Queensland’s Gold Coast has a star attraction in its beaches, including the world-renowned stretch of sand at Surfers Paradise.
Go beyond the beaches however and visitors can discover laid-back neighbourhoods, a booming culinary scene and the Gold Coast’s famous theme parks. And be sure to leave enough time for a trip into the subtropical hinterland for rainforest walks and waterfalls.
Who goes to the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has a diverse offering for all types of travellers. The destination attracts a lot of families with the theme parks, safe swimming beaches and array of family friendly activities. Couples can find romantic experiences from hot air ballooning to winery tours in the area. Adventurous travellers will love the playground that is the Gold Coast, from the beaches with surfing, diving and ocean adventures to exploring the many hiking tracks and riding trails in the hinterland. Solo travellers can enjoy the safety and friendly nature of locals who are always keen to make travellers feel welcome.
How to get to the Gold Coast
There is one main terminal at Gold Coast Airport (Coolangatta Airport – OOL). All domestic and international flights operate from this terminal. The airport is situated 25 kilometres south of the tourist hub of Surfers Paradise/Broadbeach and just 5 minutes from Coolangatta.
Gold Coast Airport is also the gateway to the Tweed Region of Northern New South Wales featuring Byron Bay – located under an hour away by car. Gold Coast Airport operates on Australian Eastern Standard Time year round.
Normally, there are regular daily domestic flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and there are also connecting flights to all other Australian cities. The trip from Sydney takes around 1 hour 25 minutes, around 2 hours 15 minutes from Melbourne and around 2 hours and 10 minutes from Adelaide.
A range of hygiene measures are in place throughout the Airport to help keep passengers safe, including increased cleaning and hand sanitiser available in several locations.
The Gold Coast Airport terminal is operating on reduced hours and is open when passenger services are operating. Due to changes to flight schedules, there has been a temporary change to the operating hours of some of the food and beverage and retail operators.
For more on the Airport COVID-19 Updates, visit https://www.goldcoastairport.com.au/covid-19
Driving, the Gold Coast is approximately 80kms south of Brisbane and 950kms north of Sydney. There are a number of coach services that pass through the Gold Coast, with regular services from Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney and other major centres. There are bus transit centres in Coolangatta, Surfers Paradise and Southport. Travel time from Brisbane is around one and a half hours and from Sydney an express coach service takes around 14 hours.
The Gold Coast is connected by rail to Brisbane’s Roma Street and Central stations. The closest railway stations servicing the Gold Coast include Varsity Lakes, Nerang, Helensvale and Robina – there are connecting shuttle bus services available from the station to Surfers Paradise and other Gold Coast centres. Airtrain also operate regular rail services from Brisbane Airport to the Gold Coast which take approximately 90 minutes. Due to a difference in the gauge of the railway between New South Wales and Queensland there are no Interstate direct rail links to the Gold Coast. Trains depart daily from Sydney and terminate at Murwillumbah (around 30 mins south of Coolangatta).
Top things to do on the Gold Coast
Hot Air Ballooning On The Gold Coast
It might be an early morning start but a morning hot air balloon flight on the Gold Coast is well worth the loss of sleep in and with Hot Air Gold Coast you can take to the skies and discover the beauty of Gold Coast’s Scenic Rim and surrounding areas. Float up, up and away to where the air is calm and silent, only broken by the blasts of flames that continued to fill the balloon with hot air and send you higher. Float to around 4000 feet and watch as the sun rises over the rolling hills of the majestic Gold Coast hinterland. After your flight, enjoy a champagne breakfast in the gracious ambiance of O’Reilly’s Vineyard‘s historic Grand Homestead.
The Collective at Palm Beach
A collaboration of hospo experts and owner operator chefs, The Collective is a truly unique market style concept and an epic lifestyle destination worth hunting down. With five kitchens serving up American, Italian, Mexican, Asian and Greek, there’s ample choice and even the fussiest diner in your group is certain to find something they like. The staff are amazing and will make the dining experience all that much better. Make a day out of it or have some drinks with dinner and take your time with the dining experience.
Scenic Helicopter flight
Get an exciting view of the Gold Coast from the air with Gold Coast Helitours. Departing from their unique floating helipad at the Spit, there is a range of scenic flights to choose from. The luxurious helicopters will sweep you across the picturesque waterways, rolling hills and the golden beaches including the towering high rises the Gold Coast is famous for.
Street food delights mixed with a communal feel, funky bars and dining space, live entertainment and one very unique bathroom, Miami Marketta is the place to be on the Gold Coast. Marketta Street Food is a laneway dining experience with 25 food vendors of all nationalities in the one space. Take your entree from Spain, your main from Thailand and sweets from France. It is open for Street Food every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 5pm – late. Check out the Facebook events page for all our free and ticketed live music gigs and special events.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
A family favourite, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a well-known wildlife park owned by the non-profit National Trust of Queensland. Famous for the hundreds of brightly coloured rainbow lorikeets which eat from visitors’ hands and even perch on their heads, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to experience some of Australia’s wildlife. Best of all, all proceeds support the animals.
