Take a punt on perfect package from Glitter Strip
With the car finally packed full of togs, heels and race day hats, we head to the Gold Coast for a long-awaited girls' weekend of surf, horse racing and cocktails (OK and maybe some shopping).
Our arrival at the QT in Surfers Paradise is a moment to savour. This is no ordinary hotel and you can see immediately why it is one of the most Instagrammed places on the Gold Coast.
The quirky visual aesthetic and stylish beach culture vibe set the scene and cut straight to the chase: beach holidays are all about having fun.
There's a vintage combi van parked out front near a row of retro bicycles. The concierge wears colourful boardies while the reception staff look like they've just stepped away from a 1950s bowling alley. From the moment you walk into the QT, you know you're on holiday.
A quick explore revealed a St Tropez-style swimming pool - with Grace Kelly look-alikes and swim-up bar (nice); the Fixx coffee shop with its eclectic range of funky furniture and then the industrial chic Stingray Lounge Bar.
We wander about soaking in the nostalgic surfer vibe with pop art and quirky decorator pieces and yes, it got us thinking, "why aren't more seaside hotels like this?”.
Our promenading takes us to SpaQ, with its luscious scents, and oh how we wish we had booked ahead for a pampering session - so worth it.
RACE DAY READY
As we head to our room we find that even the elevators are fun. Each one features a different pin-up character. Hello sailor!
Step aside boring hotel rooms; our 15th- floor beach-view room is spacious, bright and colourful. Underpinned by a black and white stripe theme, there are beachy designer pieces and the beds are seriously comfortable - in a way that makes you think your bed at home isn't.
How do you pack for a girls' weekend at the beach that includes a big race day? Sure you could pack 25 outfits with matching shoes and hats or you could just order a couple of new designer outfits from Glam Corner and have them waiting for you in your hotel room. We did. How great is that?
HIT THE TURF
Australia has some magnificent race tracks and Aquis Park is one of them - of course it is, this is the Gold Coast and they know all about visitor appeal. With a backdrop of skyscrapers, you're tucked away in a little green oasis of manicured gardens and pretty spaces made perfect for selfies.
The Dome is large and elegant. Divided into individual areas with sofas and armchairs, this is the place to socialise, meet friends and be seen. Large trays of delicate hors d'oeuvres swish about while hand- crafted desserts are created by artisans from Messina (cheesecake, ice cream, custard, meringue and fresh fruit - indulgent? Very).
But why the gorgeous swags of pink flowers and ribbons? Chambord is the liqueur de jour for the spring/summer racing season and the theme is raspberry: think spritzers and Kir Royale. We're in heaven.
Time to head to our table at the Skyline Restaurant, where we have booked a Premium Food and Beverage package at $185pp. Can we do it justice? We're willing to give it a red-hot go.
The Skyline Restaurant's tiered seating takes in the whole race course and is smack bang in front of the finish line and mounting yard. What a view. And talk about atmosphere. This is where you go to whoop it up with other punters and share the excitement of every single race. The wins, the losses, the drama, the laughter - there is so much energy in this room you just have to feel lucky. We had some pretty good tipsters and I'm pleased to say that our $10 each way bets came up OK in the end.
Our five-course meals at the Skyline were five-star superb and kudos to the chefs, who demonstrate creative flair with skill. If you want steak or barramundi cooked to perfection, go to the Skyline Restaurant.
After jumping about in heels all day, how wonderful it is to cool your toes in the surf. Once last drinks is called at Aquis Park we taxi back to the QT and change for the beach. A brisk walk and splash in the waves was perfect to re-invigorate the senses, burn a few calories and take in the sunset.
Next stop, dinner. Yes, we are girls of stamina, which is just as well because the Bazaar at the QT follows a buffet concept but in a marketplace setting. Which means you can eat as much as you like.
The Bazaar looks beautiful, fresh and tempting. There are separate sections for salads, fresh seafood, pizza, Asian and Indian cuisine. There's also a wall of desserts, puddings and ice cream. Whatever your dietary requirement, the chefs have you covered.
Sensible people would probably head to bed about now but we are on a mission to find out more. So next stop is the Stingray Lounge, where we meet up with fellow race-goers from earlier in the day. The Stingray is known as the official "after party” playground and on a Saturday night it's pumping.
Famous for cocktails (and extraordinary mocktails - which are a pretty good idea about now), the beats compete with laughter and chatter.
THE MORNING AFTER
We've been eyeing off the swimming pool from our hotel room and decide on a Sunday morning dip before breakfast. It's an elegant pool with banana lounges and swinging chairs. An arbour of fragrant jasmine perfumes the air and we are about to doze off when breakfast beckons.
We pushed some boundaries yesterday so today we feel like fortifying with a healthy breakfast, so it's back to Bazaar. There's everything you might expect in a cooked breakfast buffet (oh to have the metabolism of a teenage boy!) plus smoothies, acai, coconut chia, fresh fruit, salads, an omelet bar and every muesli ever invented. And waffles.
Check-out is at 11am, which is a very civilised hour, and we head off to do some casual shopping on the way home.
We've ticked all the boxes this weekend: beach, exercise, food, races, fun. And we both wonder why we don't do this more often.
IF YOU GO
Aquis Park Gold Coast Turf Club
QT Gold Coast
The Skyline Restaurant
The writer was the guest of Aquis Park Gold Coast Turf Club and QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise