People may not think of adventure and natural beauty when they think of the Gold Coast. Even I never associated adventure to the place famous for surfing, scantily clad Meter Maids and packed nightclubs, but after spending four action-packed days with Mapping Megan exploring sky, sand, surf and bush, I stand corrected.
Growing up in Queensland, I was fortunate enough to visit the Gold Coast every year during school holidays. I spent many a Christmas, New Years Eve, schoolies and even my Hen’s night living it up at the Gold Coast. I thought I knew the Gold Coast inside and out. It was the party capital with sun, sand and surf. Cavill Avenue, and the streets that surrounded it, had an air of excitement; it was glitzy and gritty at the same time.
Feeling Pinspired? Hover and click on the images to add to your Pinterest boards!
Thanks to Visit Gold Coast, I got to see a completely different side that I never knew existed. At first glance, the 4-day itinerary and its activities seemed to be for the adventure seeker and adrenaline junkie. But what they really showcased was the natural beauty of the Gold Coast (and Queensland in general). Here’s five activities that highlight the adventure and the beauty of the Gold Coast.
But first, check out the video!
Paradise Jet Boating
For the water babies out there, this is a high-octane and fun way to see some of the glorious scenery of the Gold Coast Broadwater and Moreton Bay Marine Park, not to mention the highly desired but unattainable mansions of the Sovereign Islands. If you are lucky, you’ll even see dolphins, turtles and sting-rays. I was ecstatic to see dolphins (aka my spirit animal) leisurely swim beside us at various points of the trip.
Fast turns, 360 spins and even high speed ‘drifting’ on the water leave you breathless and sopping wet. It’s no wonder they don’t allow you to take any personal items on board, as it’s easy to imagine them flying overboard during the action. Even my sunglasses were almost lost to the sea. With gloriously sunny and warm days on the Gold Coast, this is also a great way to cool down.
For more information check out Paradise Jet Boating
Hinterland Trail Ride
There is something wonderful about the Australian bush. From the thick foliage that threatens to engulf you at every turn, to the smell of fresh creek water lapping upon stones warmed by the sun. If you’re quiet, you can hear the symphony of birds, insects and rustling leaves. Doing the trail ride through the Gold Coast hinterland is a wonderful way to experience this, with the additional adrenaline of being atop a majestic creature.
We started the morning with a quick riding lesson, allowing us to get used to our horses and learn some of the basics of riding. My horse, Phantom, knew that this was my first time and cheekily challenged me throughout the ride, turning left when I wanted to turn right and stopping to eat grass every few steps. Thankfully our guides were very experienced with the horses and kept them in line. We had a leisurely ride through the hinterland and even through the shallow creek, enjoying the surroundings and the experience of horse riding.
For more information go to Gold Coast Equestrian.
Canyon flyer and TreeTop Challenge
There is nothing more exhilarating than flying through the canopy of un-spoilt bushland at 50+km/hour being supported only by a harness and metal wire. The guys at TreeTop Challenge have recently opened their new feature, the Canyon Flyer, where you can zipline through the forest at speeds up to 70km/hr. Seven ziplines are dispersed throughout the parkland, with varying distances (the longest being 280m), heights and speeds. We were the lucky guinea pigs to try the new attraction prior to the grand opening.
Treated to a bumpy 4wd ride up to the Canyon Flyer, our hosts, Dave, Steve and Jamie, eagerly described their new attraction and the ins and outs of building it. It took them between six to nine months to build all of the platforms and get the ziplines up, with the most difficult job being to cut away branches to create a clear path for the lines (whilst on the line itself!). Personally, I would hate to be the first one to test the zipline’s stability!
Rest assured, the ziplines are safe and a whole lot of fun! Ziplining 60m high above the Australian bush gives you a rush like no other. If you are brave enough, look down and try to see the forest floor below you (it’s further than you think!). If you are still up for some fun, check out their original attraction, the TreeTop Challenge, which has plenty of fun rope and wire courses, bridges and flying foxes, all at varied levels of difficulty.
For more information see TreeTop Challenge
Australian Sunset Safaris Tour on Moreton Island
Moreton Island is the 3rd-largest sand island in the world (behind North Stradbroke and Fraser Islands – Queensland represent!). From any vantage point on the island, the scenery is simply stunning. My personal favourite area is the site of the Tangalooma Shipwrecks (which interestingly enough, were sunk deliberately to protect the island from the elements). These shipwrecks are bursting with marine life and provide a perfect site for snorkelling, kayaking or admiring from the golden shore. Technically this isn’t the Gold Coast, however Australian Sunset Safaris pick up from the Gold Coast and transport you all the way to Moreton Island and back.
