Oh, the Gold Coast: an area of pristine surf beaches, trendy cafes, luscious hinterland and friendly faces. It’s where every Aussie wants to escape for a relaxing holiday and secretly wants to live.
The Gold Coast has grown into one of Australia’s most loved destinations, probably because there’s something here for everyone. Your morning can go from watching a killer sunrise on the beach to café hopping and shopping to then adventuring into the hinterland or valleys before winding down at night with some live local music and food. It’s a tough life here on the Coast, but someone’s got to do it!
Once the Gold Coast has tantalised your sense of adventure with its natural beauty, explore the city and its dreamy beaches, catch a game and try one of the foodie markets. If you manage to try all these amazing things to do on the Gold Coast, you’ll probably never want to say goodbye at all!
Chill in the great outdoors
1. Watch the sun rise over Burleigh Beach
Arguably one of the best beaches on the Gold Coast, Burleigh is becoming more and more popular, and for a good reason. Get yourself up at the crack of dawn, meander along Burleigh Beach and up the hill for the best, golden sunrise view in town. Don’t let the early wake-up call alarm you (or do!) as we guarantee it’s worth it. You’ll realise it’s called the Gold Coast for a reason! Grab a coffee from Nook Espresso at the bottom of the hill and continue on exploring through the hottest suburb on the Coast.
2. Cool off at the Currumbin Valley rock pools
While the drive through Currumbin Valley is scenic in its own right, at the end of the road, you’ll be met with quite the treat! A pathway surrounded by lush rainforest will lead you to the rock pools, where fresh mountain water flows down hills of smooth boulders. This is a top choice for things to do on the Gold Coast in the summer – you won’t be able to resist a quick dip to cool off in this tranquil part of the Gold Coast. Plus, it’s the ideal end destination for a road trip and picnic with friends!
3. Find your perfect secluded beach
While the Gold Coast might be renowned for its surf beaches, you’re just as likely to want to pull up on your own patch of sand, away from the crowds during those busy summer months. With such a huge stretch of pristine, white sandy beach to choose from, the headlands of the Gold Coast offers visitors an almost unlimited choice of secluded bays. Hardly a secret to the locals, Tallebudgera Creek is the first that comes to mind – however, try other locations such as Froggies Beach, Snapper Rocks and Greenmount Beach for your own slice of paradise. Head a little further south and just a smidge over the Queensland border and you’ll stumble upon Dreamtime Beach at Fingal Head – an unmistakable gem in this region of the world.
Grab the perfect photo opportunity
4. Spend a dreamy day at the Sunflower Fields in Allora
Considered one of the lengthier drives from Gold Coast city, the picturesque towns of Toowoomba, Allora and Warwick come to life during the summer season, offering visitors the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with fields upon fields of towering sunflowers. Need to up your Insta game? Well, have your camera handy to snap the perfect shot either early morning or late afternoon for the best results. The sunflowers are harvested during late December to early February each year. While the local farmers don’t mind the annual migration of visitors, just be mindful of the crops and respect the land. Why not turn the drive into a day trip and explore some of the other things to do on The Gold Coast like the nearby national parks and waterfalls.
5. Capture the perfect shot of the Gold Coast Skyline Atop Q1
Don’t forget your camera when you climb up one of the world’s tallest residential buildings. For 360 degree views down the coastline and over the hinterland, it’s near impossible to leave the Q1’s Sky Deck without a killer Instagram shot! The afternoon is an ideal time to visit as the sun falls behind the mountains and the waves crash below a pastel sky.
6. Get up close with Australian Wildlife at Currumbin Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular attraction between Australian locals and tourists alike, because, I mean, who wouldn’t want to cuddle a Koala and get up close and personal with a Kangaroo? In the early mornings, you can feed Rainbow Lorikeets before wandering around the park on foot or by train to Oooo and Aaahh over all varieties of Australian wildlife. Throughout the day, you’ll enjoy more feeding shows, reptile exhibits, aviaries, the adventure park (if you’re game) and photo opportunities. The Kangaroos have a wonderfully spacious enclosure where visitors can even hand feed them and have a pat!
