Revisiting the Gold Coast’s Palm Beach
THERE WAS A TIME when you would have had absolutely no reason to stop as you drove through Palm Beach. Sitting like the forgotten middle child between Coolangatta – on the Gold Coast’s southern border with New South Wales – and its hip older sister, Burleigh Heads to its north, Palm Beach was at one time known more for its needle exchange site than a buzzing cafe scene. Straddling both sides of the Gold Coast highway with a numbered system of street names that’s more Santa Monica than Queensland, ‘Palmy’, as it’s affectionately known, was always a bit rough around the edges, even in the 1870s when the area was designated pastoral land. The South Coast railway didn’t even stop there until 1922, when it was still part of Elanora. A subdivision by the Palm Beach Company Ltd was what led to the beachside ’hood gaining its own name and subsequently, fibro holiday homes started sprouting along Jefferson Lane. It was the affordable dream – in the early ’60s The Truth newspaper in Brisbane advertised ‘holiday homes for the working man’ with blocks of land up for sale, with ‘whatever deposit suits you’. But within the last few years, this suburb has been gentrified quicker than you can say “Range Rover” and a new wave of discerning young residents has washed in. New luxury apartment developments are taking over corner blocks and real estate prices are skyrocketing. “When my friends heard I was moving to Palm Beach they were like, ‘oh no, it’s dangerous, there are gangs, you can’t move there,’” manager Ludmila Achurch says as she sets down our meals at The Blue Door on 5th, a new restaurant fastidious about organic, local produce. “But it feels like a village, you know... I love it,” she finishes. “Palm Beach is really coming good,” says Jeremy Davidson, co-founder of The Collective eating house. “It’s exciting as a local here, you can actually go bar-hopping in Palm Beach! There’s a bit of a funky dining scene emerging as well – great operators who have built their way up in the hospitality industry on the coast and are now starting to go ‘we’re going to move to Palm Beach and do our own thing’.” That’s what’s led to a spate of openings within the past 12 months, so many, in fact, that you’ll be hard pressed to fit everything into a weekend. Start with these local haunts and see how you go.
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS IMAGE: Palm Beach, a suburb on the Gold Coast, has been gentrified in the last few years; Breakfast spots like Mr Bengel bring a healthy, hipster vibe to the beachside neighbourhood.