Friday, January 29, 2016

Christmas on the Gold Coast

When we decided we were going to travel for the year the thought of where to spend Christmas entered the discussions early. Though Christmas anywhere abroad is different from home, we decided we wanted a Christmas where it was summer and the traditions would be somewhat familiar - in other words, where we'd see and hear about Santa. Australia and New Zealand sprang to mind instantly.

We gave the kids a choice between the two and a hot beach in Australia won out. As it happens, Kerry's cousin now lives with her family on the Gold Coast. Where better place to spend a Christmas away from home. And we were not disappointed.

We found a fantastic house in Broadbeach just a few blocks from the beach. The place was beyond our budget, but we decided to splurge given how close it was to the beach, that it had a small fenced yard the kids could play in, and well, it's Christmas. 

The house turned out to be worth every penny. Not only was it beautiful, it was large enough that we all had our own space when we needed it, the kids each had their own bedroom, and though the yard was small, Eamon could go out with a soccer ball whenever he wanted. The landlord also made a big difference. Because we were staying over Christmas, she put up a small tree in the corner. The kids were quite relieved that Santa had a place to put their presents.

Our elf found us!

Our wrapping station

A local fish and chips shop, a convenience store, a liquor store, and the Broadbeach Bowls Club (where good inexpensive meals can be found) were all within a block of our place. The day we ate at the bowls club, the discovered the bartender is on the Canadian bowls team (who knew we even had one!) and he trains in Australia.

Our beach was wonderful and we headed down to it almost every day. The beach is really uninterrupted sand for miles all along the coast with each town claiming its own beachfront. There really is something for everyone from party time at Surfer's Paradise to expensive houses on the beach at Mermaid Beach. Our area consisted of mostly 3-4 story walkups - a bit of a quiet oasis compared to the highrises just a few blocks to the north and south of us.

Looking north from our beach to Surfer's Paradise.

The waves at the beach were big and perfect for boogie boards. They were not so perfect for just floating about in the water. The water had quite a strong pull in any direction, the undertow could be quite strong with rip currents around, and the breaking waves could be rather large -- all leading to a "hazardous surf" description of the beach. Though the breaking waves were big, they did break quite far from shore so by the time they reached us they weren't breaking over our heads, but they did have a pretty strong push in them - perfect for the boogie boards.

Most days the lifeguard sign told people to not go deeper than being able to touch flat footed, and some days we were told not to go deeper than our waist. Even though none of us ventured out very far, faithfully stayed between the lifeguard's swim flags, followed the instructions, we all had a glorious time.

One of the swim flags.

During the week, the lifeguards were not what I expected at all. I had a bit of a "Baywatch" expectation. Nope. The swimming area wasn't in front of the towers, but rather down the beach a ways. Usually there were the swimming flags, a surf board or two ready for action, the swim report sign, and a vehicle parked on the beach surrounded by pylons with a lone lifeguard hanging about. 

Also surprising to me was the space between the swimming flags - it wasn't wide at all, maybe only 20-30 yards wide. Now, along the miles of beach there were numerous swimming areas, but much more restrictive than what I'd imagined.

The weekends and public holidays were a completely different story: the life saving clubs appeared. The lifeguard continued to be in charge of the beach, but this large group of volunteers clad in yellow and red, camped out under a big tent patrolling the swimmers keeping them safe and providing first aid if required. Now we're talking tv, but then again, maybe not. They are not nearly as scantily clad as the "Baywatch" lifeguards, there were no dramatic rescues on our beach, and I'm sorry, but those beanies they tie onto their head are humorous in the extreme. 

Usually the surf club members didn't come into the water, but this was a particularly busy and rough day.

If you look closely, you'll see the girl leaning against the truck and the guy sitting on the chair wearing the beanies. I'm no fashionista, but I'd need to be hard pressed for a head cover to put one of these onto my noggin.

Apart from the beach, we spent some time with Kerry's uncle and aunt from Regina who have a condo just a few blocks from our house (we didn't know this when we booked our house), and his cousin and her family who live about a 20 minute drive from where we stayed. I'm continually fascinated by the ties of extended families and the ease with which conversations start and continue despite long absences from each other. We had a thoroughly delightful time seeing his family, who were all generous with their time.

Kerry's cousin's husband arranged an outing to a Big Bash League (BBL) cricket game in Brisbane. This is no usual cricket game with everyone in white that goes on for days, but rather, an exciting and quick match aimed to draw in the families. We became fast fans of the sport. It helped that we had someone who understands the game and could answer all our questions. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on cricket to hear further details.

You won't see flames at a typical cricket test match, but anything is possible at a BBL game.

We ate at the Kurrawa Surf Club with his aunt and uncle, who are members. Oh la la, you say, members of a surf club. Well actually, his uncle told us his seniors' membership was only $5. The great membership card he got was worth the $5 fee. The surf club backs onto the beach giving a fantastic view of the ocean. And to top it off, the food was delicious.

Best of all though, Kerry's cousin invited us over for Christmas dinner that included her husband's family too. We had such a fantastic afternoon and evening. Eamon was over the moon playing backyard cricket with the men in the group. Meaghan took great delight in her second cousin who was not yet 1. Kerry and I enjoyed the good food and good conversation. What more does one need at Christmas. It was wonderful to be included in their Christmas celebration and made for a wonderful Christmas away from home for us.

A little bit of backyard cricket

Meaghan and her second cousin who is almost 1 in this photo.

We ended up not doing very many touristy things. We heard some Christmas carols on the beach, saw the New Year's Eve fireworks on the beach, headed to the cinema for Star Wars, and visited the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we saw a variety of Australia's animals and each had our photo taken with a koala.

Though Kerry and I would never have ventured here on our own, we were glad we came. The kids had a terrific Christmas, and for us, that's what matters the most.


  1. so glad you had a wonderful Christmas

    1. Me too! We knew if the kids enjoyed themselves, the next part of the trip would be ok. So much better than the alternative!