Labrador - beach shacks & cafe culture
The charming northern beachside suburb of Labrador would have to be the Gold Coast's best kept secret - where 1960s beach culture meets the English seaside.
Original surf shacks still line the lush semi-tropical streets, many of them beautifully restored to their retro best, while the beautiful foreshore is the perfect place for a scenic stroll and a picnic or a dip in the calm protected waters of the Broadwater.
Yet despite its sleepy 'beach town that-time-forgot' vibe, Labrador has a vibrant cafe culture and fantastic restaurants, as well as being on the cusp of a mega outlet shopping centre and one of the Gold Coast's best craft breweries.
Australia's largest outlet shopping centre, palm tree-lined Harbour Town is a place you could easily spend a day, with a bounty of luxury and premium brands to be had for a bargain. Here you'll find Armani, Calvin Klein, Coach, Hugo Boss, Mimco and Kate Spade, along with classics like RM Williams, Levi's, Seafolly, Speedos and Havianas. And that's not all - Harbour Town is also known for its fantastic Eats precinct and bargain movie tickets at Reading Cinemas.
Beer fans should pay a visit to Black Hops II, an upscale production brewery with a mega tap room, where you can try some of the Gold Coast's most popular craft beers. As well as 16 beers on tap, you'll also find some of the Gold Coast's fave food trucks parked onsite and peddling delicious eats from Friday to Sunday.
Head north along Marine Parade and in Biggera Waters you'll find Seaway Kayaking Tours, the gateway to exploring the beautiful Broadwater and out to Wave Break Island, where there's some great snorkelling to be done. Take your pick of kayaking or SUPping.
Back on the foreshore alongside the netted swimming beach is one of Labrador's best loved attractions, Charis Seafoods - a massive fresh seafood market with a takeaway outlet. Here you can pick up some fish'n'chips and find a spot to enjoy on the outdoor tables or under a tree overlooking the sea. Hang around for the famous pelican feedings, which are quite the spectacle, at 1.30pm daily.
Right on Labrador's doorstep you'll also find Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area, an ethereal 1200 ha nature reserve of wetlands, eucalypt forests, salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Perfect for long and short walks, bike riding and bird watching, you'll have the chance to spot koalas, powerful owls and grey-headed flying foxes as well as kangaroos. The park was also a filming location for Hollywood blockbuster Kong: Skull Island. Open daily to visitors from 6am until 6pm, when the gates are shut for the evening.
For a dose of cafe culture, follow the locals to Chirn Park- a funky old school shopping village packed with trendy cafes, groovy bars and multicultural eateries, most with decks to enjoy the beautiful year round coastal climate. Head a few streets east to the waterfront and along Marine Parade you'll find dining institutions like The Lazy Lobster with its stunning views and Matsuzaka Teppanyaki, together with Labrador's landmark The Grand Hotel, perfect for a casual meal and a drink.
If you'd like to stay and take advantage of all that Labrador and its neighbour Biggera Waters have to offer, NRMA Treasure Island Resort is one of the best family holiday places on the Gold Coast. Sandcastles on the Broadwater offers premium accommodation in a prime location, within easy walking distance of the Broadwater and restaurants along Marine Parade.