19 Best things to do in Gold Coast, Australia

The Gold Coast is the coastal city located in Queensland, one hour south of Brisbane, the state’s capital city. It is Australia’s sixth largest city that is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches, vibrant nightlife, surf spots, theme parks, and lush rainforest hinterland.

There are plenty of best things to do in Gold Coast including visiting Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Coolangatta, Main Beach, and Burleigh Heads for swimming, surfing, dining, shopping, and nightlife.

You can also visit sub-tropical rainforests and national parks of Springbrook, Lamington, and Tamborine. There are also plenty of family-friendly theme parks such as Movie World, Wet’n’Wild,  Sea World, and Dreamworld.

Gold Coast also offers plenty of activities for outdoor lovers and adventurers such as parasailing, skydiving, hot air ballooning, jet skiing, helicopter tours, as well as whale and dolphin watching tours.

You can enjoy vibrant nightlife with a wide selection of restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, especially  on Cavill Avenue, Orchid Avenue, Main Beach, and Broadbeach.

19 Best things to do in the Gold Coast, Australia

1. Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is definitely the Gold Coast’s most renowned destination. It is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches and consistent waves, as well as tall buildings that tower over the area and the famous bikini-clad meter maids.

One of the most well-known skyscrapers in Surfers Paradise is the Q1. At nearly 333 meters, it is one of the tallest residential buildings in the world. A must-see attraction at the Q1 is the SkyPoint Observation Deck, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the Gold Coast.

Surfers Paradise is known for its vibrant nightlife. The area around Cavill Avenue is home to many lively businesses, such as clubs and specialty bars. Visitors can enjoy a drink with a view at The Island Rooftop or indulge in a night out at places like Hyde Paradiso.

Surfers Paradise also offers many activities for families and children. There are beaches for swimming, surfing, as well as many surf schools for beginners to learn the sport, and attractions such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium, mini golf courses, and a 7D Cinema.

2. Mount Tamborine

Input “Tamborine Mountain” into your GPS and set off on a 50-minute drive from the cities of Brisbane or Gold Coast. You will be surrounded by lush greenery upon arrival.

You can enjoy hiking through rainforests and bush walks, as well as finding accommodations in cozy cottages. The mountain is also home to a variety of unique restaurants, cafes, and tea rooms, as well as country pubs with stunning views. 

Arts and crafts enthusiasts will appreciate the many shops in the area, and there are also a Sky Walk, wineries, glow worm caves, a distillery, and many other hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

You can experience the charming shops and restaurants at Gallery Walk, take in the stunning views on the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, taste locally made beer at Fortitude Brewing Co, and enjoy vineyard views and a picnic at Witches Falls Winery. 

Later on, go for a hike at Curtis Falls, visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery, have lunch in the tranquil setting of Cedar Creek Estate, and marvel at a colony of glow worms in the Glow Worm Caves. Finish the day off by taking in the views from the Hang Glider Lookout.

3. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Experience the beauty of Lamington National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, by staying at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. This multi-award winning retreat, located in the Gold Coast hinterland of Queensland, is run by the dedicated third-generation members of the O’Reilly family, who have a long history in ecotourism dating back to 1926.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat offers a variety of family-friendly activities, such as the popular Tree Top Walk, animal shows, and guided bird walks. 

You can take a Segway tour through creek crossings to Morans Falls, relax at the award-winning Lost World Spa while soaking up the fresh mountain air.

4. Gold Coast Theme Parks

On the Gold Coast, the theme park industry is dominated by two major companies, Village Roadshow, which operates Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, and Wet’n’Wild, and Macquarie Leisure, which runs Dreamworld and the adjacent WhiteWater World.

  • Sea World, features rare marine creatures and interesting rides & shows.
  • Warner Bros Movie World, brings the magic of Hollywood to the Gold Coast, with a variety of movie-themed rides and attractions.
  • Wet ‘n’ Wild, caters to all ages and interests, offering a range of water activities for those who like to get wet and wild, as well as those who prefer to stay dry.
  • Dreamworld, offers a variety of fun park activities, an animal park and a television studio.
  • Whitewater World, features extreme water slides and pools for the whole family to enjoy.

