Gold Coast Scenic
Rather than a one-off adventure, this is something we do on a regular basis. The round trip from Archerfield is about an hour. For tourists, it is a great way to showcase some of the unique sights that South East Queensland has to offer, without having to actually interact with any of the locals. Flying over Surfers Paradise and along the Gold Coast beaches at 500 feet is a sight we never tire of. Also flying in a light aircraft is waaay safer than walking down Cavill Avenue after dark.
Australia’s Gold Coast has so much to see: Sun, sand, surf. OK, to be fair, given the right weather and time of day, you can see the sun from just about anywhere on the planet. Sand and surf are pretty common on many coastlines around the world. So, what makes the Gold Coast so special?
I guess that depends on what you are ‘in to’ as the hip young folks these days would say. Which probably leads to the answer – the Gold Coast has pretty much everything.
Anyone can check out the golden beaches, see a world-famous casino, take in a theme park or two, or head for the hills for a spectacular view of the entire coast. But only the lucky few can do all that and more, all inside an hour.
The best time for this flight is in the morning, while the air is calm, before the wind begins to tumble over the hills of the Gold Coast hinterland, and before last night’s baked beans weave their magic. A nice, cloudless Spring day is a definite bonus as it brings the vibrant colours of the area to life.
Today’s flight leaves Archerfield airport at 10am via the standard ‘southern departure’ (track 135 degrees, which by my calculations is pretty close to south-east), which takes us in a direct line to the northern-most tip of the mountain range that sits behind the Gold Coast and runs roughly parallel to the coastline. As we are a scenic flight, we will maintain 1000 feet AMSL for the first half of the trip, unless turbulence dictates otherwise.
Once we intercept the M1 – the eight-lane freeway that connects Brisbane to the Gold Coast and beyond, we follow it south and practice our IFR skills (I Follow Roads). At Ormeau, we need to make our 10 Nautical Mile CTAF call for Mason Field at Southport, as we will pass just to the west of their circuit area. If their circuit is busy we would consider deviating west or climbing to 1500 feet for a few miles to stay out of their way. On this leg, we pass over the theme parks at Oxenford such as Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet’n’Wild. Then it’s further south towards Carrara Stadium (home of the Gold Coast Suns AFL team and site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2018 Commonwealth Games).
At this point, to avoid the need for an airways clearance, we need to make sure that we stay beneath the Class C airspace steps for the Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta, so definitely nothing over 1500 feet AMSL from here onwards. As we approach the lowest step for YBCG, we turn to the east and fly over the Star Casino (nee Jupiters) and towards the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, there is no high rise here so we have a nice clear path.
Upon crossing the coastline, we turn north, descend to 500 feet AMSL and follow the beaches northwards, giving one of the most spectacular urban views you will ever see. We pass beside the famous Q1 building slightly less than half way up its 1058 feet total height. On this leg, we are still within the 10-mile radius for Mason field, but we now need to deal with the frequent sight-seeing traffic traversing to and from the Sea World heliport. Fortunately, Sea World and Mason Field are on the same CTAF frequency.
Continuing up the beach there is so much to see that it is hard to know where to look. From the backdrop of lush green mountains, through the urban sprawl to the shimmering ocean. Photos and videos just can’t do it justice.
As the man-made landscape gives way to the more natural sand dunes, we pass The Spit and begin to track up the beaches of South Stradbroke Island. On a beautiful day like this there are countless water craft of all shapes and sizes, both in protected waters of the Broadwater, and ‘outside’ in the ocean. Along the beaches, there are numerous four-wheel drives with their occupants trying to catch some sun or dinner or both on either side of the island. At the right time of the year we usually spot a few whales on their annual migration.
After we pass Jumpinpin, the watery gap that separates North and South Stradbroke Islands, we turn inland and start our climb to 1500 feet. We then head for Target at Springwood, our inbound reporting point, and call Archer Tower for our airways clearance back to our base.
A great morning all round – the passengers are excited about their new experience and the pilots are doubly happy that they have been able to share their love of aviation and the cost of the trip as well.