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Local’s guide to the Gold Coast

From the sleek high-rise of Surfers Paradise to the sprawling sands of Burleigh Heads, the Gold Coast has all travellers covered. We chatted to Marlena Katene to get her local's guide to the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast has something for every traveller and it’s a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. Summer is my favorite though because you can really make the most of the many things we have to offer here. 

As a local wheelchair user, these are five insider activities I would recommend. I welcome you to my backyard!

Day out at Burleigh Beach

They say that “the best things in life are free”, which is definitely true of Burleigh Beach. This is my favourite place in the world. With its spacious pathways through tall pine trees, it has perfect access for any wheelchair user. A favourite walk of mine is from Miami to North Burleigh, which has ample accessible parking along the way and is close to public transport. 

On the weekends, the beaches roll out accessible matting and you can borrow accessible beach chairs free of charge. Be sure to ask at the Surf Club under the restaurant. When you’ve finished taking in the gorgeous view and need some food, head down to James Street. I recommend getting takeaway from Burleigh Heads Fishmongers and enjoying it in Justin’s Park. 

For some exercise after lunch, take the lovely nature walk through the trees around Burleigh Headland to Tallebudgera Beach. Stick to the bottom path along the ocean as the one going to the top has stairs. I have done this in a manual chair with some muscles and, if you are up for it, the view at the top is worth it.

Insider tip: Come down to watch the sunrise at the top of Goodwin Terrace and your life will never be the same!

Shopping at Pacific Fair

Known locally as Pac Fair, with more than 400 stores to choose from, this is where the Gold Coast locals go for some retail therapy. The centre is situated in Broadbeach and the light rail is right at the front door so you can access it from most places on the Gold Coast. I love starting the day with a Gold Class movie when I go there. The staff can remove a chair if you require space for your wheelchair, or can provide extra cushioning if you like sprawling out, like I do, in their comfortable chairs. Remember that companion cards are valid for Gold Class here.

After the movie, there are many dining options available to you. For anyone who isn’t a shopper, they have even added daybeds and an awesome seating area. Take a nap and leave the shopping to us experts!

Insider tip: leave the credit card at home, or come prepared!

A woman in a wheelchair comiing down a ramp, with foliage on either side.
Locals like Marlena Katene can shop ’til they drop at Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast.

An evening out in Broadbeach

Broadbeach has it all, for tourists and locals alike. Broadbeach is an entertainment hub with many festivals, such as Blues on Broadbeach and Country Music Festival. Most weekends there will be a show on at the Casino or Convention Centre, but if not, there are always fine spots for a drink.

My restaurant of choice is Valentino’s, with its great staff and great food. A good Sunday afternoon hang spot is Koi Dining – if you are lucky you might see the Koi Boys, who were finalists on The Voice a few years back. After dinner, head over to the Star Casino. The Star is often home to concerts from artists such as Beach Boys, Kelly Rowland, Human Nature and more. The smaller venue at the Star has very good access for concerts and you will really be close to the action in the wheelchair section.

Insider tip: Check out the calendar of events in Broadbeach. If there is a concert you like at the Convention Centre, ask for decent floor seats.

Surfers Paradise

With its many high-rise buildings, shopping centres and nightclubs, Surfers is designed for the tourist market. As an adrenaline junkie, Surfers has a few options that cater to my love of a thrill. iFly is an indoor skydiving tunnel that gives the sensation of a real skydive in the safety of a smaller tunnel. Give the team a call a day or two in advance and they will ensure extra staff are on hand to accommodate any needs you tell them about.

Surfers Paradise also has activities such as the Bungee Ball, or tamer rides such as dodgem cars at Timezone in the mall. The beach has amazing wide access paths and ramps. They are yet to get access mats, but I know people are working on this.

Insider tip: Surfers Beach markets run Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 3 to 10pm along the beach path.

A day out at the Beach Markets

I have a stall at these markets, so I may be biased! The beach markets sell mainly locally owned and made products, with a wide range of arts and crafts available. They alternate between Broadbeach, Coolangatta and Burleigh every Sunday from 8 to 2pm. There is always live music and amazing food. My favourite is a cheese kransky from the German sausage guy, washed down with a homemade lemonade from my mate Jed.

These markets have become my community over the last 10 or so years and are easily the best on the Gold Coast. We also have Carrara Markets, which are open all weekend, and a variety of other farmers markets scattered all over the coast.

Insider tip: Come and see the Wheelie at the Jumping Castle and say g’day. She may try to sell you her book but if you say you read this article she will give your kids a free jump!

If you want to get a local’s guide to the Gold Coast next time you’re in town, get in touch with Marlena Katene on Twitter or Instagram.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.

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