The Essential Gold Coast Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do, places to see, and where to stay during your visit to the Gold Coast.

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For locals, tourists throughout Australia, and visitors from afar, the Gold Coast is the must-visit holiday destination for sandy beaches and endless excitement. Whether you’re dropping by to take in the rainforests, to try surfing the iconic waves, or to explore the city and all it has to offer, the Gold Coast has plenty to discover and enjoy.

Gold Coast Travel Guide

The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. Holiday goers of all types visit the Gold Coast for the perfect holiday. Whether you’re looking forward to waking up to beachfront accommodation every morning or exploring the vibrant nightlife, the Gold Coast will be one of your most unforgettable trips.


Families head out to spend some time together splashing in the water and enjoying the local Gold Coast attractions. Most visitors find themselves thrill-seeking or sun-bathing in the day and enjoying the local night life in the evening. There are plenty of beaches for you to take advantage of where you can sink into the sand on the shore or splash about in the tumbling surf.


If you’re considering a Gold Coast holiday and you want to make sure you discover all the best places to visit in the Gold Coast, you’ll want to plan ahead.


When to visit the Gold Coast


The Gold Coast is known for its amazing beaches, so the most popular time to visit is in the summer. The weather is warm and for a lot of people, there’s nothing more appealing than a dip in the water to cool off. But if you can wait out the hottest time in the year, you might be better for it.


Consider the off-peak seasons for your Gold Coast trip. Early February (just between the summer holidays and the Easter break) could be a good time for you, thanks to most tourists visiting the Gold Coast during the holidays.


Between May and August can also be a great, strategic option, if you don’t mind wearing a light jacket as you walk in the sun. Gold Coast is known for being one of the best places to visit during an Australian winter since the days are still warm and nights only slightly cooler.


Things to do on the Gold Coast


One of the most popular Gold Coast activities is a trip to one of the many great beaches you’ll find along the coast. Dive into the waves and splash about for a fun day in the sun or try your hand at a new water sport.


Maybe your trip to the Gold Coast is when you learn how to surf or paddle board. Don’t miss discovering the local marine life by popping on a snorkel and visiting the amazing snorkelling spots throughout the Gold Coast. 


If you’re looking for great kids' activities on the Gold Coast, one of the aqua parks along the coast is sure to get the younger ones excited. These parks are made up of inflatable structures that you can jump all over and bounce off into the cool waters below. Of course, you can’t talk about exciting Gold Coast activities without considering the local theme parks.


Some of the most popular things to do on the Gold Coast are visits to the Theme Parks. Warner Bros. Movie World and Dreamworld are both full of thrilling and family-friendly rides with references throughout the parks to beloved movies. A place like the Gold Coast is so well-known for splashing about in the water, and Wet’n’Wild and WhiteWater World are the places to be if you love the wind in your hair as you speed down water slides.


When you’ve had your fill of thrilling rides and you’re ready for a more relaxing time in the Gold Coast, the local hinterlands may draw you in with promises of lush greenery and rolling hills. The Gold Coast Hinterlands are home to a collection of national parks that showcase Queensland’s natural beauty. 


You can even hop in a hot air balloon to gently float over the lush treetops and take in the amazing vista of hinterlands and ocean. 


Within the city there’s plenty of great food, fun nightlife, and boutique stores to visit. Simply wander through the city to get a feel for the local lifestyle and maybe find a unique memento to take home with you. And no trip to the Gold Coast is complete without an afternoon stroll through the local markets.

Activities for Kids on the Gold Coast

With all those thrilling activities, you might be wondering where to go in the Gold Coast with kids. After all, a day of thrilling adventures or aqua park bouncing isn’t the ultimate day of fun for every child, but there are plenty of fun kids’ activities on the Gold Coast that even the grownups can enjoy.


For animal lovers, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a wonderful attraction to say hello to some of Australia’s beloved wildlife. With interactive presentations, characters like Blinky Bill the koala causing mischief around the park, a high ropes adventure park with zip lines and even a Segway Safari, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has excitement waiting at every corner.


Learn about Tasmanian devils, koalas, kangaroos, snakes, birds, saltwater crocs and many more animals while seeing them up close and personal, from a safe distance of course.  


To further this entertaining and educational adventure, you can observe vets at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital as they help some of the 8000 native animals brought in every year.


