The food mainly comes from a wood-fired oven but there’s not a pizza in sight — instead you’ll find modern Australian combinations with rustic European underpinnings. Kingfish ceviche comes with a pea puree rather than the citrus brine it gets everywhere else, and steak tartare is reimagined as a raw steak sandwich, doused in smoky Spanish paprika.
There are some charming small towns within easy driving range, and many of them have seen an influx of wealth in recent years as affluence spills out from the Gold Coast and also Byron Bay to the south. Brunswick Heads, about an hour’s drive into New South Wales, has great vintage stores, boutiques and a riverfront park where kids, dogs and families splash in the tidal Brunswick River.
It is also home to one of the country’s most lauded new restaurants, Fleet. Reservations at Fleet are basically impossible to secure; for a far more accessible dining experience, the sprawling patio at the historic Hotel Brunswick is one of the region’s great pub experiences.
The area’s history as a hippie haven offers some unique sightseeing, such as the Crystal Castle Shambhala Gardens in the breathtakingly beautiful hinterlands above Byron Bay. The gardens are home to some of the biggest crystals in the world, and aura readings (and aura photographs) are available. On your way back down the hill, stop by Federal Doma Cafe in Federal for fantastic Japanese/Australian cafe food.
There’s plenty for adventure-seekers nearby, including a ropes course and zip line parks, the largest of which is in Mount Tamborine, a little less than an hour northwest of the Gold Coast. Tree Top Challenge also has a smaller course inside the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, but the original Mount Tamborine park has six courses spread over nine acres of forest, with about 100 challenges and 11 zip lines.
The surrounding area offers multiple natural attractions, including Springbrook National Park’s Natural Bridge waterfall, which at night is lit by glow worms, fireflies and luminous fungi.