There's the Gold Coast and then the Old Gold Coast. No, we're not referring to the average age of its over-tanned, superannuated populace, but to this resort, all six indulgent, white-washed and marine blue hectares of it. Built in 1987 by the disgraced, and now deceased, Christopher Skase, it's been completely rehabilitated, emerging as one of the most venerable and appealing five-stars, with a hint of glamour, along the 57 kilometres that make up the nation's most hedonistic coastline.
The resort, which was fully refurbished in recent years, is set in Main Beach, the subdued, far northern end of the strip, within walking distance to Sea World, the Marina Mirage shopping mall and the Southport Yacht Club. A safe four kilometres from Surfers Paradise, the beach is easily accessed from the resort compound and from here you can more readily take off to the region's beautiful and contrasting hinterland (see below) without having to make your way through the rest of the coast.
You have to hand it to Skase, corporate scoundrel and fugitive that he turned out to be, for his ambition and vision. In addition to this Mirage on the Gold Coast, he's also built an equivalent at Port Douglas and is credited with having put the Far North Queensland town on the map. Here on the Gold Coast, the resort is one of the nearest equivalents in Australia to the opulent south-east Asian resorts that come complete with colossal centrepiece faux lagoons and saltwater swimming pools. Compared to much of the rest of the Gold Coast, Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, at just three-storeys high, with its 295-rooms is appealingly low level, a pleasant alternative to the sky-piercing behemoths further along the coast.
Due to the resort being tower-free, and therefore spread out, it can be a bit of a hike to the guest wings, not to mention the sizeable underground car park. There are no less than 20 different categories of rooms and suites, including two and three bedroom villas. During a quieter, post-border opening time earlier this year, we scored a spacious and luxuriously appointed one-bedroom suite with spa bath, overlooking the beach and the resort. Despite its untold comforts, with so much to do in, around and outside the resort, we don't end up spending too much time in it.
There's no shortage of classic resort-style dining options within the hotel, including the seafood-oriented Terraces Restaurant, the Oyster Bar & Grill, the easy-going The Deck overlooking the pools and the Oasis Pool Bar with swim-up counter. Don't forget to pack, along with the sunblock, your copy of the The Good Food Guide, which usefully lists a number of leading Gold Coast eateries such as the one-hatted Fish House at Burleigh Heads, a favourite of your reviewer.
The whole of the Gold Coast, of course, awaits, but you must journey to the aforementioned Gold Coast Hinterland. Truly, it's one of the great day trips in Australian travel. You can literally venture from the chill of a misty and drizzly Gondwana rainforest in the middle of the day and be back on the beach dotted with fishermen adjacent to the resort for sunset. What a country. There are some sublime city and sea views from Mount Tamborine, though the township itself is a fizzer. Do take to the steep, and times challenging, mountain road up to O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, a Queensland treasure, perched at about 900 metres. Closer to the resort is the upscale Main Beach high street, replete with seemingly more cafes than actual shops, providing an opportunity to mingle with the chronically laid-back Gold Coasters.
A blast from a not necessarily golden past, this living, breathing, swimming remnant of Queensland so-called white shoe brigade era is a highly-recommended step in the right Gold Coast direction for those who don't find Surfers a paradise.
Rates from $588 per night. Sheraton Grand MirageResort, 71 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, Queensland. Phone: (07) 5577 0000. See marriott.com
This ageless resort balances familiar Gold Coast glitz with a welcome modicum of class
Some guests may find the resort's location a trifle too removed from the Gold Coast action
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Gold Coast.