Cyndi started it, Miley butchered it and now Hilton Surfers Paradise are proving that Girls Just Wanna Have Fun with their brand-new holiday package. Enlisting the help of the two toughest critics I know (my gay BFF Daniel and my mother) I trekked up to the Gold Coast last weekend to see what this luxury girls-only getaway is all about.
Considering the mini-Las Vegas that the Gold Coast has developed into over the years, it’s surprising to learn that the Hilton Surfers Paradise is the first global upscale hotel to be built on the Coast since 2000, and the first leisure-focused hotel & residence from the Hilton brand in Australia (if anyone had asked, I would’ve assumed Hilton had set up shop in Surfers decades ago). The development boasts two towers: the Boulevard, home to 134 combinations of one, two and three-bedroom residences (and our temporary home-away-from-home); and the Orchid tower, which houses 169 hotel rooms, an additional 116 residences and the majority of the HSP’s luxurious facilities (more on those in a bit).
Thanks to our post-workday flight times and ridiculously long shuttlebus journey, we didn’t make it to Reception until sometime around 10pm on Friday night – well after the allowed 3pm check-in timeslot. Tired and already behind schedule on our Girls itinerary, I was thankful for the speedy yet welcoming check-in afforded us by the lovely Chiyomi, who outlined all aspects of our girly package, including the complimentary parking space (we definitely should have skipped the shuttlebus).
Atop the 32nd and top level of the Boulevard tower, we found one of the two two-bedroom ocean view residences allocated to us as part of the package (the other sitting directly below on the 31st floor). Greeted by a bottle each of New Zealand bubbly and Semillon Sav Blanc and the most adorable chocolate tuxedo-ed strawberries I’ve ever laid eyes on, I was torn: launch into these delicious welcome treats, or explore the apartment?
Luckily, that’s what friends are for. Charging Dan with champagne duty, I wandered through our stylishly minimalistic and modern residence. It smelled a little like new car, but that was quickly fixed by sliding open the doors to our ocean-view balcony, running the full length of the residence and overlooking the Orchid tower opposite, downtown Surfers and the beloved beach. The two bedrooms were equipped with a King (proper, not two King singles like I’ve heard other places use) and Queen bed respectively, with the main bedroom also enjoying its own wall-mounted LCD TV, ensuite and priority views of the sea. Both bedrooms boasted built-in wardrobes (stocked with Hilton monogrammed bathrobe and slippers) and an iPod docking station, which proved ridiculously useful for both charging phones and cranking the required pre-party Gaga.
But back to the package. After a cheeky champers on the balcony overlooking the plebs far below, we met the Mothership on the ground floor ready to redeem the complimentary cocktails that come with being a fun-wanting girl. We would’ve collected Mum from her room, only the key card operated elevators don’t allow guests to travel to any floor other than the one they’re staying on. This is probably the biggest flaw we found during our entire weekend at the Hilton; having been given two room keys each, we swapped one so that we could all travel between floors and reconvene easier, but that one floor between us left my mother feeling slightly isolated. Although travelling one floor in an elevator is hardly difficult, it’s definitely not as easy as going next door to see your friends. So I would strongly suggest that, when booking, you make a point of requesting residences that are at least on the same floor.
Next stop: the FIX cocktail bar for a complimentary welcome bevvie. We nestled ourselves into a cushy lounge table and observed the merry mix of guests enjoying internationally renowned mixologist, Grant Collins’s unique concoctions. Open to both hotel guests and the general public, FIX (named after the iconic 1930’s cocktail) is a welcomely elegant alternative to the prevalent tackiness of downtown Surfers’ nightlife. Their take on a Singapore Sling wasn’t a huge hit – the lemonade overpowered all other flavours, leaving little impression – but the unusually sticky aftertaste of the Elderflower & Kaffir Lime Breeze was popular amongst our trio; and the Lychee and Rose Martini is undeniably the best cocktail I have ever tasted. Dan and I also made good use of their oversized porthole-esque windows on Saturday night, inventing our own entertaining commentary for the riffraff on the street below as we sipped on our Espresso Martini’s.
