Love it or hate it, the Gold Coast is one of Australia's icons. Bronzed lifeguards, bikini-clad meter maids, tanned tourists draped with gold jewelry, high-rise apartment towers that cast long shadows over parts of the beach . . . but the glitz, the glitter, and the overdevelopment pale as soon as you hit the beach. The white sands stretch uninterrupted for 70km (43 miles), making up for the long strips of neon-lit motels and souvenir shops. Since the '50s, Australians have flocked to this strip of coastline, and that hasn't changed. Today, they're lining up with tourists from around the world to get into the theme parks, but everyone can still find a quiet spot on the beach.
The Gold Coast's theme parks are not as large or as sophisticated as Disney World, but they're exciting. Apart from the three major parks -- Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, and Sea World -- there are of plenty of smaller ones. There are also 40 golf courses, dinner cruises, and loads of adrenaline-fueled outdoor activities, from bungee jumping to jet-skiing. The best activity on the Gold Coast, though, is the natural kind, and it doesn't cost a cent -- hitting the surf and lazing on the beach.