They say that the Gold Coast is perfect one day and beautiful the next. Spend enough time in the area and it’s a difficult point to argue.
A melting pot of picturesque beaches, unspoiled national parks, countless dining options and plenty of adventure for the kids, it’s no surprise that the Gold Coast remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia.
Here are eight reasons why you should visit the “Goldy”, and some tips to help you get the most from your stay.
1. Soak up the sun on a glittering beach
Spend a lazy day enjoying Queensland’s powdery white sands and you’ll see why they call it the Gold Coast. Crystalline water that’s temperate year-round, waves that attract the best surfers in the world, and hidden gems with room to explore - the area is a true beach bum’s paradise. Here are three hot picks for your coastal escape.
Known simply as ‘D-Bah’ to locals, Duranbah is a relaxed stretch of sand framed by a picturesque hill to the north and Tweed River breakwall to the south. The beach actually sits in New South Wales, however, is largely claimed by residents of the Gold Coast. This can cause some confusion during daylight savings time, when NSW and QLD observe different time zones.
The border monument on Duranbah hill is great fun for the kids, where they can stand with one foot in each state.
2. Rainbow Bay
Home to the historic Rainbow Bay Surf Club and the epicentre of Queensland’s surf scene, Rainbow Bay is one of the most popular and scenic beaches on the Gold Coast. At low tide on small swells, the beach is pockmarked with shallow pools where kids run riot on skimboards. Enjoy an evening meal on the balcony of the surf club to experience one of the best sunset views in the area.
A short stroll along the coastal path from Rainbow Bay is Greenmount, another picturesque beach popular with swimmers and surfers. With a palm-fringed shore, bush turkeys rustling on the headland, and regular pods of dolphins playing beyond the surf, it’s a great place to forget the clock and set up for the day.
Planning tip: Rainbow Bay and Greenmount have some of the busiest surf zones in the world, and are unsuitable for swimming on larger swells. Always swim between the flags, follow the instructions of lifeguards, and stay vigilant of stray surfboards.
2. Get back to nature in the Gold Coast Hinterland
The Gold Coast isn’t all about sun, sand and surf. The Hinterland region is a wealth of raw natural beauty, and the perfect alternative to a day at the beach. Here are three Hinterland adventures to enjoy.
1. National parks
Springbrook, Lamington and Tamborine National Parks are just three of the Hinterland’s pristine environments, and easily accessible on a day trip to the Gold Coast. Alluring forests, mountain streams and winding hiking trails offer adventure travellers a great taste of Queensland’s impressive natural environment.
The Canyon Flyer Zipline on Tamborine Mountain is a breathtaking marriage of marvellous scenery and pure speed. You’ll never forget the sensation of soaring through the canopy at more than 70 metres above the canyon.
3. Horse rides
There are several horse riding tours that operate throughout the Gold Coast Hinterland, with family-friendly trails and more demanding routes.
Planning tip: Before visiting the Hinterland, download an offline map of the area from Google Maps to your phone. This will ensure you know where to go, even without internet reception.
3. Choose your adventure at Australia’s best theme parks
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a film buff, a nature-lover or a water baby, the Gold Coast’s famous theme parks have something for you. Dreamworld, Wet’n’Wild, Movie World and Paradise Country are all just a short drive from the Gold Coast, and each offer a mix of heart-thumping thrills and family-friendly attractions. Let’s check out three of our favourites.
1. Movie World
Movie World boasts some of Australia’s most daring rides, including the Doomsday Destroyer, the Superman Escape and the largest roller coaster in Australia, the DC Rivals Hypercoaster. It also offers a host of great attractions for the young ones, like cartoon character meet and greets, carousels and a movie-themed driving school.
A long-standing family favourite, Wet’n’Wild is all things slides, sun and spacious pools. Waterslides like the Tornado and Aqualoop will delight the thrill-seekers, while the popular precincts of Calypso Beach and Whirlpool Springs cater to guests looking for a more relaxed day out.
With a water park, roller coasters, kids shows and animal attractions, Dreamworld is a one-stop-shop for all tastes. If you only have the time or energy to visit one theme park during your stay, Dreamworld offers a little slice of everything.
Planning tip: If you’re planning to visit more than one park, it could be worth researching a multi-park pass. And if you have your heart set on a particular ride, always check the maintenance schedule to avoid disappointment.
4. Find your flavour in a variety of restaurants
From casual beach-side cafes to upscale rooftop dining, the Gold Coast is a growing mecca for travelling foodies. If cafe culture, health food and classic fish’n’chips eateries are to your taste, areas like Burleigh Heads will satisfy your palette.
For more elegant dining experiences, the Surfers Paradise stretch has a smattering of upscale culinary options, including a few in skyscraper hotels with sweeping city views.
Planning tip: Friday and Saturday nights can become crowded with revellers heading to the area’s many clubs. If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, try areas like Coolangatta, Burleigh and Currumbin.
5. Test your skills in world-class waves
Surfing is everywhere on the Gold Coast. You can see it in surf-themed cafe menus, surfboard-shaped park benches and surf reports on the nightly news. Ask any surfer around the world why, and they’ll tell you it’s because of the waves. Want to test your skills? Check out these Gold Coast surf spots.
Best surf spots for beginners
- Rainbow Bay
- Currumbin Alley
- Palm Beach
Best spots for advanced surfers
- Snapper Rocks
- Burleigh Heads
Planning tip: When conditions align, the Gold Coast’s waves transform into mechanical, challenging and unbelievably crowded spectacles. Unless you’re a highly experienced surfer who doesn’t mind battling the professionals for a wave, it’s best to enjoy the show from the shore.
If you’re a beginner board rider, ensure you brush up on the basics of surf etiquette. If you’re unsure, a surf lesson is the best bet.
6. Walk on sunshine in a field of sunflowers
Picture a radiant sea of sunflowers reaching for a rich blue sky, the flowering fields of Southern Queensland have to be seen to be believed. The areas of Toowoomba, Nobby, Warwick and Allora are renowned for their sprawling sunflower fields, and attract travellers young and old during the blooming months of January to March.
Whether you're a keen photographer, a botany hobbyist or just love gorgeous scenery, the fields will leave you feeling like you're walking on sunshine.
Planning tip: You'll need to hit the road to reach farmland. if you're planning to rent a car, ensure your travel insurance includes rental vehicle excess cover in case the unexpected happens.
7. Get up close and personal with iconic Aussie wildlife
You don’t need to hike through the Hinterland to enjoy some iconic Aussie wildlife on the Gold Coast. Popular attractions like the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Hospital, and David Fleay Wildlife Park house and care for a huge variety of native fauna, including koalas, joeys, birdlife and reptiles.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has grown into one of Queensland’s premier tourist attractions. The kids will love seeing native eagles buzz overhead, feeding the colourful lorikeets, watching crocodile feedings and posing for a photo with resident koalas.
Planning tip: If you’re travelling during the holidays, arrive early to beat the crowds. Get to scheduled shows 15 minutes before they begin to secure a good vantage point.
8. Join the migration with a whale-watching tour
The Gold Coast is a busy thoroughfare for migrating whales from May to November, and especially busy in the winter months. Spend enough time on the beach and chances are you’ll see plenty of these majestic creatures passing by, sometimes within a stone’s throw from the shore!
A whale watching tour is a great way to get up close and personal. Remember to book with a licensed operator and read customer reviews to find the best choice.
Planning tip: If you’re planning a tour and are prone to motion sickness, consult your GP about seasickness tablets, it can get rough on the boat.
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