspects of this race for spectators, is that the track is not roped off. How can you when the track varies every minute with the moving tides and variable swells? This means interested spectators like you and I can be on the sand and in the water with the athletes. What a rare opportunity and privelege. Have you heard of such access in any other elite, competitive event? This is certainly an opportunity which should not be missed if you can get to the Gold Coast during October.
November – December schoolies week comes to the Gold Coast. It has become an institution for Australian high school leavers to descend on the Gold Coast to celebrate finishing their secondary education. It lasts for about three weeks as the different states of Australia have their school calendars finishing at different times. Each group comes for one week. It is the perfect holiday event for you if your are 18ish and just finishing high school, a potential disaster if you are not.
The Schoolies weeks have received a tremendous amount of bad press over recent years. Lets face it, thousands of drunk teenagers fighting, vomiting, smashing property, getting arrested and passing out just looks ugly… but on the other hand it also makes for great news headlines. Like most things, it is never as bad as the press would have us believe. But holiday wise, personally, I am a bit older these days and this type of craziness is just not my scene so I try and keep out of Surfers Paradise during this time. That being said, as a teenager I would have loved the wild atmosphere, the feeling of new freedom, party and invincibility.
What holiday are you looking for when you come to the Gold Coast at the end of the year? If you are looking for a wild party and are of an appropriate school leaving age, Surfers Paradise will be the perfect destination for you. Just remember though, respect the place, the people who live there and the property you are using. Most of the older people drinking at the same pubs as you this time of year are not “toolies” either, they are just people who drink at that same pub every other week of the year. You are not paying them to leave their home and habits, so don’t expect them to.
If you are not looking for a wild party though, if you are up for a family or relaxation holiday for example, don’t stay in Surfers Paradise. You will not enjoy it there. The Gold Coast is a big place and there are plenty of spots which are insulated from the schoolies festival. Holiday instead at Burleigh, Currumbin, Kirra or Coolangatta. Choose one of these locations instead, put down you bags, kick up your feet and relax… just as you always intended to. The weather is really picking during these months too, so make sure you bring shorts, loose tops (if you must wear them), plenty of sunscreen and some cool sunglasses. Most holiday time during November and December should be spent chillin’ at the beach, by a pool or at the Wet ‘n Wild water park.
Keeping in mind I am barely scratching the surface with the calendar of events listed above, you can see the Gold Coast really is a year round tourist wonderland. For more information about holidaying on the Gold Coast, make sure you look through our website where we have built a database of Gold Coast Attractions Information. Do some research too, you’ll be amazed by the variety of events and attractions we have on offer here. It doesn’t matter when you have your time off work, it doesn’t matter what month of the year it is, all you have to do is pack your bags to enjoy your “summer” vacation on the Gold Coast.