GONE are the tacky souvenir shops, theme restaurants and chintzy decor, and in their place, hip restaurants, sleek storefronts, new parks and beautified streets. Coolangatta is undergoing a transformation, and while its beautiful beaches still take centre stage, the Gold Coast's southern gateway is leaving behind the mark of the 1980s and '90s that long defined the place, to reinvent itself as a modern beachside holiday town.
A one-hour flight from Newcastle, Queensland's Coolangatta provides a handy holiday destination for Hunter travellers.
Accommodation abounds, with high-rise apartment blocks lining the waterfront. Some are relics from more than 30 years ago, but even these have had a fresh coat of paint in keeping with the shiny new complexes alongside them.
With our one-year-old son in tow, my wife and I chose a self-contained two-bedroom apartment in the modern Reflection Tower Two for our 10-night stay.
Its location across the road from two adjoining beaches - Coolangatta and Greenmount - provided lovely views from the lounge area, master bedroom and balcony, with diving dolphins and breaching whales sighted often in the surf and out to sea.
The kitchen's stone benchtops and stainless steel appliances, along with the giant bathtub and his and her sinks in the en suite, added an extra touch of luxury to our holiday digs.
Reflection backs on to Coolangatta's main drag, Griffith Street, putting shops, eateries and other conveniences in walking distance of our accommodation.
In the past year, the main street has had a facelift and public works crews keep the strip and nearby parks and beaches as neat as a pin.
Cafes offering high tea and live music on a Sunday morning create a nice vibe, alongside juice bars and bakeries, surf shops, clothing stores and book exchanges.
At the centre on the town's thoroughfare is a small shopping centre which, dated and half-empty only a couple of years ago, has been refurbished in to a shiny new complex called The Strand.
The two supermarkets there were handy for us to stock up on food supplies.
For those few nights we chose not to dine in, surf clubs provided a family-friendly option for dinner. The Coolangatta and Greenmount clubs were undergoing extensive renovations during our visit. The Twin Towns services club was another place suitable for eating out with a young child.
For those looking for other types of cuisine, the town also offered everything from a trendy tapas bar with outdoor beer garden, to Greek and Mexican restaurants, and pubs with contemporary menus. Takeaway is aplenty too.
For recreation, the beach with its white sand and clear warm water was a great place for a swim and a relax, and for our little one to play in the sand. To keep kids busy, the foreshore around Coolangatta and neighbouring Rainbow Bay offered a lovely choice of playgrounds.
Across the road in Tweed Heads, a large park with play equipment, barbecue areas and a boardwalk fronts a lagoon - another great place for a swim.
The waterway at this spot, known as Jack Evans Boat Harbour, feeds in to the Tweed River, while the boardwalk joins the Gold Coast Oceanway, a 36-kilometre network of coastal pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. It passes beaches, headlands and rainforest. The small section of scenic walkway we trekked was very accessible, allowing us to push a pram along.
Fearing we might get bored after more than a week in Coolangatta, our stay proved anything but dull, with the family returning home to Newcastle as rejuvenated as the place we visited.
Reflection Tower Two holiday apartments, 110 Marine Parade, Coolangatta, 1300769889 or (07)55896999, reflectiontwo.com.au.
Gold Coast Tourism Visitor Information Centres, 1300309440 or (07)55364709, visitgoldcoast.com.
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