Guide to the Gold Coast
From theme parks to shopping, and surfing to ancient rainforest, here’s how to make the most of the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast's star attraction is its beaches, including the world-renowned stretch of sand at Surfers Paradise. Beyond the beaches, discover laid-back neighbourhoods, a booming culinary scene and the Gold Coast's famous theme parks. And be sure to leave enough time for a trip into the subtropical hinterland for rainforest walks and waterfalls.
- Beach hop along the coastline
- Get your heart racing at world-class theme parks
- Swim beneath waterfalls in the Gold Coast hinterland
How to get there
International flights fly directly into Brisbane Airport from many global hubs. From there it’s a one-hour shuttle bus ride to the Gold Coast. If you are travelling to the Gold Coast from within Australia, direct flights arrive at Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta.
Things to do and top attractions on the Gold Coast
Visit the Gold Coast's famous beaches
The Gold Coast is renowned for its white sand beaches that stretch across 57 kilometres (35 miles) of coastline. Choose from the sheltered waters at Coolangatta and Currumbin beaches or the popular surfing breaks at Main Beach or Burleigh Heads. First-time surfers can book a group or private lesson with Get Wet Surf School at The Spit, Surfers Paradise. Wave Break Island lies just off Main Beach and offers fantastic snorkelling and diving, with more than 50 species of fish. Explore this colourful underwater world on a Queensland Scuba Diving tour.
Get your adrenaline fix at the theme parks
As well as its beaches, the Gold Coast is equally famed for its world-class theme parks. Water lovers should head for Wet ‘n’ Wild with its extreme waterslides such as Kamikaze and the Tornado. Warner Bros. Movie World is great for families, with plenty of kid-friendly attractions and the chance to meet loveable cartoon characters. Dreamworld caters to adventure seekers with big rides, including The Giant Drop, Tower of Terror and Buzz Saw. To experience more than one park, buy a Mega Pass, which gives you access to Wet ‘n’ Wild, Movie World, Sea World (a marine animal park) and the Aussie farm and wildlife experience, Paradise Country. Tickets to Dreamworld can be bought separately.
Or soar above it all
Marvel at the views of the Gold Coast while freefalling from 12,000 feet with Gold Coast Skydive. Whether the thought excites, inspires or downright terrifies you, everyone feels the same sensation when hovering over the glistening Gold Coast skyline; pure thrill. The take off from the Gold Coast International Airport amongst the passenger jets offers its own unique experience before you have even left the ground. The ride to height allows you to take in the breathtaking scenery of the Gold Coast's white sandy beaches and enchanting hinterland, until you reach the drop point. After the extreme freefall with the sea floor directly below you, the parachute ride will have you lost for words as you glide onto the soft white sand of beautiful Kirra Beach.
Explore the lush Gold Coast hinterland
Turn away from the beach and explore the enchanting Gold Coast hinterland, with its unspoiled national park and charming mountain villages. Adventure seekers can test their legs on the three-day Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk, which passes an ancient volcano and goes through World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest, or follow a cycling trail through the wineries and boutique breweries of Mount Tamborine. At Lamington National Park stroll through the rainforest canopy 15 metres (49 feet) above ground at O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk. Or book a 4WD Rainforest Eco Safari to see the spectacular waterfalls at Springbrook, including Natural Bridge.
Hire a bike to discover coastal neighbourhoods
Hire a bicycle at Surfers Paradise and ride 20 minutes to sophisticated Broadbeach. There are plenty of restaurants and shops here, including vegetarian eatery Cardamom Pod, and the major shopping centre Pacific Fair. Neighbouring Mermaid Beach is home to Bam Bam Bakehouse, where you can stop for coffee and a pastry. A further 30-minute ride south is the popular surfing spot of Burleigh Heads. Take the scenic Oceanview Walk through Burleigh Headland National Park, where you can spot whales from April to September. Or continue along the road to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can feed a kangaroo, get up close to a crocodile or cuddle a koala. Head back to Surfers Paradise for the beachfront markets, held every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night from 4pm to 9pm. Beach Bikes has bike hire locations throughout the Gold Coast.
Eat at the Gold Coast's top restaurants
The Gold Coast boasts a thriving food scene, from specialty coffee shops to boutique breweries and a slew of sophisticated restaurants to rival that of Sydney and Melbourne. For your morning caffeine hit head to Elk Espresso or No Name Lane at Broadbeach or sit down to a classic Australian breakfast at Barefood Barista at Palm Beach. In Burleigh Heads, Rick Shores and The Fish House are popular spots for lunch and dinner, with dishes such as whole baby calamari, oven baked Petuna ocean trout and Moreton Bay Bugs taglierini. For refined Italian food head to Gemellini at Nobby's Beach and order a selection of antipasti such as grilled polenta topped with eight hour slow cooked Angus beef cheek or oven roasted scallops.
Stay in luxury at one of the Gold Coast's best hotels
The Gold Coast is known for its plush accommodation options. Indulge yourself at fabulous five-star hotels such as the Palazzo Versace on Main Beach, the high-rise Hilton or sophisticated QT, both in the heart of Surfers Paradise, or the Sofitel at Broadbeach. The Sheraton Mirage on Main Beach offers absolute beachfront accommodation as well as a lagoon-style pool, opulent suites and an array of restaurants and bars.
Play a round of golf at top courses
Picturesque and challenging golf courses await you on the Gold Coast. Choose a resort course such as Palmer Gold Coast, carved out of 65 hectares (160 acres) of native woodlands, the RACV Royal Pines Resort, which is home to the Australian PGA Championships, or the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove, which give you access to The Palms and The Pines courses. Alternatively, try the public courses at Parkwood International, an 18-hole course set in undulating bushland around a series of lakes and ponds, or Links Hope Island, just a 20-minute drive from the Gold Coast. For a bit of family fun, try a round of Topgolf located near most of the major theme parks.
Drop in at a local brewery
Get a taste of the region when you drop by Burleigh Brewing Company - pioneers of the Gold Coast's craft beer movement. Visit the taphouse to taste their award-winning beers and see live music. Another Burleigh Heads local is Black Hops, voted Australia’s Champion Small Brewery in 2018. Fortitude Brewing Co., in Mt Tamborine, is the perfect hinterland spot to quench your thirst. In Currumbin you'll find Balter, a venture from four Australian pro surfers. While the logo is playful and you can compete in "tinnie hurling" competitions, the brew is serious and has won multiple national and international awards. Finally, don’t miss the new kid on the block - Lost Palms Brewing Company in Miami where you can enjoy the classics alongside Kombucha infusions in colourful surrounds.
Experience Aboriginal history at Spirits of the Red Sand
The moving cultural show Spirits of the Red Sand takes place 40 minutes from the Gold Coast, but this powerful performance is more than worth the journey. Spirits of the Red Sand depicts the story of Jarrah, the only surviving member of three Aboriginal brothers, who reveals his family’s encounter with colonial settlers and tells the stories of passion, humility and triumph that developed along the way. The “set” in Beenleigh is part of a real 19th-century town, complete with a church, pub and Aboriginal village; as part of the audience you’ll move between different set locations over the course of the evening, making you feel like you’re part of the action. The drama and intrigue is heightened by the show’s talented actors, their characters inspired by real people and based on true events that changed the course of history for Aboriginal communities in Queensland. Guests will also enjoy a chargrilled BBQ dinner.