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Getting There

By Car -- Access to the Gold Coast Highway, which runs the length of the Coast, is off the Pacific Highway from Sydney or Brisbane. The drive takes about 80 minutes from Brisbane. From Sydney it's an 11-hour trip, sometimes longer, on the crowded, run-down Pacific Highway.

By Plane -- Domestic flights land at Gold Coast Airport, Coolangatta, 25km (16 miles) south of Surfers Paradise. Qantas (tel. 13 13 13) offers direct flights from Sydney. Virgin Blue (tel. 13 67 89) and Jetstar (tel. 13 15 38 in Australia) both fly from Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, and Adelaide. Tiger Airways (tel. 03/9335 3033; www.tigerairways.com) flies direct from Melbourne. The Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle (tel. 1300/655 655 in Australia, or 07/5574 5111) meets every flight and will take you to your accommodations; the fare is A$18 (US$16/£8.10) one-way and A$33 (US$30/£15) round-trip for adults, A$9 (US$8.10/£4.05) one-way or A$17 (US$15/£7.65) round-trip for kids ages 4 to 13, A$45 (US$41/£20) one-way or A$83 (US$75/£37) round-trip for families of four. A better deal, if you are going to use buses a lot, is to buy a Freedom Pass, which includes your airport transfers. A taxi from the airport to Surfers Paradise is about A$30 (US$27/£14) but may be higher if traffic is heavy.

The nearest international gateway is Brisbane International Airport. The Coachtrans Airporter bus meets most flights and makes about 20 trips a day from the domestic and international terminals at Brisbane Airport to Gold Coast accommodations for A$39 (US$35/£18) adults, A$18 (US$16/£8.10) children 4 to 13, or A$96 (US$86/£43) for families of four. The trip takes about 90 minutes to Surfers Paradise. You do not need to book in advance unless you are on an evening flight; if you are, call tel. 1300/664 700 in Queensland, or 07/3358 9700.

AirtrainConnect links Brisbane Airport and the Gold Coast by train and bus for A$37 (US$33/£17) adults, A$19 (US$17/£8.55) children 5 to 14, or A$93 (US$84/£42) for groups of four. Take Airtrain to the Gold Coast, then an air-conditioned coach shuttle to any accommodations between Southport Spit at the northern end of the Gold Coast and Burleigh Heads to the south. Airtrain's SmartPass, for A$118 (US$106/£53) per adult, A$59 (US$53/£27) per child, or A$295 (US$266/£133) for families of four for 3 days, covers AirtrainConnect transfers, as well as unlimited door-to-door theme park transfers on the Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle and use of the local Surfside bus network, 24 hours a day. Passes are also available for 5, 7, 10, and 14 days.

By Bus -- Coachtrans (tel. 1300/664 700 in Queensland, or 07/3358 9700) runs between Brisbane and Gold Coast hotels. The fare is A$28 (US$25/£13) adults one-way, A$20 (US$18/£9) for kids 4 to 13; A$76 (US$68/£34) for families of four.

Greyhound Australia (tel. 1300/473 946) makes daily stops at Surfers Paradise from Sydney and Brisbane. The trip from Sydney takes 14 to 15 hours, and the fare is A$115 (US$104/£52). Trip time from Brisbane is 90 minutes, and the fare is A$25 (US$23/£11).

By Train -- Suburban trains (call Queensland Rail CityTrain; tel. 07/3235 5555) depart Brisbane Central and Roma Street stations every 30 minutes for the 70-minute trip to the Gold Coast suburb of Nerang. The fare is A$25 (US$23/£11) adults, A$12 (US$11/£5.40) children 5 to 14. Numerous local buses meet the trains to take passengers to Surfers Paradise.

If you come by train to Surfers Paradise from Sydney or other southern cities, service is on Countrylink (tel. 1300/131 722 in Australia; www.countrylink.nsw.gov.au), and you will need to transfer to a connecting coach in Casino or Murwillumbah, just south of the Queensland border. The trip from Sydney takes 14 to 15 hours and the fare is A$118 (US$106/£53) for a first-class seat.

Visitor Information

Gold Coast Tourism (tel. 1300/309 440 in Australia, or 07/5538 4419; www.verygc.com) has an information kiosk on Cavill Avenue in Surfers Paradise. It is stacked with brochures on things to see and do, and the staff will book tours and arrange accommodations. The kiosk is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday 8:30am to 5pm, and Sunday and public holidays from 9am to 4pm. A second information booth is at the corner of Griffith and Warner streets in Coolangatta. It is open from 8am to 5pm weekdays, from 8am to 4pm Saturdays, and from 9am to 1pm Sundays and public holidays.

The Secret of the Gold Coast Seasons -- School holidays, especially the Christmas vacation from mid-December to the end of January, are peak season on the Gold Coast. Accommodations are booked months in advance at these times. The rest of the year, occupancy levels plummet -- and so do rates! Packages and deals abound in the off season, so make sure you ask.

Orientation

The heart of the Gold Coast is Surfers Paradise -- "Surfers" to the locals -- a high-rise forest of apartment towers, shops, cheap eateries, taverns, and amusement parlors. The pedestrian-only Cavill Mall, in the center of town, connects the Gold Coast Highway to the Esplanade, which runs along the beach.

The Gold Coast Highway is the main artery that connects the endless beachside suburbs lining the coast. Just north of Surfers is Main Beach, where Tedder Avenue abounds with shops, restaurants, and cafes. Heading south from Surfers, the main beach centers are Broadbeach, where retail complexes and restaurants are mushrooming; family-oriented Burleigh Heads; and the twin towns of Coolangatta in Queensland and Tweed Heads just over the border in New South Wales. Coolangatta still has a sleepy small-town feel that's ideal for families, despite some major development in the past few years. Gold Coast Airport is on the other side of the highway from Coolangatta township.

West of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach are the affluent suburbs of Ashmore and Nerang, where luxury residential estates and many of the region's championship golf courses have sprung up.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.