One of the most iconic destinations in Australia, the glittering Gold Coast can be found just an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, along Queensland’s scenic coastline. Renowned for its wonderful white sand beaches and year-round warm weather, it is the perfect place to holiday with something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
Aside from sunbathing and swimming, other things to do on the Gold Coast include trying out some of the best surf breaks in the world and checking out the theme parks and other family-friendly tourist attractions in town. In addition, Surfers Paradise – the skyscraper-studded ‘capital of the Gold Coast’ – contains glitzy casinos and nightclubs and has plenty of accommodation options for you to choose from.
Add in its pretty nature reserves, amazing wildlife sanctuaries and the stupendous scenery and landscapes of the nearby hinterland and it is no wonder at all that the Gold Coast attracts so many visitors each year.
In this post, we'll cover:
15. Currumbin Beach
Half an hour’s drive to the southeast of Surfers Paradise you can find the gorgeous golden sands of Currumbin Beach. Bordered at either end by Currumbin Rock and the distinctive Elephant Rock, it is a great place to swim and surf and there are cafes and restaurants to be found nearby.
Stretching 750 meters in length, the beautiful beach lies alongside both a lovely nature reserve and The Alley; one of the most famous surf breaks on the Gold Coast. Aside from swimming, surfing and sunbathing, visitors to Currumbin Beach can bask in breathtaking views over the ocean with the city’s skyscraper-studded center to be spied far off on the horizon.
14. Harbour Town Premium Outlets
If it’s shopping you’re after, then Harbour Town Premium Outlets is definitely the place to go. The largest outlet shopping center in Australia, it has over 240 stores to peruse with innumerable cafes and restaurants also dotted about.
Opened in 1999, the sprawling site with its attractive open-air areas and palm tree-lined promenades lies just twenty minutes’ drive north of the center. Besides big brand names, such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Nike, it has various sports bars and alfresco dining options to check out with the largest cinema complex on the Gold Coast also located at the center.
Home to all kinds of exciting rides, roller coasters and attractions, Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia. A very fun, family-friendly place to visit, its themed lands, animal exhibits and food outlets can be found just under half an hour’s drive northwest of town.
Since opening in 1981, it has expanded enormously and now boasts almost fifty attractions that are scattered about themed areas, such as Rocky Hollow and Ocean Parade. In addition to all its thrilling rides, guests can see everything from tigers and snakes to koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles in its zoo or splash about in WhiteWater World.
12. Kirra Beach
For over a century now Kirra Beach has been a popular vacation destination thanks to its sun-kissed sands and sensational surf spots. Set just south of Currumbin Beach, it has a lovely laid back feel to it with cozy cafes and weatherboard beach shacks lying alongside the ocean.
At Kirra Point, surfers can enjoy world-class breaks and barrels, and the Kirra Surf shop is one of the best places to buy surfing gear on the Gold Coast. Aside from simply lounging lazily on its warm sands or swimming in the sea, visitors can stroll about the beachfront park or stay at one of the small suburb’s countless condos and campsites.
11. Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast
Twenty minutes’ drive to the northwest of the center is Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast which is the perfect place to cool down during Queensland’s scorching summers. Packed with pools, slides and sunbathing areas, the massive water park is lots of fun to splash about in and can be found right next to Warner Bros. Movie World.
Since opening in 1984, it has delighted locals and tourists alike with its enticing array of attractions and rides that include the Kamikaze, Tornado and Blackhole among others. After having shot down its fast slides or floated down its lazy river, guests can soak up some sun as they enjoy an ice cream, smoothie or snack from one of the many food outlets dotted about the park.
10. Tamborine Mountain
While the city is mostly known for its wonderful white sand beaches, superb surf spots and endless entertainment options, it also lies just a stone’s throw from the spellbinding scenery and nature of Tamborine Mountain. In just forty minutes, you can find yourself atop the plateau, hiking amidst its lush rainforests, past sparkling waterfalls and enjoying dazzling views out over its surroundings.
In addition to exploring the pristine wilderness of Tamborine National Park and seeing some of its wildlife, you can also go for an epic canopy walk through the rainforest or check out the magical Glow Worm Caves. To top it all off, the area is also known for its delicious local produce and fine wineries with lots of art galleries, cafes and shops to be found along the Gallery Walk.
9. Sea World
One of the Gold Coast’s top draws, Sea World is situated on The Southport Spit, some fifteen minutes’ drive from the center. Home to a staggering array of amazing marine mammals, it has a myriad of entertaining and educational attractions to enjoy with live shows, talks and demonstrations regularly taking place.
First opened in 1971, its spacious tanks and pools are now home to everything from penguins and polar bears to sharks, stingrays and seals. As well as learning about the incredible creatures, you can also swim with dolphins and seals on one of its unforgettable animal encounters. In addition, Sea World has fun rides and rollercoasters for you to try with scintillating stunt shows and interesting animal demonstrations also being on offer.
8. Coolangatta Beach
The southernmost suburb in the city, Coolangatta and its idyllic beach lie half an hour’s drive from the center, right on the border with New South Wales. Renowned for both its gorgeous golden sands and lovely chilled out vibe, it has lots of excellent outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy with plenty of beachfront bars and restaurants to be found in the area.
As it is bordered to the north by the popular Kirra Point, amateur and expert surfers alike descend upon the beach for its brilliant breaks and barrels. To its south, you can instead find the prominent Rainbow Bay Lookout which boasts breathtaking views out over the glinting ocean and city in the distance. With splendid sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling also to be had, it is no wonder that Coolangatta Beach appeals to both locals and tourists alike.
