Holidays in Australia: why the Gold Coast is the perfect place to party
Blues on Broadbeach is part of a comprehensive program of free annual festivals on the Gold Coast. Photo / Tourism and Events Queensland
It’s weird walking into a bar at 8:00 in the morning. Especially when most people already have a drink in hand. But this is no ordinary weekend.
Once a year, the Blues on Broadbeach music festival visits the Gold Coast with some of the world’s finest jazz, blues, R&B and soul musicians. It’s one of Australia’s biggest free music festivals with four days of incredible performances that cost nothing.
Add in the famous local beaches, restaurants and things to do and you have the perfect trip.
I’m here for a long weekend and start each day chatting with fellow festival goers waiting to enter The Loose Moose bar which opens for breakfast with a side order of blues.
During this laid-back morning, tables are shared and coffee, rather than alcohol, is the order of the day. Our breakfast buddies are regulars at the festival which has been going on for 21 years. They are great company and share their insider tips with my husband and I – newbies to Blues on Broadbeach.
Their first suggestion is to head to the Oasis Shopping Center to listen to festival favorite Kelly Penney, a New Zealand-born musician who now lives on the Gold Coast.
Many festival-goers are already settled on low camping chairs that don’t block the view, a good investment if you don’t like standing too long. Penney’s smooth jazz and mellow harmonies quickly attract downtown shoppers, a few swing dancers create an impromptu dance floor, and soon the joint is popping.
So here we are over the next few days as we rush from show to show. With multiple venues including four large outdoor stages, bars, restaurants and more, there’s plenty to see and a huge variety of blues-inspired music to choose from.
But this year, not everything is going as planned. Just like the great Bessie Smith of the blues, we have the ‘Standin’ in the Rain Blues’, but even 100mm of rain a day can’t dampen everyone’s enthusiasm when it comes to getting along. with shows. Even the outdoor ones.
This is how we find ourselves huddled under an umbrella in front of the main stage one evening, enjoying the powerful voice of Karise Eden through a shimmering curtain of raindrops.
The winner of The Voice Australia’s first season, she shares Adele’s powerful vocal style (and down-to-earth sass) and commands the stage with such authority that time dare not stop her show.
The next day we have lunch at a restaurant that doubles as a live music venue and order some of Queensland’s famous seafood while jazz and blues guitar maestro Robbie Karena joins us in the afternoon.
The organizers did a wonderful job of moving as many acts inside as possible and our lunch reminded me of a blues club dinner party where meals come with a show. It’s tempting to stay for dessert, but we’re in the mood for a little chat and head to The Broadbeach.
The driving guitars and tight rhythms of the Aussie boogie band keep our feet moving inside the pub which is only for those lucky enough to find a seat. The crowd is mostly blues fans over 50 (including the lead singer’s mom who gets a shout out from her son and a round of applause from the audience), but there are enough free music festivals on the Gold Coast for all ages and musical tastes.
The next morning, the rain is torrential, the outdoor grounds look like swimming pools and the organizers have to close all but one of the stages. Our eyes are on the Blues on Broadbeach app for program updates, but we’re in luck.
Osaka Monaurail, Japan’s premier funk orchestra, is still going according to plan, so we don rain ponchos, grab our umbrellas, and slide and slide through the mud to the front of the only stage still open.
There aren’t many people at the start of the show, but that changes when the mighty horn section kicks in and the band’s funky take on classic songs by Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and James Brown reverberates across Broadbeach.
Osaka Monaurail turns 30, it’s the band’s last night in town and they’re here to have fun. The crowd begins to swell when guest saxophonist Sir Waldo Weathers, who has played with James Brown himself, takes the stage and steps it up a notch.
Sharp costumes, synchronized routines and the roar of the crowd make everyone forget about the rain, including the band, which was due to finish 10 minutes ago. Lead vocalist Ryo Nakata glides across the stage in one fluid motion and gestures toward the horn section, whipping the musicians into a wall of sound that begins to grow, accompanied by cheers from the crowd. Nothing can dampen our enthusiasm for Osaka Monaurail as the set – and the weekend – draws to a close.
Choose your Gold Coast Music Festival
Can’t wait for the next Blues on Broadbeach festival? Here’s what else is coming to the GC later this year.
Spring is supported by youth radio station triple j and free. It brings high-profile bands like Thelma Plum, surf-garage rock trio Skegss and electronic hip-hop duo Hermitude to the beaches and streets of Surfers Paradise from September 2-4.
Roadtrip Music Festival celebrates the indie-folk lifestyle and will feature some of Australia’s finest indie-folk musicians and bands. With themes of freedom, life on the road, surfing and the outdoors, the one-day festival will prepare music lovers for the hot summer months ahead. September 18. roadtripmusic.com.au
Underground Water Country Music Festival is in town October 28-30 with three days of free live music. It features a mix of local talent and international and up-and-coming artists like Fanny Lumsden, Gina Jeffreys and Kaylee Bell from New Zealand.
beyond the blues
From hanging out between sets to visiting off-season festivals, there’s plenty to do on the Gold Coast to keep visitors entertained.
Dine and drink wine
Broadbeach is home to some of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast. Social Eating House and Bar is a lively restaurant and bar where dishes are designed to be shared, making it a great place to dine with a group.
Miss Moneypenny’s offers casual fine dining with dim lighting and excellent service. Uncle Su prepares yum-cha for lunch and fine Chinese cuisine in an elegant setting. For something more laid back, there is the Bavarian Bier Cafe where European beers and good times go hand in hand.
Out and about
If you’re looking for things to do around Broadbeach, The Star Gold Coast offers a wealth of entertainment, from guitar duets to ABBA tribute shows, free movies and the chance to try your luck at the casino.
The Pacific Fair Mall has hundreds of stores, ranging from department stores to high-end designer boutiques, and an indoor and outdoor tropical vibe. On the first and third Sunday of each month, Broadbeach Markets offer handmade finds, quirky souvenirs and ocean views.
Day trips beyond Broadbeach
Swap the beach for the Great Barrier Reef with a day trip to Lady Elliot Island. Take off from the Gold Coast at 6:45am for a 90-minute scenic flight to one of the few islands located directly on the reef.
Guests on a day trip get their own dedicated guide who takes care of everything from showing people around the island to finding the biggest turtles to swim with on the included glass-bottom boat and the snorkeling trip. After a delicious buffet lunch, you’ll have time to soak up the sun, stroll around the island, spot rare nesting birds, or do another snorkel before the return flight to the Gold Coast.
Or you can head into the hills on a day trip to Lamington National Park with Southern Cross Tours. Along the way, you’ll stop at scenic lookout points, hand-feed native parrots in every color of the rainbow, bounce along a treetop boardwalk in the listed rainforest heritage site, explore a scenic walking trail and spot native birds with a local expert. guide.
Canungra Valley Vineyards is the perfect place to stop for an afternoon glass of wine and a bite to eat before the tour returns to Broadbeach.
Gold Coast Checklist
Air New Zealand and Jetstar fly direct from Auckland to the Gold Coast.
For more things to see and do in the area, go to destinationgoldcoast.com