Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland © Tourism Australia
Gold Coast suburb guide
Hugging a dazzling stretch of sand backed by lush hinterland, Australia’s famous Gold Coast offers a unique neighbourhood base for every type of visitor.
By Natasha Dragun and Carly Spek
Packed your swimsuit? The Gold Coast’s 57km (37mi) shoreline offers some of Australia’s best beaches for surfing, all lined with buzzy shopping and dining precincts. Just 30 minutes inland, you’ll land in ancient hinterland rainforest, a place where wellness retreats and wineries sit side by side. Here are the key areas to explore while you’re here.
Central Gold Coast
Shop designer clothing at Pacific Fair mall, with an entire precinct dedicated to local creatives.
Where: Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach
In the lively Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach neighbourhoods, skyscrapers overlook the sand, creating a dramatic skyline. This area is particularly well-known for its alfresco bars and restaurants where you can make the most of the city’s famous sunshine. Join the active locals on a walk along beachfront promenades dotted with street art and trendy cafés.
There's no shortage of excellent eateries in this bustling part of town. Grab a coffee at popular local cafés like Bumbles, or enjoy a cold drink and uninterrupted ocean views at the Kurrawa Surf Club. Savour a meal at Social Eating House, lauded for its tapas-style share plates using local produce or taste a whimsical twist on Asian street food at Hideaway Kitchen & Bar.
Head to Surfers Paradise beach to admire the waves, or learn to ride them with the help of a local surf school. From June to October, look out for whales breaching off the beach, or from the perfect vantage point at the Skypoint Observation Deck. If you're feeling adventurous, sign up for the Skypoint Climb and take in jaw-dropping views from the building's exterior.
Accommodation options in the city's central suburbs mimick the playful character of the Gold Coast. In Surfers, The Island Gold Coast and QT Gold Coast both accentuate the seaside resort setting with their fun and bright interiors. Lay by the pool at the luxurious Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach, which exudes cool with French-inspired dining and décor.
Where: Southport, Main Beach
North of Surfers Paradise, the glamorous Main Beach neighbourhood is adorned with exclusive designer hotels, a yacht-studded marina, and malls with designer boutiques aplenty. Combined with increasingly hip Southport, on the western shores of Broadwater, it’s also your family’s best base for the Coast’s iconic theme parks, just to the north.
There's no shortage of insta-worthy dining on the Gold Coast's northern beaches, and the food tastes as good as it looks. Tables spill out onto the footpath under leafy trees at Le Jardin, while superyachts sprinkle the view from Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern – famous for their fish and chips. Home of the city’s Chinatown, Southport is also a great destination for dinner.
To see the region in style, take a helicopter tour or opt for a luxury yacht charter – both of which will give you stunning views of the sparkling coastline. You can even grab a helicopter charter to the Sea World marine theme park. To the north, other family-friendly attractions include Movie World, and expansive waterpark Wet’n’Wild.
The northern beaches boast luxurious hotels that feel right at home by the extravagant marina. At Main Beach, lounge by the lagoon-style pool at the Palazzo Versace, which takes its style cues from the Italian fashion house it was named after. The sprawling Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort feels like an island paradise just moments from the delights of the city.
Where: Miami, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach
The neighbouring suburbs of Miami, Burleigh and Palm Beach exude laid-back seaside living, boasting hip bars, boutiques and breweries, with views of the Surfers Paradise skyline to the north. Burleigh’s headland also has deep spiritual significance to its traditional Aboriginal owners, the Yugambeh people, who run the excellent Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre at its base.
Burleigh restaurants are the place to go if you want to soak up laid-back vibes with the locals. Rick Shores serves the Gold Coast’s best Moreton Bay bug rolls (similar to lobster rolls), while three nights a week Miami Marketta brings a whirlwind of global food stalls. If you’re thirsty, head to Burleigh Brewing to sample their award-winning small-batch beers.
The most covetable lookouts for a Gold Coast sunset are found on the trail through Burleigh Head National Park. You can explore on your own or with an Aboriginal guide to learn the area’s history and culture. You can also surf epic waves at Burleigh’s beach, or explore the calm waters of Tallebudgera Creek by kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
When it’s time to rest, check into the Indigo Blue hotel, popular for its apartment-style accommodation overlooking Burleigh Beach, complete with sun-soaked balconies. Or, you can live like a Burleigh or Miami local in one of the four uniquely styled, beach-villa inspired holiday homes in The Halliday collection.
Where: Coolangatta, Currumbin
The southern beaches are a gorgeous place where crashing waves meet powdery beaches. Most visitors come to these seaside suburbs to surf or laze on the sand, with the gleaming towers of Surfers Paradise proving a great photo backdrop at sunset. The region is buzzing with trendy bars and restaurants as well as a chance to see some local wildlife.
Despite being a little further from the city, there's no shortage of venues on the southern beaches. Watch surfers and beach-goers from Coolangatta’s casual seaside eateries. Baskk is the place to be for pizza and cocktails, Greenhouse Canteen for plant-based wholefoods, and Eddie’s Grub House for great burgers, live music and flowing drinks.
Life in Coolangatta revolves around the sea. Surf world-class breaks such as Kirra Beach and Snapper Rocks, swim in rock pools, walk coastal trails and spot dolphins and whales during their annual migration. Further north, Currumbin is best known for Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can see everything from koalas to Tasmanian devils.
Just across the road from the beach, the Mantra Coolangatta is a convenient family base, with pristine ocean view rooms and a pool to cool off in. A few doors down, the restored mid-century Pink Hotel is packed with character, sporting custom neon artwork in each of its 17 rooms, retro furniture and a rooftop cocktail bar – all worthy of a photo shoot.
Gold Coast hinterland
Where: Lamington National Park, Mt Tamborine, Tallebudgera Valley, Springbrook National Park, Numinbah Valley
You only need to drive 30 minutes from the beach to reach the verdant string of neighbourhoods known as the Gold Coast hinterland, home to a staggering stretch of UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest. Wild valleys, waterfalls and mountain peaks characterise the region, with forward-thinking culinary offerings set among walking trails and wellness resorts.
The food scene on the Gold Coast's hinterland revolves around the area's lush natural environment. At Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation, beans are roasted to perfection, while Tamborine Mountain Distillery serves up drinks of a stronger kind, infused with botanicals. Be sure to stop in for a cheese board and a wine flight at Witches Falls Winery.
There are plenty of places to stretch your legs in the hinterland, particularly on the trails in wilderness areas that comprise the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Get some perspective of the expanse on the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk through the canopy, or walk at your own pace in Lamington National Park, where well-marked trails lead to lookouts and waterfalls.
Check into Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat for a week of yoga, tai chi and vegan eating while spending your nights in a luxurious villa. Or, surround yourself with nature at the less structured yet equally scenic O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. Here you'll have plenty to see and do amid the beauty of the rainforest, from segway tours to glow worm encounters.