Familiarisation (agents’) Trip to Australia’s Gold Coast – April 2012 – Qantas
routing: LONDON-SINGAPORE-BRISBANE, CAIRNS-DARWIN-SINGAPORE-
LONDON – Trip notes by PENNY WESSON at John Allan Travel.
Flight from Heathrow to Singapore on the A380. Had complimentary pass to
Business Class Lounge which housed BA, QF and EK. Very nice, but aren’t they
What a super aircraft to fly on in every class, but especially in Economy, which
is normally everyone’s dread. The configuration was 3-4-3 and the seats had
good legroom. Premium Economy seat layout is 2-3-2 and very nice. Business
is 2-2-2 with fabulous flat beds. First Class is ridiculously lovely. Like small
houses, about 14 of them. Your own huge pod! Perfect…..
Although I do not have a lot of time for Qantas, the food and service was great
on this huge aircraft. The A380 aircraft is almost soundless, which is amazing.
550 seats and yet you do not notice her taking off! No rush of engines, or
a huge thrust forward, she just glides up and the sound is minimal. This is
because she is computer controlled completely on take-off and soundless. It is
very comforting somehow.
Singapore is a wonderful airport. Our layover there was not long, but this
airport is sublime. Everything you want in the way of shops and restaurants
and all very tastefully laid out. A very comfy airport and this is definitely
the place to buy your duty free – prices are the most competitive, helped by
advantageous exchange rates. I purchased all mine on my return here and
was very glad I did. Not that I smoke but 20 cigarettes in Australia were up to
AU$20 a packet, yes, that’s £13 a packet…depending on where you purchased
them….200 for £12 in Singapore Duty Free!!
We were only 8 hours onward to Brisbane, Australia’s Gold Coast, which was shorter than I thought.Transfer to the Gold Coast 60 minutes from airport. This is an amazing resort,
I think, all high rise and very Miami-like, but super sweeping beach coastline
going on for ever. As a resort, Broadbeach, where we stayed, was perfect as a
base camp. Full of shops and restaurants and, of course, the stunning Surfers
Paradise beach. Peppers Broadbeach Hotel, which was all self catering suites,
was fantastic accommodation and very central to everything. Twin beds, huge living area with two sofa beds, ensuite bathroom with separate walk in shower, balcony, fully stocked kitchenette with hobs, fridge, deep freeze, microwave, crockery, kettle. The hotel has a spa and two swimming pools. Internet access in all rooms. This is a good spot to stay in.
Viewed the Hilton Hotel Surfers’ Paradise which was a typical Hilton but very
nice. It consists of two towers and has residential apartments there as well.
Two bedded deluxe ocean view rooms, right on the sea and with full kitchens.
(This is not the lead in room type, which has no oceanview.) Two bathrooms,
own laundry room double or twin beds. Two indoor pools, spa and jacuzzi and
3 outdoor pools. Kids’ pool . Cook your own barbecue by the pools. 2 gyms. 2
restaurants – one fine dining restaurant and one informal.
You must do Mcclaren’s Landing whilst here. It is a wonderful island paradise.
20 minutes by road to the Marina Mirage. This is a great spot for ‘people
watching’ as the marina is full of posh yachts. There is a truly hideous
speedboat ride you can do, where you get completely soaked, so have to
wear your swimmers as well as a heavy raincoat. Very scary! Have lunch at
the Southport Yacht Club, to die for! Seafood was just yummy! Onward to
McLarens Landing, 30 minutes by boat – a restored 3-mast clipper called the
Sir Henry Morgan to sail to your island retreat or a speedy catamaran. There
is a super restaurant there with bar and barbecue and you can just lie and
chill on the beautiful white sand and get the boat back in the late afternoon.
Alternatively, you can jetboat, waterski or jetski and you can also rent family
barges as holiday accommodation. They are moored off the beach and are
great. Watch the jellyfish though…they can be a pain. Literally.
Next stop was to the amazing Rain Forest and Lamington National Park . 1
hour drive through lovely scenery on very windy roads to O’Reilly’s Rainforest
Retreat. This is a really nice mountainside hotel, not smart or huge but very
comfy and all the amenities you require. 1 double and 1 single bed in rooms,
shower and toilet. Balcony overlooking rainforest. No TV or phones. Nice
restaurant, lounge and kids’ room. There are separate villas which are very
nice with TV 2/3 bedrooms. This is a World Heritage site. Own swimming pool.
Parrot feeding and rainforest walks and the Flying Fox Zip wire 200 metres up.
Nice gardens. Great location to get a real feel of this incredible rainforest.
