Though it appears separated from The Star Gold Coast Casino by several hundred metres, an elevator transports you straight into the casino with its ever-increasing offering of restaurants, bars and gaming floors – you need never see daylight, if that's your fancy. Queensland's largest shopping centre, Pacific Fair (with 420 specialty stores) is across the road, as is Broadbeach, one of the Gold Coast's most chic restaurant and bar destinations.
The Darling is the centrepiece for The Star Gold Coast's luxurious transformation. It's come a long way from the original model, Jupiter's Casino, which opened in 1985. These days there's more than a little of the opulence of Vegas, Macau and Monte Carlo about the place, though its style is inspired by its coastal surroundings. Therefore, abundant floor-to-ceiling windows take in beaches and the hinterland – particularly at The Darling's top level bar and restaurant where the beautiful people sit in lounges by an infinity pool spilling out on to the glitter strip below.
There's only 57 suites spread across a 19-storey building, so you can gather every suite is going to be big (even the entry level suites are 70 square metres). I've been allocated a Southern Penthouse Deluxe Suite, which boasts a space of 328 square metres. Even the balcony – which looks across the mountains of the hinterland and the suburbs of the southern Gold Coast – is a whopping 80 square metres. My suite has its own billiard table room, and two king bedrooms. I'm told the Pope uses the same sheets that I have on my king bed, though I doubt he has a pillow menu offering five options (I opt for Boomerang) and my toilet is fully automated. In fact, every room has full automation, staying here like's living in the future.
There's some of the better Italian and Japanese dishes available anywhere on the Gold Coast at The Star Casino, but The Darling's piece de resistance is its new fine dining restaurant, Nineteen At The Star. Located on the hotel's top floor, it's flanked by an infinity pool and revellers meet at the region's hippest new lounge bar just next door. But the restaurant is all about intimacy (think: cosy booths surrounded by towering wine racks). Bring your Visa, no main selection is under $46, but my Grilled Patagonian Toothfish is the best fish dish I've ever eaten. Caviar is served up in 30 or 50 gram increments, in case you're interested.
Staying here feels like you're visiting a more tropical (and more intimate) version of Vegas. From the good looking DJs and ever-so-chic patrons at the Nineteen At The Stars' lounge bar, to the Gatsby-like vibe of The Star's Garden Bar, some guests probably never leave the premises. But Broadbeach is only a few hundred metres east: it's home to over 50 restaurants and bars, while party icon, Surfers Paradise, is just a five minute drive away. And consider emerging foodie hot-spots, Mermaid and Nobby Beach, they're just a five minute drive away too.
What are you looking for? If it's your atypical Gold Coast beach holiday hotel, you'll be disappointed. Just as it is in Vegas, the views from your room are mesmerising, but the focus at The Darling is on the inside: it's all about luxuriating in your own private universe. From the moment you enter the lobby (where hundreds of glass beads drape from a black dragon marble ceiling, apparently resembling a jellyfish), the outside world doesn't really matter any more.
Don't come looking for a bargain. Entry-level suites (Jewel) cost $1288, Penthouse Suites $4688 while Penthouse Deluxe Suites (choose between billiard suites, media suites or exercise suites, cost $5888). The Darling at The Star Gold Coast, Broadbeach Island, Broadbeach, Queensland. Ph: 1800 074 344. See star.com.au/goldcoast/hotels-and-spa/the-darling
Service is what sets The Darling apart – forget the Valrhona chocolates, the Italian-made Frette bathrobes and the spanner crab omelet for breakfast (with caviar), it's the staff's attention to detail that makes staying here truly exceptional (how do they all know my name?)
Despite sleeping in some of the largest suites of any Australian hotel, you can feel claustrophobic in a world surrounded by bright lights and fancy furnishings (did anyone say Vegas?).
Craig Tansley was a guest of The Darling At The Star Gold Coast