Green Behind the Gold...

Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe

The view of the city from the hinterland is stunning

The cooler months are an ideal time for seniors to escape the chill of NSW and jag a bargain flight to the sunny Gold Coast. And while we’ve regaled you with tales of Goldie in our column in the past, we thought we’d view Queensland’s jewel through a new lens. You see, there is more to the Gold Coast than the simply ‘the strip’. Here we visit the Gold Coast hinterland.

There is no proper resort-style accommodation in the hinterland – outside tiny B&Bs. So the ideal accommodation to experience the best of both worlds is the Mercure Gold Coast Resort at Carrara. This tranquil oasis has a gym, sauna, glamorous swimming pool, two floodlit tennis courts but more importantly for us, is the ideal stepping-off point to see both the hinterland and the strip i.e. Surfers Paradise, Main Beach etc. If you are a golfer, the Mercure backs on to five championship golf courses. And if you schlep the grandkids, the famous theme parks are nearby. Not to mention Currumbin Bird Sanctuary and Pacific Fair (one of the biggest shopping centres in the world) is only 10 mins away for you to punish the credit cards.

Fancy running into Brian and Val!

On our first night at Mercure, we run into dear chums Brian (91) and Val (89), who have driven down from Caloundra to stay at the Mercure Gold Coast Resort. They have concert tickets for HOTA, the Performing Arts Centre at Surfers Paradise (20min drive away). We breakfast with them in the sunlit restaurant (great buffet) and chat about music and life in Queensland in general. Through happenstance, Val chose the Mercure Gold Coast Resort to stay as it was the best deal she could find on the internet on the Gold Coast. They confessed that they loved the resort and deemed it excellent value for their senior dollar. Incidentally, there are no lifts at Mercure. So senior readers should avoid booking a room on the third floor if you have mobility issues. However, Brian and Val were just fine on the second floor. But frankly, they are fitter than me and Mrs Pictures. The rooms are high spec with upmarket toiletries – no cheap pump packs of hard soaps and shampoos.

Typical vintage shop in a hinterland at Mount Tambourine

Post breakie, we collect our rental car and point it west towards the mountains. Uniquely, on the Gold Coast, you can be on the beach or the mountains in less than 30 mins. We soon happen upon trendy Mount Tamborine. Here you’ll find Katoomba meets Lismore, with its tropical bush setting and quirky tea houses. We enjoy the renowned ‘Gallery Walk’; the main strip of Mt Tambourine. It’s a senior-friendly amble through gift shops and galleries, all framed by twitching palms and shrieking white parrots. It’s a little twee for my taste – whenever I see a German cuckoo clock shop, I groan – but lots of excited tourists are weaving in and around the hive of galleries and specialty shops, buying souvenirs and ephemera.
You’ll find the visitors centre at the end of town. Here kindly volunteers steer you towards a legion of activities in the hinterland. There is an overpriced skywalk and a glow worm tunnel. Psst! there is a free rainforest platform skywalk at O’Reilly’s. In 1937 an airliner disappeared during a flight from Brisbane to Sydney, carrying five passengers and two pilots. The wreckage was found by Bernard O’Reilly from a nearby guesthouse, who went looking for the aircraft believing it had failed to cross the border.
Not far from O’Reilly’s is St Bernard’s, a charming old pub. Psst! Seniors, do ask about the secret trail out the back of the pub to the waterfall. And Eagle Valley Heights Resort is the best place to see the city from the hinterland. It’s really just a pub with pokies and a restaurant but the views make it a worthwhile pitstop.

The garden is a mecca for seniors

However, our main destination in the hinterland is the world-famous Botanical Gardens (free entry). These breathtaking gardens house a cornucopia of tropical plants, all enclosed by Bangalow palms and shimmying bamboo. The gardens are run by fabulous volunteers – mostly seniors. Here we chin-wag with Dawn Hooper, a retired secretary. Dawn volunteers twice weekly and absolutely loves it. (Psst! Dawn says seniors should avoid visiting on Thursday mornings as the gardens are noisy with leaf blowers and petrol hedgers. We are there on Thursday.) There seems to be a real camaraderie with the volunteers as we later meet Sandy Robinson, another retiree maintaining the gardens who loves all the crew. Seniors will enjoy the easy flat walk for most of the gardens. There is no cafe at the gardens but we note scattered picnic tables for thrifty lunchtime visitors. Mrs Pictures loves the cool microclimate, making it pleasant to walk around if you are not enamoured of the humidity. If you have the grandchildren, find the Sooty Owl Walk, with lots of fun hands-on adventures for the little ones. Here I stop to play the thong-a-phone: a series of long pipes like a church organ, which you slap with two thongs. (If the Scots have the bagpipes, surely this is the Aussie national instrument.) As we emerge from the tropical foliage like David Attenborough in floppy hats, we agree that this garden is indeed a national treasure. So if you love gardens – like us – we do recommend a visit while on the Gold Coast.

The Canungra pub in the charming hinterland village of Canungra

That evening we point the Mazda east. With the Mercure so conveniently located between the strip and the hinterland, we are in Main Beach in minutes. Here we dine at Mecca Bah, a Moroccan style upmarket restaurant (for us, at least). It’s one of these restaurants with nary a bottle of wine under $50 but has a fun atmosphere, with delicious North African delights with spicy a mix of Middle Eastern treats. In 20 mins we are back at the Mercure.
The following day we breakfast at the same little cafe on the beach at Surfers that we discovered last time we were here. It overlooks the white ribbon of beach that is Surfers Paradise. Breakfast for two under $20. Through a curtain of sea mist, we down toe-curling lattes while smelling that bracing ozone scent of the Pacific.
Post bacon, we visit the charming hinterland village of Canungra. Here we lunch at a cafe called the Hub. I enjoy a BLT – even more bacon (can you ever get enough bacon?) before walking off the kilos around the village. There is a senior-friendly tramway tunnel walk here and a charming old hotel. I contemplate a drink but I’m not a fan of lunchtime drinks when driving so stick to the lemonade. On our descent to the Gold Coast proper, we pass a number of novelty themed pubs: Polish, German and an English pub called the Fox and Hound, in the middle of the bush no less, complete with a bright red double-decker bus.

On our final day we just lazed around the resort until high tea

On our final day, we simply enjoy the tranquillity of the resort facilities. In the afternoon we indulge in the resort’s high tea: $35 p.p. It’s so quiet and peaceful, ideal for seniors wishing to eschew the schoolie-infused white noise of ‘the strip’. As we check-out of the Mercure, a golfer passes us towing a quiver of irons. He waves a gloved hand and smiles. If only my back wasn’t cactus, I think.

So on your next visit to surfers paradise, why not explore the ‘green behind the gold’?


Seniors, it’s time for your Wintervention.

Escape the humdrum of winter and brighten up your days by booking the perfect winter escape with Mercure Gold Coast Resort. For a limited time, enjoy $25 off each night plus get a delicious breakfast for just $1 (which is exactly what Brian and Val did).

You might be craving some sun and warmth, shopping (Pacific Fair), amazing food & drink, or a romantic getaway or visit the Gold Coast Hinterland. Psst! This offer applies to over 180 participating AccorHotels across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji & French Polynesia.

TIP: $1 breakfast will be able to be booked after selecting the chosen room type and the “WINTER OFFER” rate prior to confirming the booking at any of the participating hotels across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.