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Blues, Brews & Hidden Gems: Exploring the Gold Coast Ahead of Blues on Broadbeach

Rolling Stone AU/NZ had the privilege of exploring some local favourites and lesser-known delights of the Gold Coast with two of Blues on Broadbeach's most anticipated acts

As Blues on Broadbeach 2024 draws near, the Gold Coast is once again preparing for a vibrant celebration of music, culture, and community. From May 16th-19th, the streets will resonate with the soulful sounds of blues, rhythm, and roots, as talented artists from the world and across Australia converge on this lively coastal city.

But the Gold Coast offers more than just glittering high-rises and pristine beaches – it’s a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. 

And who better to unveil these secrets than two of Blues on Broadbeach’s most anticipated acts?

Over two unforgettable days, Rolling Stone AU/NZ had the privilege of exploring some local favourites and lesser-known delights of the Gold Coast with the talented Sunshine Coast singer-songwriter Minnie Marks and three of the four members of the incredible Tijuana Cartel crew – Paul George, Carey O’Sullivan, and Sheila Finke.

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk with Minnie Marks

Our journey begins at the breathtaking Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, where Minnie Marks greets us with a warm smile. “I just love the drive here,” she says. “I do a lot of driving, so it’s nice to get off a road that’s dead straight!”

As we embark on the 1.5-km trail through the lush rainforest canopy, Minnie shares, “This is my second time on the skywalk. I came here five years ago and also visited the glow worm caves—that was really beautiful.”

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

Higher in the misty canopy, the sounds of birds and insects swell around us as we emerge onto the skywalk’s pièce de résistance – a 40-m bridge suspended 30m above the forest floor. 

Standing on this engineering marvel, it’s hard not to feel a rush of exhilaration as you gaze out over the primordial landscape. 

“It makes you feel tiny, doesn’t it?” Minnie marvels, her voice filled with awe.

Witches Falls Winery

Next, we indulge our senses with wine and cheese platters at Tamborine Mountain’s charming Witches Falls Winery.

As the warm afternoon sun casts a golden glow, we sample various wines suggested by our knowledgeable host, Lawson, who educates us on the winery’s history and the unique characteristics of each drop.

The mouthwatering locally sourced gourmet produce, including cheeses, chutneys, and crackers, perfectly complements our tasting experience.”When I was overseas I went to a few wineries and learned about the regions and all that,” Minnie explains while tasting the vegan smoky cheese and sampling a glass of Marsanne.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

As we depart with a take-home bottle of wine and stroll through the enchanting vineyard, it’s clear that Witches Falls Winery has cast a spell on us.

HOTA, Home of the Arts

Back in the city, the striking geometric architecture of HOTA, Home of the Arts beckons. 

With a stunning view sprawled out before us, we settle in for a mouthwatering lunch at the trendy rooftop Exhibitionist Bar that consists of hummus drizzled with olive, green goddess salad, pizza, and crispy, chilli and honey-drizzled Brussels sprouts. 

“My mates recently played a gig here, and it was the first time I came. I love the level of support HOTA provides for all the arts,” Minnie says as we admire the sprawling skyline. “My brothers are both artists, so I love coming to exhibitions.”

With our curiosity piqued, we make our way to the Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition –which runs until August 4th – where we’re transported to an immersive world where iconic 14th to 17th-century masterpieces like Mona Lisa and The Birth of Venus come to life before our very eyes, leaving us with a renewed appreciation for one of history’s most influential eras.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

Miami Marketta

Miami Marketta, a bustling cultural hub known for its live music and street market-style cuisine, is our next stop. 

“I’ve played a few gigs at Miami Marketta – I’ve always loved the place,” Minnie says as we enter the colourful laneway adorned with gig posters and street art. “Between the music inside and the outdoor food stalls, it feels like a different world. It’s a wicked venue.”

Inside Studio 56, we’re greeted by Miami Marketta’s longtime photographer Grant Trammell, who regales us with tales of the venue’s rich musical history (Miami Marketta is approaching its 13th birthday).

“As I’m looking back on the stage, I have recollections of everyone from The Whitlams to Amyl And The Sniffers and Russell Crowe and everyone in between,” Grant recalls while pouring us glasses of champagne.

“It has all the good food and good people– it’s just a nice little corner for everyone to be in a good mood,” Minnie adds.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

Fenech Guitars 

Our final stop led us to Fenech Guitars, where master luthier Aaron Fenech blends artistry and acoustics to create exquisite instruments. “Aaron’s a legend, he makes amazing guitars,” Minnie tells me as we enter the workshop and the smell of wood shavings permeates the air.

