If you are arriving at the Gold Coast by air, then chances are the first glimpse you have of this wonderful holiday area will be the “Twin Towns” of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads. Coolangatta Airport straddles the boundary of Queensland and New South Wales although for all practical purposes the airport is regarded as being in Queensland – important to remember during the warmer months when the southern states are on daylight saving time but Queensland is still on Eastern Standard Time.

Coolangatta, Queensland’s most southerly town, has special memories for me. Growing up, I had an Aunt that had a holiday apartment above a newsagency on Marine Parade and it was a place we used to visit whenever we could for holidays. That place has long gone and today, returning to the Coast after an absence of 20 years, I don’t even recognise where it used to be.

But the charm of Coolangatta remains and if you are spending any time on the Gold Coast, it is well worth a visit – especially if you are here enjoying a family holiday. This part of the Coast is very child friendly. The beaches are magnificent and among the best the Gold Coast has to offer. There are wide expanse of promenade, barbecue areas and children’s playgrounds along the foreshore, and of course, plenty of beachside restaurants offering a wide choice of tasty options for all tastes and budgets. Choose between Kirra Beach, Coolangatta Beach and Rainbow Bay on the Queensland side of the border, or step across Boundary Street and enjoy the most northerly beaches of New South Wales. These beaches are a little quieter although not patrolled by lifesavers so approach with caution.

There is only one such ocean beach north of the Tweed River; popularly known as Flagstaff Beach, many locals call it Duranbah Beach so it can be a little confusing to the uninitiated. Flagstaff Beach is to be found just below Point Danger, the headland which is a favoured spot for tourists and locals alike and which marks the state border. Here you can picnic on beautifully landscaped lawns, have your photo taken at the Captain Cook Memorial, walk along the cliff and learn about all the local shipwrecks or simply pause and enjoy the breathtaking views all the way along the coastline to Surfers Paradise.

Flagstaff Beach is a favoured spot of surfers and you can access this beach from Point Danger by travelling along Boundary Street and making a left turn at Coral Street.

Another option on the New South Wales side and ideal for families wishing to explore further, is to head further along Boundary Street, past the famous Twin Towns Services Club and the Anzac Memorial to the Jack Evans Boat Harbour on the northern bank of the Tweed River. Jack Evans was the local pioneer of dolphin training back in the 1940s. He died only around five years ago and this area is a permanent memorial to a true pioneer of Gold Coast tourist attractions.

This sheltered bay offers another sandy beach, quiet waters and (of course) the chance to spend some time dolphin watching. Locals claim that the mouth of the Tweed River abounds in this friendly marine mammal.  Off street parking is available in Bay Street. At the moment the Tweed Shire Council is in the process of completing a $10 million upgrade of the foreshore area but this work will be completed by Christmas 2010.

If you are in the area, keep an eye out for “Big Trev” who for the past 15 years has run a boat hire business from this beach. For those wishing to get out on the water instead of in it, Big Trev offers a choice of paddle boats, kayaks and sailboats for hire for a very reasonable $40 an hour and for an extra $10 he will throw in a sailing lesson. For those anxious about their sea legs but feeling in need of exercise, he also offers bike hire from the same spot.

The twin towns have a quite different atmosphere from Surfers Paradise but those that live in the area claim that there is no better place to be. While the area, especially along the ocean beach, is now populated with high-rise holiday apartments and trendy restaurants, it still retains the distinctive laid-back charm I remember from my youth. Long may it remain so.

Original photos available at