The following day 1 hour drive to Tambourine Mountain for day in jungle
walking through Rainforest Canopy on steel swinging walkway. Just lovely –
completely surrounded by jungle. Fantastic trees and huge plants and amazing
waterfalls thundering through the middle of the dense vegetation. It was
a truly memorable day. Visited the Witches Chase Cheese factory and the
Tambourine Mountain Brewery for a meal and wine tasting.
1.5 hour drive back to Surfers Paradise for 2 nights at the truly spectacular
Palazzo Versace. What a hotel! Owned by the House of Versace and the
Sunland Property Group, this was modelled on Gianni Versace’s home in Italy
and is quite breathtaking. Apart from being enormous, it has everything you
can think of. Beautiful crystal chandeliers, marble floors and fantastic pictures
of his haute couture collections lining the walls of the corridors. Colours are
vibrant and reflect Versace’s love of all things bright and beautiful – as the
song goes. The rooms are luxury personified and the lovely centrally featured
swimming pool with its own man-made beach is just the icing on the cake. The
restaurants and food are out of this world. The whole Versace aura is luxury
and there is nothing this super hotel cannot provide. I loved it….Pity he got
Had a super evening at the Australia Experience which is held in a large
covered venue downtown. It is the story of the Horse with a Wild West show
and includes a meal. AUD 99 no child reductions. 2.5 hour long show.
Had a marvellous day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sancturay 40 mins drive from
Palazzo Versace . This is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary where you have the
ultimate treat of holding a koala. You can also feed kangaroos which wander
around and are just sweet. Very soft mouths. They also provide the Green
Challenge programme for those wishing to partake on steel wires strung high
up in the trees which you have to navigate around. This is not for the faint
hearted. I could not actually do it…poor old thing. You walk through the
canopy for an hour clipping yourself onto cables above your head. Miss and
you fall off…no thanks.. Returned in the evening for an amazing Aboriginal
Dance Show with a massive barbecued dinner. A good time was had by all and
I would thoroughly recommend this.
Final trip in this area up the QI Tower Skypoint Climb which is the highest
tower in Australia. Wonderful views of Surfers Paradise, city and marina.
1.5 hour drive back to Brisbane to catch the Sunlander Train to Cairns, a trip
of 31 hours. The theory of this sounded wonderful, the practicality not so.
Unfortunately, the route itself is about as exciting as Didcot to Paddington so
why this should be sold as a holiday feature God alone knows! The train is not
good. You must travel CLUB as the Economy is like a Roman galley and full of
local passengers and a sense of controlled chaos. The Club accommodation as
such was a very small twin bunk bedded cabin with a basin. Had to share the
toilet and shower at either end of the corridor. The restaurant area and food
was actually very, very good – its only saving grace. The train company staff at
the station is stunningly awful. Please be aware that if your case weighs more
than 20 kgs you will not be allowed to board. No excess baggage allowed. It’s
a train, for God’s sake!!! Repack your case or do not travel, simple as that.
The train also managed to be four hours late, which is a complete waste of
precious Queensland holiday time. Do not do this…let us fly you to Cairns
instead. Much better idea and much more enjoyable.
Arrival in Cairns, a mere shadow of my former self, for a 30 minute transfer
to the lovely Palm Cove area and the even lovelier Peppers Hotel Palm
Cove. Right on the beach, this super hotel is again luxury. Huge rooms, twin
beds, 2 toilets and 1 shower. Sitting area and balcony. Full kitchen. Super
pool, restaurants. Lovely prom outside hotel with shops and restaurants.
Very pretty. Just relaxed here, but not long enough. Cairns has very high
humidity most of the year and can be very wet during the Australian summer,
so January, February, March is definitely NOT the best time to visit, but
somebody’s got to do it!
Transferred back to Cairns airport for flight home. Now this part of the trip is
very interesting because… if you fly Cairns to Darwin, which we did, on Jetstar
(you have 3-4-3 small seats that are not as comfy as on the big chaps), you can
exit airport although your luggage is checked all the way through to London.
If you have a layover to connect on to Singapore, you technically have not left
Australia. This was really good news, because we then went across the road
to the Reef Hotel and spent several hours there lazing around the pool . The
hotel offers this facility free of charge to any passengers in transit AND they
run you back to the airport in a shuttle bus free of charge. Great! I understand
Rydges Hotel also offers this. Both hotels barely 300 yards from airport.
Flight back to Singapore with Jetstar – shame – but only 6 hours and then we
boarded the lovely A380 for the final leg.
This was a wonderful trip. Australia is a fantastic and diverse country, but you
certainly need to spend much longer than my whistle-stop Queensland 7 day