Gold Coast is one of the top holiday destinations in Australia and known for its balmy weather all year round. In the summer it’s cooler and doesn’t get as hot and humid as places further north and in the winter it’s considerably warmer than Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide. You can still head to the beach with a good book on a winter’s day in GC. It’s a beloved holiday spot because it is perfect for those that enjoy an active, adrenaline filled vacation as well as those that want to relax and enjoy a more chilled out pace to their time off. I have spent the last ten months living in Gold Coast and filled my time with everything that the Coast has to offer and I can’t wait to share that with you. This list is aimed at those visiting on holiday but hopefully if you’re local or you travel here so often you might as well be you might find something new!
1. Hit the beach
There’s a reason that the Gold Coast is called Gold Coast and that is it’s string of seemingly endless white sandy beaches that stretch around 70km from The Spit at the northern end all the way down to Rainbow Bay at the southern end in the suburb of Coolangatta. Possibly the most common holiday activity on the Coast is to hit a beach for some Vitamin D (300 days of sun per year is pretty good going) and with so much sand it’s easy to find a quiet spot somewhere even in the height of summer.
Surfers Paradise is the most well known area of Gold Coast and where a lot of the nightlife is centred around so if you’re staying up here you can walk straight from the streets onto the sand. Travel further down the coast for quieter beaches and dog friendly beaches. At the northern end of Palm Beach you’ll find a dog beach. Burleigh Heads is a great beach spot if you want lots of choice for lunch, dinner and coffee as the main thoroughfare of Burleigh is just minutes from the beach. Tallebudgera Creek is a great spot for swimming and usually tucked away from any winds as well. Down at Rainbow Bay, this is another great family friendly option as the bay is neatly sheltered by Snapper Rocks and a good spot for a beginner’s surf lesson. Plus a great view across to the city.
2. Scream your way round a theme park
Gold Coast is Australia’s theme park capital and some people will holiday here just to visit the rides! There are several to choose form depending on how wet or dry you would like to stay…. In the heat of the summer, visit Wet’N’Wild or Whitewater World to cool off on the water park rides. I can confirm that at Wet’N’Wild I screamed on every single ride I went on 🙃
Warner Bros. Movie World features rides based on characters from the Warner Bros. World such as Green Lantern, Scooby Doo & Looney Tunes. The park includes the longest, fastest and highest hyper coaster in the Southern Hemisphere. Ride it for yourself and if you’re brave enough pay to upgrade and do it all backwards. Nearby, Dreamworld has one tallest & fastest thrill rides in the world and you can combine a day of rides with seeing plenty of wildlife and shows in the park as well.
Sea World is another favourite where rides are combined with seeing some of the most beautiful sea creatures as well as learning from the team about the marine conservation work that they’re doing and the work to rescue injured animals.
3. Learn how to surf
The culture of Gold Coast is very much surfer life. If you live here and you don’t surf yourself then either you live with someone who does or most of your friends probably do. Gold Coast is famous around the world for its surf breaks as well as its award winning surfers so what better place is there to learn to surf. If you’ve never surfed before then there are plenty of surf schools along the coast ready to teach you how. Down at Rainbow Bay, where the waves are perfect for beginners, I recommend a lesson with Dave who is not only an ex pro but also very encouraging as a teacher!
For more seasoned surfers, head to Snapper Rocks (hope of the Corona Open Surf Championship), Burleigh Heads or hop over the border to Duranbah Beach in Tweed Heads which has some pretty big breaks in the right conditions and home to two of Australia’s great surfers: Mick Fanning & Joel Parkinson.
4. Snorkel the islands and reefs
There are so many water based activities to try out on the Gold Coast and a must do is jumping into the water to spot the sea creatures up close and personal. There are several great snorkelling spots around Gold Coast with lots of different providers. Cook Island is epic for searching out green sea turtles (I swam with eight on my snorkel) whilst you will be literally surrounded by fish at Wave Break Island (which you can incorporate a kayaking element as well here). There are a number of reefs up and down the coast as well such as Palm Beach reef and Kirra Reef so you have plenty of choice!
5. Fill up with brunch
Brunch is an Aussie institution and I’m pretty sure there are as many different brunch spots on Gold Coast as there are days of the year so you really could have avoided on toast somewhere new every day! With so much choice, brunch has to be on your GC itinerary and a great way to fuel up for a busy day ahead. Some local faves include Tarte in Burleigh with its super pretty interior, Pasture & Co in Currumbin Valley set in lush countryside, Custard Canteen at Talle Creek (famous for its custard tarts and delicious cakes) and Paddock Bakery which has lots of corners to tuck yourself away in.
