The Commonwealth Games will be the biggest tourism event Australia’s “glitter strip” has experienced.
With more than 100,000 visitors and a worldwide television audience of more than 1.5 billion people expected, Australia’s Gold Coast holiday strip is preparing to host a Commonwealth Games unlike anything seen before.
The Gold Coast will become the fifth Australian city to host the Games when it welcomes 6,600 athletes and team officials from 70 Commonwealth nations from April 4-15.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, will combine their official roles at the event with a luxury holiday in Queensland.
They’ll be joined by more than 100,000 others who’ll be visiting the Gold Coast – a sub-tropical region known for its constant sunshine, 57km of stunning surf beaches, theme parks and breathtaking natural beauty.
The sheer numbers expected for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will exceed other big-ticket events by a long shot.
At these Commonwealth Games there’ll be more sports (18); more athletes (6600); more venues (17); and more tickets (1.5 million) than any other previous Commonwealth Games.
Going for Gold
What really makes these Games unique though, is the fact that they are being held in a city where tourism is the primary industry.
Tourism generates over $5 billion, or 17 per cent, of the Gold Coast’s gross regional product, and employs more than 46,000 people.
So while there’ll be plenty of sports lovers coming to see the events and cheer on their nation’s stars, it’s likely there’ll be plenty of others who are coming just for a holiday on the famous ‘glitter strip’, especially over Easter.
Many of them are likely to be from key tourism markets like China and South Korea, where there is no vested interested in the Commonwealth Games.
Gold Coast Tourism estimates visitors will add $323 million to the city’s coffers in direct spending. All up, however, the Commonwealth Games is forecast to deliver an economic benefit of more than $2 billion for the Gold Coast.
The good news is that hotels and letting agents across the Gold Coast have slashed prices in a bid to lure visitors.
An estimated 30 per cent of the city’s 36,000 hotel and holiday letting rooms remain unsold during the Commonwealth Games, so last minute travellers can still snap up some real bargains.
Mantra, however, claims all 23 of its Gold Coast hotels are near full capacity.
Events to See
Watching Australian world champion Sally Pearson’s charge towards a third consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 100m hurdles was going to be one of the highlights at these Games. But the Gold Coast native stunned Australia on the first day of competition by announcing she was quitting the Games due to injury.
Deflated Aussies still have high hopes in the pool with the Optus Aquatic Centre at Southport Broadwater Parklands set to host the swimming. There are high expectations for the Australian swim team after a lacklustre performance in the pool at the Rio Olympics in August 2016.
There are also numerous free events to look out for including the triathlon (April 5), marathon, road cycling and the 20km race walk. Head to Southport Broadwater Parklands for the triathlon and marathon, and the Currumbin beachfront for the road cycling and race walks.
You’ll also be able to run alongside your marathon heroes as they’re charging towards the Carrara Stadium finish line on a 5km section of the track.
Arts & Culture
A 12-day cultural program will see the Commonwealth Games experience extend well beyond the stadiums and athletic tracks. It will include free live performances, art installations and interactive experiences that reflect Queensland’s lifestyle, culture and creativity. The program will be held not only on the Gold Coast, but in the three other event cities Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville as well.
You could be forgiven for thinking the Gold Coast is just one long stretch of sand. The 57 km coastline is home to some of Australia’s most popular surfing beaches and stretches from Southport in the north to Coolangatta in the south.
Iconic beaches like Currumbin, Kirri, Palm, Mermaid, Nobby, Main and Broadbeach are just some of the favourite surf spots.
The Gold Coast’s best surf break, Coolangatta, is also hosting the beach volleyball, which makes its debut at this year’s Games. Organisers, though, will import sand from Brisbane because the local sand has been deemed “too fine” for the competition requirements.
If it’s not the beaches and Games events that occupy your time, chances are it’s the Gold Coast’s big four theme parks. The Gold Coast is Australia amusement park capital, with Dreamworld (including White Water World), Wet ‘n’ Wild, Sea World and Warner Bros Movie World all attracting visitors in their droves.
With a host of pubs, clubs, restaurants and lounge bars, Surfers Paradise is the most vibrant precinct on the Gold Coast after dark. The very touristy Cavill Avenue – lined with shops, nightclubs, bars, and fast food outlets – is worth a visit.
Seaduction Restaurant and Bar, on the Esplanade at Surfers Paradise, is getting rave reviews – and was awarded a Chefs Hat in the 2016 Australian Good Food Guide.
Just six kilometres south of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach is also a food lover’s mecca, with everything from Italian and Japanese to Bavarian and Middle Eastern fare. One of my favourites is Bin 89 with its tasty share plates.
From large shopping malls to cultural markets and farmers’ markets, the Gold Coast boasts a range of shopping options.
Paradise Centre, at Cavill Mall, has around 120 speciality shops as well as a Woolworths. You can also take the tram from Surfers Paradise to Broadbeach where you’ll find Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. It includes a Myer department store and a Woolworths supermarket.
The biggest indoor shopping on the Coast is Robina Town Centre – which has more than 300 speciality shops as well two major department stores, Myer and David Jones. It’s just 20 minutes from Surfers Paradise by car, and buses leave Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach regularly.
If outlet shopping is more your thing, Harbour Town is the place to go for discounts of up to 60 per cent on normal retail.
Don’t get so caught up in the adrenaline of the Games competition (not to mention the nearby theme parks and shopping) that you ignore the region’s stunning natural parks and wildlife.
There are more than 100,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforests and native woodlands to explore, including Springbrook National Park, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamborine Mountain and Lamington National Park.