5. Broadbeach

Broadbeach is known as a popular suburb on the Gold Coast that is known for its lively dining scene, relaxed atmosphere, and its central location with easy access to beaches & parks. 

You can enjoy a wide selection of shopping, dining, and nightlife options in the area. Some of the most famous attractions include The Star Casino, the Gold Coast Convention Centre, and Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.

Broadbeach is also home to Surf Parade, which is a top foodie street with a range of restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops. You can enjoy live performances, shows, and exhibitions at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

For those looking to relax, there are several peaceful parks and the patrolled Kurrawa Beach available for swimming and beach sports. 

Broadbeach is the venue for a couple of annual festivals, Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival and Groundwater Country Music Festival, which showcase local and international artists.

6. Water sports 

The Gold Coast is a great place for water activities, such as jet skiing, surfing, sailing, or leisurely exploring the coast on a stand-up paddleboard while admiring the beautiful coastal views.

For those who love adrenaline and excitement, Main Beach is a great spot for adventure. You can rent a Jet Ski or go on a jet boat tour, or try kitesurfing or sailboarding if the wind is right. 

If the waves are high, you can surf or bodyboard at popular spots like Surfers Paradise, Duranbah Beach, Burleigh Beach, Kurrawa Beach and Currumbin.

There is also the thrill of water-skiing on the Coomera River or going for a kayak trip along Tallebudgera Creek. 

The Gold Coast offers many options for watersports enthusiasts, such as guided tours, package deals for families, a diverse selection of activities, and plenty of sunny days. 

You can rent equipment for the day or go on a tour of the best spots for aquatic adventures on the Gold Coast.

7. SkyPoint Observation Deck

The SkyPoint observation deck, located on top of the Q1 Tower in the neighborhood of Surfers Paradise, offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the beach and surrounding areas. 

As the only beachside observation deck in Australia, it is a must-see spot for visitors. The deck is located 230 m above Surfers Paradise and can be reached by one of the world’s fastest elevators, in only 42.7 seconds. 

At the top, visitors can enjoy the views and indulge in some delicious food at the SkyPoint Bistro & Bar. The SkyPoint Observation Deck transforms into a stylish lounge bar at night. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is live music, and on Sunday afternoons, there is Sunset Sounds. 

8. Labrador

Labrador is a vibrant area situated at the northern end of the coast, 73 km from Brisbane, the state’s capital. Labrador offers stunning views of the Southport Broadwater, and is an ideal spot for boat and watersports lovers. You can find serviced apartments, motels and a waterfront campground for tourists, as well as a selection of restaurants. 

Head to Ian Dipple Lagoon on Marine Parade in Labrador for an exciting daily pelican feeding at 1.30pm. Bring your swimmers, a picnic, or pick up some take away from nearby Charis Seafood to enjoy while watching the birds.

Free two-hour parking is available, so be sure to arrive a bit early to witness the pelicans gathering before the feeding starts.

9. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, commonly referred to as Currumbin or CWS, is an Australian wildlife park and zoo that houses a variety of native animals. It provides an animal hospital to nurse injured or ill wildlife back to full health.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to go if you want to see a variety of different Australian animals in their natural habitat. From koalas to kangaroos, emus to dingos, crocodiles to echidnas, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

You can get up close to some of the world’s most exotic animals such as red pandas and capybaras at the Lost Valley. Watch the Wild Skies Free Flight Bird Show and learn about our wildlife conservation projects

Don’t forget to visit the Wild Skies Free Flight Bird Show, take a ride on the miniature train, and cool off in Wild Island Adventure Splash Zone – a playground and splash zone all in one! 

10. Lamington National Park

Lamington National Park is home to an array of natural beauty – mountains, birdlife, ancient trees, rainforests and more – covering 51,000 acres and featuring 180 species, some endangered. It’s a must-visit destination in Gold Coast, Australia.

The Lamington National Park is 30 km from the Pacific Ocean and 3000 feet above sea level, split into two segments, Binna Burra and Green Mountains. O’Reilly is a major attraction in the Western Lamington plateau. Binna Burra is an Ecolodge surrounded by diverse flora and fauna.

The park is not only a great spot for a nature retreat but also it offers plenty of outdoor activities such as bushwalking, camping, picnicking, and rock climbing. 

