Gold Coast surprises

Among the things to do in the Sunshine State ... basking on Surfer's Paradise. — Sunpix by Anansa Jacob
Among the things to do in the Sunshine State ... taking the plunge from 12,000 feet. — Pix by Gold Coast Skydive
Among the things to do in the Sunshine State ... doing the SkyPoint Climb at the Q1 Resort. — Sunpix by Anansa Jacob
Among the things to do in the Sunshine State ... finding treasures at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. — Sunpix by Anansa Jacob
Among the things to do in the Sunshine State ... dancing along to Blues on Broadbeach. — Sunpix by Anansa Jacob

EVEN after hearing so much about Australia's Gold Coast, nothing beats actually visiting it.

At a recent trip organised by AirAsia X and Tourism and Events Queensland, several Malaysian media got the opportunity to explore a different side of the Gold Coast.

We took the red-eye AirAsia X flight from Kuala Lumpur down to Gold Coast Airport, arriving just in time for breakfast at Cafe Dbar, located on the beguilingly named Point Danger, which straddles the border of two states, Queensland and New South Wales.

After loading up on coffee, we were ready for an exciting first day, which began with a visit to Dreamworld, one of Gold Coast's numerous theme parks.

We had a quick tour of the park's various attractions, including The Australian Wildlife Experience, where we got to cuddle a koala, and learn how to make fire like the Yugambeh, the aboriginal people of the land. We even tried out a couple of the rides.

Our accommodation for the next two nights was no regular hotel but a house in the suburb of Broadbeach, which is the real jewel in the Gold Coast crown.

The area is located behind the more urban Surfer's Paradise, and is mostly made up of canal waterways weaving in between the neighbourhoods.

The lovely two-storey, eight-bedroom bungalow was owned by Elite Homes, a company that specialises in providing luxury homes for large groups of guests, or those looking for a true Gold Coast lifestyle experience.

The back of the home led directly to the canal, and if we had a boat, we could even sail out to sea.

Broadbeach is also host to numerous little restaurants and cafes that serve a variety of cuisines, as well as the massive Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, which is a shopaholic's dream.

Pacific Fair has numerous international and local Australian labels, offering everything from high-end luxury brands, fast fashion stores, and familiar supermarkets like Coles, Kmart and Woolworths.

While we were at there, we also had the opportunity to watch performances by several buskers as part of the Blues on Broadbeach music event, which was taking place at the time.

There were stages set up across Broadbeach, either in public parks or city streets, and anyone was welcome to come and enjoy the eclectic mix of music, as it was entirely free.

I was actually looking forward to experiencing thrills of a different kind. We had been promised an opportunity to go tandem skydiving.

Sadly, the morning of the skydive turned out to be one of the city's rainiest days of the year, and our skydiving activity had to be postponed.

However, we were able to have a bird's-eye view of the Gold Coast anyway, from the top floor of the Q1 Resort building in the city where we were to go for the SkyPoint Climb.

We suited up and headed outside the building for the walk along its peak, up to 270 metres above ground.

It was drizzling throughout the hour-long climb, but we were perfectly safe under the leadership of the friendly guide, who eagerly pointed out all the city's key landmarks and filled us in on their history.

The next day dawned bright and early, perfect weather for our Gold Coast Skydive experience. At the office, we met with the experienced skydive instructors who were to be our tandem diving buddy.

A light aircraft took us to 12,000 feet, which I felt was the most nerve-racking part of the entire event.

Within seconds, we were all leaping out of the plane in turns.

The rush of adrenaline I felt was immediately replaced by wonder – instead of falling, it felt more like flying, with the chilly air blowing directly into my face.

The entire skydive took less than five minutes, but the views of the Gold Coast, with the sun half-way up in the bright blue sky and the green-blue ocean below, will remain with me for a lifetime.

Speaking of the ocean, the Gold Coast lives up to its promise of having Australia's best beaches.

The world-famous Surfer's Paradise is a hive of activity, with tourists and locals enjoying the surf at all hours of the day, as well as the many ocean-front bistros, restaurants and bars that line the high street.

However, if you want to avoid the crowds, it's best to travel a little further away to one of the many other beaches that dot the coastline such as Greenmount, Snapper Rocks, Kirra and Currumbin.

We also stopped by the iconic Coolangatta Surf Club. Surf clubs are an interesting feature of Gold Coast life.

Because life savers are all volunteers, the residents help fund their activities and equipment through the clubs, which are either restaurants or community centres.

At Coolangatta, we dined on some of the freshest seafood, complemented by a clear view of the ocean.

Of course, this was just a small part of what the Gold Coast had to offer. Stay tuned to find out what else it has in store.

AirAsia X flies to the Gold Coast from Kuala Lumpur 11 times weekly.