We partnered with Destination Gold Coast to spend a gorgeous weekend in Australia’s favourite playground, the Gold Coast.
While the Gold Coast has so many wonderful places to stay, we centered ourselves at Palm Beach in the Southern Gold Coast. This area of the world is simply stunning, and over three decadent days we created beautiful memories with our kids.
How lucky we are here in Brisbane to have this internationally renowned holiday destination right on our doorstep. Without the challenge of an international flight we found ourselves in one of the best holiday destinations in the world. Having an 8 and 10 year old meant that we needed to balance their need for entertainment with Mum and Dad’s need to relax.
Here’s how we managed it.
Where We Stayed – The Royal Palm Resort
We were hosted by The Royal Palm Resort. The first thing we did after taking our bags up to our apartment was to sit on the balcony and enjoy the spectacular views. The kids squealed as they ran from room to room looking at the gorgeous views out every window, ranging from stunning Southern Gold Coast beach coastlines to smaller lakes in the hinterland. This lovely resort has a prime beachfront location, and we walked through the sparkling pool and spa area to pop out right on the beach. Location is key when you have little ones in tow. Lugging all the kit to the beach is painful so we loved that the beach was right there.
Facilities at The Royal Palm Resort
The Resort has many family friendly activities including tennis, mini-golf, a games room, barbecues and the swimming area. We love this hotel for families as it’s easy to spend time doing these different activities without having to pack up and carry all your stuff. Leave most of your stuff in your room, grab a towel or tennis racket and balls from the front desk, and spend some time making memories with your little ones.
My family had an enormous amount of fun playing tennis and mini-golf, and spent loads of time in the 33 metre lagoon-style pool with slide that the kids indulged in over and over. While the kids were entertaining themselves, we parents had time to relax in the spa and lie with our books poolside in one of the gazebos. Heaven.
The apartments at Royal Palm Resort have had a modern makeover and are stylish and spacious. The hotel caters for families who like to bring their own food and cook, with apartments having a complete kitchen. As we were so close to a number of great restaurants however, we decided to really treat ourselves and eat out for every meal.
Good Food and Good Vibes at Frida Sol
For lunch on Friday we walked 900 metres (10 minutes) down the road to Frida Sol. This is a great restaurant for families as they have a kids menu rocking nachos and tacos and provide colouring in for the kids to keep them entertained while their food is prepared. If you love Mexican, you will fall head over heels in love with the food at Frida Sol. My family have always been big on Mexican food, but we like the fresh, zingy kind, not the heavy, oily kind. Frida Sol did not disappoint. Every dish we had here was spectacular.
We ordered one braised beef, one pulled pork, and one crispy cauliflower taco. They were all outrageously delicious, a real taste explosion, and while it’s hard to pick a favourite I’ll be sure to order the cauliflower taco every time I visit. Each taco was generously filled with a range of toppings, including large amount of guacamole.
In addition, we ordered chilli con carne nachos which are the best nachos I have ever eaten (and I’ve eaten some amazing nachos). The generosity of the serving size, and the fact that each dish is mild made this the perfect place to feast with our children. My husband was delighted with the hot sauces found on our table, so he could spice up his own plate.
Frida Sol is great for families who have fussy eaters, as they can provide toppings in separate side dishes if your children prefer to have food elements separately. My daughter is normally somewhat fussy about what she eats, refusing black beans for example, but at Frida Sol she ate everything that came her way.
It looked so appetising she could not resist it, and even ate those black beans while smacking her lips in satisfaction. Amazing!
Southern Gold Coast Beaches and Surfing
No matter where you turn on the Southern Gold Coast, you are bound to end up at a beach. The area has the most stunning coastline, and hours can happily be whiled away walking from one beach to the next. On Saturday morning, we drove to Coolangatta, parked our car at Rainbow Bay and took a leisurely 20 minute walk following the coastline around to Greenmount Beach. Along this beautiful, peaceful walk you come across a built out patio where little ones can take a break on permanent wooden outdoor sun lounges or families can picnic on tables and chairs while watching the swimmers and surfers go about their business.
