Sun, surf, sand and sport: all the trademarks of Australia’s beach culture are on display in the Coolangatta Ocean Swim. Open water swims happen all across the country, but the ‘Cooly Classic’ in April is one of the most iconic. Both swimmers and spectators flock to the Gold Coast for the challenging course and beach carnival atmosphere. Join Australia’s iron men and women on the 2.5km swim, test the waters on the shorter beginner’s course or start a cheer squad on the sand. After the race the Gold Coast awaits. Lie on golden beaches, learn to surf and uncover the area’s Aboriginal culture. Whale-watch, island-hop or explore the rainforest-cloaked hinterland.
The race starts from Rainbow Beach, home of the legendary Snapper Rocks Superbank. Surfers love this break, which produces some of the world’s longest waves. For ocean swimmers, the never-ending tube makes for a serious challenge! The entire 2.5km course traverses another two big surf breaks before the finish line at Kirra Beach. If that sounds too daunting, there’s also a 500m course for younger and less experienced swimmers.
You can hurl yourself into the waves alongside the Speedo-clad swimmer or join the crowds cheering for their heroic sporting efforts from the beach. Be there for the starting gun excitement on Rainbow Beach or see competitors focus their strength for the finish line sprint on Kirra Beach. However you get involved, there’s a unique camaraderie to this classic Australian beach event. Ice-cream vendors weave amongst professional iron men, leathery swimming veterans and children lathered in zinc. Regardless of age or swimming skill, this crowd epitomises the optimistic Australian spirit.
Positivity is easy on these dreamy, sun-drenched beaches. If you’re a surfer you’ll find many paradises. Join the professionals on the powerhouse waves at Rainbow Beach, Currumbin Alley and Burleigh Heads. Or learn to surf at the Spit or Greenmount Beach, where the waves are gentler but just as consistent. Swim in the protected waters of Kirra, Mermaid and Coolangatta. Meet sub-tropical fish on a snorkelling adventure around the Scottish Prince shipwreck off Main Beach. Dive with trevally and turtles off the Gold Coast seaway or join a whale-spotting cruise from Coolangatta.
Just across the water, South Stradbroke Island makes a great day getaway for bushwalking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, windsurfing and beach fishing. Relax on the secluded, lagoon-like beach or pick your favourite surf break from 20km of rainforest-fringed ocean beaches. The island supports a rich array of wildlife, including 160 bird species, 35 species of butterflies and the unique Golden Swamp Wallaby. If you want to extend your stay, there are campsites, self-contained apartments and two award-winning resorts. Get here by ferry or water taxi.
Delve deeper into the island’s natural and cultural history on an Aboriginal kayaking tour. Kayak past dolphins, stingrays, reptiles, wallabies, birds and colourful sub-tropical fish. You’ll also connect to the land and sea through the ancient window of Aboriginal culture. Stop on South Stradroke Island for a traditional hunt and tasty traditional lunch. Listen to Dreamtime stories as you follow your guide along ancient bush tucker tracks. The paddle back is a chance to reflect on your unique cultural adventure.
Despite its name, the Gold Coast isn’t just about the coastline. In the hinterland you’ll find an ancient ecological haven of Gondwanan rainforests, crystalline waterfalls and deep, mossy gorges. Follow one of the many walking trails through World Heritage-listed Lamington and Springbrook National Parks or trek between them on the four-day Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. Wander beneath ancient Antarctic Beech Trees, spot colourful sub-tropical birds, swim in sparkling waterholes and stand on the edge of an eroded volcano. After communing with nature, explore the region’s boutique wineries or spend a night in a lush rainforest retreat. Further north find the quaint mountain village of Mount Tamborine and incredible waterfalls of Tamborine National Park.
Beyond the natural attractions the Gold Coast has much that glitters. Shop up a storm in the designer stores, street markets and airy mega-malls. Throw yourself into the inexhaustible nightlife, experience the dynamic dining scene and meet wildlife or take a high-adrenalin ride in the theme parks.
The Cooly Classic is a great excuse to discover the Gold Coast. Next April, experience this classic Australian beach carnival against the backdrop of one of Australia’s most iconic beach destinations.