>  Destinations   >  Australia   >  InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort review

Now, if I use just a little imagination, I could be in Southern California. Or, if there were a couple more palm trees, in tropical Fiji. But let’s go with some Californian style. I am checking into the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and along with all this tropical scenery I’m also about to step back in time.

The Great House InterContinental Sanctuary Cove
The Great House at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove

My early memories of this iconic Gold Coast resort date back to the late 80s and early 90s when Sanctuary Cove offered the same style as Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame. I can still see the big hair, pastel decor and convertible Porsches, pristine lawns and gleaming waterways that put Sanctuary Cove on the holiday map as the place to be. It’s the kind of place the Brisbane teenager I was at the time dreamed of staying at.

Stepping through the doors, it’s good to know I finally made it, it feels like I’ve been transported to a high-end Californian retreat with towering ceilings, ornate chandlers and a huge arched window that dominates the lobby area of the main building called The Great House. The outlook from here is of grand fountains, landscaped gardens and the blue waters of the Sanctuary Cove Marina, and if this all sounds impressive, you’re right – it certainly is.

Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Verandah Bar
Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Verandah Bar

At reception, we are greeted with a friendly smile and attentive service that has our room keys in our hands and a brief overview of the resort done in a double-quick time. After a look at the impressive foyer area of the Great House with its Verandah Restaurant and Bar and the Club InterContinental lounge, we set off to find our room. Given the size of the resort this proves a bit of a challenge. As we navigate down the pathways towards our room we find ourselves staring into the eyes of a large kangaroo. Not an everyday event for us but here quite a common thing as it turns out.

Kangaroos are regular guests here

We’re pleasantly impressed with the size and decor of the newly renovated room. Gone is the pastel coloured decor and gold taps of the 80s, replaced with a contemporary tropical chic colour scheme of soft greys and whites and modern accessories in the bathroom and beyond. There are still a few tell tale 80s design aspects such as plantation shutters on the doors and windows but these still fit in with the overall coastal vibe.

The resort has 243 rooms and suites in all, with a choice of multiple options in sizes and styles and the option of accompaniments such as the club lounge at an added expense. If you feel like a treat, this add on is definitely worth it, especially if you’ve come here to enjoy a staycation.

Marine View King Room

The resort is a drawcard for avid golfers due to the expansive golf courses, families for the impressive resort pool and facilities, and weddings of all sizes on weekends. You might think that with all the options available for guests that the resort would seem a bit busy but due to the well-designed layout, this is not the case. Everything seems to flow from area to area with lots of beautifully landscaped space in between.

An added aspect of the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort is the adjacent Sanctuary Cove Marine Village which houses 80 boutiques, cafes, restaurants, art galleries and antique stores all only a short walk away. This is a big plus for short or longer stays as it gives guests loads of options for dining and entertainment with all-important window shopping and purchasing as well.

InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort

As we explored the shopping area, I noticed the 80s Porsches have been replaced with new Ferraris and ladies and gents of a certain age are accompanied by attentive nieces and nephews. Perhaps not too much has changed since the 80s and 90s after all? We also find some amazing cafes and must-dine venues that are buzzing with locals and visitors dining on plates of mouth-watering seafood and steaks along with coffees and sweet treats.

Ferrari at the Sanctuary Cove Marine Village

As it’s now the early afternoon, we make an exit back to the resort and Club InterContinental for its signature High Tea. This club lounge area is an added inclusion with some room categories and includes lots of added extras such as the signature High Tea, evening cocktail hour with canapes and an a la carte breakfast with barista coffee in the mornings. It is this lounge experience that really makes a big impression on us and our stay, not only because of all the inclusions but because of the friendly attentive service and outstanding food quality. 

Sanctuary Cove Club InterContinental

Dining at the resort is presently catered for in two venues: The Cove Café for extensive buffets in the morning and evenings and The Verandah Bar for light meals and drinks. At the time of writing, the resort’s signature restaurant The Fireplace, where chefs work in an open kitchen with wood-fired ovens, was being refurbished but was due to reopen soon. This is one dining experience I would be interested in returning for based on the overall quality of the food we enjoyed at the resort.

Sanctuary Cove Club InterContinental a la carte breakfast

Entertainment at the resort is all about being active at the multiple resort pools, adjacent golf course, tennis courts or gym facilities at the Country Club. Access to the Country Club is included for hotel guests. The shopping area also has entertainment options for live shows and music at some dining venues. I also found floating in the resort pool on one of the resort’s huge beanbag cushions very relaxing, with the bonus of all the poolside entertainment of people watching thrown in.

Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove high tea

Overall, the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort is a stunning escape for staycations or longer stays with family or friends, with as much or as little to do as you like. This is a great example of a hotel doing what they do best, which is creating an excellent resort experience with the added benefit of additional dining, shopping and entertainment only a short stroll away.

Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort and would not hesitate to return to this hotel at their own expense.

Looking for some things to do on the Gold Coast? Some of our favourite Gold Coast activities include hot air ballooning, whale watching, jet boating, visiting Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary or David Fleay Wildlife Park, indoor skydiving with iFly, bushwalking in the Gold Coast’s national parks, SkyPoint Climb, exploring the Gold Coast’s markets, checking out the local cafe scene, and enjoying the Gold Coast for free. There’s also plenty of fun to be had if you visit the Gold Coast in winter or have some wet weather.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.