Pull on your hiking boots – Things to Do on the Gold Coast for Nature Lovers
7. Discover the Lost World Valley
Not afraid of adventure? Hit the trails in the Gold Coast Hinterland and explore some of the more hidden sections of Lamington National Park. The Lost World Valley is the perfect example of a hidden secret, deep within the jungle, and only an hour a half drive from Surfers Paradise. Be well prepared before tackling this track by carrying a first aid kit, plenty of water and a sense of adventure. The reward is worth it at the end, boasting private swimming holes, towering waterfalls and dense rainforest canopies. Emulating scenes of those from Jurassic Park, the aptly named ‘Lost World Valley’ is sure to take you back in time to one of the most incredible landscapes that the Gold Coast has on offer.
8. Take a trip into history at Mount Cordeaux
Quite possibly one of the most stunning hikes surrounding the Gold Coast, Mount Cordeaux offers sweeping panoramas of the surrounding valleys. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll encounter views of one of Australia’s oldest natural geographical land formations – The Great Dividing Range. Allow three hours return on this particular trail, although those with an appetite for exercise and adventure can expect to tackle this trail with greater ease. Head west towards Warwick and follow Cunningham’s Gap until you reach the top. Parking is located as you reach the top, so be sure to keep an eye out for the start of the trail.
9. Wander through the Mount Barney Foothills
A short 1.5-hour drive from Surfers Paradise is one of South East Queensland’s best-kept secrets – Mount Barney National Park. Covered in a multitude of trails, rock pools and waterfalls, the foothills of Mount Barney offers stunning visuals early and late afternoon. Rolling hillsides and incredible rock formations exist as far as the eye can see. This is definitely a relaxing and easy hike for those Sunday afternoons best spent with friends and fellow travellers. Boasting similarities to those seen at Castle Hill – New Zealand, this location definitely deserves your attention if you plan on visiting the Gold Coast and surrounds.
Sample the local foodie scene
10. Cafe hop through Palm Beach and Burleigh
Tired from all that hiking? Here are a few more laid back things to do on the Gold Coast for when you need to put your feet up.
If you’re a lover of all things food (who isn’t?!), then the areas of Burleigh and Palm Beach are where you’ll want to be! They’re home to some of the Coast’s cutest and most popular cafes, with new ones popping up every few weeks. If you’re in the area, firstly, make sure you’re hungry and then get yourself to the likes of Commune, Paddock Bakery, Burleigh Social, Barefoot Barista or Parlour coffee for a brunch and caffeine hit!
11. Eat your weight in food & listen to live music at Miami Marketta
For a fun, entertaining and delicious night out, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Miami Marketta. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food as market stalls lining the fairy light covered hall are cooking up every kind of cuisine you can imagine. Next door to the quirky little bar where you can treat yourself to a cocktail or two, more stalls sell local artwork and clothing. Marketta is becoming a serious hot spot for live music too, and you can almost always find local and international bands and artists playing on Wednesday, Friday and weekend nights.
12. End your weekend sipping beer & hitting up food trucks at Balter Brewery
At Balter HQ, their philosophy states that tastebuds come first. The warehouse style space, where the beer on tap is ice cold and the food is aplenty, has an open door policy and offers tours of the brewing facilities for the big beer fans. It’s no secret that Gold Coasters love their beer, so top a trendy brewery off with food trucks and you have a recipe for the perfect, chilled out Sunday afternoon here in Currumbin with your mates.
Combine food with the great outdoors
13. Picnic at The Spit as the sun sets
Friends, food, the beach and a sunset is a winning combination, especially when you’re at The Spit in Main Beach. Wander down the rock wall toward the lighthouse and admire the fisherman casting off the jetty. Lay down your picnic blanket on the sand with your drinks and nibbles, gaze down the coastline and admire the beauty that is the Gold Coast.
14. Spend an afternoon BBQing on the beach at Rainbow Bay in Coolangatta
A BBQ is always a good idea any time of the year on the Coast, especially when it’s on the beach! Just around Greenmount Hill in Coolangatta is where you’ll find a delightful stretch of beach and esplanade known as Rainbow Bay. Cook up your snags and cheers your drinks to the ultimate BBQ spot on the Gold Coast. You cannot leave without checking out the world-renowned surfing hotspot that is Snapper Rocks. End the afternoon by heading up to Point Danger and gazing out over Duranbah Beach where the border of Queensland meets New South Wales.