It boasts over 120 km of walking trails ranging from Class 1 to Class 5 levels and a large campground near the Green Mountains Section. Visitors can explore unique features such as the Antarctic beech trees, the 500 waterfalls, the Tweed Volcano, and the Lamington Underground Orchid. 

11. Springbrook National Park

Springbrook National Park is a 2 hour drive from Brisbane and 1 hour from Gold Coast, with waterfalls and lookouts to explore, as well as deep rainforest walks through giant strangler figs and ancient ferns.

At Springbrook, you can witness the breathtaking sights and sounds of cascading waterfalls. From Purling Brook Falls to the Natural Bridge with its glowing cave of worms, there is something for everyone. It is also part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area, where forests are as old as millions of years.

The park encompasses 3 sections – Springbrook Plateau, Natural Bridge, and Mount Cougal. Springbrook Plateau has most of the waterfalls & walks, Natural Bridge is home to the Natural Bridge Circuit, and Mount Cougal is home to the Cougal Cascades.

12. Coolangatta

Coolangatta, located 30 minutes drive south of Surfers Paradise, is a popular beachside suburb renowned for its laid back atmosphere, stunning beaches, point break, and delicious eateries.

The ocean is Cooly’s main draw, with the Gold Coast Airport close by for easy access. Take a stroll along the coastal walking trail, enjoy beachside restaurants and bars, and don’t miss one of the iconic Surf Clubs. 

Head south and you’ll find plenty of beaches with great surf, like Coolangatta, Snapper Rocks,Greenmount, and the renowned Duranbah. Even when the rest of the coast is flat, you can always find swell at Dbah, and Greenmount is perfect for families looking for a safe spot to swim.

Every June, Cooly Rocks On arrives – a festival celebrating the motors, music and lifestyle of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

13. Paradise Country

Paradise Country is a unique and exciting experience for visitors to the Gold Coast. You will have the opportunity to get up close with many Australian animals such as Kangaroos, Koalas, and Emus.

Paradise Country is also home to a Farmhouse Restaurant and Deli onsite for guests to enjoy. Plus, visitors can marvel at the exciting shows and activities, such as Stock Horse Arena & Billy Tea, Wildlife Walkabout, Stockman & Sheep Dog, and Sheep Shearing & Ram Parade. 

With all these activities, Paradise Country is sure to provide an unforgettable farm experience.

14. Taking a balloon ride

Experience the Gold Coast from a unique perspective with a hot air balloon ride. Enjoy stunning views of mountains, skyscrapers, canals and wildlife while being accompanied by experienced pilots and a supportive, fun-loving ground crew. 

The pilots will take you to secret take off and landing spots for the best flight paths with the greatest views. You can experience the captivating sight of the Gold Coast Hinterland in all its glory from the basket of your hot air balloon as the morning sun rises and the landscape is illuminated. 

15. Cruising on the Nerang River

The Gold Coast’s waterways are incredibly extensive when compared to Venice, boasting a total of 446 km, over ten times more than the Italian city. This abundance of canals and rivers is truly a blessing.

Experiencing a sunset over the Nerang River, winding its way through Surfers Paradise and into the Broadwater, is a memorable moment that will stay with you forever.

You can take a scenic ride down the Nerang River to view the skyline and famous homes while enjoying commentary, snacks, drinks, and beautiful scenery. Relax on the sundeck or take photos from the viewing deck on this 1.5hr afternoon cruise.

16. Whale Watching Tour

Humpback Whales embark on a yearly migration of around 5000 km from the Antarctic to Queensland in the winter and spring months, with the first of them arriving on the Gold Coast in June. Approximately 1200 whales make the journey annually.

On their way back home, Hervey Bay is a favorite spot for the whales to take a rest before they start their long journey southward. Normally, most of the Humpbacks will have left the Queensland coast by the beginning of November, with whale watching season generally running from June to October.

Whale watching on the Gold Coast is a popular tourist activity during the migration season. Tours of various lengths, sizes, and group numbers are available from Mariner’s Cove, Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta. 

You can enjoy the majestic beauty of humpback whales up close, as they follow the coastline and frolic in the waters. You can book an individual tour or one with additional activities such as theme park tickets or dinner.

