The Gold Coast in Australia epitomizes the perfect lifestyle. It offers what seems endless white sandy beaches, surf, sun-drenched days, theme parks, beachside dining, and a vibrant, active nightlife. To say a visitor is spoiled for choice in beach and surfers paradise is an understatement.
It’s also a contradiction, with the northern Gold Coast, in particular, being a forest of high-rise apartments and hotels. Some may find it too glitzy, too touristy; but I can state for sure it has something for just about everyone.
The Gold Coast has always been the holiday destination of choice for both overseas visitors and locals. The year-round mild weather and beautiful natural coastline make it an obvious choice. It has a population of over 500,000 residents and is Australia’s largest non-capital city. It embraces some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
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How to Spend a Perfect Day in Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast
How to spend a perfect day on the Gold Coast can be a challenge. Simply because there’s so much to see and do it can become overwhelming. So, here are some suggestions to get you going!
The original marketing slogan for the Gold Coast was “Warmer in Winter and Cooler in Summer”. This said it all. Any time of the year is a great time to visit.
Best Breakfast on the Gold Coast
All along the coastline, there are surf clubs. These started out many years ago to support the volunteer lifeguards who patrolled the beaches to keep swimmers safe. Over the past three decades, they have evolved into complete dining and entertainment venues. They are a great place to have breakfast with uninterrupted views of the beach. I would recommend the following depending on where you’re staying on the Gold Coast.
Southport Surf Club
Located on the northern part of the Gold Coast, it is one of the smaller clubs but offers a full menu and good facilities. Pick of the menu would be their vegetarian breakfast; which is a healthy combination of spinach, grilled tomato, mushrooms, poached eggs and grilled haloumi served with toasted sour Vienna bread.
Currumbin Surf Club
In the mid-Gold Coast, with the clubhouse built out over the rocks on the shore. Enjoy a breakfast on the deck, and watch the surf break onto the rocks below. They offer a range of great breakfasts; from Bircher Muesli to ‘The Vikings Big Breakfast’. Definitely my pick for the best place to enjoy the most important meal of the day.
Coolangatta Surf Club
Located on the southern end of the coast, it is another example of great dining and facilities with uninterrupted views across the ocean. If you’re looking for a serious breakfast to get you going for the rest of the day, then the ‘Tower 3 Brekkie’ is the pick of the menu.
There’s plenty to see on the Gold Coast. Here’s how to get around to take it all in.
- Bus Services
Public transport is good, with bus services running regularly along the full length of the coast strip.
The northern coast is serviced by the new tram network, called the G:Link. The service begins at Helensvale station and makes stops through Surfers Paradise down to Broadbeach South, which is adjacent to the Star Casino. The trams run every 7.5 minutes through busy times on week days, and every 10 – 15 minutes all other times, except midnight to 5:00am where services are scaled right back.
- Ride Share
There are three rideshare services operating on the Gold Coast – UBER, DiDi and Ola. UBER has been on the coast for a while, with newcomers DiDi and Ola introducing some serious competition.
There are taxi services operating on the Gold Coast. These days ride share services are cheaper and offer better services.
Sightseeing on the Gold Coast
Three of the best sightseeing spots to explore on the Gold Coast.
SkyPoint Observation Deck
Looking for a bird’s eye view of the coast without the expense of going for a helicopter ride? Take the lift up to the top of Q1; 230 metres above Surfers Paradise. It costs $24 adult/$14 child/$62 family.
Located in the centre of the coast, this offers superb beach views north and south. The adjacent Tallebudgera Creek is a popular spot for swimming and lazing around in the sun.
Look down onto Duranbah Beach, or “Dee-bah” as it’s fondly called by the locals. It is one of the area’s top surfing spots. Views from the Coolangatta headland above the beach are perfect any time of the day, but are best in the mornings.
While you’re there, have a coffee at Café Dbar and take in the panoramic view. https://www.cafedbar.co/
For the More Adventurous
Need to get the adrenalin pumping before lunch? Here are some ideas to get you going.
The ‘Goldie’ is the home of surf-based sports. Sure, you can go for a surf along any one of the top-class beaches, but for an added buzz, get out and do some kite surfing. Best if you have some experience already. If not, then just sit back and watch these athletes doing aerials. It will still get your heart racing.
Gold Coast Theme Parks
If you’re on the Gold Coast, then a visit to the theme parks must be on your itinerary. They’re big, and just the place to have some serious fun. The four big theme parks on the coast are:
- Warner Bros. Movie World Movie themed shows and attractions. Various popular cartoon characters mingle with the crowd. Has rides and activities as well.
