Want to branch off the well-traveled Sydney to Cairns tourist trail in Australia? Visit Southern Queensland, and head to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I was recently in Australia for 3 weeks exploring this hidden gem that can rival the typical tourists stops any day! It’s still a touristy area – but it’s full of local tourists (Australians) and not international tourists.
Since Southern Queensland is an area where local Australians travel to, it’s really easy to get immersed in the Australian culture while there. The best part is that it doesn’t feel manufactured like many of the normal tourist destinations and attractions.
It’s easy to find local travel experiences in Queensland! But if you need a nudge, here are 10 things I did to travel like a local in the Gold Coast and Brisbane:
1. Speak the Language
Yes I know that English is spoken in Australia – but there are idiosyncrasies that you’ll need to understand if you want to get in touch with your local Aussie side.
For example, take this common question I was asked, “How are you going Sheza?”
Let me just decipher this Aussie speak – first, they are talking to me, Sherry (dubbed Sheza), and they don’t want to know what mode of transportation I’m taking, they are asking how I’m doing. Aussies have a habit of shortening words – especially people’s name. If you are Australian, then you have a nickname. Mine was Sheza. But they don’t just stop at names, they shorten everything. Here were a few of my favorite.
Specky – spectacular
Breaky – breakfast
Cozzie – swimsuit
Slippers – Uggs/boots
Pokies – slot machines
Dinky di – true/genuine
Tinnie – can of beer
Stubbie – bottle of beer
Sunnies – sunglasses
Dunny – toilet
Snag – sausage (as in put a snag on the barby)
Sickie – playing hookie
Schoolies – High-school graduates who have completed their exams take a week-long vacation and they normally go to Surfer’s Paradise whish is known for schoolies.
There’s plenty more Australian slang words where this came from.
2. Take a Walk with a Local
Don’t miss the chance to get local knowledge and a customized tour for things you are interested in via Brisbane Greeters. Simply go to the Greeter website and choose what type of walk you are interested in – history, art, culture, architecture, sport, or aboriginal heritage. This is similar to greeter programs in other cities such as New York City and Belgium. You get shown around by a local who loves living in the area and are super enthusiastic about their city.
I walked around Brisbane learning about outdoor art and history from my local Brisbane Greeter Sue. You can see all of my photography from the 3 hour walk with Sue here.
3. Join a Stand Up Paddle Board Group
I booked with Go Vertical SUP Hire, which is run by Linda, a local who lives on the Gold Coast. Go Vertical is more of a local operation than a tourist operation – she said that she doesn’t actually get many tourists, but they are always welcome! She holds stand up paddle groups weekly as well as weekend getaways and she has a bunch of regulars attending for the exercise and social aspect of SUP on the Gold Coast. I went out with a couple of other local beginners and we SUP’d for an hour around the rivers/canals of the Surfer’s Paradise.
4. Sushi Train
Australians love sushi – but they love it even more when it’s delivered by train! Every Japanese restaurant I went to or walked by in Southern Queensland always had a bar area where color coated plates of sushi were paraded before the hungry guests on a conveyor belt. If you’ve never had sushi from a train before, then you need to give it a go. You simply pick what you want off the conveyor belt and it’s priced based on the color of the plate. The plates are saved and counted up at the end to determine your bill.
5. Know Your Coffee
The label reads – “2013 Reserve – A complex, full bodied blend featuring flavors of peanut butter, salted caramel, and dark chocolate”. No, this isn’t a wine label – it’s my coffee from locally created Di Bella Coffee. Aussies love their coffee, and I love it too. Flat white, short black, long black – coffee in Australia is serious stuff and it comes with it’s own language. Check out the many coffee cafes around the Gold Coast area and be sure to order using your new coffee language.
Short Black – Espresso
Long Black – Espresso with hot water
Flat White – Espresso with steamed milk
Drip Coffee – Filtered Coffee
More Australian Coffee Terms
6. Go to the Opera
I’m not talking about the Sydney Opera House – instead go a bit more low-brow local and try opera on the beach. At the Gold Coast they want to take advantage of every sandy outdoor moment they can, so they took opera out of the theatre and put it on the beach. In conjunction with Opera Australia, occasionally you can enjoy opera under the stars like the one I attended, The Magic Flute. Sit in low chairs in the sand, sip champagne, and listen to Mozart with the accompanying crashing waves for percussion. The beach chairs were mainly filled with locals who came to see this massive production.
7. Know Where the Locals Surf
If you want to surf with the locals, then stay away from Surfers Paradise (despite the name). Local surfers don’t really go to Surfers Paradise to surf – they head further south to Coolangatta to places like Snapper Rocks, Currumbin Alley, and Kirra. And if you go at sunset you’ll catch the locals out riding waves AND you’ll get some great sunset photography!
8. Visit the Surf Clubs
You don’t have to know how to surf to go to a surf club. You just have to be hungry and have a desire to dig into the local culture. Surf Clubs in Australia are normally found on the beach of each little town on the coast. They typically have a life saving club component and a bar/food component to them. It’s sort of like a sports bar and it’s a big social gathering point for locals. You must love greasy bar food and great beach views!
9. Cook for Yourself
The best way to be local is to stay at an apartment overlooking the beach. Enjoy trips to the market and cook for yourself so that you can save money for all of the other local activities! And as long as you are at the market, be sure to try the local food snacks like Tim Tams and Vegemite. You can easily rent an apartment up and down the Gold Coast and stock your kitchen with your favorite local seafood and snacks. Plus – lots of the condos and apartment rentals have access to grills so you can throw shrimp on the barby and have yourself a local dinky –di Australian BBQ. You can’t get more local than that!
10. Take a Long Walk on the Beach
The Gold Coast beach near Broad beach is extremely flat and wide, making it the perfect place to go for a walk or a run. When I’d go out for a morning walk or run on the beach I would meet locals who would stop me and ask me where I was from, how long I was staying, and how I liked the area. After a few days I felt like I had a routine seeing some of the same people out every day.