Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Exploring Surfers Paradise

***This post is part 8 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

While traveling through Surfers Paradise last year, I wrote a brief post about the best hotel upgrade I'd ever received. Since I only had one night in town, I arrived at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa not expecting anything beyond a relaxing break after a busy week in Melbourne and Sydney. The hotel was just two blocks north of the TransLink bus stop at Ocean Avenue, and the walk to the entrance took less than five minutes.

Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa

Upon entering the grand lobby, one of the bellhops offered to take my backpack, but I declined. Looking around, I was quite impressed with the elegant interior design and the sheer size of the building. At the check-in counter, I was greeted by a super friendly agent who took one look at my belongings and asked if I was backpacking through the country. Traveling solo can be lonely at times, so when someone engages me in conversation, I usually welcome the opportunity with open arms.

I told her about my month-long journey through Australia and how I was absolutely loving it so far, although it was a shame that I was only visiting the Gold Coast for one night. She typed away at her computer while chatting, and finally, when handing the card key to me, she smiled and quietly said that she had upgraded me to an Ocean View Executive Suite. Initially, I had no idea what that meant, so I thanked her for her help and went on my way.


When I opened the door to 1501 and entered the room, I was flabbergasted at what I saw. The front desk agent had upgraded me to a one bedroom, one-and-a-half bath suite with a living room, dining area, wet bar, walk-in closet, two private balconies, and to top it all off, stunning views of the lagoon and ocean. Never in my life had I ever received such an incredible upgrade. Even more amazing was the fact that I was neither Gold nor Platinum, but only a lowly Silver Elite member.

Surprisingly, I also received some Silver Elite perks that were definitely not guaranteed in the list of published elite benefits, such as complimentary in-room WiFi, late checkout, and 15% off all dining at the resort. To say that I was blown away by the amazing service and benefits would be a huge understatement.

15th floor

Entry hall

Half bath near the entrance

Living room

Work desk

Wet bar

Living room balcony

Lagoon view

Ocean view

Resort grounds

Double doors from the living room led into the bedroom, which featured two beds, a flat screen TV, a walk-in closet, and a second balcony with the same beautiful views. My favorite part of the suite, however, had to be the large master bathroom with its spacious hot tub and bay windows overlooking the lagoon. Taking in the sunset from this vantage point was simply sublime. There was also a separate shower and plenty of high quality toiletries for guest use.


Walk-in closet

Bedroom balcony

Master bathroom

Hot tub with a view


After taking some time to marvel at the splendor of the suite, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on the famed Surfers Paradise beach. While the Marriott Resort is not a beachfront property, the walk there took only about five minutes. Much like the view I saw before landing in Coolangatta, the vast expanse of sand and ocean seemed to stretch on forever. Far in the distant horizon, the shoreline faded into a shroud of fog and mist. This was by far the longest and widest beach I had ever seen.

Surfers Paradise has a similar feel to Waikiki, but magnified and super-sized. Everything is bigger here, including the colossal skyscrapers clinging to the edge of land. What surprised me the most, however, was how completely empty the beaches were. Perhaps it was the cool spring weather or off-season period keeping the tourists away, but I was still expecting more of a crowd along one of the most popular vacation destinations in Australia.

Surfers Paradise

Empty beach

A lot of people complain that Surfers Paradise and, in fact, the entire Gold Coast, is overly commercialized and has lost much of its charm. Having witnessed the overabundance of high rise apartments, shopping malls, and nightclubs in the area, I can certainly attest to their concern. At the same time, I also think there are enough beaches in Australia to satisfy virtually every type of traveler, and if the loud and flashy scene isn't your cup of tea, I would recommend skipping Surfers Paradise completely.

Between October and March, temperatures climb, and the influx of tourists follows. November and December sees an invasion of drunken and rowdy teenagers on summer break, so older guests may want to stay away during this time frame. Due to the density of high rises, the afternoon hours see the Surfers Paradise stretch of beach veiled in the long shadows of skyscrapers. While unfortunate, it isn't too hard to find the gaps where sunlight still peeks through.

As the late-afternoon shadows crept across the beach, I returned to the hotel and decided to explore the property some more. The Lobby Lounge Bar near the entrance was a great place to grab a drink and some small bites throughout the day. Further down the main hall towards the back of the hotel was the .connect business center. Similar to the Link@Sheraton concept, this is a place where guests can access fully connected desktop terminals, free WiFi, newspapers, and magazines in a semi-private environment.

Lobby Lounge Bar

Marriott .connect business center

I was really impressed with the beautifully manicured resort grounds. The hotel is famous for its spectacular saltwater lagoon, where guests can swim and snorkel with an array of tropical fish. In addition, there was a huge freshwater pool that snaked around the lagoon, parts of which flowed through grottoes and artificial caves. A smaller kids pool nearby featured a fun water slide. For families with children, this is really the perfect resort in my opinion.

Saltwater lagoon

Artificial caves

Freshwater pool

In the evening, I decided to check out Citrique, the popular restaurant inside the hotel known for its fresh seafood buffet. At $80 AUD, it was a bit too pricey for me, so I opted for a steak sandwich and french fries from the a la carte menu instead, which was absolutely delicious and reasonably priced as well. Despite the cost, the buffet seemed to be extremely popular with patrons as the restaurant was almost completely full when I was there.

Citrique Restaurant

Steak sandwich and french fries

The next morning, I went down to the resort gym and found a full range of free weights, machines, treadmills, and bikes. While definitely not as extensive as the real gym found at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, this was far better than most setups I've encountered throughout my travels.

Free weights and machines

Cardio equipment

Since I was planning on taking the TransLink train to Brisbane, there was no set time I had to depart by. I eventually decided to catch the bus to the train station around 1:00 pm, which gave me a few extra hours to explore Surfers Paradise. Strolling down the Esplanade, I took in the warm morning sun and clear weather while browsing the shops and sights along the way.

Surfers Paradise in the morning

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games


Cavill Mall is a long pedestrian corridor filled with tons of dining and shopping options to suit any taste. At night, this area is crawling with nightclubs and pubs, as well as the requisite drunk teenagers during the high season. I grabbed a quick bite to eat here and then ventured further south until I almost reached Broadbeach. This district is noticeably quieter and more residential compared to Surfers Paradise, and may be a more preferable option for those who enjoy a more subdued atmosphere.

Cavill Mall

Anzac Memorial

With only one night in the Gold Coast, I didn't get to venture outside of Surfers Paradise, which is a shame. For families with a few more days, however, there are a number of theme parks in the area such as Sea World, Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, as well as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the Hinterland. After returning back to the resort around noon, I packed up my belongings and reluctantly checked out of the beautiful suite I enjoyed for less than 24 hours.

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