If you happen upon the park on a Friday you can end your experience at the Sanctuary Markets which feature international cuisine, local arts and crafts, live entertainment and delicious deserts. This memorable experience is sure to stick with children and parents alike for years to come.

Gold Coast Family Fun

For a day of fun in the sun with the family, visit Sea World. Sea World is part of the Gold Coast’s collection of amusement parks, though it has very few thrill rides.


Instead, you can enjoy live animal shows and even take the opportunity to swim with the dolphins that call Sea World home. Although if you and the kids want to enjoy all the thrill rides you can, each of the Gold Cost theme parks has a dedicated kid-friendly space so that everyone can enjoy their day on the rides. 


To finish of a day of fun with the family, gather everyone up and head to the Australian Outback Spectacular—a live performance that will take your breath away paired with delicious food that will satisfy your taste buds.


Enjoy a dazzling, country themed show with horses, performers, stunt devils, acrobats and clowns. The show includes a three course Australian BBQ, live music and even pre-show entertainment. Learn about some of the historical cowboys of the region and remain transfixed by all the different sites and sounds. 


While you’re in the Gold Coast, enjoy the local street eats with a visit to the Miami Marketta. The Marketta is a trendy, pop up food market.


Wandering through the stalls is not only a great way to sample plenty of the local cuisine, it’s also a great way to make sure everyone gets to eat what they want (ideal if you’re travelling with picky eaters).


This great venue is open Wednesday through Saturday evenings and not only offers dinner items but also hosts a dessert hall and a live music stage. For a tasty family breakfast at a good price, head to any Surf Club along the coast. Many have ocean views, and they are all very family friendly.

What to Pack When Visiting the Gold Coast

Unless you don’t enjoy swimming or sunbathing (no matter the season, thanks to heated pools), the first thing to add to your bag is a swimsuit.


More often than not, visitors to the Gold Coast end up going for a dip in the ocean or in their Gold Coast hotel pool. The last thing you want is to be looking out over the inviting, crystal clear waters lapping against the soft, white sand and find yourself unable to head out into the surf. 


You’ll also need to pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Whether you go swimming or not, the sun can be very strong and it’s important to protect yourself.


If you visit the Gold Coast Hinterlands, you’ll want to bring along at least a light jacket and some sensible shoes so that you’re comfortable while you explore the outdoors. Those comfy shoes will come in handy for days at the theme parks and zoo too, since you’ll be on your feet for a large part of the day.


Anyone that plans to take in the city’s nightlife or food scene should consider packing an outfit or two that’s a little bit more formal than the standard shirt-and-shorts look that’s popular with Gold Coast locals throughout the day.


And of course, you can’t forget your flip flops/thongs so you can slip them off and dive into the blue in an instant.


The Gold Coast is a thriving city, and one of the best Gold Coast tips is that if you do forget anything when packing, you can probably grab a replacement from one of the local stores or boutiques.


Broadbeach may have fewer venues to visit and amenities nearby, but what is within walking distance may offer a more up-scale experience than Surfers Paradise. In Broadbeach, you can relax with a glass of wine at dinner before wandering along the beach beneath the moonlight. 


Stay in a Broadbeach hotel just meters from the beach if you can’t resist being by the water or maybe consider accommodation with a choice of pool and playground. And if you can’t decide, opt for the Broadbeach hotel that places you in prime position to explore all the Gold Coast has to offer.


In Broadbeach, you can enjoy the Broadwater Parklands, a 100m pier that’s perfect for strolling along any time of day or night.


The Parklands is also where you will find purpose-built rockpools, a must visit for any family. With both a dry and wet playground, this is a great place to cool off on a hot day and entry is free. Kids will enjoy the many fountains, colourful statues and angular water streams. Bring a picnic, visit the local café or if you are lucky enough to catch the Friday food trucks, enjoy casual local and international cuisine.


Where to stay on the Gold Coast


One of the first and most important steps of any holiday planning is deciding where to stay. Part of deciding the right hotel is prioritising what features you want. For example, maybe staying somewhere with a cool pool and plenty of outdoor lounge space is important to you and you should take these kinds of wish list items into account when looking for where to stay in the Gold Coast.


Surfers Paradise


You might also want to consider location. Surfers Paradise is one of the most popular Gold Coast suburbs, and is a great location for holiday goers that want to stay within walking distance of any cafes, restaurants, and bars they want to visit without sacrificing proximity to the alluring beaches.


