The QT Gold Coast is a perfect mix of nostalgic Surfers Paradise and Miami cool. RIGHT: Ocean view king room.
The QT Gold Coast is a perfect mix of nostalgic Surfers Paradise and Miami cool. RIGHT: Ocean view king room. CONTRIBUTED

Win the ultimate girls' weekend away

SOMEONE famous once said shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist. They also said time spent with good friends was too. Someone else said salt water heals everything. Throw all three together in 36 hours and you might just find it's the panacea for the stresses of modern life… if you're a woman, that is.

Best friend plus a weekend at the Gold Coast plus shopping… For me it comes pretty close.

I've always loved to loathe shopping. The crowds, the line-ups at the change rooms, the guilt of spending more than you budgeted for. That's unless you're factory outlet shopping. With your best mate.

Nothing tastes sweeter than savings. And on the Gold Coast you'll get them at Harbour Town, one of the biggest outlet shopping centres in the country.

It's an outdoor experience as you weave in and out of stores - 220 in total - from Coach, Ralph Lauren, Victoria's Secret, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Nike, UGG, Oroton and more. Expect to save up to 70% on retail prices. There's a buzz in picking items from the hanger with the red discount stickers on the tag, then discovering the store also has 40% off store-wide for one day only. In six hours I bought a complete outfit for $157.85 and saved $321.90 off the original prices. How can husbands argue with that?

Our arms full with bags, we check into QT Gold Coast in the heart of Surfers Paradise (thank goodness for concierge). When it comes to hotels, they don't get funkier than this. There's no dreary, drab rooms to be found here. It's a slice of Miami meets nostalgic Surfers Paradise. Pops of colour give off a retro 60s/70s vibe.

Up to our room, there's freshly squeezed lemonade on arrival as we collapse backwards into our plush double beds with mesmerising views of the ocean. On the 21st floor, you'd probably have a good chance of spotting whales from the balcony between May and October.

Happy hour calls for cocktails at the Stingray Lounge. Our favourites? Definitely the vanilla passionfruit pisco sour and smoked pineapple margarita.

QT is also home to arguably the Gold Coast's best buffet, called Bazaar. It's an interactive marketplace for all types of cuisine to send your tastebuds into overdrive. Did I mention the fresh seafood (chucked oysters, scallops, prawns, crab, mussels - you name it)? But you must save room for the dessert bar - just delightful. We retire to our room with some macarons for an in-room chick flick to refuel.

When it comes to things to do, you don't need to look further than the hotel. Take a dip in the pool, swim up to the bar for a refreshment, hire a vintage cruiser bike and explore Surfers Paradise, or indulge in a spa treatment or two. Surfers Paradise's famous beaches are just a hop, skip and jump away.

You can't go home without trying the high tea, aptly named QTea - and it doesn't take long to find out. On first taste, the mind boggles. The macarons and eclairs are no dessert despite their appearance and what looked like a ham and cheese sandwich is certainly not.

The cherry red macaroons are filled with a burst of goat's cheese followed by a lingering bite of basil on a bed of freeze-dried black olives.

The ham and cheese sandwich is actually sponge cake (the bread) and peach jelly disguised as ham, while the eclairs are filled with foie gras with dehydrated raspberries on top.

Your tastebuds are sent into overdrive as your brain tries to work out what you just ate. Sign us up to this one again.

But first, some more shopping. We head back to Harbour Town for round two.

The centre provides a free shuttle service for tourists from four convenient pick-up locations, including Surfers Paradise, which will pick you up and take you straight there.

Don't forget to visit the Tourism Lounge and grab a free Tourism Club Card for even more shopping discounts.

As someone else famous (Bo Derek, from memory) once said: "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." It's at the Gold Coast.

The writer was a guest of QT Gold Coast and Harbour Town.

SHOP, STAY, PLAY

QT Gold Coast Three Night Stand: $368 pp, includes three nights' accommodation, breakfast daily at Bazaar, one dinner at Bazaar, $50 credit for Stingray Lounge. Available now until December 24.

QTea: $39 a person includes QTea for two served with tea and espresso coffee, or $54 a person includes QTea for two served with Champagne Perrier-Jouët, tea and espresso coffee. They'll even do a ManTea for the blokes - chocolate bourbon-filled cigars, prawn cocktail, sliders and fries, pastries and pies. $39 a head without alcohol, including soft drink or $55 a head with a choice of either two select beers, bourbons, whiskies or rums.

Shop 'til you drop: For shuttle bus information or the latest promotions, see http://www.harbourtown.com.au.

WIN THE ULTIMATE GIRLS' WEEKEND AWAY

Prize includes:

Three nights' accommodation in an ocean view twin room at QT Gold Coast

QTea for two including a glass of Perrier-Jouet Champagne per person

spaQ one-hour experience for two, dinner for two in the Bazaar Interactive Marketplace

$1000 Harbour Town shopping voucher.

For details on how to enter, terms and conditions, click this link.



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