Sanctuary on the green at InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort

Just 24 hours earlier I sat at a fast food restaurant with a mate and our five collective kids smiling through a half hour of chaos that can simultaneously bring as much pleasure as it does pain.

So when I find myself a day later seated in solitude at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort’s signature restaurant, The Fireplace, I take a moment to pause, exhale and thank the universe for its small mercies. In a modern world where truly special experiences are becoming harder to find, turning onto Sanctuary Cove Boulevard and cutting yourself off from society for a day or three is a moment to be cherished.

Situated on the northern end of the Gold Coast within easy reach of the theme parks that attract so many visitors to south-east Queensland each year, Sanctuary Cove has been an iconic holiday destination since visiting superstars Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston heralded its arrival in 1988.

A resort now so big it has its own postcode, the influence of golf on Sanctuary Cove has been significant since the day the only Arnold Palmer-designed course in Australia opened. In the early 1990s, The Pines hosted a skins format featuring Peter Senior, Laura Davies, five-time British Open champion Tom Watson and the flamboyant and unpredictable John Daly.

When the quartet arrived at the 325-metre par-4 sixth the prudent play was to hit an iron to the safe part of the fairway and leave a short approach in across the water hazard. But ‘prudent’ has never been the John Daly way. So he leant back, smashed driver over the pines lining the left side of the water, across the large lake and onto the green; a feat commemorated to this day with a plaque beside the tee box from where he let rip.

Reserved exclusively for members of Sanctuary Cove and guests of the InterContinental, The Pines represents one of few golf courses left in Australia that will prompt friends, when you regale them of your round, to ask: ‘How did you get on there?’

While The Pines’ standing as one of Australia’s toughest golf courses has been long founded, the adjacent course, The Palms, has come flooding into consciousness on the back of a redesign by acclaimed architect – and Sanctuary Cove resident – Ross Watson. Formerly the ‘public access’ course that received short shrift, The Palms is now a rollicking round of golf that challenges shot selection from tee to green. When it opened, members at Sanctuary Cove were so taken by it they wanted to keep it for themselves.

Such has been The Palms’ rise since 2011 it is now No.48 in Australian Golf Digest’s most recent ranking of the country’s top 100 golf courses, just three spots behind The Pines. Their lofty positions make Sanctuary Cove one of six golf clubs in Australia with two courses in the top 50. Finding time to fit in everything on offer at Sanctuary Cove will be one of the great challenges of your stay.

The resort itself has a magnificent beach lagoon pool that is the epicentre of all outdoor activities, the younger members of the family have InterContinental’s Planet Trekkers program to engage their creative side, and the Champions Hair Beauty Day Spa has a range of treatments ready to replenish.

The Marine Village that serves as the hub of the world-famous Sanctuary Cove Boat Show boasts culinary experiences encompassing Chinese, Thai, Italian, Japanese and modern Australian but you will be hard-pressed to find anything to match what is on offer in-house at The Fireplace. 

The smell and ambience created by the open woodfire oven that serves as the centrepiece to the dining experience is intoxicating. It pervades your nostrils as soon as you step through the door and stays with you as you sample the multitude of tastes to be explored throughout the menu, the heady mix of burning embers and fresh, local produce filling the room.

While extensive, the wine list has been carefully crafted by chief sommelier David Stevens-Castro and boasts local favourites such as Penfolds and Henschke, wines from our near neighbours in New Zealand, and also exotic varietals from France, Chile and Argentina.

For entree, I had the Fraser Island spanner crab followed by the chimney grilled Victorian lamb backstrap, with a side of the best pumpkin I have ever eaten in my life. I know, pumpkin! Trust me, it was amazing.

That probably would have been enough but I was coaxed into trying the mango and berry trifle and, having devoured it, would commit to doing whatever exercise was necessary to burn it off so I could have it all over again. After all, an escape from the real world should always be a little bit indulgent.

Lush grounds at InterContinental Sanctuary Cove

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