Living like a local: There’s more to the Gold Coast than theme parks and surfing

Jun 13, 2019
Gold Coast, Australia at sunset. Source: Getty Images

Queensland couple Neil McLean and Gai Reid journeyed to Europe to enjoy some authentic travel, ‘living like locals’. The result? They spent 300 days pet and house-sitting their way across four countries, spending less than it would cost them to live at home. Plus they started a new business, Village to Villa! Here’s the next chapter in the fabulous account of their escapades…

Episode 41

[To read episode 38, click here]

The last story from our pet and housesitting adventure on the Gold Coast in south-east Queensland, Australia is a little different from the rest. We are staying in a very large home in the suburbs, caring for a very small but hugely cute little black dog called Ruby. Being a nationally known and loved tourist destination, the Gold Coast is filled with cool stuff to do. It has the largest theme parks here (Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Dreamworld and a lot of animal attractions etc.) and dozens of other major activities for families.

The Broadwater, with seagulls on the beach waiting petiently for a feed. Source: Village to Villa

However, it is a living attraction that stood out for us on our visit. The Gold Coast is home to a large populations of pelicans, a truly magnificent creature. These are wild birds and they require a special diet to stay healthy, but the reality is they will eat just about anything — pet food, your ham and cheese sandwhich, sausages and everything in between. It’s important therefore, that these creatures a only provided with the rich oily fish they’re bodies are designed to survive on.

Pelicans are massive creatures. Source: Village to Villa

Forget about feeding the pelicans on your own as you sit with your fish and chips at the beach. For a truly special experience, we headed to Charis Seafood (between Harley Park and Ian Dipple Lagoon) on the Broadwater at Labrador. Here we found pelicans gathering en masse in preparation for a fishy feast at 1:30pm.

It’s a popular tourist attraction, so we recommend arriving early. Right on the dot of 1:30pm, a Charis Seafood staffer will throw fresh fish scaps to the impatient pelicans. We watched in awe as the pelicans competed for the fish heads and guts being flung in their direction. Really tasty stuff for a pelican! The aerial acrobatics proved entertaining for anyone watching.

It’s lunch time! The pelicans are moving into position in preparation for the 1:30pm feeding frenzy. Source: Village to Villa

About half a dozen of the big birds waited on a concrete wall, while another rabble of pelicans waited patiently on the sand below. As each bird was thrown a carcass they would move off the concrete wall and another row of birds would move in. It was quite astounding to watch this procession and as beaks snapped shut we were reminded that there is safety in distance; you wouldn’t want to get too close as pelicans are known to give a good peck!

As we expected, the feeding frenzy also attracts a number of curious seagulls. They desperately tried to get in on the action.

Lunch with the pelicans at Charis Seafood just north of Surfers Paradise. Source: Village to Villa

Perhaps best of all is that this is a free attraction on the Gold Coast, popular among all ages. According to the Charis Seafood owners, Salvi Vinaccia and Jim Stamoudis, the pelican feeding started about 20 years ago when they’d throw fish offcuts to a few hungry pelicans. Over time the pelican numbers increased to what we saw on our visit.

The pelicans gathering at Charis Seafood are only fed fish, including the heads, offcuts and innards of whiting, bream, flathead and mullet. The pelicans were not fussy eaters, happily chowing down on bones and scales, and because they don’t need a lot of food to fill them up, a few fish in the belly was all it took to move them on.

Despite our house and pet sitting being local, it was the first time either Gai or I had experienced the pelican feeding. It goes to show that even if you’ve lived in a place for 30-odd years (as I have on the Gold Coast) there is always something to explore. It was refreshing and rewarding to see this side of my city.

Is there something about your city or town that you’ve discovered? Does house sitting or pet sitting as a means of seeing the world appeal to you?

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