6. Watch the sunset
Gold Coast has some magnificent sunsets despite it being east facing. The sky above the ocean still lights up in a myriad of cotton candy colours and with the city skyscrapers in the background it makes an epic view (and photograph). Depending on your budget there are a number of ways you can enjoy watching a Goldie sunset. On the cheaper end of the budget, make yourself a picnic and take a blanket down to the beach with a mug of hot chocolate or bottle of wine. Burleigh Hill or Coolangatta Beach are perfect for a picnic. If you want to eat out but with a mid range priced menu then the Rainbow Bay Surf Club will give you an epic sunset view but where your glass of wine and main meal should cost around $30-$40. Alternatively, splash out with a fancy meal at renowned Asian restaurant Rick Shores located at Burleigh Pavilion and is right on the water’s edge. A meal here is $85pp or $120pp on the set menu but they do offer a la carte as well.
7. Dine by the beach
You’re here for the beaches so take every opportunity to be close and book dinner at a restaurant that overlooks (or is at least super close) to the beach. In Currumbin, Tommy’s Italian is a lovely little Italian eatery with great aperitifs and pizza. In Burleigh Heads, there are lots of beachside (or nearly beachside) options from Rick Shores (mentioned above), The Tropic (Mediterranean) or Burleigh Pavilion (casual pizza, burgers etc) right on the beach front to Justin Lane with its epic rooftop terrace and delicious pizzas. Seascape in Surfers Paradise has three levels of views to choose from and Hyde Paradiso in Surfers has peak surf views in a gorgeous interior.
8. Take a forest walk
Burleigh Heads is one of my favourite parts of Gold Coast with lots of great coffee spots and boutique shops. But what also makes it so great is that you can enjoy a forest walk right on your doorstep. Start at Burleigh Hill and wind your way through Burleigh Headlands National Park for epic ocean views. At the other end you’ll reach Talle Creek and you can pick up a coffee at Neptune before making your way back again.
9. Experience the cuteness of the animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a fantastic day out for all of the family with lots of friendly animals to meet. You can feed a ‘roo by hand in the Kangaroo Paddock, learn more about Australia’s most adorable animals at the Koala Nursery and be delighted by the cheeky locals at the Lorikeet Feeding! Head up to the Wildlife Hospital and you might be able to see a check up or operation taking place as the team care for the local Australian wildlife. If you fancy an adrenaline rush then add on entry to the TreeTop Challenge to navigate an obstacle course amongst the trees and zipline over the crocs! Book your Currumbin Wildlife Ticket through Get Your Guide here and with TreeTop Challenge included here!
10. Chase waterfalls in the National Parks
Just a short drive away form the urban oasis of GC, you can explore some fabulous natural landscapes in the stunning rainforests of the Gold Coast hinterland. There are three National Parks nearby to choose from which are between one and one and a half hours drive from the coast. All of them have fantastic waterfall walks to choose from including Purling Brook Falls and Twin Falls in Springbrook National Park, Morans Falls and Elabana Falls in Lamington National Park and Curtis Falls and Cedar Creek Falls in Mt Tamborine. Tamborine village has lots of lovely shops, cafes and restaurants to visit as well as a number of wineries around the area whereas Lamington National Park is best for longer hikes. Visit the Glow Worm Caves at Natural Bridge with a tour and book your tickets here.
11. Enjoy a day wine tasting
The Gold Coast doesn’t just have fabulous beaches but it’s also home to lots of fabulous vineyards to enjoy a day wine tasing your way around. Head out to the Gold Coast Hinterland or to the Scenic Rim for some of the best Queensland wineries. There are plenty of day trips you can jump on that set off from around GC so that no one has to be the designated driver! If there’s a big group of you then it’s possible to organise a private tour just for you or you can make friends on a group tour. I joined a tour that included lunch with Pineapple Tours which I booked through Get Your Guide here.
12. Spot migrating whales in the winter
From June to October, look out to sea and you’re likely to spot the spray of water from a migrating humpback whale. The gentle giants, ride the ‘humpback highway’ to migrate to warmer waters and then begin the ride back down again in September and the females will have their young in tow. Gold Coast has one of the longest whale seasons so there’s plenty of time over the winter and spring months to spot them. You can either head to a lookout point (Burleigh Hill, Tumgun Lookout & Point Danger are great spots) or book a whale cruise to get even closer to seeing these wonderful creatures journeying and playing.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to book your holiday to the Gold Coast and get your suitcases packed!
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