Exhausted, we retired for a relatively early night ahead of the next day’s packed schedule – but not before Dan and I could road-test Luke Mangin’s In Room Dining menu. Blame one too many Hollywood rom-coms if you will, but our hearts were set on sharing a big fat ice cream sundae, topped with hot fudge and Maltesers. Unfortunately our Guest Services compendium didn’t include a room service menu, so Dan was left to blindly negotiate with the patient chef. But god was it all worth it, as we were delivered two bowls of the creamiest, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate and vanilla ice cream, drizzled with what I can only describe as gourmet Ice Magic and finished with fresh strawberries and Toblerone. All of a sudden our Malteser fudge sundae seemed an incredibly undignified request, and I was well pleased that we’d left our midnight snack in the capable hands of Mangin’s kitchen.
The following morning kicked off with me waking at 5.45am, having stupidly forgotten to close my bedroom curtains properly against the glaringly early Queensland sun. Three hours later, we tottled down to Salt Grill for the continental buffet breakfast included in the Girls weekend getaway. The selection was, quite simply, kickass: croissants and sweet pastries; cereals and bircher muesli; fresh fruits and deliciously unusual avocado and rosewater ricotta shots (YUM); omelettes made to order, eggs however you like ‘em, a line-up of hot treats and about 100 different types of bread – if you could possibly want to devour it for breakfast, then Salt had offered it up – with their own personal twist of course. Example: lifting the lid of the mushroom dish would reveal not your typical sautéed mushroom affair, but instead a delightful medley of mushrooms, baby spinach and fetta – heaven to my vegetarian eyes (although somewhat disappointingly, the mushrooms at Sunday’s buffet were just plain mushies).
But even better than the breakfast itself was the service. Every single staff member we encountered at Hilton Surfers Paradise was ten-types of lovely, but few more so than the Salt breakfast team. Even on Sunday morning, when they were run off their feet, they were efficient, pleasant and polite. On Saturday they were chatty, genuinely friendly and seemingly happy to be there – something I honestly wasn’t expecting. After all, surely they’d get more than their fair share of wankers to deal with, working in an upperclass hotel and all. Yet their amicable demeanours made me feel like a regular at my favourite café, which was a really nice touch.
Image: cubic, collective
Following a brief post-brekky lie down, it was time for a quick venture around the neighbouring streets, whereby we discovered the sartorial gem that is cubic, collective. Sitting pretty in Chapter 1 on Surfers Paradise Boulevard and just around the corner from the hotel, cubic, collective is a carefully curated collection of lustworthy labels for men and women. Ksubi, Bec & Bridge, Nudie jeans, Cheap Monday, Shakuhachi, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Love is Treason, Chronicles of Never, sass & bide… the list goes on. As Dan perused their collection of $20 sunny side smart kids club tees, their gorgeous sales assistant Rachel wrote me a list of her favourite locales, based on our mutual love of nose rings and general radness. Top of the list? Black Coffee Lyrics, which turned out be upstairs in the Asian alley right next door to the Hilton. On Rachel’s recommendation we popped in for a refreshingly strong caffeine hit and made a booking for dinner later that night, then headed poolside for the R&R I’d been craving.
The simplistic luxury of the Hilton’s outdoor entertaining mecca managed to entice many guests out into the fresh Gold Coast air, even on a slightly overcast afternoon. With outdoor bar The Deck serving up even more tasty cocktails and light meals, two plunge pools and both an indoor and outdoor pool (yes, that’s four pools in total – plus a spa) and a wide selection of seats and lounges to suit all of your relaxation needs, it’s kind of hard to resist. As it was, we sat outside sipping on mojitos and Garden Martinis (vodka, apple liqueur, cucumber and apple juice) for a good couple of hours but I could have easily spent an entire day just sitting out there, soaking up what little sun was on offer.
But alas; the next stage of our Girls Just Wanna Have Fun adventure was calling, in the form of a mixology lesson with FIX bar manager Jeremy Earnshaw.
Now, put simply, Jeremy is an absolute champion and his lesson was undeniably the best experience of the whole package. With the aid of his high school bestie and fellow FIX bartender (and Kiwi) Oliver, Jeremy took us on an hour-long journey through time and space, demonstrating how to make some of his and Ollie’s favourite beverages, then offering each of us the opportunity to jump behind the bar and concoct whatever our little hearts desired.