Hover and click on the images to add to your Pinspiration boards!
Once arrived at Moreton Island, we headed straight to the spectacular beach for snorkelling. Our large group were lead to the shipwrecks with our experienced guide and were able to see the shipwrecks up close, along with coral and lots of fish. After snorkelling, we went straight into kayaking, in unique transparent kayaks.
These things are great, as they allow you to see under the water and the shipwrecks around you without getting wet (unless you drop your GoPro and have to dive in after it like my partner!). What I couldn’t get over was how idyllic the beach was, with its crystal clear, aqua water and warm, golden sand. It is certainly the perfect place to enjoy the perfect Queensland weather.
After a refreshing lunch of salad, bread rolls, cold meat and fruit, we were ushered into the 4WD “Tough Bus” and went 4WDing (or bush bashing, as we like to call it) through the rugged bushland on the island. It’s fascinating to learn how an island made of sand can have such a bustling ecosystem, with plants and animals that have adapted to its sandy environment and the ocean providing enough nutrients to keep the vegetation flourishing. Meanwhile, I can’t even keep a plant alive in fertilised soil!
We soon reach our destination. It’s no wonder this place has been nicknamed “The Desert”, with an expanse of white sand dunes and the occasional tree growing out of a small oasis. Armoured with our small boards and wax, we head to the top of the dunes and line up for what I can only describe as a fun and exhilarating downhill slide. It’s quite surprising how fast you can go on these tiny boards (for those who are wondering, it’s up to 60km/h).
It’s also surprising how much sand one can consume in such a short amount of time. I’m sure it’s good for the diet (you know, roughage and all), but wow, it really went everywhere! I even found sand in my braces when I brushed my teeth that night! The toughest part about sand tobogganing was the steep walk back up the dunes in the sweltering heat. But, if you love the ‘rush’ like me, then it’s completely worth it.
For more information head over to Australian Sunset Safaris
Skydiving over Kirra Beach
Now, if you haven’t found the above activities to give you enough of an adrenaline rush, then Skydiving may just do the trick. I, for one, was super nervous about doing this, but ended up loving the experience. There is an electric atmosphere and culture at Gold Coast Skydive, with the guys spreading their zest for life around. Cracking jokes, singing and laughing, the team certainly know how to put a nervous ‘first-timer’ like myself at ease. Whilst the atmosphere is fun, they take safety seriously. We got fitted up, went through all of the safety procedures and prepped on what to expect and do during the jump.
During our ride to the airport, the guys revealed that on a “good day” they can jump up to 15 times a day. They certainly have a love for the rush and it was somewhat infectious. Despite still being a little anxious, the plane ride quickly eased my nerves and I even started to feel excited about hurtling through the air. The flight up was incredibly scenic, with endless views of the gorgeous coastline 12,000 feet below us. As we soared through and over the clouds, we went through our final check and run down before it was time to leap. The best thing about this moment was that it went so fast there wasn’t time to let fear take over and back out. Before I knew it, we were free falling towards the ground at 200km/h.
What a thrill! I screamed various times, but only out of joy and not fear. The experience was amazing with the coastline getting closer and closer by the second. Being a beach bum my whole life (Note: as a kid I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up), having the beach in this experience made the whole thing worthwhile. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the beach is my ‘happy place’, or that the idea of crashing into the water seemed better than crashing to earth, but I didn’t feel nervous or terrified at all. Once the parachute was opened, it was a leisurely flight above Kirra beach, where my tandem partner and I could enjoy the view and the incredible experience we just had. I absolutely loved every second of it and would do it again in a heart beat!
For more information check out Gold Coast Skydive
So there you have it. If you think that the Gold Coast is just a beach party town, and nothing else, than think again. If you are looking for adventure but also want to see a wide variety of breathtaking scenery that makes Australia famous, then book yourself a holiday at the Gold Coast.
Thank you to Visit Gold Coast for the awesome four-day adventure. If this post has left you wanting to see more of the Gold Coast, visit their site.
Disclosure: For this itinerary we were guests of Visit Gold Coast.