Aaron’s dedication to his craft is palpable as he shares his journey with us. “I’ve been here for nearly a decade now. My background is in science and engineering, but the cost of quality guitars led me to start making and repairing them for friends and family. It became an obsession,” he explains.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

Minnie’s eyes gleam with admiration as she strums one of his impressive finished products, gently strumming the guitar while soaking in the rich, resonant sound before nodding her head in approval.

Aaron’s passion for his work is unmistakable – this is far more than a business; it’s his calling.

“What I’m most proud of is that we employ local, passionate people,” Aaron says proudly. “We come to work every day to build guitars for people, which is a true blessing.”

You can catch Minnie Marks at this year’s Blues on Broadbeach.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary with Tijuana Cartel

On day two, we join Tijuana Cartel’s Paul George, Carey O’Sullivan, and Sheila Finke for a crash course in the Gold Coast’s coastal cool, starting at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

“I used to have a friend who worked here and we would always go about 20 years ago,” Paul says as we pull up to the sanctuary. “That makes me feel old saying that.”

As we wander through the park, we’re constantly amazed by the diverse array of native animals that call this place home. From the sleepy koalas snuggled up in the treetops to the local kangaroos lazing in the morning sun, every encounter feels like a special moment frozen in time. And when we get the chance to cuddle with Kiki, a gentle koala with fur so soft you could mistake it for a cloud, it’s impossible not to fall in love.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

A visit to the frog lab reveals the park’s crucial conservation efforts, particularly for the critically endangered Kroombit Tinker Frog. We learn that scientists have recently achieved the first captive breeding of this species, offering hope for its future

As we leave, we gain a deeper appreciation for Australia’s incredible biodiversity and the vital role of conservation. Sheila reflects on the car ride home, “What they’re doing in the frog lab – that to me was my highlight to know that they were able to get funding to create that lab.”

“I love that we can have memories [of the park] as a kid and can still enjoy it as an adult. I love that place.”

Dust Temple

Our next stop is the Dust Temple, a repurposed warehouse that serves as both a coffee shop as well as a hub for the Gold Coast’s arts and culture scene. “I played a few gigs here, solo and with my friend Felicity [Lawless],” Paul shares as we settle in to the cozy space.

Created by Isla Wilson and her husband John 11 years ago, Dust Temple is a hub for the Gold Coast’s arts and culture scene.

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

“The name Dust Temple – it’s the genesis of creation because we are all dust – there’s no difference between us, we are all the same. We really wanted to make it apparent that everyone was welcome here,” Isla shares.

Over brunch, talk turns to Tijuana Cartel’s upcoming Blues On Broadbeach set, with Sheila excitedly reminiscing about their last performance. “We sat up on stage and there was no one there. By the time we ended our first song, it was like a whole frickin’ street. It was incredible.” 

The sense of community at Dust Temple extends beyond the artists and musicians who frequent its walls. Regular customer Les, for example, who stops by to greet Isla as he grabs his morning coffee, has become an integral part of this unique space. 

When asked how long he’s been coming, Les laughs. “How long’s a piece of string?” His favourite part? “Definitely the people.”

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

Madocke Beer Brewing Company

After our plans to visit the stunning Cougal Cascades were thwarted by rain, we decided to quench our thirst at Madocke Beer Brewing Company in Ashmore.

Paul shares, “We collaborated with them for the Gold Coast craft beer festival last year, and they named a beer after our latest album, Alectura. They actually called it ‘Kalkun’, which is the Flemish word for ‘Bush Turkey’, the inspiration behind our album title. I love that!”

Credit: Whitney Innes-Hill

As we step inside the Belgian-style brewery, created by Jimmy and Anneliese Madock, we’re greeted by a cozy, rustic ambiance. The handcrafted lights and laid-back atmosphere provide a welcome respite from the outside.

Over a delicious ginger cider, Anneliese tells us, “All our beers are rooted in tradition and heritage. We bring authentic Belgian beer styles to Australians, who we believe are the best beer drinkers in the world. That’s what we’re all about here – good beer, good conversation, and good friends.”

You can catch Tijuana Cartel at this year’s Blues on Broadbeach with a Kurrawa Park Sunday Ticket at Kurrawa Park on Sunday, May 19th alongside Fat Freddy’s Drop and BOOMCHILD.

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