Since Brisbane has a relatively decent transport system, in which you can get pretty much anywhere you need in the city given enough time and a propensity to change modes of transport (given it's not past midnight, in which case you’re screwed), I was amazed to see how poor the Gold Coast’s transportation system was in comparison. Coming from Houston, I don’t ask for much—just something to get me from point A to point B without having to have a car. I mean, Houston is the home of the most brilliant public transport system in the world—a whole 7 miles of light rail.
Getting to the Gold Coast area from Brisbane is pretty simple. All one has to do is jump on the Gold Coast express train, anywhere between the airport and South Bank (most people catch it at Roma Street or Central Station), and after about an hour, you are in the Gold Coast area. However, just like going north of Brisbane, for some reason the train lines go pretty far inland, so a bus is required to get to anything resembling “coast”. If you have a clear idea of exactly where you want to go—for instance, Dreamworld, which lies just along the line in Coomera and has a courtesy shuttle, or Surfer’s Paradise, where most of the bus lines at the train station terminate, you’re fine. However, if you want to go anywhere off the beaten path, like the Australian Women’s Hardcourts tournament at the local golf and tennis resort, you’re in for a bit more of an exciting journey.
I jumped on a bus at Nerang station that went through Broadbeach Pac Fair, which went along a road mentioned in the directions in the resort’s website. However, the bus was either an express without me knowing it, or the bus driver was just not in a good mood that day, but when I saw the sign stating “Royal Pines Resort 1km”, I pushed the “STOP” button…and the bus stopped when it got to the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. Not very helpful.
I decided that, having been to Pac Fair once before and remembering a visitor’s centre there, I would seek help. When I arrived at the visitor’s centre, I found that no one working there had the first clue of how I would make it to the resort without having my own car. They finally gave me a brochure of a bus line they felt might take me reasonably close, so I headed back to the bus stop.
Once at the bus stop, I tried to board the bus of the correct number, yet the driver told me rather rudely that he went nowhere near the resort and didn’t know who did. I then proceeded to wait and board every bus going in the right direction, yet no bus driver said they would drop me at the resort, but all of them were full of useful information like what other bus number had a driver I could harass. Each of these subsequent buses yielded no further results, even the one sporting a “Tennis Australia” sticker.
I finally gave in and, had I not have already bought my ticket, probably would have just given up and gone to sit on the beach for the rest of the day. But, since I didn’t want to just dump $30 down the drain and the starting time for the first match had already passed, I decided to fork out the money and get in a taxi cab. The driver was really nice and actually knew where he was going, which I was starting to wonder if anyone on the Gold Coast was capable of doing. He also assured me that it wasn’t just me that was incapable of navigating the Gold Coast’s transport system and that it really is crap.
After the matches were over, my day got even more interesting. I decided that, instead of tossing another $20 at a taxi driver, I would find my way back to the main road to Nerang, where I would either catch one of the buses that might drive by or walk to the Nerang station, which wasn’t all that far away. However, I somehow got mixed up and turned the wrong way when leaving the resort. When I got to the next main road crossing mine, I happened to see a bus labeled “Surfer’s Paradise” so I headed in the opposite direction. It should have clued me in that perhaps this was not a heavily pedestrian trafficked road when I had to cross the road to find a sidewalk, but I continued walking since I kept seeing signs for Nerang.
I walked, and walked, and walked. There was mostly nothing, not even many cars, and every once in a while a couple buses, although I never saw any stops for them to actually stop at. My one map that I had been given at the visitor’s centre wasn’t much good, since it only showed the bus route which I had obviously slightly deviated from. I was absolutely, totally lost, with only the road signs to help me on my way—and those signs didn’t have any distances or anything other than a name and an arrow, which was just enough to give me false hope that Nerang might just be around the next corner.
After a good hour, my legs were threatening to give out on me. It was the middle of the summer and therefore rather warm, and I was already dehydrated from sitting outside watching tennis for the entire afternoon. Most importantly, the sun was moving closer and closer to the hills, and I didn’t particularly want to be in a rather uninhabited area, totally lost, in the dark. Luckily, I soon stumbled upon a bit of civilization—at least, a large intersection with a BP station. I walked into the station and asked them how I would get to Nerang, and the attendants told me that it would be really simple to just drive up the highway a couple exits and I’d be there. When I asked them how I would get there without a car, since I didn’t particularly feel like walking down the Pacific Highway, they just gave me a strange look. Apparently people don’t really walk to Nerang or something…
I had actually walked in the opposite direction from Nerang when leaving the tennis club, and while I was taking the road to Nerang, I was taking the extremely long way around. I felt absolutely shattered when I was told this—how was I supposed to get back to Brizzy at all? Luckily, one of the attendants was just finishing her shift and offered to give me a lift to the station, which took a whole 5 minutes. In this period of time, she managed to tell me about how much the Gold Coast transport system sucks as well. I hadn’t noticed. Thank god for her, because I have no clue what I would have done otherwise.
I have to say, I don’t plan on going back to the Gold Coast without someone that owns a car for a very long time, unless I have a foolproof way of getting to wherever I need to go. While it was great exercise, I would have much preferred just hopping on a bus to a central point, like you can in Brisbane, and then finding my way from there, rather than wandering aimlessly and feeling totally helpless. Even a few more stops than simply “Broadbeach Pac Fair” and “Surfer’s Paradise” would do. So, when traveling on Gold Coast transport, I simply say good luck.