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
Packed your swimsuit? The Gold Coast’s 57-kilometre (37-mile) shoreline offers some of Australia’s best waves for surfing as well as calm coves perfect for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, all lined with buzzy shopping and dining precincts. This south-east Queensland city also has more than 860 kilometres (530 miles) of navigable tidal canals and rivers, some replete with beaches, and others ideal for exploring by boat. Thirty 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
Pick up Australian designer clothing at Pacific Fair mall, which has 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. The beach holiday capital of the coast, 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 in with the active locals on a walk (or jog) through large, waterside parks and along beachfront promenades dotted with street art and trendy cafés. If you’re staying in this neighbourhood, don’t forget to pack your favourite outfit for a night on the town.
Start your day with a coffee at a cool local café such as Bumbles or Lot 1. Enjoy a cold drink at the Kurrawa Surf Club in Broadbeach, located in a beachside pavilion with unbroken views of the Gold Coast shoreline. It’s just a short stroll to Social Eating House, a restaurant lauded for its tapas-style share plates using local produce. Nearby, chefs at Hideaway Kitchen & Bar give Asian street food a whimsical twist, with flavourful dishes served in a semi-open-air space decorated with colourful umbrellas. Don’t miss the QT’s Yamagen Japanese restaurant or the Island’s rooftop bar for dinner and drinks in style.
Head to Surfers Paradise beach to admire the waves, or learn to surf them with the help of a local surf school. From June to October, look out for whales breaching off the beach, particularly from the Skypoint Observation Deck, the perfect vantage point located 230 metres (755 feet) above sea level.
In Surfers, The Island Gold Coast and QT Gold Coast both play up to the seaside resort setting with their bright, playful interiors. In Broadbeach, lay your head at the French-inspired Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach.
Where: Southport, Main Beach
Occupying a scenic spit that separates the ocean from the Gold Coast Broadwater lagoon, 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 – the perfect base for an indulgent holiday. Combined with increasingly hip Southport, on the western shores of Broadwater (linked by road), it’s also your family’s best base for the Coast’s iconic theme parks, just to the north.
For breakfast, head to charming Main Beach café Le Jardin, where tables spill out onto the footpath under leafy trees. Have lunch with a view of superyachts from the waterside Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern, popular for its crisp fish and chips. In Southport, pop over to Blendlove for coffee and vegan cakes in the sunshine. Home of the city’s Chinatown, Southport is also a great destination for dinner – head to JFX Noodle and Tapas Bar for the city’s best ramen.
To see the region in style, take a helicopter tour or opt for a luxury yacht charter. Helicopters can also transfer you to the Sea World marine theme park. To the north, other family-friendly attractions include Movie World, and expansive waterpark Wet’n’Wild.
At Main Beach, lounge by the lagoon-style pool at the Palazzo Versace, which takes its opulent style cues from the Italian fashion house it was named for. The ultra-luxe hotel adjoins the upscale Marina Mirage shopping and dining precinct, with boutiques by big-name designer brands as well as outdoor restaurants overlooking the sea and Broadwater’s marina. It’s also home to the sprawling Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort.
Did you know?
Just south of the Queensland border is the food-focused New South Wales Tweed region – a popular stop for many Gold Coast visitors.
Where: Miami, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach
The neighbouring suburbs of Miami, Burleigh and Palm Beach exude laid-back seaside living, replete with hip bars, boutiques and breweries, many of which have 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.
Meals don’t get much closer to the sand than those enjoyed at Rick Shores, which serves the Gold Coast’s best Moreton Bay bug rolls (similar to lobster rolls) just steps from Burleigh Beach. Come dinner time, visit Miami Marketta, a whirlwind of global food stalls that pop up every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening, or choose from multiple cuisines at The Collective Palm Beach. If you’re thirsty, head to the forward-thinking Burleigh Brewing to sample their small-batch beers that have picked up awards around the world. Or, head to nearby Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery to sip local creations, like mango liqueur, and try your hand at making your own gin.
The most covetable lookouts for a spectacular Gold Coast sunset are found on the trail through Burleigh Head National Park. You can explore on your own or with an Aboriginal guide from the cultural centre, who lead rainforest tours and explain the area’s history, cultural significance, and native bush foods. You can also surf epic waves at Burleigh’s beach to the north of the headland, or explore the calm waters of Tallebudgera Creek to the south by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. For shopping, head to Burleigh’s James Street boutiques or the outdoor Village Markets, held on the first and third Sunday of every month.
When it’s time to rest, check into the Indigo Blue hotel, popular for its apartment-style accommodation overlooking Burleigh Beach, or live like a local in Burleigh or Miami in one of the four stylish, villa-style holiday homes in The Halliday collection.
Where: Coolangatta, Currumbin
This is the Gold Coast’s (and Queensland’s) south-easternmost point, a 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 – 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the north – proving a great photo backdrop at sunset. The region’s other big draw is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can get up close to all manner of native animals.
Watch surfers from Coolangatta’s casual seaside eateries such as Café Dbar, known for its smoothies and indulgent desserts. Try Baskk for pizza, 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, as well as Duranbah just over the border in New South Wales. Swim in rock pools, walk coastal trails around the Point Danger headland and spot dolphins and whales during their annual migration. Further north, Currumbin also has a great beach, but this suburb is best known for Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can see everything from koalas and kangaroos to Tasmanian devils and cassowaries, a flightless bird native to the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region.
Just across the road from the beach, the Mantra Coolangatta is a convenient family base. A few doors down, the restored mid-century Pink Hotel is packed with character, with custom neon artwork in each of its 17 rooms.
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 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest. Wild valleys, waterfalls and mountain peaks characterise the region, with forward-thinking culinary offerings (distilleries and wineries included) set among walking trails and wellness resorts.
At Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation, on the hinterland’s northern fringe, beans are roasted to perfection before being brewed in a serene space, which you can also tour. Less than five kilometres (three miles) to the north you’ll find Tamborine Mountain Distillery (try the vodka infused with native lemon myrtle), Mount Tamborine Vineyard & Winery (visit the cellar door and sip chardonnay) and Witches Falls Winery (stop in for a cheese board and a wine flight). And just a few minutes’ drive away is Granny Macs, a confectionary store known for its fudge made with Australian ingredients such as macadamia nuts.
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 45-minute Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk through the rainforest canopy, or walk at your own pace in Lamington National Park, where well-marked trails lead to lookouts and waterfalls; look out for the rare Albert’s lyrebirds (pheasant-sized songbirds) that live here.
Check into Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat for a week of yoga, tai chi and vegan eating. Or surround yourself with nature at the less structured yet equally scenic O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.