At the southern end of the Gold Coast and near the New South Wales state border, Coolangatta Beach provides a much more peaceful alternative to the tourist-packed Surfer’s Paradise. Spending a day on the soft sun-soaked sands here is one of the best things to do on the Gold Coast for free. Skirting Coolangatta beach is a lovely waterfront park, dotted with Norfolk pines. During the winter months, this is a popular spot to stroll along the paths and look for whales and dolphins. The town of Coolangatta is also the site of the Gold Coast airport. Surfers can find some of the best waves in the world here at nearby Greenmount Point and Snapper Rocks at the eastern end of the beach; Duranbah (“D-bah”) just around the corner from Snapper Rocks; and Kirra Beach, known for its fantastic sand-breaking right-hand point.
Springbrook National Park
A short drive from the coastline, inland, is Springbrook National Park which offers a tranquil escape in World Heritage-listed wilderness. Soaring rock faces, rainforests, waterfalls, and the gorges of the McPherson Range dominate the park. A must see here is Natural Arch Bridge, where a waterfall plunges into a cave (home to a colony of glow worms) and through a natural basalt arch. Throughout this region you will find many rainforest-fringed trails, picnic areas and waterfalls.
Lamington National Park
On the doorstep to the Gold Coast is the World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park. Renowned for its beautiful rainforest scenery, many waterfalls, and quirky wildlife, the park lies in the lush hills of the Border Ranges, remnants of an ancient volcano, where the Lamington Plateau plunges into dramatic cliffs and gorges. Here you will find O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, a guesthouse and spa where you can also enjoy a meal at the café. Staying overnight at this romantic retreat is one of the favourite things to do in the Gold Coast for couples. From here, nature buffs can explore the park on the O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk, a 180-meter series of suspension bridges strung through the rainforest canopy.
Surfers Paradise Beach
The iconic three-kilometre strand that is Surfers Paradise Beach draws the crowds to this picturesque stretch of beach. Families can enjoy the patrolled beach for a swim or build sandcastles in the soft white sand. Lifeguards patrol 365 days a year, but swimmers should stay between the red and yellow flags at all times. Surfers can ride the typically gentle swells. If you want a break from beach, stroll up to the esplanade to the many nearby shops, cafés, and restaurants. At night, the beach is illuminated for evening strolls. On Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights, visitors can enjoy the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets with more than a hundred stalls. This is also where you will find Cavill Avenue, the shopping and entertainment heart of Surfer’s Paradise. It is a popular hotspot for nightlife on the Gold Coast.
Not only is the Gold Coast the original home of theme parks in Australia, it is home to the biggest collection of thrill rides and slides in the Southern Hemisphere. With the big four theme parks conveniently located across the Gold Coast (some are side-by-side), you’ll find them easily. Escape to a fantasyland at Dreamworld. Dive into the fun next door at WhiteWater World, which is an exciting maze of waterslides, tube rides and relaxing pools. Take your aquatic adventures to the next level at Wet’n’Wild, another Gold Coast theme park, with some of Australia’s most extreme waterslides. Discover an underwater world at Sea World. Meet your favourite superheroes and cartoon characters at Warner Bros. Movie World, which has action-packed rides and exciting shows for visitors of all ages.
SkyPoint, Surfer’s Paradise
Get a birds-eye view over the Gold Coast at SkyPoint, in the contemporary Q1 Resort and Spa. This is Australia’s tallest residential tower. You can choose from two sightseeing attractions here. The SkyPoint Observation Deck on level 77 affords 360-degree panoramas of the Gold Coast, the sea, and the distant green hinterland. Thrill seekers can opt for the SkyPoint Climb, where you can climb upon a 270-meter-high platform perched above the city.
How to book the Gold Coast
Booking the Gold Coast is easy, through a number of domestic wholesalers. Alternatively, you can book through your favourite Online Travel Portal or even direct with the hotels, tours and attraction companies.
Need to know in time of COVID-19
Restricted entry to Queensland. Visitors coming from COVID-19 hotspots – which are outlined on the Queensland Government website here – are currently unable to access or quarantine in Queensland. If visitors from hotspots travel to Queensland, they will be turned around – there are limited exceptions. Queensland residents returning form COVID-19 hotspots will be able to enter the state, but they must quarantine in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense. Anyone travelling into Queensland must complete a Queensland Border Declaration Pass.
Quarantine information for people arriving in Queensland from overseas. Anyone arriving in Queensland from overseas is required to undergo mandatory quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense, for a minimum of 14 days unless they have received a quarantine exemption. For more information see the Queensland Government website.