TV Presenter and mother of one, Jess Skarratt, reveals her favourite hidden gems on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast is a vibrant city that offers an enviable lifestyle and is best explored on holidays when you live like a local. There’s more to the ‘Goldy’ than just theme parks and glitz and glamour. There’s a burgeoning creative and entrepreneurial scene, a phenomenal food and coffee culture, awesome hidden gems to discover and breathtaking natural beauty on our doorstep.
If I wasn’t a local or if wanted to treat myself to a staycation I’d stay at The Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa. The Marriott offers luxury but I love that it isn’t pretentious and that it’s great for families. Definitely pack loose fitting clothes because the buffet brekkie is by far the best I’ve stuffed my face at. And I warn you, that if you have food FOMO like me, it’ll be near impossible to not sample everything on offer. The beach is a short stroll away, but you can also get your salt-water and swim-up bar fix in their amazing tropical pool. Then slip on a snorkel and spot colourful fish in the lagoon. Break out the bubbly on your balcony and soak up the stunning panoramic views on sunset, before heading to Misono teppanyaki restaurant located within the resort. The atmosphere is gregarious and you’ll be mesmerised by the theatrics of the chefs.
You’ll find the best coffee hit at Hidden Gem in Tugun and Hide ‘n’ Seek Espresso in Miami. I gravitate to places that are tucked away in back streets off the beaten track, where there is a strong sense of community. Both of these cafes are run by salt of the earth locals who are passionate about coffee and dedicated to serving the best brews. But we really are spoilt for choice and there are plenty more cool cafes to get your caffeine fix. Just ask a local at whichever suburb you’re travelling through and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Breakfast at Barefoot Barista in Palm Beach is off the charts good. You have to try their Zucchini Haloumi Fritters with poached egg, cauliflower rice, avocado, kale, seeds and nuts, chilli and fresh herbs. If you like your brekkie to pack-a-punch the Egg Nasi Goreng from Bam Bam Bakehouse in Mermaid Beach will blow your mind. The flavour combo and chilli sambal is insanely good. And if you have more of a sweet tooth you’ll be in pastry and treat heaven.
Have lunch and drinks with a view at Rick Shores, on The Point at Burleigh Heads where you can literally stroll in off the sand and be guaranteed a seat with breathtaking ocean views. It’s the kind of place where a long lunch easily rolls into the evening! The flavours of their modern Asian fusion food are phenomenal (think bug rolls, crispy tofu sliders, crab and pawn dumplings and roasted Sichuan lamb with smoked eggplant and braised shiitake mushrooms) as is their extensive wine list. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur, their Thai inspired concoctions will impress you.
For dinner you have to try Hellenika Greek Taverna in Nobbys Beach. I love the concept of authentic home-style food, designed to be shared and paired with beautiful wine. All their traditional dishes are incredible so I’m a fan of ordering the banquet menu so you can sample most of them. They’ve recently extended and opened Bar Hellenika on their rooftop terrace which is a stylish space that makes you feel like you’re holidaying in Europe. Head up there for pre-dinner, sunset cocktails or stay put and graze from their mezze menu.
Shop till you drop at The Village Markets on the first and third Sunday of every month at Burleigh Heads State School. TVM is more than just a market, it’s a community of creative entrepreneurs and I love going there because I’m passionate about shopping local and supporting small businesses, designers, artists and creators. It’s an awesome place to find unique one-off pieces by emerging designers, boutique stalls and vintage fashion, delicious street food and brilliant live music from local up-and-coming artists. I love chatting to the hard-working people behind the businesses and hearing about the stories behind their brands.
Treat yourself to some R&R at The Greenhouse Bath House. A communal, modern rejuvenation space near Tallebudgera Valley. It’s a laid-back day spa where you can split your time between hydrotherapy spas, an invigorating steam room fragranced with essential oils, a red cedar sauna and outdoor magnesium plunge pool. You can also treat yourself to a massage and lunch from their mouth-watering plant based Botanical Bar.
Every visitor to the Gold Coast has to experience beautiful Burleigh Headland. Grab a coffee or acai bowl and watch world-class waves peel off the point. Or pack a picnic and set up camp with your crew for a sunset session with stunning views as the lights of the city skyline twinkle in the distance. The headland is also the gateway to a breathtaking bush walk through Burleigh Head National Park. It never creases to amaze me that we have a tropical oasis in the heart of our City. The summit reveals killer views of the coastline and despite being a popular place for locals to get their blood pumping, you’ll often find yourself flying solo on sections of the trail, which allows you to feel like you’ve truly escaped the hustle and bustle. Make sure you pack a towel and your togs because at the bottom of the headland, on the southern side, you’ll stumble across bush tracks snaking their way through vines onto a stunning stretch of sand called Echo Beach on the shore of Tallebudgera Creek. It’s protected from the wind and swell and is incredibly beautiful place to swim and stand up paddle board. If you’re time poor or feel like skipping the full bush walk, you can also access this area from the Tallebudgera side of the National Park.
Tourists must know that you can spend the morning in your bikinis and boardies at the beach and the afternoon hiking and exploring in the hinterland. When local tourism boards coined the phrase “the green behind the gold” they were talking about the stunning world-class rainforest that is only a 30 minute drive from the beautiful beaches for which the GC is famous. Tamborine Mountain is a popular tourist destination. Choose from loads of walks and lookouts to marvel at Mother Nature. Then head into the village where there are wineries, a brewery and distillery, art galleries, restaurants, cheese tastings and a historic pub with sweeping coastal views. If you want to linger a little longer there are plenty of cosy cottages and accommodation options. And if you do stay overnight it’d be criminal to not check out the Glow Worm Caves.
The best place to take kids is Palm Beach Parklands, known by locals as “The Pirate Park”. As the name suggests, there is an epic Pirate Treasure Island themed playground that kids froth over. There are also great paths for bike riding and scooting. And the park spills onto protected beach inlets opposite Currumbin Alley, which makes it a family friendly swimming spot. And the best news for parents is that there’s a café called Dune, that serves great coffee and amazing food.
Locals say the best wave on the Coast for beginners is Currumbin Alley. The Alley is said to be the easiest, safest and most learner-friendly locations on the coast. Quite a few learn to surf schools run lessons from here so that speaks volumes. I reckon it’s definitely worth booking in for a private or group lesson to learn the basics.
My favourite day trip from the Gold Coast is a 30 minute drive South to Brunswick Heads. It is a little gem of a town that has a laid back fishing village vibe yet it is vibrant and there’s loads to see and do. I like to get down there early for a wander around the vintage and retro shops like Resould and Fabulous Mrs Fox. The Brunswick Picture House is an exciting creative hub. It was built in the 50’s and is worth checking out. My go-to for a cracking coffe is a charming café called Jones and Co. There are so many awesome places to eat but if the weather is nice, the Bruns Bakery a top spot to get take-away and then make a bee-line for the beach or river. After a fun few hours swimming, the best way to cap off the day is sipping a sundowner at Hotel Brunswick. A beautiful old pub that comes alive with live music on the weekends.