Brisbane’s beachfront playground, the Gold Coast, is located about 40 miles south of the Queensland capital and is beloved for its theme parks and surfer-friendly stretches of sand. But there’s so much more to the region than its roller coasters and rolling waves. From a forward-thinking art museum to a burgeoning distillery scene, here are four reasons we’re excited to make the drive down from Brisbane.
The Langham, Gold Coast
This new outpost of the Hong Kong–based luxury hotel chain opened in 2022 in a trio of gleaming geometrical towers meant to evoke the quartz crystals that can be found in this region. Even if you don’t stay here overnight, make a visit to the beachfront property for a meal: T’ang Court serves elegant Cantonese food (including a tasting menu centered around 14-day dry-aged duck) that earned the original Hong Kong location three Michelin stars, while the sunny Palm Court is the place to go for afternoon tea, including a Paddington-themed special menu with sweets like mango-marmalade-topped “toast” (actually a vanilla and pecan sponge cake).
The Distillery Scene
Australia’s wine scene may be world-famous, but on the Gold Coast, locally crafted gins, whiskeys, and vodkas are making a stand, thanks to a host of vibrant distilleries with unique stories to tell. Clovendoe Distilling Co. has gained a cult following for its surprisingly tasty line of low-alcohol and zero-proof botanical spirits (you can often catch founder Catie Fry offering samples at area farmers’ markets), while Wild Flower Gin infuses its namesake spirit with honey from the distiller’s own backyard. Other standouts in the area include Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery, which offers a gin-making experience that allows you to blend your own botanicals; Panezski Artisan Distillery, which pairs age-old Polish vodka-making techniques with the best Australian grains; and Capricorn Distilling Co., which will have you rethinking rum with its line of sophisticated sugar-cane-based spirits.
HOTA, Home of the Arts
During the height of the pandemic, the Home of the Arts cultural precinct welcomed a dazzling new art museum called HOTA Gallery, which ranks as Australia’s largest public gallery outside of a state or territorial capital. The museum occupies a six-story building covered in colorful panels inspired by the painting The Rainforest by William Robinson, and it’s also home to a buzzy rooftop cocktail bar and a fine-dining restaurant where the menu changes to reflect the collection or a current temporary exhibition. Recent exhibits have showcased works by female contemporary artists from the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, local ceramicist Michelle Le Plastrier, and Australian–Papua New Guinean artist Yuriyal Eric Bridgeman, who creates installations that pair ancestral motifs and rugby iconography.
Spa by JW
This July, the recently refreshed JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa debuted its new wellness facility, Spa by JW, which features six treatment rooms, decor inspired by coastal Queensland, and views out over the hinterland—a very Aussie word that roughly means the countryside behind the coast. For the most comprehensive experience, guests can opt for the Sensory Spa Degustation, a “tasting menu” of treatments, foods, and beverages; each step of the way, you can decide on Calm, Indulge, Invigorate, or Renew options.