First stops

Every holiday has to begin somewhere, but knowing where to start isn't always easy. First Stops is a collection of top picks you can rely on for a great time.
Seafood and wine at Currumbin beachside cafe, Gold Coast, Australia.

Eat 

Bring a healthy appetite to the Gold Coast and you'll be rewarded - because while the region's food scene might not be as well known as Australia's other culinary capitals, the Gold Coast had exploded as a foodie destination in the last few years. That includes award-winning restaurants, often right on the beachfront with views to the glittering skyscrapers of Surfer's Paradise, as well as quirky cafes, food trucks, wine bars and craft beer tap-houses. The fitness-loving locals favour healthy, seasonal food which goes heavy on the freshest seafood, salads and tropical fruit grown not too far from here. Thanks to the laid-back coastal lifestyle, reservations aren't always necessary.

Helicopter over Gold Coast, Australia.

See

Want to experience a different side of the Gold Coast? Then a bird's eye view of the city's golden beaches, cloud-piercing high-rises and the hinterland's lush greenery will fill your camera's memory card. Several helicopter companies provide scenic tours of the coast or, if you really want to get the adrenaline pumping, climb the external stairs to the top of the imposing Q1 Resort Building, one of Queensland's most iconic landmarks. The SkyPoint Climb lasts 90 minutes and rises 270m in the air, providing breathtaking 360 degree views. For a more sedate thrill, greet the new day by floating gently in a hot air balloon over the Gold Coast as the sun rises.

Dracula's show, Gold Coast, Australia.

Play

If you want to laugh until your face hurts, spend an evening at Dracula's Comedy Cabaret & Restaurant, Australia's longest running and most successful dinner theatre. Climb aboard the ghost train (yes, an actual train) which delivers guests to a sumptuous three-course dinner, where dessert is a chocolate 'coffin' and cocktails come served in glass skulls. The entertainment is brash, energetic and a lot of fun, featuring sassy singers, dancers, circus aerial acts, special effects and live music. It's adult-only fun, although there are child-friendly shows too. There's nothing like it anywhere, so make sure you keep a night free for what will no doubt be a highlight of your holiday.

Chevron Island, Gold Coast, Australia.

Explore

The Gold Coast has more than 400km of man-made canals which flank the city's narrow coastal strip. That's more canals than Venice and Amsterdam put together. One way to enjoy them is with a leisurely cruise. Wyndham Cruises is owned by a Kiwi and runs morning, lunch and afternoon tea trips, which allow you to peek at the grand homes that line these waterways while enjoying delicious food and cocktails. A highlight is the captain's commentary which includes the price of the houses and who owns them (actor Jackie Chan has one, as did former Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe).

Koala hug, Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Australia.

Relax

There are few things more relaxing than cuddling a blissed-out koala. Although the only places in Australia where it's legal to do so are Queensland, South and Western Australia. Head to the Gold Coast's Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, 27 hectares of bush-land and rainforest, where you can hug one of these adorable marsupials to your heart's content. A Segway Safari of the park is an even more relaxing way to enjoy one of the largest collections of Australian native wildlife in the world, including another favourite, the brightly coloured lorikeets which visitors can feed.

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