Standing on the sun-kissed shores of Surfers Paradise main beach, dwarfed by the towering residential apartments which hug the shore, it is hard imagine that in 1930 – as the first Commonwealth Games were taking place in Canada – this sprawling stretch of Queensland’s south coast was a string of tiny, idyllic seaside villages connected by dirt tracks. Indeed, it would be a few decades before the term ‘Gold Coast’ would come into existence.
When the Queen’s Baton arrives on the Gold Coast in April, ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games (4 to 15 April), it will signal a remarkable transformation for Australia’s sixth largest city, which has built its reputation – and large parts of its economy – on sun, surf and sand.
While entrepreneurship has always been key to the Gold Coast’s meteoric rise, the Baton’s arrival also heralds a subtler transformation which has been under way on the Gold Coast in recent years. As it unshackles itself from its lively party image, the Gold Coast is emerging as an outward-looking hub for innovation, particularly in education, the creative industries and health sciences, with a flourishing freelance culture.
Life as a freelancer
People are naturally drawn to the Gold Coast from all around the world for its stunning beaches, so a daily early morning walk and swim is a popular way to start your day. If you are tempted into the impossibly blue Pacific Ocean, be sure to swim only between the red and yellow flags, which are patrolled by Australia’s iconic surf lifesavers.
Of course, the Gold Coast is home to some of the most famous surf breaks on earth. Plan a lesson or two with one of the many surf schools focused around the safer beaches. Bringing your own board? The transport planners have your interests at heart – the new Gold Coast Light Rail, which connects many of the popular surf beaches, has purpose-built surfboard racks!
Once you have refreshed, tap into the thriving and mature coffee culture by heading to one of the many oceanside cafés to catch up on emails. There are plenty to choose from around Burleigh Heads, which it is said juts out into the ocean south of Surfers Paradise like a comma – the perfect place to pause.
Burleigh Heads is also home to Burleigh Space, one of the many co-working spaces that pepper the city’s coastal suburbs, focusing on professionals in the creative and technical sectors. Heading slightly inland, more co-working spaces have been set up near the telecommunications and education hub of Varsity Lakes.
The Gold Coast is spread out along 53 kilometres of coastline, and the city encompasses several quaint inland towns and communities interspersed among breathtaking subtropical rainforest and hinterland landscapes, so there is plenty to see on the weekends. Edgy Byron Bay is an hour’s journey south along the main highway.
Before you start working as a freelancer, you must obtain a valid work visa. You will also need to apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number), which is both a fairly simple process and free. Head to abr.gov.au for more information.
How to get there and where to stay
Getting to the Gold Coast has become increasingly easy, as you would expect for a city soon to host the Commonwealth Games. There are direct flights into the Gold Coast from many cities in Asia and almost all large Australian cities, particularly Melbourne and Sydney.
You can also catch a bus or train south from the Queensland capital, Brisbane. The journey from Brisbane Airport takes just over an hour and a half, and you can connect at Helensvale to the Light Rail, which takes you directly into Southport.
From Southport, the Light Rail runs parallel to the coast, connecting Main Beach and Surfers Paradise with Broadbeach. Plans are under way to extend the Light Rail south to Burleigh Heads and eventually to the Gold Coast Airport near Coolangatta. In the meantime, public buses run reliably to the southern and inland regions.
One thing the Gold Coast has is plenty of accommodation. From backpacker hostels to world-leading five-star hotels, there is something for everyone’s budget, and the onset of the Commonwealth Games has provided the impetus for the construction of a number of new accommodation offerings.
There is also a lively share accommodation scene, especially around the more picturesque coastal suburbs. A useful website is flatmates.com. au, while Gumtree is also popular in Australia.
With over 300 days of sunshine annually, there really is no bad time of year to move to the Gold Coast.
By Chris Piggott-McKellar