Australia’s new coastal hotspot doesn’t sound very attractive, but don’t be put off by the name, says our expert!

Have you heard of the Coal Coast? If you are heading to Australia you should look it up. It’s a new term for an area in southern New South Wales, which includes Stanwell Park and Coalcliff. Australian Traveller magazine says it’s one of the hottest coastal destinations in the country and they’ve included it in a list of the places you might want to consider if you’re going down under.

Editor Lara Picone says the term Coal Coast has only recently been coined by a bunch of surfers. The area is south of Sydney and takes in the northern beaches of the city called Wollongong. And its name comes from the area’s coal mining heritage. I asked Lara whether that might be putting people off visiting because you don’t usually associate mining with beautiful holiday destinations.

“The beaches are incredible and they have been flying under the radar for that reason,” she tells me. “They are stunning with clear waters and cliffs that rise out of the ocean. There’s a beautiful drive on the Sea Cliff Bridge, which swerves out over the ocean dramatically and cliffs rise up at the other side.”

So, what can you do if you go on holiday there?

“The Coal Coast is a good place to go because it’s a short drive from Sydney. Many people hire a car when they arrive at the airport and go down with a rental. The coastal towns are a bit underdeveloped. There isn’t a great deal to do but that is part of the charm. Go inland and you’ll find gorgeous country towns with wineries,” says Lara. And she recommends Bowral as a town worth travelling to.

Lara also suggests seeing the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane in Queensland. I know many Brits who went there in the 90s and found a fledgling Benidorm that didn’t impress them. Has it changed, I ask her?

“Yes, definitely,” Lara says. “Ten years ago it was overdeveloped and there were lots of golf courses and shopping malls being built quickly. It didn’t have the edge. It was always trying to emulate Los Angeles or Florida and didn’t know what it was. It’s now really cool and has embraced its past.”

I was interested to know what Lara meant by that.

“It used to be seen as a little bit gaudy I suppose,” she laughed. “It was a bit tacky and associated with excess and gold bikinis and nightclubs. There is still an element of that but it’s now more relaxed and chilled out. There is an injection of cooler things happening alongside the nightclub culture, which has been toned down by newer developments. It’s adapting.”

Lara continued, “The Gold Coast is becoming a place where locals are staying and opening exciting new businesses. There’s a beautiful food scene happening there and of course the beaches are stunning.”

So where should Brits head for to book accommodation?

“There are lots of suburbs for my money. I recently spent time in Burleigh Heads and that was really cool with lots of bars, cafes and great little coffee spots. I also recommend Mermaid Beach, which is little further up and Broad Beach – home of Pacific Fair, the biggest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere. Surfers Paradise is your destination for a night out.

So where else does she recommend as a seaside destination in Australia?

“Byron Bay is always one of our favourites and Margaret River on the West Coast. They are stunning spots,” says Lara. “The Brits usually love Noosa, which has a food festival, and Port Douglas – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.” But Lara adds a cautionary note. “Watch when you go there. You can’t always swim in the water because of dangerous wildlife.” I’ve been there. They have crocs and stingrays!

In Victoria, just south of Melbourne, Lara recommends a drive along the Great Ocean Road –a trip which will lead tourist to plenty of dairies, wineries and breweries.

If you are travelling to Australia you can read Australian Traveller online for stories, holiday inspiration and ideas.

To hear more of Lara’s tips, listen to our full chat here:


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