Australia’s Gold Coast – best known for meter maids, wax museums and wild high school graduation celebrations – is steadily transforming into a global city of commerce. Through mutual effort by the City of Gold Coast Council, international brands, luxury hotels and local businesses, what was once exclusively a surfer’s paradise has made room for both business and leisure.
It’s evident as the kids and I cruise up the Gold Coast Highway. Everywhere we look, 60s-style motels are being replaced by luxury accommodation, towering high-rises and business parks. The city appears as modern as ever.
The breathtaking view from the SkyPoint Observation Deck’s 77th floor makes this even clearer: from sports facilities refreshed for the 2018 Commonwealth Games (and the upcoming Olympics) to the impressive Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard, this is no longer the holiday town of yesteryear.
The city and its denizens are busy rolling out a brand new carpet for when the world comes to town, and with the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games around the corner, the time is right to shine.
When The Langham Gold Coast opened in June of 2022, it was the Gold Coast’s first beachfront hotel in 30 years. And what an impression it makes. With its angle-heavy, fractured black glass design, the triple-tower Jewel residence in which The Langham resides is a dramatic addition to the skyline.
The sight of the towers as we approach is the first of The Langham’s myriad greetings. The second is the delightful scent, which hits us even before we’ve walked in.
The floral fragrance permeates the entire lobby of the luxury hotel; it’s a good match. High ceilings tower over the grays, pinks and golds that accentuate the luxurious, highly polished trappings. Outside, The Langham’s own poolside beach sits just meters away from the real thing. The swim-up bar heightens reality.
The Langham features an almost even split between rooms (169 in total, including suites) and 170 residences managed by the hotel. Our room is a two-bedroom Skyline Ocean Residence with panoramic views for days. The modern, spacious affair is closer to an apartment than a hotel room, making long-term stays extremely appealing.
The Langham prides itself on its many experiences. The room is certainly one; afternoon tea in the lobby’s Palm Court dining room is our next. As the kids indulge in a variety of sweet treats prepared in-house, I share scones with Victoria Peterson, The Langham’s Director of Marketing Communications, as we chat about the hotel’s first year.
“Opening the first beachfront property in one of the world’s most desirable travel destinations was an incredible milestone,” she says. “It’s really given Australians and international travelers a new luxury resort experience through The Langham lens.”
In the lap of luxury
The hotel’s ethos is that every guest is a VIP. This opulent dining space certainly delivers on that, but The Langham doesn’t stop with looks.
From dinner at the fantastic Akoya buffet, where a friendly maitre d’ produces a surprisingly sophisticated coloring kit when an eight-year-old’s energy starts to fade, to our daily vehicular departures, where the porters spare us from opening any door, hospitality at the Langham is top notch.
Other guests we encounter are practically bursting to share their experiences.
During breakfast at Akoya, a woman in front of me at the buffet turns and mouths “wow” as she assesses the morning’s spoils.
“The Gold Coast really needed this,” says an older man as we share an elevator. “It just takes the whole city to a new level.”
Indeed, new luxury tourism offerings such as The Langham appeal to a new market of visitors looking to indulge in luxury travel experiences. That visitorship comes in all shapes and sizes, as I notice during our stay. Families, couples young and old, sports teams and business cohorts all enjoy The Langham’s spoils side by side.
New luxury tourism offerings such as The Langham appeal to a new market of visitors looking to indulge in luxury travel experiences.
The Langham’s restaurants are where this diverse mix comes together. At Akoya, we choose from a variety of different global cuisines, savor its signature gourmet seafood, and even watch as our chosen steaks are cooked before our eyes. Elsewhere, T’ang Court dazzles guests with an Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat Award-winning Cantonese fare.
“Since opening, we’ve seen a mix of international and local travelers from a range of demographics, from large-scale business and conference event delegates to the entertainment market to leisure guests,” Peterson says.
“We’ve had guests that hadn’t considered the city an option before we opened due to a lack of luxury offerings. We’re proud to be a part of the movement that’s really seen the Gold Coast mature.”
That maturity has even spread to the Gold Coast’s famous theme parks. Village Roadshow’s trinity – Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet’n’Wild – are constantly evolving to delight and exhilarate parkgoers. It’s a similar story all over the Gold Coast, which is approaching pre-pandemic tourism levels again.
It’s tough to say goodbye to. When it’s checkout time at The Langham, a thought occurs to me. “Can you buy this scent?”
Perhaps used to the question, the receptionist instantly produces a bottle of Ginger Flower, The Langham’s signature fragrance. When we arrive home, we may miss the luxe life to which we’ve become accustomed, but at least a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.
InterContinental Sanctuary Cove
Sometimes, you just want to get away from it all. Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. Executive travelers find it tough to disconnect themselves from the working world, so accommodation with the requisite facilities score a lot of points.
It’s a fact of life the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove understands all too well. An old hand in the Gold Coast’s hotel community, the five-star Sanctuary Cove has operated as a luxury resort since the late 80s. In 2012, it became the first InterContinental Resort in Australia when the Group took ownership.
Sanctuary Cove’s history in the region means it has a firm handle on the Gold Coast’s demographics. It also knows its own strengths implicitly, says General Manager Matt Rippin.
“The resort’s Northern Gold Coast location sets the scene for the perfect blend of leisure and business,” he says. “Having world-class amenities at your doorstep offers meeting convenience, while having the iconic Gold Coast theme parks, sights and attractions within a short drive of the resort means family fun is never too far away.”
