8 thoughts you’ll have when you revisit the Gold Coast in your ‘50s
As I sift through the rose-coloured memories of summer holidays at the Gold Coast in the 1960s, so much comes to mind.
Going to the beach three times a day. My mum sitting under a fringed beach umbrella. Dad having a Bundaberg Rum and milk after an early morning surf. Riding boogie boards and skim boards. Digging for pipis and yabbies. Building sand castles. Playing mini golf and jumping on trampolines on sultry afternoons. Feasting on foot-long hot dogs and licking enormous psychedelic lolly pops while sauntering along Cavill Avenue in Surfers Paradise.
We used to go on adventures up and down the coast; best of all I loved long, lazy days at Currumbin. Sure, we’d visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to feed the lorikeets, but my favourite times were spent on the wide west-facing sandy beach near the mouth of Currumbin Creek.
The afternoon sun seemed to hover forever over the lush hinterland as mum and dad fished for whiting, plastic lines wrapped around old Coke bottles, and I swam and played with friends on the squeaky white sand. We’d get ice-creams from the Mr Whippy van and have fish and chips for dinner.
For three weeks every January, we’d stay in a simple cottage just a few hundred metres from the beach or we’d visit friends who moved from the bush to Broadbeach. Bob Clapp had been a grazier but he was a mighty good body surfer too, and he’d take me out past the last line of breakers to teach me to surf with one flipper to help kick onto each wave. We’d also go fishing at The Spit in his old VW bug.
One day when I was about 14, he showed me how to shift the gears and said, “Go for a spin along the sand”. That’s how I learned to drive. His son, Rob, used to hand-carve surfboards in the backyard, and I can still feel the bits of fibreglass underfoot (and hopefully not in my lungs). Rob went on to be the chief dolphin wrangler at Marineland, now Sea World, and I used to get special invitations to stand at the end of the diving board to feed the jumping dolphins.
That was a long time ago and the Gold Coast moved on: skyscrapers soared, street signs started appearing in Japanese, and glitzy stores replaced the lollipop shops. I moved interstate and then overseas. I fell in love with other beaches.
But after revisiting the old holiday stomping ground in my ’50s, I discovered its charm had (thankfully) not worn off. Here are 8 thoughts you’ll have when experiencing the Gold Coast with
old fresh new eyes.
1. The Goldie hasn’t lost its soul
Sure, there’s still plenty of glitz along the Glitter Strip, but there’s a thriving funky culture on the Southern Gold Coast with the retro vibe that I cherish from my childhood days.
2. Those wide beaches I took for granted are downright remarkable
These days, you can enjoy the beaches even more with the Gold Coast Oceanway, a 36km network of pathways which connects The Spit at the north to Point Danger in the south.
3. The ‘60s are still alive
On a recent visit I discovered an inexpensive and totally charming bolt hole called La Costa Motel, just steps from the beach at Bilinga.
This aqua-weatherboard gem has turquoise vintage bikes, striped beach umbrellas and even plastic pink flamingos in the garden, and its crisp white studios with their polished wooden floorboards provide everything you need for a classic beachside holiday.
Up the road, Currumbin still has its classic Vikings Surf Lifesaving Club wedged into Elephant Rock and you can sign up as an honorary member to enjoy a meal directly above the pounding surf.
4. Nescafe from a tin is no longer the height of sophistication (thank goodness)
These days you can also get your Melbourne coffee fix plus terrific smoothies and tropical fruit-topped acai bowls at the rustic-chic Salt Mill, just across the road from the beach.
5. It will always be a family favourite
The sandy beach along Currumbin Creek is still popular with families, only now you can rent stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and fishing gear from the Boatshed Bait and Tackle.
Even better, you can come back all sandy and salty and quench your thirst with a cold drink on the shady deck of The Boatshed cafe and feast on tasty nosh.
6. The beer’s gone posh, too
Just down the road, Currumbin has its very own craft brewery, Balter Brewing Company, created by surfing legends and Currumbin locals Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson.
It’s a terrific spot with a great neighbourhood vibe and there are food trucks on Fridays, too.
7. Mt Woodgee Surfboards channels all that is good from the 60s, only now they have a hip neighbour
Mt Woodgee Surfboards are still hand-shaping boards like they did in the 1970s, and just down the road, Iron and Resin have epic motorcycle gear plus great coffee and terrific Sunday sessions with music from the cream of the local music scene.
8. Forget fish and chips, the food is first class
It’s so close to the surf you’ll feel the ocean spray on your face as you chow down on delish fare like Moreton Bay bug rolls and charred king prawns with watermelon and fresh coconut, which go down a treat with a chilled mojito or two.
There was something about this place that felt familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. Right next door is an indoor pool run by Rackley Swimming School, and when I saw pictures on the wall of its earlier incarnation as an outdoor ocean pool in the 1960s, the memories came flooding back of not-so-fun beginner swim lessons with the surf whooshing over the seawall.
Not all memories are equally endearing, so I order another mojito to toast the good times today – there’s plenty to celebrate!