The Gold Coast: The Millionth Time
The thing about Australia’s Gold Coast is that I have seen it before. Or I have not.
A long strip of city sprawling along the crooked edge of the ocean. One main drag. Shops selling fringed t-shirts. A Footlocker. Places where you can get tattoos and noodles and cheap haircuts. Motels, all ramshackle and neon, cooler than they realize. Two-story houses that open up onto the bright beach, onto sparkling ocean, and farther down, the skyscrapers. And also hospitality’s new guard, the rounded, shining double towers of Peppers Broadbeach, where I’m staying in a room with a wraparound balcony and an ice maker, perched at the top of the beachy universe.
There are little pockets of places where the enterprising youths see the coolness and run after it. There is street art, cafes serving banana bread and avocado on toast with lemon, a weekend market — the Miami Marketta, which sounds like it might be in Florida — where you can get tempura buns and barbecue and shop for pillows made out of turkish rugs.
At Burleigh Heads, a knobby, high jut of rock at the Gold Coast’s southern tip, I watch surfers bob on the waves while the sun sets. They’re all kids, skinny-limbed in their wet suits, long hair tangled with saltwater, leashed to their boards like unwieldy puppies. And there is so much ocean that you can almost sense the curve of the earth, feel the water swelling and trying to overtake the land.
This is anywhere, a bay with neon sun. It’s Waimea or Sorrento or Agios Gordos on Corfu, a bite out of land where water rushes in, a blinding line of white backed by the green of trees. There are the same tangle of shops selling sunblock and towels on Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, the same skyscrapers on Atlantic City. Only not at all.
It is only here that I will take a bus and hold a koala bear in my arms as though she were an unsquirming, fuzzy human baby. Where I will spend days on end caffeinated out of my wits because in this place, there are, magically, no bad cups of coffee. It is only here that I will see one of the oddest things I have ever seen, a thing that sends me furiously googling and asking eager questions of anyone who will listen — squinting hotel staff, waiters in restaurants: a manta ray skipping out of the roiling waves, a dark, shining pancake, two feet above the surface of the water. I will see this beach as all beaches and as none, as a place with knobby, alien trees, a place where people gleefully eat something called sea bug meat, where there is no real winter, where the forested hinterlands, minutes from the coast, shelter wallabys and all other manner of creatures that jump on their powerful hind legs. Where it is all new, every grain of sand, and at the same time, it is all halfway familiar, a whole new kind of anywhere.
Travel generously provided by Visit Queensland.