Planning a trip to the Gold Coast
There are so many things to do on the Gold Coast you will likely find it hard to fit it all into your short visit so today we will give you a rundown of our favourites to help you decide what goes on your must-do Gold Coast holiday list.
Only one hour south of the Queensland capital city of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is a water lover’s paradise. Home to 35 patrolled beaches, 6 theme parks and hundreds of resort-style hotel rooms, it’s a relaxing and exciting holiday spot.
The Gold Coast has over 287 days of sunshine per year with an average year-round temperature is 24 degrees Celsius!
When most people think of the Gold Coast, they think of the main area of Surfers Paradise, which was the original holiday town in the region. It’s best known for its restaurants, skyscraper apartments and gold-clad meter maids, but there is much much more to the region, and I hope by the time you have read to the bottom of the page you will see the Gold Coast has a lot to offer visitors from all walks of life.
With kilometres of beautiful beaches and the gorgeous Queensland hinterland to go with the spine-tingling theme park rides there really is something for everyone here.
This post contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation, at no extra cost to you, when you click on or make a purchase using these links. Our full disclosure policy is here.
When is the best time to visit the Gold Coast?
With fairly consistent weather all year round it’s possible to visit almost anytime but there are some times of the year when you might like to stay away …and the times to stay well clear! These are my personal opinions, these times might be perfect for you but I saw forewarned is forearmed.
Do not visit the Gold Coast in late October
Unless you are a rev head (that’s Aussie for car racing enthusiasts), you might want to avoid the final week in October. This is when the Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500, comes to town. Accommodation prices rise, some streets are barricaded with wire fencing which looks pretty ugly and it’s loud! Seriously loud! If you are not a car lover give this week a miss.
Do not visit the Gold Coast in November and December
Unless you are under 21. Australia’s equivalent of spring break makes its way to the Gold Coast when high school ends and the graduates head to town to party in huge numbers. What started as “schoolies” week lasts closer to a month these days. This is not an old fogey talking either… anyone over 21 finds this time of year up there pretty damn tedious. Consider yourself warned! Officially it runs from 20 November to 5 December but they arrive earlier and stay later each year it seems.
Do not visit in the School Holidays
If you don’t have children, I would also consider going outside the Australian School holiday periods as prices and crowded are higher.
Getting Around on the Gold Coast
Flying to the Gold Coast
When flying to the Gold Coast you land at Coolangatta Airport (OOL) at the southern end of the coast. Both international and domestic flights land here. There are usually direct international flights from Asia as well as direct flights from all Australian capital cities usually daily. A number of flights from secondary cities like Newcastle, Townsville, Cairns and Avalon near Geelong.
The airport is located about 30 km from Surfers Paradise and depending on the traffic the trip will take about 30-45 minutes depending on the time of day.
If you are travelling on a budget route 777 is a limited-stop service to Broadbeach South tram station. The service operates every 5 minutes from 7:00am to 7:00pm and costs less than $5. The trip takes about 30 minutes. The 760 bus route travels to Varsity Lakes Train Station every 30 minutes. A taxi stand is at the southern end of the terminal and a rideshare pickup point is outside the departures area at the northern end of the Terminal. A number of shuttle services are also available.
Do you need to rent a car?
The most commonly asked question by first-time visitors to the Gold coast is should I rent a car or use the buses? My preference is to rent a car. Doing this saves you time and money and allows you to be really flexible in your touring. You can pick up a car at the airport.
If you choose not to drive, there are a few public transport options. The Gold Coast Shuttle offers airport and theme park transfers. They also offer a gold pass allowing you to use their services for 3, 5 or 7 days. There is also an extensive public bus service Surfside Buses that will help you save $$$
Where to Stay on the Gold Coast
There are high rise apartments lining the coast from Coolangatta on the NSW border to Southport. You might also like to consider a stay in the rainforest. The main areas to stay on the Gold Coast include:
- Broadbeach – Good choice for restaurants, the casino and shopping, good transport connections.
- Surfers Paradise – Good for nightlife and a range of cheaper food options
- Coolangatta – relaxed and affordable and only 30 minutes from the action
- Currumbin – Family friendly beaches and activities nearby
- Burleigh Heads – good for beachside hiking, relaxed vibe
- The Hinterland – for a rainforest escape with hiking on your doorstep
Top Things to Do on the Gold Coast
It’s easy to build a varied itinerary with all the options on the coast.
