The Gold Coast, Queensland

I have had encouragement from some quarters to make a return to blogging, something I have put on the back-burner for many months now. Imagine my surprise to discover a half-finished draft post sitting in the system, dating back to MARCH –  yes, March, and our road trip north to Queensland. So there is no better place to start again, than to take up where I last finished off.

To recap. I had been invited to a high school reunion, to take place over three nights in Bellingen NSW. Given many of us had not seen each other for forty-five years, it was a pretty scary concept. But we all survived. Then my husband, Bill, flew up to join me; and we took off in Tamara Grace (the 2011 BMW 20i white convertible that my brother left me when he passed last year), and we headed off, first to Casino, and then to the Gold Coast, where we rested for five days.

And this is what I had to say about that experience . . .


Our “rest” period on the Gold Coast lasted for five nights, checking in on the afternoon of Wednesday 6th March until Monday 11th March (2019). I thought I should throw those dates in, because when I get so behind in my posts, as I am now, sometimes friends think I am actually on holidays at this moment. Regrettably, it seems the days when I could travel and blog contemporaneously appear to be behind me.

Many of my overseas followers may not recognise the generic term, “Gold Coast“, but they may recognise “Surfers Paradise“.  So, in order to orient everyone – with apologies to those who already know – it is in Queensland, just over the border from New South Wales. It’s a coastal strip that runs for about 60klms (38 mi) north of the border. If you get to Brisbane (the capital of Qld), you’ve gone too far.

It used to be the place to holiday, before international travel was so easy and so cheap. Even now, its pristine beaches, theme parks, nightclubs, entertainment, shopping, attractions, proximity to rainforests and bushwalking, make it a major drawcard. Senior students graduating from high school love to flock there for “schoolies week” . . .  and some of them come back 🙂 Even if somewhat worse for wear.

Bill and I had a “not-so-fabulous” holiday there early in our marriage. One of the downsides is that it became so popular that the beachfront is lined with high-rise apartment blocks, shadowing the beaches, and that has only extended in the intervening years.

However, as Sydney spreads and over-populates, many people find the lure of the north irresistible, and a portion of those settle on this coast. Therefore, a number of relatives and friends are now up “here”. The main reason we went is to see grand-daughter #2, who went up to visit another set of grandparents for Christmas 2017, and forgot to come home. In addition to seeing her, we booked lunch dates with other family and friends.

Our AirBnb was a granny-flat, part of a suburban house, so we avoided the high-rise and tourist melee which is literally just up the road. It has an outdoor pergola area so we had room to stretch out. Our grand-daughter visited, and we visited her, in another nearby suburban area fringed by water and rainforest. There are many “canal” homes in this region. You can read more about them here.

So it was a funny kind of visit. We went to “Surfers”, but we didn’t go to surf, swim, sunbathe, thrill-ride, shop, gamble or party. We were in bed early most nights – in fact, I was still so exhausted I was practically asleep on my feet by 8pm. I can only put that down to a reaction from the build-up to the three-day school reunion of the previous week. Perhaps the anxiety of seeing so many people after so many years took a delayed toll. Also, it was still hot and humid – I’d been complaining of this for days – so it was pleasant to sit under the pergola and let darkness drift in around us. Turning the light on was not a great idea, unless you wanted to invite any number of flying insects.

However, when we found ourselves with an unexpected free day we decided to catch up on something we skipped on the drive up. We re-traced our route back across the border, back south into New South Wales, our destination being the Tweed Regional Art Gallery in Murwillimbah.

The drawcard was the Australian female artist, Margaret Olley (1923 – 2011).

Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley at the Art Gallery of NSW, 15 April 2011 (Photograph: Robyn Sweaney)

She is one of those delightedly off-the-wall, beyond eccentric, characters who enrich life with their special way of seeing the world. You can read her official biography here. Although born in nearby Lismore, she spent much of her life in inner-Sydney Paddington, where she created a haphazard living and studio space. After her death, the items left behind were catalogued and photographed in-situ, then some rooms were recreated at the Murwillimbah gallery and re-installed, piece by piece.

“In 1964, Olley bought a terrace house and adjoining former hat factory in Duxford Street in the inner Sydney suburb of Paddington. This home and studio became almost as famous as the artist herself. With richly coloured walls, it was jam-packed with thousands of objects, many of which featured as subjects in her artworks. It appeared chaotic but actually was arranged by the artist like a still life.”

Here’s a sample of what I mean.

Margaret Olley Gallery Murwillimbah (4)Margaret Olley Gallery Murwillimbah (3)Margaret Olley Gallery Murwillimbah (5)Margaret Olley Gallery Murwillimbah (2)


Margaret Olley was a still-life and interior painter, mostly painting what she saw around her, but she was also a landscape painter. There was a time when Barry Humphries, he (she) of the Dame Edna fame  invited her to his apartment overlooking Circular Quay. Late in life, and in need of a walking frame, after having given herself a “serve” in her younger years, the result is not necessarily her best, e.g.

