Don't rule out the Gold Coast because you have a mental image of bright lights, theme parks and tacky souvenir shops. You'll find a whole different scene at the rather cosmopolitan Broadbeach.
Get out of Brissie before the Friday afternoon traffic starts and you'll be at Broadbeach
in a bit over an hour. It's an easy run down the Pacific Motorway, then turn right onto the Gold Coast Highway and hang a left at Victoria Avenue. Once you're there, you don't really need a car, unless you want to go exploring the hinterland.
When you get there
The "in" place to go is Room 81
at the base of the Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach
, on Surf Parade. This place is proof that a hotel bar can be cool, and the venue has adopted a very European approach, with flexible dining options and a wine-bar atmosphere.
Settle into one of the lounge booths and try one or two of the interesting cocktails. Then you can order from the formal dinner menu or from the tasting menu, which has options such as oysters, tiger prawns and duck spring rolls.
Take in the video art and music and indulge in some great people watching.
Grab a book or a magazine and head for the beach, which is much quieter than Surfers Paradise
. If you're feeling energetic, take a surf lesson with Broadbeach Surf School
which caters for all levels, including total beginners. You'll find it on Chelsea Avenue, but it's best to book in advance.
If you want to play tourist, take the lift up to the top of the Q1 tower to Q Deck, for panoramic views over the coastline, canals and hinterland.
Stroll up and down the restaurant strip and peruse the menus for lunch options. You can't go wrong along this strip. Broadbeach is the dining mecca of the Gold Coast and with so much competition, a bad restaurant just wouldn't survive.
If you fancy a bit of retail therapy, head over to Pacific Fair, on the other side of the highway, and lose yourself in more than 300 shops. Much of the centre is just like any other large shopping centre, but it does have an outdoor area which gives it more of a holiday feel.
For dinner, meat lovers should try Moo Moo"The Wine Bar + Grill, which is known for its steaks but has plenty of seafood and vegetarian options as well. Seafood lovers might want to try Yellowfin, which wins award after award for its seafood dishes.
If you want somewhere with a lively atmosphere, jump in a taxi and head to Saks Restaurant and Bar at the Marina Mirage. It has excellent food and there's a well-patronised bar and dance floor if you want to kick on.
Head back to Room 81
for a coffee and a really authentic croissant (they're flown in from Paris, would you believe) at the sidewalk cafe. Ooh la la!
If you happen to be in Broadbeach on the first or third Sunday of the month, there are large, beachfront craft markets which are worth exploring, or you can indulge in more retail therapy in some of Broadbeach's boutiques.
The options for the remainder of the weekend include golf, spa treatments, a drive up into the hinterland … or just ask for a late checkout and sit by the pool.
What to bring home
A great piece of jewellery or clothing from the Sunday markets or Broadbeach boutiques.
Where to stay
If it's a special occasion (or you get a good deal on
), you can't go past the Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach
, which is really swanky and has some great weekend packages with inclusions such as dining credits.
For apartment-style accommodation, try the Meriton Serviced Apartments
or the Mantra Phoenician
. There are also countless private apartments for rental, if you search the Internet, but make sure you see photos of the actual apartment before you book, as they vary enormously.
What to splurge on
The Gold Coast has more day spas than you can poke a hot stone at, so if you're considering treating yourself to some pampering, this is the place for it!
The Q1 Spa is one of the most popular, with lots of water-based treatments, unusual herbal ingredients and Indigenous-inspired treatments, such as kodo massage.
I would personally head to the Splash Day Spa (formerly the Paradise Day Spa), which is one of the Gold Coast's best-kept secrets. You'll have to venture into Surfers Paradise sorry about that where you'll find it tucked away underneath the Chevron Renaissance hotel towers.
It's the sort of place where you'd spend several hours, rather than just ducking in for a massage. There are five bathhouse-style pools and lots of places to relax, before or after your treatment.
Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.