- Take an early morning walk along any of the 56km of Gold Coast beaches
- Explore the food and wine trails in the Queensland Hinterland
- Feed the famous rainbow lorikeets and other wildlife Currumbin Sanctuary
- Check out at least one of the theme parks – Movie World, Sea World, Wet n Wild
- Hike in Lamington National Park – an enchanting UNESCO listed rainforest with some fantastic walks
- Wander Springbrook National Park – another of the Gondwana Rainforests
- See how many of the dozen stunning waterfalls in the Gold Coast Hinterland and Scenic Rim
National Parks on the Gold Coast
At the top of our list are the regions national parks. You simply must visit the hinterland, if you don’t you are missing some of the most magical parts of the region.
A 30-minute drive west will get you to the Hinterland. If you don’t have a car you can still visit by joining a day tour, try a food or wine tour or if you are more active, a walking tour of the area. Indeed there are many tours to choose from.
Three national parks on Gold Coast and their key sites:
- Springbrook National Park – Natural Bridge, Numinbah Valley and The Best of All Lookout.
- Tamborine National Park – Witches Falls, Curtis Falls, and outside the park Tamborine Skywalk
- Lamington National Park – home to O’Reillys Guesthouse where my parents had a very romantic holiday in the early 1960s and equally its just romantic today!
If you are planning on doing any serious hiking in the national parks be sure to download the My Ranger app from Queensland Parks and Forests.
Dolphins, water slides, movie sets and more, the Gold Coast is Australia’s theme park epicentre making it a great place for families to holiday.
Gold Coast Theme Parks
The four big theme parks are:
- Movieworld – Warner Brothers Movie World or “Hollywood on the Gold Coast” as the advertising campaign says has rides and attractions for all ages although I think it’s probably best suited to families with younger kids.
- Dreamworld – is a theme park with rides for the whole family. There are enough scary rides to keep even the biggest thrill-seeker along with Tiger Island and an Australian animal exhibit.
- Seaworld – This is my personal favourite. If you are only planning on one theme park, I would choose Seaworld. There are some great ride and the animal shows are amazing. The attractions include Shark Bay, Penguin Point, Polar Bear Shores and Ray Reef. There are also some great rides.
- Wet and Wild or White Water World – Great fun but strictly for nice warm days.
Top Gold Coast Attractions
Along with the theme parks and beaches, there are some interesting attractions on the Gold Coast that should not be missed.
Tropical Fruit World
Tropical Fruit World, such fond memories, this is where I met the Chocolate Pudding Fruit, a relationship that was made in heaven. Chocolate pudding fruit or black sapote is a fruit that actually tastes like chocolate without calories. If only we could buy it in Sydney easily.
On a farm tour, you can choose to ride the tractor train on the Plantation Safari. We found it fascinating to hear how all the fruit is grown. Book a tasting to sample some of the exotic stuff. The 2-hour farm tour includes the safari, tasting, a visit to the farmyard and a river cruise. It’s a great day our and we highly recommend it.
There is an onsite cafe but even if you don’t stay for lunch make sure you try the ice cream – it was amazing!
Where: 29 Duranbah Rd, Duranbah NSW
When: Daily from 9am to 4pm.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Twenty minutes south of Gold Coast, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has been a favourite of both locals and visitors for decades. You could think of Currumbin as a theme park of wildlife and the environment. Explore the Lost Valley, a 5 acres rainforest, find the sculptures on the Art Trail, which features a dozen large scale artworks or the Sanctuary’s Extinction Trail where you can meet the dinosaurs.
Highlights include the excellent keeper talks that are offered throughout the day, and of course the rainbow lorikeets that have been feeding here since the 1940s when the park was founded.
Where: 28 Tomewin St, Currumbin
When: 9am-4pm daily
SkyPoint Observation Deck
Located on level 77 of the Q1 Resort, Australia’s tallest building SkyPoint Observation Deck offers views 360 degrees of Gold Coast landscape and beaches. The lift will have you 270 metres above the ground in less than a minute.
They offer a one-time entry or three-day ticket and also a number of dining options. A dine and view ticket which includes a $20 dining voucher with your entry. There is also an afternoon tea option. We suggest you pop up and start the day with a sunrise viewing and breakfast.
Where: Level 77, Q1 9 Hamilton Ave, Surfers Paradise
When: 7.30am-7.30pm daily
Join Australia Your Way Community – Have a question about travelling in Australia? Want to discover new places to visit? Head over to our group and join in all the fun!