THE GOLD AND THE BEAU­TI­FUL

A cel­e­bra­tion of Queens­land on the eve of the Com­mon­wealth Games

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE - NATASHA DRAGUN

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.

PIC­TURE: LUKE MARS­DEN

Court­ney Atkin­son lives, breathes and loves the Gold Coast where he grew up and still calls home.

PIC­TURES: DES­TI­NA­TION GOLD COAST

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.

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