Posts in the Australia category
What can you do with a city that was founded in the 20′s, transformed (high-rise style) in the 70′s, boomed in the 80′s and 90′s, but is now facing something of an identity crisis? For the many Australians who visited as kids, Surfers Paradise will always be a nostalgia-fueled experience. So it kind of makes sense, in an upside-down way, to do as QT Gold Coast has done, and create a hotel that actually embraces the time-warp factor. The funny thing is, this retro-styled haven is the most modern thing to have happened to Surfers Paradise in years!
Although the 1970′s exterior is like many in this city (read: cream concrete columns) the interior has been completely transformed with a bold makeover from Nic Graham + Associates. Clean lines, geometric patterns and above all COLOUR, recall such 1960′s trail-blazers as Alexander Girard and Herman Miller. The first two levels are devoted to several light-filled lounges, restaurants and bars which, thanks to a strong local following, enjoy constant liveliness. The guest-room decor is fresh and light-hearted, as a Gold Coast holiday should be, and accessories such as the cockatoo lamps and pineapple candle-holders have proven so popular you can actually BUY them!
At less than a year old, QT Gold Coast is the first venture of a burgeoning hotel chain that recently welcomed younger siblings Port Douglas and Sydney. It’s refreshing to see an up-market hotel actively engaging a youthful, fun-loving crowd. For us, a highlight was the DIY lemonade station delivered soon after arrival, which was just as quickly squeezed, mixed and slurped from our 21st floor balcony.
It wouldn’t be a real time-warp if I didn’t mention the hotel buffet (well, actually it’s been re-branded “The Bazaar”) which was a lot of fun, and more elegant than you might imagine. But no matter how good the food it takes a strong person to return to the table without a grossly mismatched selection of flavours occupying their plate. At one stage I may or may not have had pizza, chocolate fudge and lamb-shanks with a steamed pork bun on the side!
While I can’t deny that there are many genuine retro hotels in Surfers Paradise, for one with a swim-up bar and much nicer sheets, QT Gold Coast is hard to beat.
There is a certain, universal brand of city that takes pride in it’s tackiness, trades on it, even. The marketing for this city most likely alternates between “Wholesome Family Fun” and “GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!” The United States has Miami, Spain has Malaga and in Australia we have Surfers Paradise – home to the “Big 3″ theme parks, other (less-big) theme parks, Schoolies Week, Meter Maids and countless bronzed pensioners.
Located about an hour’s drive south of Brisbane on an otherwise lovely stretch of rain-forested hinterland (opportunistically re-named ‘The Gold Coast’) Surfers Paradise is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia. Just about everyone’s family has made the pilgrimage at least once, including mine and, having not been back since, in my mind it was still 1993 on the Gold Coast – my siblings and I in matching neon tracksuits (so Mum wouldn’t lose us), freaking out over the Gremlins ride at Movie World and hoping to hold a koala.
To be honest I was happy to leave it that way, but then, in the middle of a gloomy Melbourne winter, my partner Sean suggested we go back. It would make a good photo-series, he urged, and we can play Egyptian-themed mini-golf! Having won me over, we acted fast, booked a cheap hotel room and before long were descending into the Gold Coast airport with Surfers Paradise spread narrowly below us; the high-rise buildings so close to the sea they may as well have been on the beach.
And just like that, there we were in downtown Surfers Paradise. We spent the first half hour wandering, dazed and hyperactive, peering up at the tall buildings which contrasted strangely with the quiet, off-season streets. There were a lot of souvenir shops, we couldn’t find anywhere to buy sandwiches (just burgers), and I noted the frequent use of ‘Mistral’ on shop signage (for non type-nerds, that’s the 80′s looking title font from ‘Drive’). But we had fun. Our cheap hotel room turned out to be really nice, sunny and directly across from the beach, and when we weren’t swimming we played arcade games, visited the 1960′s wax museum (creepy, DON’T go there) and yes, took lots of photos.
We also found one little oasis among the time-warp, which I’m looking forward to sharing next week. Until then, enjoy the photos, which are part of Sean’s upcoming zine ‘GOLD’.
This weekend I’m moving to the other side of the city. Beach side! Since I arrived in Melbourne I’ve been based in the formerly quite industrial, inner-city suburb of Brunswick. Apparently it’s changed a lot and become more gentrified over the past five years, but remnants of a past life can still be seen in the warehouses around the train-line.
I went on a couple of early morning missions to document the wonderful, faded old signage in the area. A souvenir of my time here, if you like.