"Welcome back," says the receptionist handing me my room key as I check-in to the The Star Grand. I stare blankly, thinking there's been some mistake. "I've never stayed here," I reply, standing beside my bestie who's flown in from Sydney for a glamorous girls' weekend. "Well, it was almost 18 years ago," she replies. As the lift whizzes us up to the executive floor, it hits me: I stayed here in its former incarnation as Jupiter's Hotel and Casino. The 596-room hotel, part of The Star Gold Coast, looks so completely different I failed to recognise it.
Fresh from an $850 million transformation to the entire Star complex – northern sister to The Star, Sydney and new home to the Logies – the makeover is one of Australia's most extensive. It includes 11 new dining and bar offerings such as the one-hat Kiyomi, Cucino Vivo and the latest addition – the swish rooftop Nineteen atop The Star's new luxury suite hotel, The Darling, which is where we find ourselves with a signature coconut and chilli martini in hand watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
The Star is found in Broadbeach, or "Broadie" as the locals know it, just south of bustling Surfers Paradise. It offers a relaxed stay for couples, families and groups of friends along its long stretch of surf beach bordered by beautiful parks, with a liberal dash of coastal chic thrown in.
We're staying in the neighbouring tower to The Star's glamorous younger sister The Darling, looking out over towering skyscrapers and waterways to the hinterland beyond. As far as the eye can see is the stomping ground of my youth, where I'd flee Tamborine Mountain for surfing, swimming and the bright lights of the coast. A third hotel and apartment tower is planned on the Broadbeach Island site.
Located on levels 18 and above, the luxurious new executive rooms come with plush carpet underfoot, King beds (or twin doubles), an unbelievably comfortable mattress topper called "The Cloud", pillow menu, L'Occitane amenities, rain shower, and clever technology that allows you to dim the lights, adjust the temperature, or open the blinds at the push of a button. Executive guests also receive pressing of two garments on arrival. Thrilled at the prospect of someone else doing the ironing, we hurriedly send off two dresses. They're returned shortly afterwards, ready for us to get out and explore.
Not that you actually need to leave the premises. Everything you could possibly desire, bar the beach, can be found under one enormous roof (the complex covers seven acres). We start the day with a leisurely breakfast and freshly squeezed OJ in the alfresco annexe of the Garden Kitchen and Bar, where mini bottles of Moet and Chandon can be purchased from a vending machine. After lounging by the pool, we settle in for a leisurely three-course lunch at the Imperial (try the spicy chicken with kung pao sauce) for $27.50 per person (glass of wine $5 extra).
Feeling soporific, we both head off in opposite directions. I take a long walk along the white Pandanus fringed sands of Broadbeach (10 minutes from the hotel), followed by coffee at No Name Lane. My friend heads over to the gargantuan Pacific Fair Shopping Centre for some retail therapy.
We meet up for dinner at the much lauded Kiyomi where hatted chef Chase Kojima (who has cooked with Nobu) dishes up spectacular sashimi, and Californian rolls with a Queensland twist, made with spanner crab, soy paper and avocado. We imbibe in shochu cocktails before heading upstairs and collapsing in a food coma on our dreamy pillow-topped beds. I may not have recognised this 33-year-old Gold Coast icon at first, but a tasteful nip and tuck has left her looking particularly becoming.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of The Star Gold Coast.
From $278 for a superior deluxe room; $413 for an executive deluxe king room including breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapes, complimentary valet parking, pressing of two garments upon arrival, turn down service, Wi-Fi, refreshments and express check-in, check-out.