By S.B. TOH
There’s a trend these days to not only sign up for a run but go on a holiday right after. It certainly seemed the case for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
Let’s kick back and do the tourist thing in Queensland.
Make your way to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Get up close with the native animals – crocs, owls, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos and, yes, cuddly koalas. There are shows and petting sessions, and even a little train that chugs around the place.
Whale-watching is another good bet. We took a cruise with Whales in Paradise, which operates out of Surfer’s Paradise. En route to the ocean, the crew pointed out the homes of the rich and famous along the Gold Coast Waterways.
Jackie Chan’s represented, but meh, we want humpbacks.
And lucky us, the whales got the memo. We spotted five pods of twos – out front, left and right, behind us. Two even breached alongside the boat. Dolphins turned up for their share of the limelight too.
A word of advice: Take the seasick pills. Every trip sees someone chucking. Don’t let it be you.
Jetboating is sort of fun too – a thrill-ride on a speedboat with sudden turns, twists and slides. You’re bound to get a splashing. But it’s wintertime in July, and the Paradise Jet Boating people are mindful enough not to give you a drenching. Summer rides are a different story.
Mount Tamborine is good for day visits. Stop at the Polish Place for lunch. It’s Polish, so meals are hearty – sauerkraut, dumplings, big slabs of pork. Definitely not kosher.
The resident kookaburras and assorted parakeets are very photogenic and not at all camera-shy.
Lunch done? Head over to Cedar Creek Estate for the Mt Tamborine Glow Worm Caves – basically two man-made chambers. You get a 10-minute briefing. Then it’s on to the dark chamber studded with pin-like lights. It feels like a walk across a mini-galaxy.
If you like wine, you’re already on the Cedar Creek property, so go ahead, knock yourself out.
But for something more exotic, there’s the Mt Tamborine Distillery, a boutique establishment that sells schnapps, vodka and liqueurs in extraordinary flavours in beautiful hand-painted bottles – honeydew melon, banana, choc ‘n’ chilli and more.
Best of all may be a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Gold Coast. The ride at sunrise yields a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the picturesque hinterland. Afterwards, you’re whisked away for sparkling wine and breakfast at the Canugra Valley Winery.
The ride’s subject to weather conditions, though. We rose at 4am and rode 45 minutes in a van, before the call came in: Torrential rain. No go.
“Better to be sorry on the ground than up there wishing you were down here,” said the driver.
Can’t argue with that.