The Gold Coast and its hidden agenda
I went to Surfers Paradise for the first time in 2011, just before the final of the Rugby World Cup.
I wasn't expecting it to be anything other than fabulous, people talk about this place for a reason right? Sandy white beaches and palm trees were in mind, and no, the Gold Coast isn't short of those.
I didn't think it'd be short of good old Straya pride either. But to my surprise there wasn't any of Wallabies merchandise in sight. In fact, word on the street was 'Go the All Blacks!' Many wore All Blacks t-shirts to match their kiwi accents.
'Why are there so many Kiwi's here?' I thought. It was school holidays. I quickly learned that instead of being an all-Australian city, Surfers Paradise uniquely caters for those holiday-goers after one thing in particular, commercialism.
The city of Surfers is set up in such a way that everything you might want to do before you go back to work or school can be done in one place. How convenient you might say.
Well yes, it is. If you don't mind paying an arm and a leg, being surrounded by other tourists and not locals, having to side-step the piles of sand dumped by trucks on the beach, and having to go back to work when your vacation is over. Okay, you can't avoid that last one wherever you go.
If you really don't want to break the bank, if you're keen to appreciate Mother Nature, genuine local vibes, good food and good-looking surfer dudes; there are some hidden gems to look for.
The Tweed Coast, south of the Gold Coast, sits near the border of Queensland and New South Wales.
Trust me, the Tweed Coast will give you plenty reasons to smile without opening your wallet every two seconds.
First of all, there are endless picnic opportunities in picturesque places. Fingal Head lighthouse is the perfect spot for lovers and friends alike.
Overlooking Cook Island, you can spot dolphins frolicking in their natural habitat, making it the perfect place to watch sunrise and sunset.
South of Fingal is Byron Bay. Heard of it before? Go there!
The small town beach-gypsy vibe is the kind that's hard to find. There is no way you can't relax in Byron's slow pace and chilled out atmosphere.
There I had the pleasure of swimming with tropical fish right on the main beach - you paid how much for Sea World did you say?
Byron Bay is home to the most easterly point in Australia. At the eastern lookout wales can be seen breaching offshore. On my walk down I was also lucky enough to spot a wild kangaroo playing in the foliage beside the track.
Not only is the eastern part of Australia a great place to see wildlife actually in the wild, the hikes and nature adventures one can have is endless. My favourite being Mount Warning. Located 38 kilometers inland, the panoramic views are definitely Instagram-worthy, not to mention the jungle-like journey and the fitness benefits of getting yourself up there.
The peak of the mountain is lined with chains to help pull your way up the vertical rock face. Now that's what I call an adventure!
Now if you are looking for those surfer dudes, look no further than Point Danger. The Point Danger Lookout is the best place to pretend your just looking at the view. Tweed Heads is not in short supply of local festivities either.
Market places are held near to water so you can watch the tide as you munch on some very reasonably priced tacos.
But if you are after the whitest sandy beach you can get, Cabarita Beach is the place to be. The sandy bum after eating Fish and Chips is totally worth it. It's not overcrowded, and the surf is spectacular.
Another way to make use of the Australian climate while your there is the tropical fruit. There are countless roadside stalls in New South Wales' countryside, we're you'll find a number of seasonal fruit, including Paw Paw to Dragon Fruit.
Even though Surfers Paradise can cost half a lung, not all of the Gold Coast is money sucking. Suburbs south of Surfers can see to great food, water sport and lovely locals.
Tellebudgera creek is a great place for those who love stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Beside Tellebudgera is Burleigh Heads National Park, a natural playground for walking, spotting wild turkeys and sight seeing along the coast.
Nestled next to Burleigh is Miami, where you'll find culture at its richest.
The Miami night market is fill with international food, quirky stalls and the best free entertainment beside Cuba Street. The night I went I had the pleasure of listening to local performer 'The Lyrical.'
They say he's a busker, but he knows they're wrong; he's a rockstar. Miami will have you head bopping and eating till your hearts content.
It's safe to say my latest trip across the ditch was a far cry from the empty-shell-of-a-city I experienced before. It's an intriguing phenomenon how a place can almost purely cater as a commercial tourist area without much soul and culture of it's own.
If you are conscious of your finances, and want to live outside the box, the natural and cultural wonders of the Tweed Coast and the southern Gold Coast will not disappoint.
Picking and choosing the between the money-busting and money-saving activities is sure to keep your wallet happier and your stay more enjoyable.