- Dreamworld Rides that range from the sedate to the absolutely terrifying. The Tower of Terror is a 119 metre (390 foot) structure where riders in a specially designed seat plunge towards the ground. Something like bungee jumping while strapped in. Definitely for serious adrenalin junkies only. Promoted as the biggest theme park in Australia.
- Wet’n’Wild If riding white water is your thing, then this is your place. The top billing attraction is the Kamikaze, where you ride in a tube down a water slide at speeds of up to 50 km/hr (30 mph).
- Sea World Has performances by dolphins and sea lions at various times throughout the day. It has a resident family of polar bears and penguins, as well as water slides and roller coasters. It’s great for children.
To get the best value for money, these theme parks are better suited to all-day excursions. However, they are still worth visiting for a few hours.
Kayak along the Broadwater
The Broadwater is a well-protected area which makes it a fantastic place to take a kayak for a paddle. The best point for departure is north of the Grand Hotel. A paddle out and around Wavebreak Island only takes a couple of hours and is ideal to get away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal strip.
Do some snorkeling around the rock walls and see colorful fish swimming around you. Or paddle over to South Stradbroke Island. Kayak hire and all the gear you need is available from Seaway Kayaking Tours. I’ve hired from them in the past and personally recommend them.
Lunch on the Gold Coast
There are plenty of places to have lunch on the Gold Coast that range from beachfront cafes to five-star restaurants. Simply take your pick.
However, if you’re around the northern Gold Coast, my recommendation is to have lunch at the iconic Peter’s Fish Market on Seaworld Drive. They serve beautiful, fresh fish seven days a week, at very reasonable prices. Just be prepared to line up to put your order in. Trust me, the wait is worth it. Opening hours are 9:00am to 7:30pm.
Beachfront Cafes are the Best for a Casual Lunch
Half Day Trips and Tours Around the Gold Coast
After a relaxing lunch, maybe you’re not quite ready to head back to your accommodation and take a rest. If that’s the case, then go on a half day tour. Here is my pick of the most interesting half day tours on the Gold Coast.
- AquaDuck Safaris
One of the unique tours on the coast is AquaDuck Safaris. Board their amphibious vehicle for a drive along The Spit taking in views before driving into the waters around the Broadwater for a cruise towards the canal estates.
- Gold Coast Jet Ski Safaris
Ride your own jet ski and experience the exhilaration of exploring the hidden wonders around the Gold Coast with Jet Ski Safaris. Get to see dolphins, wallabies and rays around pristine South Stradbroke Island. Safety gear and introductory training are provided.
- Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Learn and experience first-hand the rich culture of the Yugambeh people, the traditional owners of the land on which the Gold Coast is located. Visit sites of significance to the aboriginal people at this wonderful cultural centre.
- Motorcycle Tours
See the coast from a different perspective from the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The team at Wildfire Tours will take you along the waterfront or up into the beautiful hinterland. It’s up to you and is only limited by your imagination and time commitments.
- The Hinterland
Behind the Gold Coast is the beautiful rainforest clad Hinterland. Mount Tamborine is the closest and is a short drive from the coast. It has cafés, restaurants, craft breweries, wineries, art galleries set in a pristine natural environment. It is a wonderful place to chill and lower the pace a few notches. Do you love chocolate? Then try the delicious treats from Chocolates on Gallery Walk or Le Chile Café while enjoying a brewed coffee.
Best Place for Dinner
When it comes to great dining on the Gold Coast, it’s hard to go past Marina Mirage.
There are restaurants to suit all tastes. Take your time strolling along the boardwalk next to the water to find a place that suits. Here are a few I would recommend:
- Elia Greek Island Taverna – delightful Mediterranean cuisine.
- Hog’s Breath Café – great for burgers, ribs in a casual setting.
- Omeros Brothers Seafood Restaurant – if you love seafood, then this is your place.
You Must Try….
Australia, in general, is blessed with an abundance of incredible seafood. The signature dish on the Gold Coast is grilled Moreton Bay Bugs. Bugs are crayfish with firm, white meat and a rich, but subtle taste. Best washed down with a cold Australian Sauvignon Blanc wine.
Night Life on the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast comes alive after dark along its entire length. Pubs, clubs and eateries with live music and a great atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if you’re eighteen or eighty, there’s something for you.
There are two main entertainment night spots.
- Cavill Avenue/Orchid Avenue, Surfers Paradise
Definitely the place to go clubbing. Go to Shooters Nightclub, SinCity The NightClub or The Island Rooftop for a great night out.
