You'll be blown over
Peppers Broadbeach - on a good day outside.
What was it that the Queensland tourism people sprouted a few years ago, ''Beautiful one day - perfect the next''? My past two holiday experiences north of the border have involved floods, storms and cyclones. Without demeaning anything that happened to anybody during all of these tragedies over the past couple of years, the weather sure knows how to spoil a holiday. Or, look at it another way, as the woman next to me on the plane, a local on her way back to the Sunshine Coast, said, ''maybe we should stop you at Tweed Heads next time you plan a visit.'' Got to love a Queenslander.
We leave Sydney for Coolangatta, knowing the weather is a little scratchy up north. We've missed the middle of Cyclone Oswald but know he's still causing trouble. Friends already on the Gold Coast are sending video footage of themselves on the balcony of their beachfront hotel. The wind is making the boys' faces actually jiggle, like the ridiculous footage of people in flight simulators, the skin moving with the substantial breeze. Coincidentally their hotel is across from ours. ''See that pool there?'' they point out on the video, ''the one with all the chairs in it? that's your pool. See that palm tree crushing that fence? That's our tennis court.''
Looks fun, let's get on the plane.
The lights of the Gold Coast.
An hour so later the wheels are down and we're about to land. It could be a little rough the captain says. Down we go towards the runway. Up we go, lurching, up and all the way back to Sydney.
Round two the next day is much the same. (After a night in an airport hotel.) This time we don't even bother with the wheels down and my husband notices on the destination screen on the back of the seat that the plane has turned around even before the captain tells us. There's a group of us in this together and we're all starting to see the humour in it. Either that or we've spent too long in the club lounge before the flight. There's a mother with two daughters who are heading home to get back to school. There's a dad and his daughter of five or six, who have been up since 3am the day before coming from Perth. He's cool. He has his Collingwood Football Club hat on back to front, bangles and tattoos, and he hasn't let go of his daughter's hand for the past 24 hours. When the captain announces our latest plan, and the options to follow we all look at each other with raised eyebrows and a cynical smile. Here we go again.
Later that day our three groups have decided to take option A. Fly to Brisbane, where the chance of landing is higher but not guaranteed and be bussed to Coolangatta.
Later that day we actually touch Queensland soil and at least we're in the state. Third time's a charm.
The bus trip an hour south is quite interesting. The bus gets buffeted around by the wind, we wonder how the driver can actually drive with the poor visibility given that's one reason the pilot gave us for not landing the plane. And then the same with the cab ride back to the hotel.
And then about 36 hours after leaving home we're arriving in the lobby of Peppers Broadbeach and there, among the cool marble lobby, the conditions outside are forgotten.
And that seemed to be the theme for the remainder of the week. When you're holidaying in the tail end of a cyclone, Peppers is a particularly nice place to be.
Recently named the No.1 accommodation provider in Queensland in the TripAdvisor 2013 Travellers' Choice Awards, and No.2 in the Top 25 Hotels across Australia, Peppers Broadbeach has brought a little five-star style back to the Gold Coast.
And it seems right at home in Broadbeach, a place much changed since my first visit there in 1985. I remember mid size high-rises, small shopping strips, an escape from the glitz and business of Surfers Paradise up the road. Now there are an increasing number of glass-fronted towers, Peppers and Air are two, and boulevards full of cafes and restaurants that snake through the Oracle development close by, from Crust pizza, where you can get a wine with dinner, to the Bavarian Bier Cafe that tempts you with a long beer list and a Tuesday schnitzel challenge. Peppers has just launched a three-bedroom sub-penthouse, a spacious 340 square metres of luxury that has 270 degree panoramic views up and down the coast via the floor-to-ceiling windows.
But we're happy in a two-bedroom suite, the kids' room is away from ours and the kitchen is fabulous. But it's the master bedroom that wins us over. A king-size bed, and an en suite where both the shower and bath were placed to allow for uninterrupted sea views.
If we're going to be stuck inside for a week, we're not going to suffer too much.
Especially when the porter - and the staff were unfailingly nice and helpful all week - told the kids about all the fun things they could do. There was a Wii in the room, and if they wanted different games all they needed to do was dial 9; there were in-room complimentary movies; new releases to purchase; there was even a theatrette we could book to watch a film of our own (which we did, we hired Brave and kicked back in luxury, the kids in huge beanbags, adults in recliners). While we had brought our own, there was also a complimentary iPad option.
But there's too much of that ''electrics'' at home. There were also two pools, two spas, a well-equipped gym, a children's playground, a games room full of video-and-pinball-type games and a club lounge where we had a game of snooker one particularly blustery afternoon. There was also a barbecue area where we dined some nights among fallen palms; a Zen garden, complete with Buddha; a tai chi lawn; steam room; and sauna.
Across the road, there was a great park, a cycle path that stretched for a good couple of kilometres - and Peppers has bikes and scooters you can hire, as well as boogie boards, surfboards and beach umbrellas - and, of course, the beach.
Ah, the beach. It remained closed all week. Strong currents, debris and unsafe conditions made it uninhabitable. Regular chats to the lifeguards would elicit a maybe tomorrow response so we'd settle for sandcastles and walks.
I'd head out most mornings for a daily walk, just what a storm can wash up is quite interesting. Thongs, cigarette lighters, buckets. Who knows where they came from. Big blue jellyfish that left me wondering if they were sea creature or breast implants, given it was the Gold Coast, such was their shape and consistency. A few times on these walks I would actually get trapped. The beach edge had been cut away furiously by the storms and on high tide there was nowhere to escape to. And the foam, oh the foam.
But there could be worse places to die than on a Queensland beach.
And if you are stranded in a storm, there could be worse places to be staying than Peppers. But not many better.
Flights: Qantas and Virgin fly to Coolangatta daily.
Accommodation: Peppers Broadbeach: stay three nights and save. One-bedroom suite from $246 a night, two-bedroom ocean suite from $351 a night.
Includes complimentary in-room wi-fi access, complimentary on-site parking, daily servicing. Conditions apply.