Aslam Gafoor, 45, a hospitality industry pro, travelled to the Gold Coast, Australia, on work a few months ago. Meetings over, it was time to soak up the good life the region offers
Work took you to the Gold Coast. Would you have visited it otherwise?
Golden touch: The Gold Coast is known for its sun, surf and sand
Gold Coast is a very popular destination; I would have visited the place anyway. I had heard a lot about its famous beaches, food, wine, and the big theme parks.
What were the connections you made?
I flew Singapore Airlines to Brisbane and then hopped into a cab, which took an hour to reach Gold Coast. Though Gold Coast has an airport called the Coolangatta airport, I preferred the cab ride instead of dashing to yet another airport and a further cab ride to the hotel. It saved me quite a bit of travel time.
Gold Coast is essentially a city, isn’t it?
Gold Coast is most definitely a city—with a big difference. It stretches along 57km of coastline and is famous for its sun, surf and sand. I loved Surfers’ Paradise (Queensland’s entertainment capital), which is vibrant, with a year-round calendar of events, tours, activities, and attractions. Beyond the beaches, within a half-hour ride, I toured the beautiful rainforest hinterland which has national park areas, superb flora and fauna, vineyards and quaint rural townships. Additionally, Gold Coast has some of the most amazing theme parks.
You mentioned the wine trails. But this isn’t quite wine country.
Australia has some of the best wine-producing areas such as Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, Margaret River, et cetera. Comparatively, Queensland (the state, of which Brisbane is capital, and where Gold Coast is located) is a newcomer to the Australian wine industry. But it has grown reasonably well over the past seven years. Queensland wines are distinctively light, crisp and fruity, and suit Queensland foods and its relaxed outdoor lifestyle. The Gold Coast wine country, just 30 minutes away from the city, is a spectacular region featuring boutique wineries and vineyards that produce some very good wines. Since I had limited time, I got on a half-day wine trail, which took me to three of the most famous wineries near Gold Coast.
First was the 22-acre Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery located on Tamborine Mountain, with a vineyard capacity of 10,000 vines. The fertile volcanic soil, combined with cool mountain breezes and long sunny days, enhances the grape-growing conditions. Among the several wines available here, we tasted a Verdelho, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Merlot.
The second visit was to the Mount Nathan Winery, situated amid a paulownia tree plantation on the Clagiraba Creek. In the tasting room, we sipped on their award-winning Gibson Estates Brut, Chardonnay and Shiraz.
The trail ended at Mount Tamborine Winery, which claims to be the first winery and vineyard to be established in the area. Located in the heart of the town’s famous Gallery Walk tourist strip, the winery is famous for its reds, whites and ports—I tasted the winery’s award-winning Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Muscat.
You mentioned taking in a couple of shows. What was that about?
Yes, I went to a few very interesting shows and also visited a wildlife adventure park at night. The most outstanding show was the Australian Outback Spectacular, an evening dinner show with outback music, drama, and action. This 90-minute show takes place in an enclosed arena which seats 1,000 people and a cast of actors, great music, amazing animals, and action pieces featuring wild horses, stampeding cattle, bush vehicles, a helicopter and great horsemanship. As a hospitality professional, though, I was even more impressed by the dinner service. Can you imagine? They served a three-course meal simultaneously to the entire audience, while the show was on. We had a mixed Bushman’s Queensland salad, Bonza barbecue eye-fillet steak with slices of Damper bread and traditional baked Pavlova. There was a free-flow service of wine, beer and soft drinks all through the show.
Another night, friends took us to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Wildnight Adventure, where nocturnal animals come out to feed, hunt and play after dark. We went on an absolutely fascinating two-and-a-half-hour tour, during which we saw the biggest saltwater crocodiles in Australia and were encouraged to get a closer, hands-on experience with the animals, including a baby croc and a snake, feed the kangaroos and cuddle a koala bear. We also watched a traditional performance by members of the Nyulejam Dance Troupe—the only aboriginal dance show on the Gold Coast, I am told. The haunting sound of the didgeridooechoing through the sanctuary’s native bushland was a truly memorable experience.
The Aquaduck Safari was a fun tour, where we explored the Gold Coast waterways and drove on the road watching the famous landmarks, all on the amphibious Aquabus. It was the best bus tour and harbour cruise I’ve ever experienced.
I also visited the Warner Bros. Movie World and Dreamworld, which has some thrilling rides, interactive shows and an Imax theatre.
As a hotelier, were there any food and drink memories that you treasure from the trip?
Plenty. Since I love my wines, the wine buffet—this was the first I had heard of one—at the Fermented Grape restaurant was memorable. You pay a fixed price and get your meal served at your table, and you drink all you can during your meal from a selection of six pink and sparkling wines, 12 whites and 12 reds. The funny part is that these wines aren’t served at the table— you are given a wine glass and you have to walk up and down the wine buffet each time you want a refill. So, the minute you start wobbling, you know it’s time to stop and go home.
On the food front, I tried the Morten Bay Bug (also known as the Bay lobster), an expensive delicacy, and the Barramundi, a fish that is relatively boneless, and popular for its delicate white flesh and mild flavour.
Jet Airways flies from New Delhi to Brisbane with one stopover. Round-trip current fares start at Rs48,000. From Mumbai, Thai Airways offers direct connections, with round-trip fares starting at Rs1,07,000.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at firstname.lastname@example.org