The queen of good times

The queen of good times

Aussies certainly know how to live down under, and the Gold Coast in Queensland is a perfect example of this. Gustasp & Jeroo Irani explore the land

Aussies certainly know how to live down under, and the Gold Coast in Queensland is a perfect example of this. Gustasp & Jeroo Irani explore the land of bikini bods, taste the luscious cuisine, enjoy the company of wondrous wildlife and live it up!

“Happy job, happy wife, happy life,” exclaimed our pilot as he agilely hopped into his four-seater sea plane. We were about to take off from McLarens Landing on South Stradbroke Island, billed as a hidden island paradise, on Australia’s Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is a hot and happening coastal city, south of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, where luxurious residential enclaves are linked by man-made lagoons and canals, while its signature high rises line powder-soft beaches. And our barefoot pilot, clad in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, exuded the gregarious upbeat-about-life spirit, which is so typical of the Gold Coast.

As the sea plane skimmed over jade-green-melting-into-blue waters and rose into the sky, we got breathtaking views of Australia’s ultimate playground, loved to death by tourists and the Aussies alike. Appropriately enough, the Gold Coast is where the bikini was born, but this stretch of coast is not only about fun in the sun, swimming, snorkelling, surfing; nor just about its many theme parks. It is also about experiencing how the Aussies have raised the art of living life to the fullest to a new level. 

Sky adventures

Our fun-loving pilot’s reassuring voice came over our earphones and interrupted our musing: “Are you comfortable?” he asked, and we murmured an abstracted, “Yes, we are,” for we were looking out of our windows, admiring the azure ocean lapping tanned beaches. He decided then to bank the plane sharply so that the earth tilted to meet us and we imagined we saw bronzed bodies in bikinis, lying seal-smooth on golden sands. We screamed in terror and delight, which made him bank the plane once again; the plane then rose sharply upward. Later, when we disembarked, he gallantly kissed our hand and apologised for his aerial calisthenics. “But you did enjoy the ride, didn’t you?” he asked with a sly wink. 

Yes, the Gold Coast never fails to surprise even the been-there-done-that types for it has all manner of activities for the hyperkinetic as well as the languid and the laidback. We tried to get a taste of everything from snorkelling in the salt water pool of the Marriott Surfers Paradise to gaze at some of the 400 tropical fish gliding in it. The pool is the only one of its kind on the coast. We even attempted to surf and got a drenching in the process and climbed up to Skypoint, 230 metres above the ground, at the top of the Q1 tower in Surfers Paradise, the highest external building climb in the country. We walked up 298 external stairs to a wind-whipped platform (securely harnessed and with the help of an experienced guide) where we felt like we were above the clouds. Below us, the surf curled on brandy coloured beaches and Gold Coast City’s gleaming high rises rose like a Legoland theme park. 

We were on a no-time-to dither itinerary and started off in the green leafy Tropical Fruit World 10 minutes away from the Gold Coast airport in New South Wales, at the southern end of the Gold Coast. This is a farm and research station, where over 500 varieties of the world’s exotic fruits are grown. Owned by the Brimsmead family, the farm started life as Avocado Land, and then slowly metamorphosed into Tropical Fruit World. Today, over 1,400 people per day tour the farm on a modified tractor-train with a guide, checking out exotica like chocolate pudding fruit, dragonfruit, chewing gum tree and lemonade fruit. We caressed bizarre looking fruits with tongue-twister names and gazed at familiar varieties of Indian mangoes and jackfruit too. Kids can set off on a jungle river cruise or hand feed native animals, but we headed for an educative fruit tasting and later savoured an exotic fruit ice cream and a fruit punch in the Rainforest Cafe.

Surf’s up!

More fun was in store when we got down and dirty on our Catch a Crab cruise on the Tweed river and the Terranora Inlet. We fed some long-legged high-stepping pelicans, tried our hands at yabbie pumping — pumping out small fish, which we later used as bait to snare larger fish; yanked out crab pots with huge twitching crabs from the muddy waters of the Terranora inlet and even held one of the critters, taking care not to let it get hold of a finger! These were then boiled and eaten by the passengers on board the cruise.

More days of fun and frolic followed — Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we came up close and personal with Australia’s weird and wonderful wildlife. Kangaroos, wallabies (smaller versions of the kangaroo), koalas that sleep 17 hours a day clinging to eucalyptus trees; emus, birds with short memories for whom every day is a new day and the amazing endangered tree kangaroo, all auburn fur, clinging to a tree for dear life. But what stayed with us was the wildlife hospital (the busiest in the country) where across glass doors we could see vets treating an injured fruit bat (or flying foxes as they are called in the country) and even a stick insect (it resembled a twig) with tender loving care.

The next morning, at dawn, we floated away in a hot air balloon over swank residences with blue swimming pools where dogs barked, agitated by the sight of the huge flaming orb, and horses scampered away at our approach.

The Gold Coast does not allow a moment’s boredom and knows how to kick up some adrenaline — a romantic gondola ride, anyone? Or perhaps you would like to sail on a sailing ship to McLaren’s Landing on south Stradbroke Island and have a fun day out exploring the island on a Segway tour; or perhaps just chilling in a hammock on a sun-kissed beach, savouring a tropical lunch... Later, take off in a seaplane for the Gold Coast after buzzing over some of its most enchanting sights.

Perhaps the images that will stay with us forever will be of bronzed gods carrying surf boards under their arms and then heading for the ocean to surf the waves like ballerinas; of nubile goddesses in beach wear running down golden sands; young men doing push ups on the beach and on the promenades — all of them in search of good life and a supreme level of fitness that seemingly can only be nurtured on the Gold Coast.