Walkin’ On Water Surf School
We made our way to Greenmount Beach where we met Dan from Walkin on Water Surf School who provided us with a surfing lesson. Walkin’ on Water Surf School hold their lessons on Greenmount Beach as it is renowned for being one of the safest beaches on the Southern Gold Coast with gentle rolling waves perfect for learners. The kids were beside themselves with excitement at learning to surf, as they had never before been on a surfboard. After donning the distinctive red rashies and surfboards provided by Dan, the kids and my husband were taken through some key moves needed to handle a surfboard on the sand. Families will love how Dan alters his explanations to suit kids’ of all ages, and you can rest assured you’ll feel confident letting your little ones go into the surf in Dan’s charge.
After 20 minutes of practicing how to stand and manoeuvre a surfboard, everyone grabbed their surfboard and moved into the water to begin surfing. I have to say I was amazed at how quickly the children actually stood up and rode small waves on their surfboard. Within 30 minutes of being out on the water the kids could jump up, get a push from Dan and ride a wave. It was incredibly impressive and a testament to Dan’s excellent teaching. My husband was out further with a second instructor riding bigger waves, and he said he caught a few, but to be honest I ignored him completely as I marvelled at the kids.
Two hours after we arrived the lesson was over and the kids and my husband were buzzing. My son immediately asked if he could have surfing lessons every week now (we live in Brisbane…) and my daughter just grinned from ear to ear. This is such a brilliant activity for families to do as parents will enjoy this as much as their kids. Share a laugh and challenge with your kids and learn to surf together.
Ice-Cream and More Food
We have a rule in my family that we only eat gelato when we are at the beach. So, you can bet that after surfing all morning the child chorus for gelato was on. It is always so joyful when your children ask you for something they covet and you can immediately say yes and then spend 10 minutes nattering about all the amazing flavours you can choose from.
If you have not tried the gelato available at Gelato Messina at Coolangatta (they have stores in other areas too) you are missing out. Gelato Messina sets the benchmark for gelato in Australia, with over 40 unique gelato flavours. My daughter had the Apple Pie flavour, which really does taste exactly like a delicious apple pie (how do they do that?) I went for the peanut butter chunks in chocolate flavour and just about wept with happiness. Honestly, if you have not tired Gelato Messina you need to do so.
Dinner at The Collective
As surfing makes one work up an appetite (even if one is just photographing and filming others surfing – ha!), we walked from our hotel to dinner at The Collective on Saturday night. The Collective opened in 2016 and is a unique dining experience on the Southern Gold Coast. With five kitchens serving up American, Italian, Mexican, Asian and contemporary Australian dishes, there’s ample choice and even the fussiest diner (read small children) is certain to find something they’ll like.
My family are foodies who have travelled widely and love to have the option of choosing different cuisines in the one location. At The Collective you are given a tablet with the menu of each kitchen, and you simply select the dishes you want from any of the five kitchens. The best part of this for families is that each different family member can order the food they like, meaning no arguments between kids. It made for a relaxing evening as my daughter could order Japanese dishes (her favourite) while my son could order Italian food (his favourite) and there was no arguing.
Choose from 5 kitchens!
We chose handmade ramen noodles and duck pancakes from the Japanese kitchen, gnocchi from the Italian kitchen, and zucchini flowers and pork belly bites from the modern Australian kitchen. The food was spectacular and we could see why The Collective was pumping with large groups of young adults celebrating birthdays and special events. The venue can be loud but this did not bother our 8 and 10 year old. There is a rooftop bar section where food is also served and this may be quieter at certain times.
The Collective also have a vegan and gluten free menu, and each restaurant provide kids options. We however did not order any kids options, as the kids found food they loved within the larger menu. We also found that each dish was a generous size and we were able to all sample from everyone’s choices. Each mouthful of every dish I tasted was amazing. My children specifically asked me to mention our waiter, who was a kind and funny man that the kids really liked.
The Collective is a fun, vibrant place, with a range of outstanding chefs turning out beautiful looking and tasting food. It would be a shame to go to the Gold Coast and miss this place.
Breakfast at Dune Cafe
While I’m on the subject of food, let me tell you about Dune Café which is situated in the Palm Beach Parklands, overlooking the beautiful Currumbin lagoon. On Sunday morning we walked out the back gate of our hotel and followed the walk way to this popular café. Dune café has an incredible location for families. You can eat your breakfast or lunch here while the kids run around on the large lawn in front of you, or, for those slightly older, play 100 metres away in the Pirate Playground.
This type of café is the place my husband and I are always trying to find. Somewhere where we can take our time over our food because the kids are playing and entertaining themselves. We parents ate a beautiful breakfast of bacon and eggs with sausages, potato and quinoa hash, mushrooms, house baked beans, tomato relish and sourdough, while the children devoured blueberry pancakes.
