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Where to swim on the Gold Coast

Samantha Morris

Lazy days on the Gold Coast invariably involve water. Little wonder. Gold Coast has 56km of coastline and more than 250km of navigable waterways. Being one of Australia's prime bucket-list destinations, the Gold Coast is also home to the country's best hotels and resorts, which means the best swimming pools. Safe enclosures, rock pools, lakes and rivers, Gold Coast has it covered for swimming. And as host for the 2018 Commonwealth Games there's even elite training facilities at pools designed for all manner of competitive sports. Not to mention the best beaches in the world.

But where to start? We can help.

PATROLLED SURF BEACHES

Our stunning beaches are the reason most people flock to the Gold Coast. There are numerous incredible beaches between Coolangatta and The Spit serving up everything from perfect right-handers through to calm bays for families.

The best place to swim when it comes to beaches is always between the red and yellow flags. On weekdays these beaches are patrolled by Council lifeguards and on weekends by volunteer surf lifesavers.

You probably already know about Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise; and Burleigh Heads (which has accessibility mats for people in wheelchairs). They're the beaches that have made the Gold Coast famous. But here's the lowdown on the other Gold Coast beaches that are perfect for swimming (and avoiding the crowds):

Margaret Avenue (Broadbeach) - about half way between Kurrawa Beach and Mermaid Beach is the patrolled beach at Margaret Avenue. It's accessible by light rail and awesome cycle paths, is framed by casuarina forest and is just a short stroll from the insanely on point café scene of Broadbeach. You can literally go straight from the beach to sipping espresso martinis here.

North Burleigh - as the name suggests, this beach is north of Burleigh (by about 2.5km) and nestled into the southern edge of north Burleigh headland. There's plenty of parking, a coffee shop at the surf club and a much-loved kids playground for those with groms in tow. And if you're still around as the sun sets, you've got Miami Shark Bar and North Burleigh Surf Club conveniently located for sundowners overlooking the headland.

Mermaid Beach - the little sister to Kurrawa in the north and Nobby Beach in the south, this beach is located about half way between the two. Popular with local families and nestled right in the middle of flashy Hedges Avenue houses, it's a safe surf beach with a strong community focus. There's a kids playground, the Mermaid Surf Life Saving Club and a café so close you'll still be dripping wet when you get there. And if you're still in the neighbourhood after it's too dark to swim, you've got the hippest restaurants on the Gold Coast: Etsu, Apres Surf, Ball Boys and Little Mermaid all within an easy stroll.

Main Beach - Main Beach got its name because it was the beach of choice in days gone by. These days it's sometimes overlooked by locals and visitors. Located close to the Broadwater and with plenty of vegetation and parkland for picnics and BBQs, it's still one of my favourite Gold Coast beaches. Southport Surf Club patrols the beach and it's about a 1.3km walk from the light rail. When you're done swimming, join well-heeled locals for cocktails or fine dining on Tedder Avenue - just a short stroll away.

Rainbow Bay - located right at the southern end of the Gold Coast, this is possibly the most family-friendly swimming beach we have here. And as the name suggests, it's part of a protected bay, right between two rocky outcrops. There's a massive grassy expanse for BBQs and picnics but you have all of Coolangatta at your doorstep for full service amenities.

RIVERS, CREEKS, AND FLAT WATER

The Gold Coast is known for its beaches but its creeks and rivers are worth a visit as well.

The Broadwater is a massive expanse of water that is protected by The Spit and south Stradbroke Island. It's popular for boating, which doesn't always make it ideal for swimming, but there's a swimming enclosure located at Broadwater Parklands that is accessible with plenty facilities for people of all ages and abilities. In the summer months there's also a massive water park set up adjacent.

Evandale lagoon offers a sheltered swimming environment a stone's throw away from Surfers Paradise. You'll find locals swimming laps there and families making the most of the brackish water that naturally flows into the man-made protected area, adjacent to a stretch of the Nerang River. On Sundays you can check out the Bundall Farmers Markets and in 2017-18, the City's new Cultural Precinct will rise from that site as well.