As well as talking us through the process of each drink they were making, Jeremy and Oliver offered up interesting tips and tidbits for we, the budding mixologists: “Shake lengthwise for maximum movement”; “Always stir down straight alcoholic drinks, approx. 20 times (clockwise)”; “Double strain drinks mixed with a thick puree such as the Lychee Martini so as to avoid any distasteful stringy bits”. The boys were an alcoholic fountain of knowledge, fascinating to chat to and really amicable and inclusive, and the hour positively flew by (perhaps all of the samples we were left to drink had something to do with that). I can’t recommend this addition to the Girls just wanna have fun package enough.
Next stop: eforea day spa for our $300 credit.
An oasis of calm on the second floor of the Orchid tower, Eforea Day Spa‘s menu offers three distinct “journey”‘s: The Essentials Journey, The Men’s Journey and The Escape Journey. Wishing I could have kept the $300 credit all to myself, I opted for the Escape Journey’s 90 minute Meditation Massage, followed by an Antioxidant Facial from the Essential Journey the following morning. They’re not kidding when they tell you to book your spa appointment in advance: the wonderful Melanie outdid herself juggling appointments and managed to slot the three of us in, but I strongly recommend giving them a call before you arrive to ensure you score an appointment slot most convenient to your plans.
Promising to instill both physical and mental relaxation, the Meditation Massage began with a luxuriant foot soak featuring peppermint and aniseed essentail oils. My masseuse Amy, whose warmth and calm instills in you a sense of relaxation from the moment you meet, then asked me to close my eyes and take deep breathes of two different essential oil blends, to determine which she would use for the rest of the massage. Opting for ‘Rejuvinate’, Amy proceeded with a traditional Aboriginal smoking ritual to dispel any negative energy – a unique and beautifully organic touch to the whole experience.
The massage itself was spot-on: not too harsh as to cause pain, but firm enough to work out the tension nestled in places I didn’t even realise, and release the toxins I didn’t quite realise I had. The 90 minutes breezed away, with the treatment ending with a nimble head massage and conditioning treatment – yet another little touch that took it above the level of merely a ‘good massage’.
The following morning, I was treated to Eforea’s one-of-a-kind Antioxidant facial. My super-sweet therapist Midori possesses hand massage skills that could make the toughest man melt. I wasn’t expecting to go in for a facial and be treated to a mind-blowing scalp, neck, shoulder and hand massage combo, but just like Amy’s massage, this facial went above and beyond. Midori used warm rose quartz to massage my face, followed by a chilled rose quartz around the eye area to reduce puffiness, making my hayfever-prone eyes feel brand new. The Kerstin Florian products used were delicate on my sensitive skin, and smelled delish, particularly the Algae mask used on my decolletage which, to me, smelled like lychees (though I probably just have them on the brain).
Breezing out of Eforea, Dan and I headed to Black Coffee Lyrics for the most mouth-watering Vege Burger I’ve ever experienced (Dan assures me his Chicken Burger was delicious too). This place is a hidden delight right in the centre of downtown Surfers Paradise, bucking the trashy nature of the city for an alternative, Melburnian vibe (though I’m sure the boys would be sick of hearing people say how “Melbourne” their joint is). Exposed brick walls, wooden floorboards, mismatched vintage furniture, a haphazard library nook of books precariously piled onto shelves, more random modern art than you could poke a spraycan at and army men stuck upside down to the ceiling; you’ll find it all at BCL, along with a damn good cup of Joe. They offer BYO of a night time too with a miniscule $3 for corkage, making it the perfect place to escape the fake-tanned hoards and enjoy some quality culture and company. (Plus, the waiters are pretty fit).
And then, all too soon, Sunday morning arrived and it was time for our girly weekend to come to an end. Before visiting the Hilton Surfers Paradise, I would never have thought to take a trip up to the Gold Coast, mistakenly assuming it’s a bit too Jersey Shore for my liking. I wasn’t necessarily wrong (as the guy who tried to climb from his balcony next door onto mine proved), but with the absolute luxury the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun offered, paired with the quirky charms of cubic, collective and Black Coffee Lyrics (and nightspot Elsewhere, which we didn’t manage to make it to), I’ll definitely be booking myself another flight coastward – pronto.