‘Cooly’ has everything from dive bars and wine bars, to pubs and surf clubs. Hang out at the iconic Coolangatta Sands Hotel, Eddie’s Grub House or Komune Resort and Beach Club to name a few. Most have live music, serve till late and will leave a lasting impression, even if it’s in the form of a hangover.
If you’re looking for something more sedate but still offering top billing entertainment? It’s hard to go past the Star Casino at Broadbeach. The casino regularly hosts international acts and shows.
Hotels in Gold Coast Australia
The Gold Coast’s a tourist mecca, so there are thousands of rooms available for booking. From backpacker hostels, AirBnB stays, self-contained units through to luxury hotels. Here are few for you to consider, but there are hundreds on online booking sites. Check them out to see who is offering the best deal.
For those wanting to stretch their dollar further, here are the best three value-for-money accommodation options on the Gold Coast. Prices start from AUD$60 per night.
- BUNK Backpackers Surfers Paradise
- Red Star Hotels Palm Beach
- Palm Beach Hotel
Prices start from AUD$89 per night.
- Sunset Beach Resort Miami
- Burleigh Gold Coast Motel
- Montego Mermaid Beach Motel
If you’re looking for the ultimate luxury experience, here are a few to whet your appetite. Prices can vary enormously, but be prepared to pay for the experience of staying where visiting dignitaries, rock stars and world leaders stay.
- Peppers Soul Surfers Paradise
- The Darling (Star Casino) Broadbeach
- Palazzo Versace Main Beach
Best Time to Visit the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is a coastal city in the Australian state of Queensland, approximately 41 miles south-southeast of the state capital Brisbane and immediately north of the border with New South Wales.
The original marketing slogan for the Gold Coast was “Warmer in Winter and Cooler in Summer”. This said it all. Any time of the year is a great time to visit.
The entire region has a mild, sunny climate with temperatures typically ranging for:
Summer – 30oC (86oF) Max | 22oC (72oF) Min
Winter – 22oC (72oF) Max | 12oC (54oF) Min
Temperature extremes can be up to 40oC (104oF) in Summer and down to 3oC (37oF) in Winter, with rainfall being more prevalent during the months of January to March.
Fun Facts About the Gold Coast
- The Gold Coast has an average of 288 days of sunshine per year, making it one of the most desirable holiday destinations in the world.
- Is Australia’s leading tourist destination with an average of 13 million visitors arriving every year.
- Has Australia’s most diverse cultural and natural environment. People from Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia all call the Goldie home. It is surrounded by 100,000 ha of national parks and reserves, much of which is subtropical rainforest.
- Not only does the Gold Coast have the biggest residential tower in the southern hemisphere (Q1 – Surfers Paradise), but it also boasts the highest density of theme parks in the southern hemisphere.
- Residents have over 41,000 boats and watercraft officially registered by transport authorities. It has a flourishing luxury boat and yacht building industry, taking orders from all over the world.
- Surfers Paradise has had ‘Meter Maids’ since 1965 – young ladies in gold bikini swim costumes who feed expired parking meters to spare visiting motorists getting parking fines. They have been a favorite tourist attraction for many years.
- The traditional Aboriginal owners called the Gold Coast ‘Kurrungal’ in their native language. It referred to the local timber they sought to make boomerangs.
You Must Do This When You Visit the Gold Coast in Australia ….
For all its diversity, beauty, wonderful climate and friendly, laid back lifestyle the Gold Coast’s major attraction is its beaches. 57 kilometers (35 miles) of endless surf, sand, and sunshine. You can go for a swim, or get on a surfboard. But there’s something else that’s just as good.
Get on your bike! Go for a late afternoon bicycle ride. Grab a bike from somewhere, find an uncrowded section of the beach and get going. You won’t regret it.
Day Trips from Australia Top Tours
I love to do a combination of exploring on my own as well as a few organized tours when I travel. I love to learn about the history and culture in a new location and tours with local experts is a great way to do this. I recommend Get Your Guide because you can cancel most bookings for free up to 24 hours before they start and their customer service is available 24/7 in multiple languages.
A few Top Tours in Australia
Recommended Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads.
- Transport: AirfareWatchDog and Skyscanner (Best Sites to Research Flight Prices)
- Accommodation: Hotels.com and Orbitz
- Airbnb, Sign up here for a $40 credit.
- Top Gold Coast Hotel Reviews: TripAdvisor
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Keith Erskine enjoys travelling around Australia with his partner Marise. Their motto is “Travel. Experience. Share”. It’s about all forms of self-paced, self-guided travel. He writes about weekend getaways to longer road trips and experiences, which can be found on their Travellin’ Lite website.