17. Carrara Markets

Carrara Markets is Australia’s largest permanent weekend market, open every weekend with over 300 stalls across 10 acres, selling fresh produce, fashion, homewares, and plants. It’s the perfect place to find unique and interesting items, as well as great deals on all your shopping needs.

Head to Carrara Markets for a fun-filled day out with the family! Enjoy pony rides, face painting, bungy trampoline, a baby animal farm, putt putt mini golf, and the new Butterfly House. 

Transfers to the destination are easy with the G:Link Light Rail and Translink or Surfside buses. With 30 years of experience, Carrara Markets is a major Gold Coast tourist destination.

18. South Stradbroke Island

South Stradbroke Island, or South Straddie, is a great spot for a day or weekend away. It’s small but there’s plenty to do, including exploring spectacular beaches, an abundance of wildlife and relaxing. 

It’s 21 km long and 2.5 km wide, so you can fit lots in, making it the perfect getaway destination. Whether you’re a Brisbanite or a Gold Coast holiday maker, you’re sure to have a great time on South Straddie.

To reach South Stradbroke Island, you will need to take a water transfer due to it being so close to the mainland, but not having a bridge. You can choose to travel by water taxi, ferry, or private boat, and the journey, while brief, is incredibly enjoyable with some beautiful views.

19. Point Danger

Point Danger is a beautiful headland that can be found at the Southern end of the Gold Coast in Coolangatta, offering the stunning Duranbah Beach. 

It is the site of the Captain Cook Memorial and the iconic Point Danger Lighthouse, and offers beachside parking with amenity blocks, barbecues, and many picnic tables. It’s also only a short distance from the well-known Snapper Rocks surf spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Gold Coast best known for?

The Gold Coast is Australia’s popular tourist destination, located in the state of Queensland, and is best known for subtropical climate, white sandy beaches, surf culture, nightlife, rainforests, and theme parks such as Dreamworld and Movie World. 

What should I not miss on the Gold Coast?

Some things that you should not miss include surfing or swimming at one of the many beaches, visiting the theme parks, exploring the hinterland, enjoying the nightlife and dining scene in Surfers Paradise.

Is 3 days on the Gold Coast enough?

It depends on what you want to do and see on the Gold Coast, but 3 days is enough time to experience some of the main attractions and activities the area has to offer. It is best to prioritize things to do and see to make the most of your 3 days in Gold Coast.

What are the best things to do in the Gold Coast for couples?

Couples can take romantic strolls on the beach, visit the SkyPoint Observation Deck for panoramic views, indulge in a couples’ spa day, go on a sunset cruise, dine at top restaurants, drive through scenic hinterland, hike in national parks, and enjoy the theme parks such as Dreamworld, Movie World and Sea World.

What are the free things to do in the Gold Coast?

Visit beautiful beaches like Burleigh Heads, Surfer’s Paradise, and Coolangatta for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, check out the street art & markets, hike through Springbrook National Park, explore the Tallebudgera Creek, and visit the Observation Deck at Q1 Tower.

What are the best things to do on the Gold Coast for young adults?

Check out the nightlife in Broadbeach & partying in Surfers Paradise, indulge in shopping & dining at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, visit the Surfers Paradise beach, explore the lush rainforest, tak a hot air balloon ride for breathtaking views, experience the thrill of theme parks, and trying your luck at the Star Casino. 

What are the best things to do in Gold Coast on a budget?

Visit Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads, and Coolangatta for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, or chill at Currumbin Rock Pools. Go shopping at the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, check out local street food at Miami Marketta, and have a picnic at Burleigh Hill.

What are the non touristy things to do in the Gold Coast?

Visit the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens, take a kayak tour through the mangroves, experience Gold Coast’s dynamic café culture, as well as sample local food & drinks at the Currumbin Valley farmers market.

What are the best things to do in the Gold Coast at night?

Experience the vibrant nightlife of the Gold Coast by visiting Surfers Paradise for bars, clubs and live music, or take a stroll along the beach, try some delicious seafood at a waterfront restaurant, or take a night cruise on the Broadwater.

See more: Where to Stay in Gold Coast First Time

So there you have it, the best things to do in Gold Coast, Australia for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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