When we return from the theme parks at the end of the day, we’re grateful for the InterContinental buggy waiting to take us to our room. The InterContinental’s 474-hectare grounds include 251 rooms, five eateries and the Lagoon Beach Pool, a sprawling, over 4,000-square-meter sand-bottom swimming spot that’s the centerpiece of the property. Add to this the nearby – and almost as huge – terrace pool and spa, and it’s easy to imagine entire days spent poolside.
The InterContinental can’t be accused of being all play and no work; with its 15 indoor and outdoor event spaces and a team of experienced event planners, it is renowned as a premier meetings and events destination.
Surrounding all of this is the kind of leafy, rural backdrop that makes Sanctuary Cove true to its name. Eastern grey kangaroos are a common sight around the resort, and have become beloved mascots. When we reach our room, two plush kangaroos complete with joeys (and InterContinental shirts) await us.
“Our resort truly is a hidden sanctuary that has the ability to transport guests away from the bustling CBD without compromising on the luxuries typically found in big cities,” Rippin says. “The wide open landscaped grounds and river location all add to the serene retreat feel.”
But the InterContinental can’t be accused of being all play and no work; with its 15 indoor and outdoor event spaces and a team of experienced event planners, it is renowned as a premier meetings and events destination.
“A majority of our business guests travel as attendees or delegates, and we’re very well placed to cater to the most discerning business traveler,” Rippin says.
Chief among those catering services is the dazzling Fireplace restaurant. Each season, Executive Chef Hamish Watt and Head Chef Randy Tablan build a la carte and degustation menus around an impressive onsite wood-fire oven.
Our night at The Fireplace coincides with a large business dinner in a nearby function room which – somehow – has no impact on our wait times, despite putting waitstaff through their paces. We watch as the redgum wood grill works overtime to sear the evening’s worth of steaks, and then we enjoy the spoils.
On one of our Uber journeys to and from Sanctuary Cove, our driver, a resident of nearby Hope Island, tells us what he loves most about living there. “It feels like Queensland used to be,” he says. “It’s an escape.”
With a coconut drink in one hand, my resort-wide high-speed wi-fi-connected iPad in the other and a family of kangaroos lazing just meters away, I can’t disagree with him. We may not be able to escape work, but the least we can do is take it somewhere that makes it an absolute pleasure.
JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa
The idea that businesspeople seldom travel with their families has been eroded in recent years by greater efforts to keep loved ones close. In Queensland, JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa has gone above and beyond to help that cause.
What opened in 1993 as the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa has undergone a dramatic rebranding as a modern luxury hotel under the JW Marriott brand, which is aimed at a higher-end clientele than traditional Marriott locations.
The kids are sold in the first two minutes, when the special lavender welcome drink slakes their thirst for the high life. After check-in, we explore the huge, earthy lobby. Its Grand Staircase, copious greenery and blend of art deco, colonial grandeur and modern luxury transport us to a time when hospitality was a privilege.
While we’re impressed by the concierge library, enormous Grand Ballroom and the various business function rooms and event spaces upstairs (allowing departing participants a moment in the spotlight as they descend that staircase), it’s JW Marriott’s experiences that make the hotel the perfect family option.
The outdoor area is best described as an all-ages playground. Cabanas and palm trees border two enormous pools, a beach bar and even a herb garden that supplies the kitchen with a variety of natural flavors.
The breadth of JW Marriott’s family experiences almost makes the rooms an afterthought.
But, fresh from a multi-million dollar refurb, the pools are the stars of the show. There’s a saltwater lagoon, where clear, warm waves gently wash over sandy shores while guests snorkel beside a well-sized waterfall.
And then there’s the lengthy freshwater pool, which features a whirlpool and a full-bodied waterslide with a frothing current and its own lifeguard. In our case, the waterslide alone is enough cause to negotiate a designated pool day, during which they slide for hours and I get some work done poolside. Win–win.
The sea scooters are a welcome surprise. Available for hourly hire, the sea scooters allow swimmers to dive deep underwater and discover the resident tropical fish as they dart among undersea grottoes.
With all this on offer, it’s no surprise Wotif chose JW Marriott’s pools as the Best Hotel Pool in Australia for 2021.
Inside, the fun continues. There’s the Citrique buffet restaurant and Misono, a large teppanyaki restaurant with a whiskey bar, a live sushi table and an outdoor terrace. The teppanyaki chefs are extremely lively, and dinner quickly becomes a show. By the time our names are written upside down in salt, we’re covered in three courses and wearing rainbow LED sunglasses.
The clearest essence of JW Marriott’s dedication to families is the Family by JW program, a cut above the standard hotel kids club. Kids can make pizza and chocolate with JW’s professional chefs, there’s a Mini Misono sushi making class (and in our case, the results are impressively professional), and for the truly adventurous, a junior mixology class.
Beyond the culinary, there are herb planting courses, scavenger hunts, family yoga lessons and rooftop sports courts.
The breadth of JW Marriott’s family experiences almost makes the rooms an afterthought. Ours is modern and spacious, with muted tones and a wonderful view of the pools far below and the Gold Coast beyond.
Meanwhile, JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa has made working parents a very attractive offer, and many have taken it up. During our stay, I spot multiple instances of that true rarity: parents (including myself) with the time and space to work while the kids are entertained.
And the sheer size of the place means that guests aren’t treading on each others’ toes. A wedding takes place during our stay and, unlike some previous experiences, doesn’t affect us in the slightest.
JW Marriott set out to become the family luxury hotel on the Gold Coast. Whether they’ve achieved that is ultimately up to guests, but here’s an encouraging sign. When it’s time for us to hit the Gold Coast’s theme parks, it’s a struggle to tear the kids away.
When a hotel can hold its own in that respect against the most intense rides in Australia, I’d say that’s mission accomplished.