7. Pacific Fair
Another fabulous spot to shop, dine and go out in the Gold Coast is the massive Pacific Fair shopping mall. Home to 400 stores, it has an elegant and attractive design with cooling water features and lush green spaces dotted about its sprawling site.
Since being established in 1977, the shopping center has grown with its endless array of shops now selling everything from cosmetics and accessories to high fashion clothing and iconic luxury items. Besides shopping ’til you drop, you can enjoy a delicious meal or drink at any one of its numerous cafes and restaurants, and its large cinema complex screens all the latest releases.
6. Warner Bros. Movie World
Warner Bros. Movie World lies twenty minutes’ drive northwest of the center, right next to Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast. As well as movie-themed shows and rides, it has float-filled parades and seasonal events for visitors to enjoy while costumed characters roam about amidst its crowds.
The only film-related theme park in the country, it first opened in 1991 and has been a success ever since. Aside from trying out exhilarating rides and rollercoasters, such as the enormous DC Rivals HyperCoaster and thrilling Batman Spaceshot, families can check out the Kids’ WB Fun Zone, stop off for a bite to eat at one of its food outlets or watch a film at the Roxy Theatre.
5. Burleigh Heads Beach
After Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads Beach is definitely the most popular in town thanks to both its superb swimming and surfing. Just fifteen minutes’ drive southeast of the center, its warm and welcoming sands stretch over two kilometers in length with a park, cafes and restaurants lying alongside it.
As the shape of the Burleigh Headlands protects the beach from southerly winds, there is always a calm and quiet spot where you can swim or splash about, with lifeguards being on duty year-round. Surfers, however, will instead want to ride the iconic Burleigh barrel while pristine nature, wildlife and walking trails can be found in the beautiful Burleigh Heads National Park to its south.
4. Springbrook National Park
Home to stunning scenery and nature, the picturesque Springbrook National Park is situated southwest of the city. Amidst its lush, steamy rainforests you can find towering cliff faces, twinkling rivers and waterfalls, and hiking trails and lookouts hidden away among the dense undergrowth.
Protected as a park since 1990, it is centered around the massive plateau of the ancient, extinct and partially eroded Tweed Volcano. As such, gigantic gorges and dramatic rocky outcrops rise up from amidst the rainforest canopy. The striking Purling Brook Falls and Natural Bridge, its waterfall and glow worm-filled cave count among its standout sights.
3. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The excellent Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is certainly the place to go for a close up look at koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles. Set right next to Currumbin Beach, it has a vast array of animal exhibits, as well as live shows, feeding sessions and unforgettable encounters with its cute critters.
First opened in 1947, the sanctuary now boasts one of the largest collections of Australian wildlife in the world. There are wombats and wallabies, as well as emus, dingoes and Tasmanian Devils. See the colorful lorikeets that flock to the sanctuary twice daily to be fed, stroll through the largest walk-through aviary in the Southern Hemisphere or see lemurs, tamarins and red pandas in its Lost Valley section.
2. SkyPoint Observation Deck
For the best views imaginable over the city and its surroundings, make sure to head to the SkyPoint Observation Deck in the center of town. The lofty deck with its huge glass windows is set on levels 77 and 78 of the Q1 building, which was once the tallest residential tower in the world.
Located 230 meters off the ground, it offers simply spellbinding panoramas. Here guests can sip on a cocktail or enjoy a tasty brunch at the deck’s busy bistro and bar. Visitors are also able to walk 40 meters further up on the exhilarating SkyPoint Climb that hugs the exterior of the building.
1. Surfers Paradise Beach
The most popular place to head in town though is undoubtedly Surfers Paradise, which is renowned for its beautiful beaches, pounding nightlife and innumerable -rise apartment buildings. Often called the ‘capital of the Gold Coast’, it is one of the largest tourist destinations in Australia with millions of Aussies and international visitors alike descending upon the area every year.
While many high-school graduates head to ‘Surfers’ for its bars and nightclubs, families visit too for its endless array of attractions. Its main draw, however, is its broad beach which reaches two kilometers in length and offers stupendous swimming, sunbathing and surfing. Widely considered as one of the best beaches in Australia, Surfers Paradise Beach is definitely not to be missed when in town.
Best Time to Visit Gold Coast
Blessed with year-round warm weather and around 300 days of sunshine, the Gold Coast is delightful to visit almost any time. Most holidaymakers head here in spring or summer when the higher temperatures are best for lounging on its beaches and enjoying fun watersports.
While averages of 20 to 21°C (68 to 70°F) are a bit mild for sunbathing and swimming, theme parks are less crowded in winter. Prices are lower and whales can be spied offshore. As the weather warms up and the BLEACH Festival is on, August is much busier.
September and October are very popular months as temperatures of 23 and 25°C (73 to 77°F) are lovely for sunbathing and surfing. Its SWELL Sculpture and Groundwater Country Music festivals also take place. As the weather is quite dry, many enjoy boat trips along the coast.
From mid-November through January, the Gold Coast is packed with prices at their highest. Aside from ‘schoolies’ celebrating their graduations, Christmas also sees huge crowds pour in. While rainier, averages of 27 and 28°C (80 to 82°F) are ideal for beach activities.
As it then sees loads of rainfall, most people stay away until the Easter holidays. This quiet period can be a good time to find deals with sunbathing and swimming still possible.