Travel: Going for Gold


Masked as a work experience placement, Alison Lee took advantage of a trip Down Under and experienced the Gold Coast’s many luxuries

Ah me, the life of a vet student. Clocking up twenty-two weeks of work experience during our “holidays” is no picnic. However, but it’s not all bad, especially when you cheat a little and bag yourself a placement at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, in Queensland’s Gold Coast, Australia.

This state’s coastline is famed for its beaches and theme parks, while the untamed interior is renowned for being home to more venomous animals than you could shake a stick at. (Note to prospective tourists: shaking sticks at these critters is not recommended). The Gold Coast is classed as a city, but it’s really a sprawling suburbia, with highways connecting small towns, malls and resorts like Surfer’s Paradise.

If you’re searching for tranquillity, culture, art and architecture, this is probably an area to avoid. But if you’re happy to party, hit the beach and make friends, then the Gold Coast is the place for you.

There’s no dodging the fact that travelling to Australia involves an expensive long-haul flight with at least two connections. The Gold Coast has its own tiny airport in Coolangatta, and Brisbane airport also makes a convenient destination. To make life easier, search for cheaper airfares, short stopovers, and have your luggage transferred from plane to plane for you and don’t forget to apply for a visa.

Australia has been the backpackers’ capital of the world for years, so you won’t be short of budget accommodation options. The Coolangatta YHA became my home for a four-week placement. This hostel wasn’t especially cheap, but it boasted great facilities and lovely, helpful staff.

Adventurous types will definitely not be bored on the Gold Coast. You can give watersports like surfing, snorkelling and scuba-diving a whirl, or brave a bungee jump or skydiving session.

If Steve Irwin hasn’t entirely put you off Australian wildlife, there are plenty of zoos to visit. These include the excellent Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and Australia Zoo, founded by the Crocodile Hunter himself. Whale watching is a must in the winter, when humpbacks migrate along Australia’s east coast, and there’s a rake of theme parks like Seaworld, Movieworld and Dreamworld to choose from.

If you’re not too exhausted after all this sightseeing, then hit Surfer’s Paradise at the weekend, and don’t forget to blow some cash in one of the Gold Coast’s many casinos.

My only regret was that five weeks was far too short a time to spend in this amazing country. If you go to Australia, go the whole hog and spend at least a few months travelling, sightseeing and working and be sure to include the stunning Gold Coast on your itinerary.