Wander through waterfalls
15. Take a trip to the Twin Falls
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in South East Queensland, Twin Falls is an easy drive west of Gold Coast City, located in Springbrook National Park. The walk to the base of the falls is one of the easiest trails in the region, taking only fifteen minutes. Searching for something adventurous on those rainy days in South East Queensland? Twin Falls is often best explored after heavy rainfall – so be sure to keep this one up your sleeve for those less impressive beach days down at Burleigh Heads or Surfers Paradise. Twin Falls is easy to find once you reach the Springbrook National Park plateau. Follow the road through beyond the Settlement Camping area, and onto Canyon Lookout two minutes further up the road to reach the start of the Twin Falls Circuit. Begin your hike in the anti-clockwise direction to reach the base of the falls quickest. If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, enjoy the view and incredible range of breakfast options from Rosellas Cafe at the Twin Falls car park.
16. Fall in love with Elabana Falls
There are waterfalls, and then there are waterfalls! Elabana Falls, hidden deep within the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park is one of the most aesthetically pleasing waterfalls going. You’ll get it all to yourself by arriving early at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat – a short twenty-minute winding and scenic drive from Canungra. Take in one the most serene and lush rainforest settings the Gold Coast possesses by visiting this section of Lamington National Park. Grab a park map from the information centre prior to hiking and set foot on an adventure among some of the oldest sections of rainforest in Australia.
17. Reach great heights at Purlingbrook Falls
Located on the same road as Twin Falls and only meters before reaching the Settlement Campground, you’ll first encounter Purlingbrook Falls – the tallest waterfall in the region. While the hike is considered more strenuous, it remains gentle for a majority of the duration with the occasional incline on the return journey. Purlingbrook Falls stands at 109 meters tall and offers one hell of a view.
Get sporty – or just watch!
18. Watch an AFL game with the locals
We Australians love our sports, so what better way to immerse yourself in the Aussie spirit than at an AFL game in Metricon Stadium where the atmosphere is guaranteed to be electric! With a beer in one hand and a pie in the other, cheering alongside some seriously passionate AFL supporters always makes for a fun night out!
19. Try kayaking on Advancetown Lake
More of a water addict than a hiking enthusiast? No biggy! In true Gold Coast fashion, the region offers its visitors such a diverse range of activities that there’s bound to be something for everyone. Take this next activity for example. Why not try kayaking on Advancetown Lake on the way to Springbrook National Park? Pro Tip: arrive early morning for sunrise. During the winter months, you’ll be treated with a foggy mist that consumes the lower lying regions of the lake making it a prime spot for photo opportunities. Other activities on offer in this location include: fishing, camping, stand up paddle boarding and sailing. Just be sure to have all your camping permits in order prior to your trip and you’re set to go.
20. Go swimming in the Tallebudgera Valley
Ok. Buckle up! This one is a goody, and probably one of the Gold Coast’s best-kept secrets as far as waterfalls are concerned. If I were being completely honest, the locals would kill me for lifting the lid on this hidden treasure. Tucked away at the very end of Tallebudgera Creek Road in Tallebudgera Valley, lies one of the most incredible natural swimming holes, accompanied by a double-tiered waterfall! Sound too good to be true? Yeah! Exactly my thoughts when I first heard about it. Resembling a Balinese jungle oasis, this waterfall is one of a kind. I’ll leave the adventuring and explorations up to you…but this location is one well worth seeking out.
About the authors
Scott Pass is an adventure & travel creative residing in Australia. Working predominantly in the travel and lifestyle genres, he aims to present destinations in such a way that provoke an insatiable need to explore far and wide. You can follow Scott on Instagram and his blog scottypass.com.
Sophie Matters is a lover of all things travel and blogs over at Travel Matters where she hopes to inspire others to adventure around the world too! Australia is her home for now, but she is soon flying across the globe to travel and live in Europe and the U.K. You can follow adventures here on Instagram and Facebook.