Margaret Olley Gallery Murwillimbah (1)

BUT  is on account of this era that my cousin had sent me in search of her triptych of Sydney Harbour, which is discussed in this article. Since he had grown up in Lavender Bay, he was particularly interested to know whether that artwork had captured his former home. The Tweed Art Gallery does not have it. In fact, it’s current whereabouts seems uncertain. If you have the time, though, I recommend you read the article. If you don’t have the time, I’ll leave you with this, attributed to the then 88 year old:

“This is going to be my final homage to the city I fell in love with six decades ago . . . The emphysema is encroaching fast. The end isn’t far away. . . . The doctor tells me I have to choose between oxygen and smoke. I chose smoke because I need it to get the job done. And so many people I know who gave up smoking have died long before me.”

57 thoughts on “The Gold Coast, Queensland

      • I have been thinking about how we used to live and how we might have to live in the future. I am afraid I am genuinely worried after watching lectures by Prof Will Steffen. He often uses Canberra as a positive example of what is possible, but overall his lectures are not as easy watch.

        Liked by 1 person

          • He is very watchable and he explains the science in an accessible way without be patronising. He referred to Canberra (in one of his lectures on YouTube) when mentioning how cities can approach urban renewal and sustainability. I read that he was involved with the research group for Canberra Urban and Regional Futures. I am guessing as you live not far away you’ve got your own experiences of what’s happening there?

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          • I’m really going to have to catch up on his arguments for supporting Canberra’s urban sustainability. It’s a purpose-built, planned city, famous for it’s confusing roundabouts, sprawl, and car dependency. It also has all our national buildings and so looks good on the surface.

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  1. It is so good to see you writing about touring your own country and singing the praises of an artist (a woman of an earlier generation too). She was certainly one rowing her own boat which, in a slightly convoluted way, brings me back to your comment about the Gold Coast’s popularity before international travel was so easy and so cheap. I think that the Gold Coast maybe about to see a boost in its numbers of homegrown travellers as the Climate Crisis begins to bite. There is already talk here of more than simply off-setting to reduce carbon footprints with schemes to charge people significantly more the more they fly.

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    • I’ve been reading a bit about the no-fly movement. It makes sense in Europe where there are ready alternatives. I remember when I had my first Eurailpass in 1978, the awe in which I held main railway stations with their mini-cities; showers, storage, and so on. It didn’t hurt that I love train travel, too.
      The distances in Australia are so great, and interstate train services infrequent (you remember the train to Broken Hill only goes once a week? 🙂 ) I doubt whether it will get much traction here for a while.
      I think you’ll like the next leg of our road trip. We went via The Scenic Rim and Mount Tamborine, a section of the Great Dividing Range that runs down the east coast of Australia.

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  2. Thank you for writing this post. I can identify on reunions of classmates who have not seen each other since the late 1960s or mid-1970s. I only have to do them for a few hours, and it’s interesting to be able to recognise their voices and eyes more than their looks.
    I was glad to look up the area on Google maps to know where you were on your trip

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  3. Great to see a new post from you Gwen! Since I have never visited this part of the world I can only see it through your written description. Am impressed that you are brave enough to attend a reunion of your classmates – cannot imagine doing the same and would be at a complete loss. After being on the run for over a year now, am returning to Oregon in December – getting a taste of South Africa’s summer before returning to an Oregon winter… All best! Sue


    • I am sure you’ll be happy to be home and settled for a little while – until that restless spirit has you on the move again. I only saw a glimpse of Oregon last year – but I certainly loved what I saw. December, though. Chilly times ahead.
      I’ve pulled out the brochures I collected on the last road trip, and between those and the photographs, I should be able to reconstruct what we did. Already random memories are coming back. So hopefully I’ll quarantine a bit of time for catching up. The next episode is a little bushwalk. xxx Gwen


    • Thank you Don. It’s good to be back. And I love your take on my title.

      I don’t think you’ve had the opportunity to read my book, so I’ll share where the title came from. I sense you’ll understand.

      “We know not what we are born into. Some are born into wealth; and some are born into poverty. Some are born to nurturing; and some are born to neglect. We know nothing of this in our first moments in the world. What we share in our moment of birth, all of us – is we are all born to the loss of the womb, the haven that has been our sole connection to another living being. In that moment of loss begins our search to belong, to be embraced and encircled by an invisible thread which connects us one to the other. But my thread was broken, and I belonged to no one, nowhere.”

      It’s a lament to the day I signed adoption papers for my son, who was two years old at the time. My lack of resources had driven me to that point. Well, that’s the simple version, anyway.


  4. A friend of mine also went up to see the Olley exhibition and enjoyed it. We too, are over the hassles of the overcrowded Sydney’s ‘me too’ society with neither the City of Sydney council nor the State government doing anything about it except to make life here even harder, so we are moving interstate. Will follow this up with an email..

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  5. So happy to see you, but not at all with that final paragraph! I respect your decisions though. (Throughout our on-line association, I found you a much smarter person than I)
    It was great that you discovered the half-finished post and made a point to get it out to us. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An interesting post about a place. Glad you found this post and shared it, and I liked that painting, whether it was the artist’s best or not! Like her quote too. By the way, I once found a whole book manuscript, edited and almost ready to go. It was the manuscript for my newest book. Written and shelved 5 years ago and discovered only last spring because I needed material for a presentation on gardening.

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