After breakfast and a play we wandered over the lawn to the enclosed canal where dogs of all kinds were frolicking with their owners. My children love dogs and my son was licked on the back of the neck by one, which did not worry him but may be of concern if children are scared of dogs. However the dogs were all playing and we did not see one negative incident between dogs or dogs and people.
The whole area has a beautifully relaxed vibe and the kids made sand castles and paddled in the water. The canal is perfect for small children who may prefer shallow still water to the beach, but if your kids love the ocean you can simply take a few steps more and hit the beach.
Dune Café is the perfect breakfast or lunch spot for families in Palm Beach. If you are staying at The Royal Palm Resort, a whole day can be filled wandering at leisure between the café, the canal, the beach, and the resort pool. That is guaranteed to keep children and parents relaxed and happy.
Arts, Culture and Attractions
SWELL Sculpture Festival
We were lucky when we visited the Southern Gold Coast that the SWELL Sculpture Festival was on. SWELL transforms the glorious setting of Currumbin Beach, turning it into a natural art gallery. Over 52 sculptures by local, national and international artists are featured over the 10-day festival. Despite being in its 17th year, my family had not been to this festival before. While it was our first visit, it was also the first time that the festival had a dedicated kids section, called SWELL Kids Elements.
Families will find many fun things to do at the festival and in the kids section. Our children played with balls and engaged with other children, read books, coloured in, did drawings, and wandered through art installations. For $15, children can also make clay turtle hatchlings, make a wire sculpture, or etch out a story on a clay tablet. When their dad and I weren’t playing right alongside the kids, we found ourselves some bean bags to relax on in a shady spot. Having the kids section provided a quiet, cooler space to relax in the hottest part of the day, essentially when families need a little time out from the activities.
Interactive sculptures at SWELL
We strolled along the beach and marvelled at the incredible sculptures that make up this festival. There are interactive artworks, including a big fish whose mouth opens and closes in an attempt to grab a fish when children wind the crank. A number of artworks comment on our treatment of the environment and are a great catalyst to discuss these ideas with children. Other artworks inspire creativity and resulted in interesting and funny conversations with the kids about what they saw in them. The children also got to speak with some of the artists about their work, which allowed them to fully understand the pieces better.
There is something sublime about walking along a beautiful beach with stunning scenery and coming across thought-provoking sculptures. The children loved the whole experience and felt free to roam and explore as everything was outside. We spent some time walking to a number of sculptures with a group of local children who were explaining the meanings behind the work, and the kids enjoyed that it was other children providing this information.
The SWELL Sculpture Festival is a free public event that should not be missed.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
An icon on the Southern Gold Coast, loved by tourists and local alike, is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This gorgeous sanctuary, situated within 27 hectares of Currumbin rainforest, is a rite of passage for all Queensland kids.
We spent an exciting afternoon here watching shows, spotting animals and feeding lorikeets. The Wild Skies Free Flight Bird Show is excellent, showcasing beautiful Australian birds up close. We love Currumbin Sanctuary because families can see Australian wildlife, visit the wildlife hospital, ride the trains across the sanctuary and join with local and international visitors to feed the Lorikeet’s that arrive every day at 8am and 4pm. Such a fun way to begin or end the day, and one that children will always remember.
My family had an amazing three days on the Southern Gold Coast that included excellent food, beautiful accommodation with stunning views, beaches, surfing, art, culture and attractions. For families, Australia’s favourite playground has an enormous amount to offer. Every day of every year there are phenomenal beaches and canals, exceptional restaurants, and exciting attractions. In addition, at certain times of the year particular events pop up to inspire, delight and amaze.
Upcoming family events on the Southern Gold Coast
– Buskers By the Creek
Thank you to our hosts
Notable mentions to Baskk and Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club who hosted meals for our family during our stay. All provided beautiful food; Baskk would suit a romantic evening out; and Currumbin Beach Vikings SLSC is right next to the SWELL festival and juts out over the rocks on the beach.
This article was featured in Issue 37 of our printed magazine, published December 2019.
If you find yourself on the Gold Coast during the school holidays check out our list of the FREE School Holiday Fun activities – Gold Coast, Tweed & Byron.
Looking for some other Pit Stops on your way to the Gold Coast? Check out our list here.