This week marks the official one-year-to-go countdown to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
More than 6500 athletes from 70 countries and territories will descend on the holiday hotspot to take part in a 12-day sporting spectacular from April 4-15 next year.
Many Games’ events will be free to watch, with other tickets starting as low as $10 for children and $20 for adults when they go up for grabs from April 24.
That affordability, combined with the ease of getting to and from each Gold Coast venue, will leave you with plenty of cash and time to make the most of the many family attractions along Australia’s most revered stretch of beaches.
Here are just seven to factor in around the Games action to help you on the way to the holiday of a lifetime.
1. Take a scenic helicopter ride
For an unrivalled birds-eye view of the all the Games venues and the Gold Coast in all its glory, you can’t beat a jaunt in the Sea World chopper. Prices start from just $69 per adult, and $59 per child, for a five-minute joy ride over the GC’s luxurious hotels, Sea World, Sea World Resort, then north around the stunning Southport Seaway to the southern tip of Stradbroke Island. If you can stretch the budget a smidgeon, we recommend the 15-minute Burleigh Heads option [$149/$99]. You’ll fly over the Surfers Paradise skyline towards the Robina Town Centre. Once here, you’ll then take a steady turn towards one of Australia’s greatest surfing spots, Burleigh Heads, with views down to Coolangatta and the Hinterland, and back down the coastline to Sea World.
2. Slay Dragons At Holoverse Futuristic Theme Park
Don’t let the unassuming suburban location fool you. It may be tucked away far away from the action, complete with an Officeworks depot next door, but Holoverse is the most futuristic – and one of the most adrenaline-pumping theme parks – on the entire Gold Coast. Just strap on your glasses and sensor belt and you’re transported into a whole other fantastical world in one of the 40 hologram rooms. Just don’t mention the VR letters around here. Holograms are completely different technology to Virtual Reality, we’re reliably told. Think of them like the holodeck from Star Trek, says the literature. There were two options on our visit – a dragon-slaying kill-fest called False Eden and the far tamer Surfers Paradise flyover experience – but operators are promising more choices in coming months. Allow 35 minutes per each $34 session.
3. Cuddle Koalas At Currumbin Wildlife Centre
Who knew there was such an amazing wildlife park just metres from the famous surf and sand? There is a staggering array of attractions on show at this 27-hectare National Trust Sanctuary, which dates back to 1947. From the free-flying lorikeets, who happily land all over you at the bird-feeding station out front, to the koalas, kangaroos and the chance to share lunch with five-metre crocodile Boss Hogg, Currumbin offers hours of fun for the whole family. Daily family passes are $137, but the best deal is the annual family membership, which allows unlimited returns for $199.
4. Play beach volleyball like a local
If you ask former five-time national champion Brett Richardson, no sport epitomises what it means to be a Gold Coaster more than this one. Fit, toned and tanned bods spill out from the nearby cafes every day to burn off their piccolos and chia seed muffins – and then refuel to do it all over again. What’s more, with free public courts permanently available at Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise, you’ll never have an excuse to get the whole family involved. Just don’t forget to pack a ball!
5. Carbo-load at The Kitchens in the Robina Town Centre
It’s the boldest mall makeover you’re ever likely to see in Australia. Developers have spent more than $160 million on refurbishing this iconic shopping mall and the results are impressive. More than 50 new cafes, bars and restaurants are now in the stunning precinct, including Jimmy Grants, owned by MasterChef judge George Calombaris, and the Gold Coast’s best seafood restaurant Fish Lab.
6. Play Padel Tennis at KDV
KDV’s padel tennis manager Ross Taylor reckons he’ll never play tennis again after falling in love with the fastest growing game in Europe. After a quick demo from Ross on the Gold Coast’s only dedicated courts in the newly-built KDV Sport complex, right across the road from the Commonwealth Games’ main stadium, it’s easy to see why. It’s fast, fun, easy to pick up, and as the sun sets and the music starts up, incredibly social. If you’ve played tennis or squash, or preferably both, you’ll hit the ground running. Walk-in casual rates start as low as $15 per person, per hour, including the use of balls and racquets. This impressive new complex also boasts a staggering number of tennis courts, roof-top pool, mini-golf, gym, cafe and a world-class golf range.
7. Stay at Peppers Broadbeach
So this is why there are so many high-rises on the Gold Coast- the view is incredible! And nowhere are the vistas more gob-smacking than from the 34th floor of Tower Two at Peppers Broadbeach. It was near impossible to tear ourselves away the wrap-around decks with unencumbered 180-degree views along the stunning coastline. We also loved the bar and café precinct at the foot of the tower too, testament to the hipper overhaul that the Gold Coast is undergoing as we countdown to the Games’ opening ceremony.
- James Graham travelled to the Gold Coast courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.