Paradise Found: Beach-Inspired Hotel Design at Australia’s Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Gold CoastBy Louise Southerden
Minutes from Surfers Paradise, the gleaming high-rise heart of Australia’s Gold Coast, and only an hour’s drive from Brisbane, the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Gold Coast inhabits a world of its own.
Serenely situated on 14 acres of tropical gardens and sprawling beachfront, it’s a grand dame of a resort that has managed to not only move with the times, but to exceed guest expectations at every turn. The thoughtful design ensures each guest feels like they’ve entered their own private paradise, with exclusive resort vistas, private lanais and water views from every room.
“One of my favorite things to do is to observe guests arriving,” says the resort’s marketing director Nick Clarke. “They’ve usually flown up from Sydney or Melbourne; it’s been a long day, but as soon as they get out of the taxi and see the Pacific Ocean and that big blue sky, you can see their shoulders relax and all their cares just melt away.”
It’s a first impression artfully created by architect Susan Rossi, Director of Interior Design at DBI Design, to wow guests and highlight the Sheraton Grand Mirage’s groundbreaking position: as the Gold Coast’s first international resort when it opened three decades ago and still its only luxury beachfront resort today.
“To arrive at the porte-cochere [covered driveway] and immediately see the ocean, that was a first in Australia in 1987,” Rossi explains. “The grand arrival that says, ‘I’m in a resort, not an urban hotel.’”
It’s not uncommon for guests to enter the lobby and keep walking — past reception, across glimmering Italian marble floors, and onto a cantilevered indoor observation deck seemingly suspended before a three-story wall of glass, she says. There they stand, as if on the bow of a ship, “just to look at the sea, or to get a romantic photo; a lot of brides have their photos taken out there.”
It’s still a surprising feature today; when the resort was built, it was revolutionary.
“Thirty years ago, the design team really pushed the boundaries in terms of master planning, architecture, interior and landscape design, to ensure the guest experience would surpass the expectations of Australian resorts at the time.”
It doesn’t end there, of course. The entire central building (containing the lobby, restaurants and bars; there are also two accommodation wings curving around the property’s main lagoon) is “essentially a platform floating in the sky overlooking the ocean, dissolving into the elements,” she says.
“Not just for its own aesthetic sake, but to pay homage to water and connect indoor and outdoor spaces, which is very much a signature of our practice.”
Few architects get the chance to revisit their designs after they have hung up their hard hats, let alone decades later.
For Rossi, who has worked on Sheraton properties all over the world, being invited to refurbish the resort she clearly has a deep affection for was “a lovely opportunity to go back to our original design,” she says.
“It has always been a very simple, modernist building: white, clean, bold, elegant and sophisticated.”
The fact that the central building in all its glory is visible only once you walk through it and into the resort grounds is another way the Sheraton Grand Mirage delights guests — in this case by giving them a privileged view.
With its white lattice-like beams, white columns and overhanging eaves, it was designed to resemble a “big pergola” says Rossi, wth an open sea-breeziness that frames the outdoors while offsetting an otherwise imposing facade.
It helps that no part of the resort is higher than the coconut palms dotting the property, a local council restriction imposed back in 1987, giving the resort a modesty that’s refreshing on the often-glitzy Gold Coast.
The mid-century vibe is enhanced by a striking series of Slim Aarons photographs of American high-society between the 1950s and 1970s gracing the walls outside Pearls Bar next to the lobby. This dark-hued, split-level space with an Oriental twist promises a little respite from Queensland’s famously persistent sunshine.
But even here you can’t escape the resort’s dazzling setting.
Squint a little as you gaze out through the bar’s floor-to-ceiling windows and you might imagine a few of Aarons’ rich and fabulous friends stepping out of his images in their crocheted bikinis and floppy hats to lounge by one of the resort’s Curacao-blue pools and lagoons (water features make up 40 percent of its footprint).
Suspend the illusion a little longer by “walking on water” to your room — along timber boardwalks that would look right at home at an exclusive marina.
Ensuring guests can enjoy water views — of pools or the Pacific — from any one of the 295 rooms (including 11 suites) was another important consideration, says Rossi
“We wanted to give guests the sense that they are in their own island paradise, a place where all their needs and desires for a perfect holiday are met.”
Just don’t expect to take in those views from balconies; the Sheraton Grand Resort has none (except in its privately owned villas). Instead each room has an innovative lanai, a Hawaiian verandah, so “there aren’t any barriers between inside and outside, just a flow between the two,” says Rossi.
The effect is liberating.
Draw back the sheer curtains, slide open the wide windows and without even leaving your room, you’re on the beach — watching the glittering waves, the sea breeze ruffling your hair, listening to the rumbling roar of the surf.
As part of the resort’s most recent refurbishment, in 2017, its popular seafood restaurant, Terraces, was renovated “to feel like a standalone restaurant, one you could find in any street in Surfers [Paradise], Miami or any international beachside destination,” says Rossi.
Timber floors, high ceilings and white Scandi-chic chairs let nature’s palette of sky-blues and tropical-greens, seen through high walls of glass in this simple and stylish eatery, do the talking.
For that, ultimately, is the enduring strength of the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Gold Coast. As much as it exceeds guests’ expectations, wowing them with its simple modernist style, it is increasingly in tune with its surroundings — which are themselves changing.
“What makes the Gold Coast special is that there’s a level of sophistication we didn’t see 30 years ago, but still the relaxed beach-holiday vibe people have always come to the Gold Coast for,” Rossi says, “and the Sheraton Grand Mirage fits into this beautifully. It was a bit of an anomaly when it opened but has found its place now — as a much-loved and iconic destination in its own right.”
If you enjoyed learning about this local experience, we invite you to visit us at Sheraton Hotels. At destinations around the world, our associates welcome you and seek to deliver the highest standard of service with style and local flair, ensuring you experience the best stay possible.