9 days of family fun on the Gold Coast
Think the Gold Coast is only Surfers Paradise and theme parks? It's time to meet the whole family.
By Celeste Mitchell
It’s the quintessential Aussie beach holiday destination and the scene of happy childhood memories for many, but the Gold Coast offers so much more than beaches and theme parks for next gen travellers.
And while the headliners will always attract a crowd, it’s the lesser-known finds dotted throughout this iconic stretch of Queensland coastline and in its ancient Gondwana rainforest backyard that keep families coming back year after year.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time or 15th, let this itinerary be your guide to the Gold Coast and the holiday the whole family will talk about for years to come.
Day 1: Gold Coast Airport to Currumbin Beach
- Drive time: 10 minutes
There aren’t many places in the world where you can find yourself surfing long right-handers or SUPing on a crystalline creek within 10 minutes of stepping off the plane. Which is why Currumbin Beach makes the ideal first stop, especially if the kids want to skill up with Currumbin Alley Surf School.
After a lunch perched above the waves at the Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club – or around bowls of açaí from The Salt Mill – spend the afternoon at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s not just the riotous rainbow lorikeets and cuddly koalas that keep visitors flocking. For curious conservationists-to-be, a tour of the Animal Wildlife Hospital allows you to witness potentially species-saving work in real time.Show more
Day 2: Bilinga to Currumbin Valley
- Drive time: 20 minutes
Switch the sand for the dappled-light greenery of nearby Currumbin Valley, and enjoy a swim at Cougal Cascades in Springbrook National Park. The sealed hike to the falls is only 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) return, so you can do it with a pram. You’ll also find a disused sawmill from the 1940s along the trail.
Stop in at Ground Currumbin on your way back to eat at Pasture & Co. They serve organic coffee from nearby Byron Bay and wine from Tamborine Mountain alongside their all-day brunch menu (you’ll also find some great trees for climbing if there’s still energy to burn).
Day 3: Bilinga to Burleigh Heads
- Drive time: 15 minutes
Jump in the car and head inland from Bilinga Beach to start the day by splashing into the sparkling blue of Tallebudgera Creek, a calm estuary framed to the north by Burleigh Heads National Park. The icing on the cake is a breakfast of still-warm pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart) from Custard Canteen.
The Yugambeh people know this place as ‘good fish’, and a walk into the national park with one of the Indigenous guides from Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre is the best way to understand why. See if the kids can spot the basalt ‘fingers’ of Jabreen – the Aboriginal Dreaming God who formed the mountains, rivers and hills – before you do.Show more
Days 4 and 5: Bilinga to Lamington National Park
If you have time
Fit families might want to tackle the three-day Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk, a 54-kilometre (33-mile) series of tracks passing through Binna Burra and ending in Springbrook National Park.
- Drive time: 1.5 hours
Wind your way up the ear-popping escarpment to the eco-certified O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, enveloped by the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park. But before you do, picnic with fluffy alpacas by the creek at Mountainview Alpaca Farm in Canungra.
The Tree Top Walk and Glow Worm Tour are must-dos during your stay at O'Reilly's, but for something different, join a Segway Tour (12 years and over) and test your centre of balance along the track that climaxes in a stunning view over Morans Falls.Show more
Day 6: O’Reilly’s to Oxenford
- Drive time: 1.5 hours
From glow worms to Tasmanian devils, head towards Paradise Country in Oxenford for a farm stay experience close to the coast. Besides bonding with native dingoes, emus and wallabies, mini humans will love cuddling the baby lambs and going for a pony ride. The taste of the bush continues with sheep shearing and a stockman show while the whole family can pan for gold and dig for opals.
Stay: After the gates close for the day, life on the farm plays on in your eco tent at Paradise Country Farm Stay. Relax on the hill at sunset with lawn games and wine tasting, roast marshmallows over the campfire and rise at sunrise to feed the animals and milk the cows.
Days 7 to 9: Oxenford - Surfers Paradise - Gold Coast Airport
- Drive time: about 25 minutes to Oxenford and 30 minutes to the airport
End your road trip on a high note in the skyscraper end of the ‘GC’. Immerse yourself in The New Atlantis – a land of highly-charged rides like the Vortex and the thundering wooden roller coaster, Leviathan (opening late 2020) – at Sea World, after meeting the seals, penguins and polar bears, of course.
If you’re visiting between June and October, head out with Spirit of Gold Coast to spot breaching humpbacks on their great migration.
After you’ve exhausted the family with as much sandcastle-making, beachfront cycling, and rounds of golf at Holey Moley as they can take, check what’s on at Home of the Arts (HOTA) – their new children’s gallery will be open in early 2021 – or take a trip back to the ’50s at the Yatala Drive In.