Queensland’s Gold Coast is famous for its beautiful beaches and relaxed lifestyle but there is another side to this popular holiday destination. In the sixties and seventies it was a sophisticated playground where everyone who was anyone came to kick up their heels. Sexy girls were called ‘sizzlers’ and gents wearing tight, fitted shirts and even tighter flares were keen to catch their eye. Dancing the night away at a disco, dining at classy restaurants and sipping mosel at a wine bar were considered a ‘must do’. You don’t need to be 21 to buy a drink these days but the retro allure remains for those who seek it out. Here are 5 recommendations for a retro Gold Coast trip back in time to when this family-friendly playground was a popular hang out for grown ups.
1. Surfers Paradise boardwalk
Stroll along this picturesque beachside boardwalk lined with historic photos for an entertaining trip down memory lane. Here, images of old-fashioned streetscapes sit side-by-side with smiling beach beauties and Surfers Paradise meter maids clad in skimpy gold bikinis. The meter maids were originally introduced in the mid ‘60s to diffuse bad publicity created by the introduction of paid parking and would stroll the streets feeding coins into expired meters. Today, high-rise buildings reach towards the sky and the parking meters are electronic. But the smiling meter maids remain.
2. QT Gold Coast
QT Gold Coast is one of a growing number of Gold Coast accommodation options that seek to recapture the heady fun of holidays past. Longboards adorn the roof rack of a vintage Holden panel van parked in front of this retro-inspired hotel in Surfer’s Paradise and guest rooms have complimentary make-your-own lemonade kits complete with kitsch fluoro surfer guy and beach gal swizzle sticks. These are yours to keep or you could always treat yourself to an old-school game like pick-up sticks or a brightly coloured lollipop from the mini-bar. Guests can borrow vintage-inspired bicycles – for free – to cruise along the Surfers Paradise boardwalk which is located just around the corner.
3. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has been operating for more than 60 years and still has the world’s largest collection of Australian native wildlife. Feeding the lorikeets is as popular now as it was in the ‘50s. Raucous parrots land on the bowls of food as well as arms, heads and shoulders in a chaotic kaleidoscope of colour. Feeding the kangaroos and riding the miniature railway brings back fond memories for those who visited the park as children.
4. Gold Coast 1950s motel
La Costa Motel is a charming weatherboard building across the road from Gold Coast Airport. It is an original ‘Highway Heritage’ motel – one of the accommodation options built along the highway from Labrador to Coolangatta as Australia shrugged off its post-war austerity. La Costa has been lovingly restored by its owners John and Diane Cartmill. The original ‘50s facade remains as does the iconic neon sign but each room has been completely remodelled. If you are planning a longer stay, the light and airy self-contained apartment upstairs offers excellent value.
5. Longboard surfing Gold Coast
Australia’s surf culture exploded in the ‘60s and ‘70s so it seems only fitting that surf schools offer affordable lessons that celebrate the art of catching a wave. Small waves breaking close to the shore make the beach at Surfers Paradise ideal for beginners who have more enthusiasm than experience. It’s a fun atmosphere as everyone practices their surf moves on the beach – then charges into the water when instructors call out, “It’s time to hang 10!” Hanging 10 originally referred to the art of hanging all ten toes off the front of a long board while surfing a wave. However, for beginners, it means standing up for 10 seconds or more. It may seem impossible as water surges beneath the boards but as the instructors cheer them on, “Don’t rush it! Get your balance first then stand up!”, it doesn’t take long for novice surfers to stand up as the power of the ocean pushes them triumphantly towards the shore.
Disclaimer: The writer visited the Gold Coast as a guest of Gold Coast Tourism.
Looking for some accommodation on the Gold Coast? Read our reviews of Oaks Calypso Plaza, the Surfers Paradise Marriott, The Star Gold Coast, voco Gold Coast and the retro La Costa Motel. Or you can check out this Gold Coast accommodation roundup.