The ultimate guide to the Gold Coast 600
One weekend a year, the Gold Coast is better known for supercars rather than surfers, as the Virgin Australia Supercars Gold Coast 600 V8s take to the track and make sound waves across Surfers Paradise.
Mark your calendar for October, as the biggest names in motorsport along with a 200,000 strong crowd, make tracks to the Gold Coast for Queensland’s largest (and loudest) car event on the It’s Live calendar.
If you’re looking to join the action, here’s how to make the most of the sun, surf and supercars, as the beach-side streets of Surfers Paradise are transformed into a world-class race track.
The essentials: What you need to know about GC600
Let’s get things straight – this is a three-day event, so regardless of whether you’re behind the wheel or spectating, you need endurance if you want to see it through to the finish line.
And it’s not just us who thinks it, supercar champion Craig Lowndes had this to say about the course: “It’s a tough, tight track … You can’t afford to put a foot wrong – mentally and physically it’s very challenging.”
It’s nothing but engines by day and live entertainment by night, with an action-packed program that kicks off with breakfast events and finishes with headlining acts on the mainstage.
For drivers, it takes two days of practice sessions, time trials and shoot outs to establish a grid for the main event, the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, which is a 300km race through the streets of Surfers Paradise.
For spectators, these warm-ups are far from dull. The track is just 3km long, which make it a spectator’s smorgasbord as the drivers have to complete the circuit over 1oo times to reach the finish line 300km later.
Whats more, this course weaves through the high-rise apartment blocks and skyscrapers in Surfers Paradise, which for spectators, makes this event a bit more Fast and the Furious than what you see at regular motor races. The perk of this race track is that it also opens up a whole new world of viewing options well beyond the grandstands.
Where to stay?
When choosing your digs for the event – you need to ask yourself just how much you love V8 supercar racing. You can stay so close to the action you’re practically sleeping in the pits if you’re a mad keen fan, but be warned – accommodation on the track also comes with the complimentary sounds and smells of motor racing.
Staying within the track precinct has obvious advantages if you intend on making the most out of your three-day pass, because you’ll be right in the thick of it 24/7 – just don’t expect a sleep-in!
For the opportunity to watch the race from your own suite (or ensuite if you want to do that too), book well ahead for Mantra Sun City or Rhapsody Resort, which have track-front rooms so you can watch the race from your balcony.
Don’t assume booking a balcony room will bag you a bargain though, accommodation trackside will set you back a pretty penny and you’ll also need a Gold Coast 600 ticket to go with it – but the queue-skipping privileges to buy drinks and snacks will be worth it.
If you’re less about engines, and more about entertainment, accommodation closer to Australia Fair Shopping Centre in Southport, just to the north of the race track precinct, will leave you with mere steps to stumble home after the likes of Hilltop Hoods, Lil Jon, The Thundamentals, Cold Chisel, The Living End have finished playing.
And if you really want some distance between you and the track, stay in Coolangatta, Broadbeach or Burleigh Heads on the southern Gold Coast and make use of the free and discounted public transport, such as The G, to make tram-tracks to the main event.
Where to eat?
If the thought of tucking into some of Queensland’s best bites gets your motor running, get to know the best of the Northern Gold Coast’s dining scene on this day at the track. You won’t be the only ones getting into the off-track entertainment, all up, fans are expected to spend more than $40 million in the local economy over this V8 race weekend.
For something cheap, cheerful and popular with kids, head to the spiritual home of burgers, Betty’s Burgers, in Surfers Paradise.
If you’re the kind of person who gets food envy, eliminate the problem and go to a place where everything is on the menu, Bazaar Restaurant at QT Hotel Gold Coast. Here, your plate is your passport to access just about every cuisine in the world – and from a cured meat station and oyster bar right through to a build-your-own-ice-cream experience, the only limitation is just how loose your pants are.
For something that oozes serious foodie appeal, book a tab Seaduction at Peppers Soul Surfers Paradise and let your taste buds be seduced with food so tantalising it was awarded an Australian Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat in 2017.
Where to drink?
If you want to kick on beyond the bars available at the track, Surfers Paradise makes the transition from beach to bar faster than you can say, “I’ll have a margarita”.
The bartenders at Stingray Lounge, on the ground floor of QT Gold Coast, shake cocktails like they’re going out of fashion (our pick: the Day of the Dead) and with cracking bar bites and an excellent D-Floor it’s only a midnight lock out that will give you a reason to leave.
If you’re starting with sunset drinks, head to the recently revamped rooftop bar at The Island, or cradle your drink overlooking the canals of the GC from Helm Bar. For a taste of Cuba (read: great mojitos!), make tracks to El Patio De Cuba to really get your wheels spinning on the dance floor.
To see how the Gold Coast has borrowed cues from Miami, check out Cocoon Lounge where everything, including all the decor is white. And you can’t beat the local surf clubs for low-key drinks in between laps.
What to do?
With 57km of sandtrap – aka endless beach along the coastline – there’s plenty of beach to escape the GC600 action when you need to slow down and realign your ear drums.
Got the kids in tow? Luckily, Sea World is within your line of sight and the Broadwater Parklands will keep you and the gang occupied for hours with rock pools and a bouncy pillow.
Warm up with SuperCars Townsville 400 and Ipswich Super Sprint
Let’s not forget the V8 supercar racing calendar is a progressive one. Tuck into this degustation of driving heaven by treating the Virgin Australia SuperCars Townsville 400 (July 2017) and Supercars Coates Hire Ipswich Super Sprint (Aug 2017) as the amuse-bouche and entree ahead of the GC600 main event.
Both races are packed with plenty of engines and energy and come served with destinations that deliver high-octane adventure off the track.
If you’re heading to SuperCars Townsville 400, here’s 5 things to satisfy your need for speed in Townsville:
- Take the Red Barron Seaplane from The Strand to Magnetic Island.
- Test the speed of your own engine with a run up the aptly named “Mountain Goat Track” on Townsville’s Castle Hill.
- Dive into the outer reef with a trip to a secret atoll on the Great Barrier Reef, here.
- Take a 3.2km hike to Queensland’s most impressive waterfalls, Wallaman Falls.
- Go into nature overdrive and enjoy a natural high in Paluma, the township in the Rainforest.
If you’re looking for things to get your motor running in the historic city of Ipswich, here’s 5 ways to up the action ahead of the Ipswich Super Sprint:
- Rise above it all with a hot air balloon ride over the Lockyer Valley with Floating Images Hot Air Balloon Flights, which has a track record of dishing up one of the best sunrises in the country.
- Take a hike through White Rock Spring Mountain Conservation Estate.
- Chopper, James Bond Style, around pioneering land with Pterodactyl Helicopters.
- Enjoy a pit stop at Heisenberg House and take on the pork knuckle challenge for the opportunity to be placed on their legendary Hall of Fame.
- Enjoy a pint at Ipswich’s first and only brewery, Pumpyard Brewery .