InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, Gold Coast review: Weekend away

Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm.
Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm. Photo: Simon Holt

Read our writer's views on this property below

Sanctuary Cove has been a playground for the rich and sometimes famous for the past 25 years, and unlike some other ageing getaways, doesn’t seem to have lost much of its charm and grace.

THE SETTING

Most of the number plates in the carpark seem to spell a word. The others are just three letters. On the canal, a luxury yacht is moored, awaiting departure. Even the ducks and crows seem to hold a touch of upper-class arrogance about them. From the lobby, overlook the fountains and two swimming pools, one of them free-form with its own beach. Those who are old enough to remember the American drawl of the guy who hosted television's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous might have his signature phrase running through their head.

THE SPACE

Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm.
Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm. 

Rooms overlook manicured parkland which sit to the side of the pools area, one of them with its own man-made beach to compensate for the fact the property sits on the edge of a canal. There's a pool bar, a lap pool for those not so keen on the free-form concept, and a large spa which sits in the middle of Roman-style pilons. A walkway leads to the marine, home of the annual boat show, and handy when it comes to grabbing any last-minute essentials. If a mandarin-butter poached New Zealand yabbie doesn't tickle your palate, perhaps a tender wagyu main with onion and apple jam will be a better choice. It's a favourite which has never left the menu. However, there are lamb options for both entrée and main which highlight the smokey flavours – the first a tartar made from crispy neck, quince, sweet onion and accompanied with rustic sourdough. Next door in Cove Cafe, there's a buffet option, but that's best saved for breakfast which has some refreshing samples beyond bacon and eggs. Fresh juice blends, fruit, carved ham off the bone, locally-sourced cheeses, and gourmet sausage are some of the change-ups.

THE KIT

There are a wide variety among the 243 guest rooms, but most overlook the surrounding canals and gardens. Regardless of the type of room, you're immersed in a playground designed for the wealthy. For those wanting to step it up to the top level, the Federation Suite has its own dining table for eight people, complete with flat-screen television. There's a small kitchen, large lounge, four-poster bed, spa, walk-in robe, two more large flat-screen televisions, and just to top it all off, a personal sauna. Oh, there's three furnished balconies. Rooms have been updated and are spotlessly clean. As you overlook the yacht on the canal, pretend it's yours. Little doubt some staying here really have pulled their luxury vessel into the nearby marina. Wow factor is highly evident at the resort.

Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm.
Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm. 

COMFORT FACTOR

This place was set up 25 years ago to be paradise – artificial in that it was created from scratch, yet beauty in accordance with the tasteful eye of its creators. A beach, outdoor spa, games room and restaurants all lie beyond a luxurious reception area where it's evident staff are taught the value of courtesy. Once, the planted palms would have been the only mature plants in these manicured gardens which are now a feature of the development. Albeit not a necessary luxury, those who book a suite get access to the Club Lounge where they can order a free high tea, and pre-dinner drinks. It's open around the clock.

FOOD

Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm.
Sanctuary Cove was designed as a playground for the wealthy, and still retains its old charm. Photo: Simon Holt

The nearby wharf and shopping centre do have café options, but it's a must to eat at least one meal in The Fireplace. For more than 11 years, the furnace at the back of a predominantly open kitchen has been the focal point for beef, lamb and other types of meat. It would be easy to settle on a formula, but sous chef Chris Mcleay prides himself and his international team of chefs on creating innovative flavours, all supported by the smokey flavours of an open grill. The outside herb and vegetable garden provides some of the inspiration – Mr Mcleay provides most of the rest, drawing from his international travels and raw passion.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Plenty of people make their way to Sanctuary Cove for the golf. The Pines and the Palms are still regarded world class, so it's worth packing the clubs and spikes. A warning though that it can be difficult to book on weekends, so jump on the phone in advance. The concierge can help with this.

THE VERDICT

It's tough for 25-year-old hotels to compete in the Queensland market. There are so many 5-star options popping up around the place which provide modern design, and plenty of creature comforts which travellers have come to expect. InterContinental Sanctuary Cove is a clear exception to this rule – the environment which surrounds the hotel remains modern and elite, and the hotel has lost none of its original charm. Rather, it seems that while management could easily have remained buoyed by the corporate and wedding markets, they've taken time to consider how to improve the surrounds and in-room décor. Service here is second to none – cleaners through to senior staff have undergone some intensive training which some other hotels could learn from.

HOW TO GET THERE

With a good run, the drive is less than an hour from Brisbane. On the way to the Gold Coast, take the Hope island exit, and follow the signs to Sanctuary Cove.

ESSENTIALS

InterContintental Sanctuary Cove Resort, Manor Circuit, Sanctuary Cove. Rooms start at $225 in low season. Suites start at around $460. Federation and Manor suites are a step up again. Phone 07 5530 1234, see intercontinentalsanctuarycove.com.