Buckle up: I’m about to give you the ultimate tour de Gold Coast. My top 5 (or so) favourite things do on a winter’s day on the Gold Coast and the menu looks as good as it sounds.
The backdrop: Sunny Southern Gold Coast
There are few places in the world that compare to the pristine landscape of the sunny southern Gold Coast. I’d almost go as far to say that it’s the most liveable place in the world (from my humble experience). A sub-tropical climate, a diverse landscape of pristine hinterland, lush mountain tops, dense rainforests, wildlife filled national parks, and of course iconic surf and beachside coastal living along the crystal clear, warm waters of the Pacific Ocean for icing on the cake. Sounds delicious and so is the food & cafe scene that polka dots the region with vibey settings that look like a Pinterest photo come to life!
First stop: Seadog for coffee and a fresh ocean dip at Burleigh Heads
It’s early. Real early. And upon finding a park at Burleigh, we’re greeted with the cool winter air. It’s chilly, but the sun is peeking its head over the horizon and there’s not a cloud in the sky – a sign that an iconic day on Australia’s golden strip is about to get into first gear.
We stroll across the road in search of stop number one – the new vibey coffee shop stand tucked into the side of Burleigh Heads Bowls Club. Seadog, a name I feel like I can relate to on a personal level beyond just their delightful cawfee. The aesthetics are easy on the eye and the brew is just what the doctor ordered. It’s dine in for us and the pottery of the cups offer warmth for the hands and the soul. If you’re lucky, a couple of early bird older folk might be putting on a clinic on the bowling green or if you’ve really hit the jackpot, the greenkeeper mowing the lawn on his Elon Musk-esque mower is light entertainment for a cheeky giggle and a real conversation starter to wake the crew up. There’s murmurs about the surf cams looking promising down at Rainbow Bay and a friendly wave in store, it does sound good but not before waking up with a dip across the road.
What I love about a morning dip at Burleigh is the amount of people that are on the same wavelength. It’s an unspoken daily ritual of so many and I feel right at home. There’s surfers heading out for a dawny, working professionals opting for a bit of salt water therapy en route to the office, beach walkers, yoga flows galore, sunrise observers, a whole crew of seadogs that have been in the routine of a morning plunge here since before I was even born, and an ever increasing amount of younger folk making the regular appearance down there. Then there’s me, mostly there to document the morning proceedings through my trusty 50mm lens and occasionally (when asked by my friends at Cocobella) through written word. Getting in is another thing, but I’ve never once regretted it, and my days don’t feel like they’ve truly started until I’ve taken the dunk below the surface…
Rainbow Bay (feat. Anchorman quotes)
Now we’re amped, caffeinated and ready to rock and roll. We rug up, heater on, a second brew if you’re really cold and en route we go for Rainbow Bay – 10 minutes down the road. We make it over the final hill into the bay and our first sight of the bay is swell lines running the length of it and boy does it look like a playground! To be completely honest, this was the biggest appeal for me pulling up stump here. I’m not a professional surfer by any means, but a boogie on the fiberglass has always tickled my fancy. Playful waist high waves, on a sand bottom beach break with warm crystal clear and mostly shark free water wasn’t something I thought existed anywhere outside my dreams. Until I stumbled upon this slice of paradise! In the
fine words of Ron Bergundy: 60% of the time it works, every time! We wetty up, wax up and hit the lineup. There’s no such thing as my wave or yours, every wave is party wave and the more the merrier. Me being the seasoned veteran of the knee-high peelers, my stamina is there to sustain a long session – you on the other hand are in need of some recovery fuel. After riding one all the way to the beach we decide to wrap it and I’ve got just the place in mind.
Pasture & Co
Pasture & Co has been one of my favourite port of calls for a refuel since I stumbled across them on a bike ride up the valley when I first moved here a couple of years ago. It’s a necessity because the long winding roads nearby remind me of exploring the Redwoods in Northern California, but the Kangaroos patrolling the vicinity remind you you’re in fact amongst the natural habitat of iconic Australian wildlife. The architecture at Pasture & Co is a biophilic designer’s dream and the menu only serves premium unleaded fuel (organic produce baby!). My favourite is the Potato Rosti with Beetroot Hummus and a Sticky Chai Tea brewed on Oat Milk. A couple of moments to relax after the mornings output are called for and it doesn’t take long for the heart rate to hit resting out there so we’re back on the road and further out the valley.
Currumbin Rock Pools
All the way to the end in fact and only 20 minutes from the coast sits the Currumbin Rock Pools in Springbrook National Park. Lush hinterland fills the lungs with oxygen that can’t get any purer. After a couple of deep breaths thanks to the walking trail, the body feels at one with the natural landscape. Shoes are off and the trickling stream running back down to the ocean from the waterfalls above is a nice spot to sit for a few moments of reflection and relaxation (and a dip if you feel so inclined). I always do. For the same reason the morning dip hits the spot – there’s just something about cold water and how good you feel afterwards. I hate it, but I love it if you know what I mean!? If you’re really prepared pack yourself an inflated tyre tube and let the creek pull you gently down stream. Be careful though it can be a bumpy ride on low tide!
Check this reel to see tubing Tyger in his natural habitat: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CNb06trhY7u/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Hiking at Tomewin Mountain
Feeling like a new man after the refreshing dip in the creek, there’s a hike just up the mountain called the Cougals and we’d be silly if we didn’t summit on this fine winters day of leisure. The drive takes us up a windy, picturesque hinterland road up Tomewin Mountain which in itself is a sight for sore eyes. With glimpses of the valley below every couple hundred metres the excitement builds with the altitude. The hike is relatively simple, well-marked out and with your trusty tour guide keeping things on track with a dinner booking to work in with we get to the first peak of the Cougals in 45 minutes. The view gives a panoramic perspective of the whole coast as far as Byron Bay and up to the city sky scrapers at Surfers Paradise and into the lush hinterland hues that go inland into oblivion. A good spot to pull up a chair and whip out the cheese & biscuits for the afternoon, but there’s not much room on the peak and you couldn’t pay me to lug any excess kilograms up the summit so we settle with a water and a few deep breaths as well as a cheeky pic before the descend ensues.
It’s been a big day, a day out if you will. I’d be tired too, if I couldn’t hide my excitement about the dinner location – Francies Pizzeria down in Coolangatta. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in an Italian Restaurant besides an owner called Pablo. The menu reads every colour of the rainbow including a generous and audacious Vegan palette of toppings, my favourite of which is the “JJ Kale.” An irresistible concoction of tomato, tuscan kale, mushrooms, roasted chillies & cashew ricotta with a drizzle of extra chilli oil. The branding is clean & the design of the interior looks pretty “good” from my untrained eye for detail. The modern day restauranteur would probably inform you that the best way to adjudge the best spot in town is by how many Google review there is, I’d argue that the only way to know for sure if you’re in the best restaurant in town is by how many locals are dining in there. Francies is a hive of activity on every night of the week, overflowing with the local surf dogs you’ve shared the line up with at Rainbow Bay earlier that day. It’s one of those places where you just feel good and the perfect place to wrap up any day but particularly this one – the ultimate day in the life on the Gold Coast.