Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast, QLD inner banner

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast, QLD

Queensland's glittering Gold Coast is packed with attractions, and deciding what to see and do can be a daunting prospect. Whittle it down with this handy checklist of must-not-miss experiences.
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Surfers Paradise. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Beyond the Gold Coast’s stunning beaches, theme parks and nightlife, there’s a lot more going on than you may think.

Let’s start with the cool cafes, innovative eateries, sparkling waterways, elite designer shopping malls and local markets, and further afield — mountain retreats and waterfalls thundering down into rainforest pools. For everything you know about the ‘glitter strip’, there’s even more you still need to discover!

Decide on your style of holiday and make a plan. Whether you’re dining in view of the beach, learning to surf, or enjoying a music festival, you’ll have the time of your life.

Here are ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ride high at Dreamworld. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

1. Turn a theme park visit into a peak experience

The four big theme parks — Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet’n’Wild and Dreamworld — are among the Gold Coast’s biggest attractions. They’re already amazing, but why not plan to visit for a special event or peak experience? Popular theme nights include the Sea World Carnivale, Sea World Spooky Nights, Movie World’s Fright Nights, White Christmas and DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains. Sea World offers eleven different animal adventures — such as being photographed with dolphins, swimming with sharks, or getting up close and personal with seals. You can also book an exclusive experience at Movie World. Go on a studio tour or ride up front with a Hollywood stunt driver.

2. Hit the golden sands

The Gold Coast has 57 kilometres of golden sand to enjoy, but don’t just visit the beach as a spectator. Be a participant! You can walk along Burleigh Beach at sunrise, take the challenging path from Rainbow Bay to Point Danger to try and spot whales, or learn to surf from a pro at one of the surf schools at Surfers Paradise, Currumbin or Coolangatta. Take home action shots of you hanging ten in one of the world’s ten official surfing reserves.

3. Buddy up with the wilder locals

Close encounters of the animal kind aren’t exclusive to Sea World; you’ll also meet plenty of critters at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. The free lorikeet feeding daily at 8am and 4pm is a noisy rite of passage for first-time visitors. Book the Koala Experience for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ introduction to this iconic native animal, and have a professional photo taken of you holding a koala. Photo sessions are also available with snakes, wedgetail eagles and barking owls (but be sure to book!).

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast. Image: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

If you’re visiting Currumbin in December or January, you might be able to score a ticket to a Twilight Tour. You’ll be ushered into the experience with Dreamtime stories, before enjoying a campfire feast of damper and bush lemon iced tea. And you’ll get to see our incredible wildlife in a whole new light.

Currumbin also operates a busy wildlife hospital. You can book a tour, or if you visit in February, attend the hospital’s Open Day.

4. Get a bird’s eye view of the region

The Q1 tower stands tall and statuesque amongst the skyscrapers lining the Gold Coast’s foreshore. At the top of the tower, the glass-fronted SkyPoint Observation Deck offers panoramic views of the Coast by day or night, its suburbs extending back from the beach and crisscrossed by roads, bridges and waterways.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: Enjoy the view from Q1.

For the more adventurous visitor, the 90-minute SkyPoint Climb scales the outside of the tower to a height of 270 metres. It’s Australia’s highest external building climb, and can be done day or night. Needless to say, this bird’s-eye-view experience is not for the faint-hearted!

5. Check out the back doors of the rich and famous

The Gold Coast’s canals are lined with multi-million-dollar mansions, and the best way to get a sneaky peek inside is from the water. Choose a cruise according to your budget and timetable. There are morning tea, buffet lunch, sunset and dinner options, all of which offer a lovely and leisurely sightseeing experience.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: Cruise the canals.

These waterways are also a convenient way to get around. Purchase a Hop On Hop Off Day Pass for the Hopo Gold Coast Ferry and hop on or off as you want at stops along the route. Catch a show or movie at HOTA (Home of the Arts), walk along Broadwater Parklands, shop, wine and dine at Marina Mirage, or spend the day at Sea World.

6. Dine with an ocean view

There’s nothing more romantic than dining by the beach. Feast on prawns and lobster sliders in Burleigh Heads at award-winning Rick Shores or the Burleigh Pavilion, your toes almost touching the sand. Take in the montage of activity below you: people surfing the famous breaks, paddling and building sandcastles.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: Burleigh Pavilions. Image: Marj Osborne

You can achieve the same effect regardless of your budget. Order fish and chips at the Rainbow Bay Surf Club or enjoy a picnic on Burleigh Hill.

7. Do brunch

Gold Coast locals are a social lot, with brunch being the most popular time to catch up with friends. What’s different to cafes in other major cities is that you’ll often be sitting outside under a tree or umbrella. Enjoy this al fresco tradition at The Paddock Bakery (Burleigh Heads), Bam Bam Bakehouse (Mermaid Beach), Custard Canteen (Palm Beach), Tarte (Burleigh Heads), Blackboard (Varsity Lakes), Hot Shott (Main Beach), Elk Espresso (Broadbeach), BSKT (Mermaid Beach) or Double Barrel Kitchen and Bar (Benowa).

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: Custard Canteen. Image: Marj Osborne

8. Soak up some culture

Every destination has its own unique cultural vibe, and none more so than the Gold Coast. Check out the Miami Marketta for live music and street food, hear emerging and established musicians at gigs across the coast (check the Blank street press gig guide), or visit HOTA for theatre and art. Institutions like Dracula’s or The Pink Flamingo cater for lovers of cabaret and burlesque.

Keen to attend a festival? The Gold Coast hosts many annual music and cultural events, including Blues on Broadbeach, the Swell Sculpture Festival, Groundwater Country Music Festival, and arty Bleach Festival. You can find more details on the City of Gold Coast’s website.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Bleach Festival. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

9. Shop ’til you drop

Pacific Fair and Robina Town Centre are giant lifestyle shopping centres equal to the best in Australia. Browse for luxury and chain brands, and enjoy great family dining, theatres and play areas. Savvy shoppers also head for Harbour Town — a massive outlet shopping centre, where you can buy those same luxury brands, but often at far more competitive prices.

Alternatively, check out local beachfront markets at Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh and Coolangatta, or the bi-monthly Village Markets — home to many aspiring local creatives.

Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast
Ten of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: Visit Springbrook National Park.

10. Visit the green behind the gold

A short drive from the dazzling beaches is the ‘green behind the gold’ — the Gold Coast Hinterland — encompassing Mount Tamborine, Springbrook and Lamington National Parks, and the wider Scenic Rim region. Get off the beaten track on rainforests walks, see plunging waterfalls, and visit tranquil mountain resorts. The region is renowned for the production of niche artisanal products, fine wines and award-winning coffee.

For more information, visit www.destinationgoldcoast.com.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do on the Gold Coast? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Cover image: Tourism and Events Queensland. Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Marj Osborne has been reviewing restaurants for over 20 years, formerly for Mietta’s Eating and Drinking in Australia, and more recently for her own blog — Good Food Gold Coast. Her work has also been published in Cafe Culture, Cove Magazine, the Gold Coast Bulletin and Blank Gold Coast. A researcher, teacher-librarian and former hospitality educator trained in vegetarian cooking and wine appreciation, Marj believes in positive living and thinking, and spending time enriching the body, mind and soul. She finds joy on country road trips discovering hidden gems.

 

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