Surfers Paradise is full of high-rise buildings with amazing views of the city and the surf and balconies that let you breathe in the sea-fresh air, even from the pool in some cases!


Surfers Paradise is the place to be for younger adults visiting the Gold Coast for some fun in the sun. Other visitors may be more likely to enjoy staying in Broadbeach.


On the southern end of the Gold Coast is Coolangatta, the sleepy suburb that’s just a moment away from Surfer’s Paradise and NSW. 


Down in Coolangatta you can stretch your legs out a bit. Stay in a hotel apartment and settle in for your relaxing Gold Coast holiday.  Or enjoy the best of both worlds and stay in a high-rise hotel that’s moments from city amenities without sacrificing the serenity of the suburbs. 


Spend your time in Coolangatta wandering through the town and waltzing into whichever café takes your fancy. If you happen to be in town on the second Sunday of the month, you’ll be able to visit the Coolangatta Art and Craft markets where you can find locally-made crafts, fresh produce, preserves, and sweet treats to enjoy.

How to Get Around the Gold Coast

Fortunately, the Gold Coast has plenty of public transport to help you get around the city so you can visit all the must-see Gold Coast attractions. There are buses and a light rail system that connect the central suburbs. So even if you stay in Broadbeach, visiting Surfers Paradise is easy.


There are also shuttles to get you to the airport or to the big attractions like the theme parks to make planning those important days easier.


In the city, most Gold Coast locals walk or ride bikes around town. The Gold Coast is a well-developed city with plenty of pedestrian space. Of course, taxis, water taxis, and even car rentals are available if you need to get somewhere and public transport won’t cut it.

Gold Coast Beaches

Lining the coastline, the beaches of the Gold Coast are a must visit. Choose from the sheltered waters at Coolangatta and Currumbin beaches or the popular surfing breaks at Main Beach or Burleigh Heads.


First-time surfers can book a group or private lesson with Get Wet Surf School at The Spit, Surfers Paradise. Wave Break Island lies just off Main Beach and offers fantastic snorkelling and diving, with more than 50 species of fish. Explore this colourful underwater world on a Queensland Scuba Diving tour.


Surfers Paradise beach is just moments away from city amenities, literally moments, you can walk from the beach to a café for lunch. Surfers Paradise isn’t the only beach worth your time in the Gold Coast. Burleigh Beach is a popular destination for locals when they want to escape and relax on the soft sands.


Rainbow Bay is worth a moment of your time if you want to get a bit further from the city and maybe enjoy a drink at the Rainbow Bay Surf Club that looks out over the waves.


And when you want an afternoon of serenity, Tallebudgera Creek is like stepping into a moment caught in time. Covering 98 square kilometres, Tallebudgera Creek offers calm waters making it great for fishing, kayaking, water-skiing and of course swimming.


The creek itself is surrounded on one side by the Burleigh Heads National Park and on the other side by Palm Beach. Bring a beach umbrella, a good book and activities for the kids, and you’ll be set for a day of family fun.


Where to eat on the Gold Coast

Sampling the local cuisine is an essential part of any holiday. But in a city like the Gold Coast, there are so many venues to choose from and only so many meals you can fit in.


If you’re looking for a gourmet meal that comes with breathtaking ocean views, Hyde Paradiso is the place to be. Order a cocktail and settle in for entertaining music and impressively put-together meals. For traditional Italian, Gemelli Italian is a superb choice. Order pizza or pasta and finish of the evening with tiramisu or pannacotta to satisfy the sweet tooth.


Looking for a Gold Coast restaurant that serves fine Asian fusion with a view? No worries. Rick Shores features fresh and locally sourced produce that you’ll enjoy as you look out over the crystal clear waters of Burleigh Heads beach.


To find the venue that’s perfect for fun with friends, take a trip to the Little Mermaid, home to talented mixologists and chefs that are ready to delight you breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Adjacent to Miami lies the gorgeous coastal town of Mermaid Beach, here you'll discover the cool interiors of Etsu, a modern Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant offering incredible Asian dishes, designed to share.  

Book Your Gold Coast Holiday

The Gold Coast has activities to do, sights to see, and waves to catch. No matter what kind of Gold Coast holiday you’re after, Accor has your inner-city or beachfront accommodation sorted. Book your sun-soaked Gold Coast accommodation now.

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