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Imagine Hawaii, only with wider, whiter beaches, and cheaper to stay and eat, and not so commercialized, and weather just a little more temperate, and Australian beer. Now you are starting to get the picture of Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. With 70 km of beaches and several hundred km of tidal rivers and basins, water sports rule Surfers Paradise.

Surfers Paradise by day during Schoolies week, in Cavill Mall

Surfers Paradise is a town on Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland. Colloquially known as 'Surfers', the suburb is famous for its many high-rise apartment buildings and wide surf beach. The central feature of the Surfers Paradise central business district is Cavill Mall, which runs through the centre of the main shopping precinct. Cavill Avenue, named after Jim Cavill, an early hotel owner, is one of the busiest shopping strips in Queensland, and is the centre of activity for night life and 'schoolies' trips.

Many Australians believe that Surfers Paradise has been spoilt, and the whole of the Gold Coast area now has a somewhat dubious reputation for being a place where foreign tourists go to get ripped off or locals go for a night out in seedy strip clubs (which are plentiful). Although there can be no doubt the area has been overdeveloped, this reputation is probably a little bit harsh and in recent years many of the seedier aspects of the Gold Coast have been redeveloped into more lucrative upmarket ventures. The beaches are undeniably great but be aware that high rise developments just off the main beach mean that every afternoon huge amounts of the beach sit in the shadows!

Assuming that you want to experience the sea, the best time to hit the Gold Coast in between October and March when temperatures climb.

Be aware that Schoolies Week is on in November, when the entire area is invaded by tens of thousands of 17 year olds who have just finished high school and head to the beaches to let off steam and celebrate. It's a huge party - but if drunken 17 year olds aren't your scene then you should avoid the area!!

There are 21 theme parks and attractions on the Gold Coast, including Sea World, Warner Brothers Movieworld, Dreamworld and Wet 'n Wild Water Park. At Currumbin Sanctuary you can see hundreds of mountain parrots. If you want to pet kangaroos and emus, then Fleays Wildlife Park is where you should head.

As the name of the city implies, surfing is the order of the day. You can check live surf cams and surf conditions here. Other water sports like boating and fishing are also plentiful.

If you are going to swim make sure you swim in patrolled areas (between the red and yellow flags). Each year hundreds of swimmers get into trouble in the strong currents and it's always the tourists swimming outside the flags who end up swept out to sea and drowning.

Plenty of the hotels around Surfers Paradise offer buffet all you can eat seafood, which is normally quite nice and around $50 - $60 per person plus drinks. Some offer lunch specials or early bird deals.

A great alternative to hotels is the plentiful supply of apartments that are available for rental in Surfers Paradise. For a lower cost alternative, you may want to check out hostels for backpackers.

As with all beaches in Queensland you need to swim between the Red & Yellow flags at all times. These flags mark the safest area of water in which to swim & also the area in which the lifeguards are supervising. Many lives have been lost due to people not swimming in the marked area.

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