THE GOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
A celebration of Queensland on the eve of the Commonwealth Games
Having represented Australia at the Summer Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012 (and taking home the gong as the top performing Aussie male at both), triathlete Courtney Atkinson knows a thing or two about determination and endurance.
“I love being outside training, and honestly there’s no better place to do this than on the Gold Coast,” he says. “It’s the ultimate place for those who love being active.”
And over his 20-plus-year career as a professional athlete, Atkinson hasn’t stopped moving. He has competed at some of the world’s largest triathlons, from London to Noosa to San Fran’s Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, regularly pushes himself to the limit in off-road triathlons known as XTERRA, and has won multiple Ironman events. It was hardly a surprise when he took home Australia’s Triathlete of the Year award for three consecutive years.
Growing up in the Gold Coast suburb of Miami, Atkinson was a natural choice when it came to selecting ambassadors for this month’s Commonwealth Games. From April 4-15, more than 6600 competitors will descend on Australia’s sunniest city to compete in 18 sports. In addition to highlighting the diversity of Queensland, from the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, Atkinson is busy showing visitors the things he loves most about his home town – and believe us, he’s extremely convincing. Here, Atkinson’s tips on what to do and see when visiting the Goldie for Queensland’s largest ever sporting event.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A COMMONWEALTH GAMES AMBASSADOR?
I’m just pinching myself at the moment. I’m a local, a pretty decent sportsperson and I love the Gold Coast – it’s the best back yard in the world. I wanted to be involved in helping highlight this part of Australia. Then Tourism Queensland came to me and said, “You know what, you’re perfect to showcase the attractions of Queensland in an active, sporty, adventurous way.” It’s a dream job, to be honest.
WHAT ASPECTS OF THE GOLD COAST ARE YOU SHOWING OFF?
I love telling people about Gold Coast features they might not know about, like the hinterland and its secret trails, waterfalls and swimming holes. When people think of the Coast they just picture the beach, white sand, Surfers Paradise high-rises and theme
parks. But there is so much diversity. You can be at arguably the nicest beaches in the world in the morning then within 40 minutes you can be in some of the most incredible rainforest you’ll ever discover.
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO TRAIN?
When it comes to running, I love the Southport Spit, north of Marina Mirage, up through the seaway trails. The sand dunes are pristine and there are good clay tracks – you’re right in the heart of the city but as far as nature goes, it’s still untouched. For cycling, I love Nerang National Park and State Forest, where the Commonwealth Games mountain biking events will be held.
This is the best-kept secret in Australia for trails. There are around 65km of single trails throughout the forest; you could spend days in there and not backtrack.
The best place for kayaking is the open ocean. You can be in the middle of the sea looking at the high-rises of Surfers Paradise – that’s a view people don’t often see.
YOUR FAVOURITE BEACH FOR SURFING ON THE GOLD COAST?
I’m local to the Gold Coast suburb of Miami, so I love my beach. I went to Miami primary school, and when I haven’t been travelling overseas for sport, I haven’t really moved much from where I grew up.
That’s where I tend to surf, and I also meet running groups there to jog along the coastline.
I often take my kids to Tallebudgera Creek, bordering Burleigh Heads National Park. They’re learning to surf and it’s one of the nicest places you can set up for the day. It has flat water and is out of the wind, so it is also great for standup paddleboarding.
FAVOURITE GOLD COAST CAFE?
My favourite local cafe is Grocer & Grind, tucked into a residential area behind the casino. The pulled-pork eggs Benedict is my go-to dish. I also love Bam Bam Bakehouse at Mermaid Beach for fresh pastries, and the Sheraton Mirage buffet breakfast is epic – going there is like being on holiday while you’re still at home.
ALL-TIME FAVOURITE RESTAURANT?
My local sushi takeaway, Ace Wasabi. The owner is a Japanese surfer, and whenever we turn up we just fit in and know everyone. Whenever I ask my kids what they want for dinner, nine times out of 10 times it’s like, “Let’s just go to Ace’s.”
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE WAY TO SPEND A DAY ON THE COAST?
I’d be up at the crack of dawn for a mountain bike session in Nerang with mates, then I’d find the family and head straight for the beach so the kids could go surfing.
In the afternoon I’d grab the football, some beers and takeaway seafood from Peters Fish Market and have it at the top end of The Spit, which is one of the best places on the Coast to watch the sun set.
WHAT’S SOMETHING ALL VISITORS TO THE COAST SHOULD DO?
You’ve got to see Surfers; that’s still the heart of the Gold Coast. As a local I don’t go there a lot, but when I do I enjoy seeing what’s going on. It has a good vibe, and has really come back in recent years. For a different side of the Coast I’d recommend going down south to the suburb of Burleigh – stroll along James St for great new cafes and shops – then on to Palm Beach and Currumbin. That itinerary really shows the diversity of the city, from the touristy to the laid back. You should also go to the hinterland where Purlingbrook Falls rivals some of the best falls in Australia. You can go hiking through rainforest or try rock climbing, then stop off at The Fudge Shop in Springbrook to refuel.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT THE GAMES?
Seeing Aussie kids get inspired by new heroes. The Commonwealth Games came to Brisbane in 1982 and had a huge impact on me, motivating me to want to be more active and sporty and, ultimately, leading me to become a multiple Olympian, living this amazing life. I’ve got young kids and I’m excited for them to have that same motivation and inspiration watching athletes compete.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING ON THE COAST?
The lifestyle. I’ve said it before – this is the best back yard in the world.
Courtney Atkinson lives, breathes and loves the Gold Coast where he grew up and still calls home.
From the surf at The Spit, to calm water at Tallebudgera Creek and Purlingbrook Falls in the hinterland, the Gold Coast has a diversity that’s hard to beat.