Tallebudgera Creek is one of the most popular swimming spots for tourists and locals alike. People regularly swim on both the northern and southern banks of the creek, but only the southern bank is patrolled. Nestled into Burleigh National Park and with significant cultural heritage value, Tallebudgera Creek is often frequented by dolphins, stingrays and other marine animals as well as motorised and non-motorised water craft, so do swim with care.

For those not brave enough to battle it out with sea creatures (let's face it, they could be anywhere), there are also Council swimming enclosures at Murlong Park (on Tallebudgera Creek about 1km inland) as well as Paradise Point and Labrador.

Jumpinpin, which is only accessibly by boat is like a slice of Whitehaven Beach on the Gold Coast. The water moves really fast here where an inlet exists between South and North Stradbroke Islands, so you must be cautious (and dodge the kite surfers), but it's seriously one of the most under-rated swimming locations on the Gold Coast.

PUBLIC POOLS

City of Gold Coast has eight public pools and aquatic centres which have facilities ranging from gyms and squash courts through to hydro pools and diving boards.

Southport Aquatic Centre is the jewel in the City's pool crown. Renovated prior to the Commonwealth Games and located right on the Broadwater and an easy walk from the light rail station, the Aquatic Centre has indoor and outdoor pools that are heated in winter as well as diving facilities and all the bells and whistles so that it can compete on the world stage.

My regular, located at Miami, is Pizzey Park - an easy stroll from Miami Marketta. It has two 50m pools which are known as the 'old pool' and the 'new pool'. There's an indoor pool for learn to swim classes as well as aqua aerobics and squad training options.

Other public pools are located at Helensvale, Mudgeeraba, Nerang, Palm Beach, Upper Coomera and Woongoolba. Get pricing and opening times here.

PRIVATE HOTEL POOLS

With some of the best hotels in the world it stands to reason that Gold Coast is also home to some of the best hotel pools in the world. Unfortunately, in most cases, you have to be a guest of the property to make the most of the pool facilities - but hey, if there ever was an excuse to book a five-star stay, this is it.

Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa is the most unique pool I've ever been in (and I've been in A LOT). And it's not just the fact that they've got tropical reef fish in the pool that tips me over the edge. The Marriott has also created a poolscape that will transport you to any number of places. White sandy beach? Check. Rock pools and waterfalls? Check. Sea scooter? Check. Guests of the Marriott can book private day beds with drink service and kids will love digging in the sand or shooting through the impressive waterslide built as a tunnel in the middle of the rock façade surrounding the pool. Located on the banks of the Nerang River yet right at the edge of Surfers Paradise, this place is next level.

Jupiters Hotel and Casino has changed a lot in its 30 years but the layout of the pool area will be familiar to past visitors. What has changed is the addition of a fancy new bar (hello gin cocktails) and private bungalows available for hire ($395 for a day for six people).

Q1 Resort & Spa is known for its striking design and dizzying heights (not to mention its Skypoint Observation Deck). But at the base of the building you'll find two outdoor lagoon pools with BBQ facilities, as well as an indoor heated lap pool and spa. Here you can bathe in cooling waters at the same time you bathe in the glory of modern engineering.

Palazzo Versace takes its approach to swimming very, very seriously. As well as world-class pools with an outlook straight out to the majestic Broadwater, it also offers accommodation options with private plunge pools. The property's 63-metre pool has a sandy beach with private day beds and cabanas.

Samantha Morris

Blank GC

Samantha Morris has lived on the Gold Coast nearly all her life and has been going to gigs here since before she was legally allowed to. Most of her career has been spent working with conservation and land management groups on communication, fundraising and engagement strategies and she's won several awards recognizing her work in that space. In 2013 she decided to focus closer to home and launched an old-school printed monthly newspaper focused on the local music and cultural scene. Blank GC has become the City's cultural voice. In 2015 she also launched the Gold Coast Music Awards. She is a freelance writer and a culture vulture.

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