DESPITE the growing status of some of NSW's coastal towns the Gold Coast is still the big drawcard for the state's school leavers.
Thousands of teenagers left on Saturday for week two of the annual celebrations, known as ''NSW week'', amid police calls for them to take care and act responsibly following the death on Thursday night of 17-year-old Isabelle Colman, who fell from the 26th floor of the Chevron Renaissance apartment tower at Surfers Paradise.
About 78 per cent of NSW students travel during the second week, according to booking figures from schoolies.com, used by 30,000 students. And, despite the increasing popularity of destinations such as Byron Bay, more than 90 per cent of the state's schoolies will party this week at the Gold Coast.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the Gold Coast's reputation as the place to go," the chief executive of schoolies.com Matt Lloyd, said.
Byron Bay is undoubtedly the second most popular destination, and Mr Lloyd speculated that Port Macquarie was the other hot spot this side of the border.
"I've heard of Nelson Bay as a destination, too," Mr Lloyd said. "I think you'll find schoolies in some form or another at any of those coastal towns, even on the south coast below Sydney, where there's a beach and a bit of accommodation, but probably not in great numbers."
Coffs Harbour is also growing in popularity as an alternative. ''Its [popularity] is probably because some people trying to get away from mainstream schoolies and prefer a quieter break away," Brian Bowers, the manager of the Coffs Coast Visitor Information Centre said.
Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays also has become a schoolies favourite, though almost exclusively with Queenslanders. Similarly, Victorian school leavers flock to Lorne.
With cheap flights and accommodation, thousands of others have headed abroad. Unleashed Travel, the biggest booking service for overseas schoolies trips, will fly 3000 of them to Fiji across three weeks starting this weekend.
The company charters island resorts exclusively for groups of about 300 schoolies. Tour leaders escort the schoolies from the airport to the resort where stay with them. "They're on call 24 hours a day," the company's managing director, Jot Lynas, said.
There is 24-hour security, tourist police and tight controls over alcohol.
"We do bag searches so no one can sit in a room and drink a bottle of booze and make themselves really ill," Mr Lynas said. "If they want to drink they go to the bar and buy one drink at a time and there are controls over when the bars are open too."
The company has also taken more than 200 bookings for Vanuatu and roughly the same for Bali.
Wherever the school leavers are planning to party, parents should have a serious chat to them before they travel, assistant police commissioner, Carlene York said. ''You should remind them how important it is to stay together, look after each other and make smart choices about how they celebrate. We want them to remember schoolies for all the right reasons.''