- This article is about a city in Queensland, Australia. There is also a Florida Gold Coast. For the African country known as the Gold Coast in colonial times, see Ghana.
The Gold Coast is a coastal city in the southeast corner of the state of Queensland in Australia. The year-round warm weather and positioning as a large coastal city just south of Brisbane has made it a popular destination with travellers. Surfers Paradise forms the glitzy hub of tourist activity. Each year thousands of Australian students complete their secondary education by indulging in Schoolies Week by travelling to the Gold Coast for a week of partying.
| Surfers Paradise |
The most commercialised tourist suburb, with the highest concentration of accommodation and attractions.
| Currumbin |
Largely residential area dotted with apartments, popular with families and locals. Convenient to the airport and motorway.
| Tweed Heads |
The southern end has several high-rise apartments with a small, but popular, shopping and entertainment area.
| Gold Coast Hinterland |
A rural area away from the coast. It begins west of the Pacific Motorway, and consists of mountain ranges covered with rainforest, much of which is national parks.
| Broadbeach |
The second busiest tourist suburb and quieter than Surfers Paradise. It has a casino, 2 shopping complexes and many restaurants and highrises.
Other districts include:
- Paradise Point, Hollywell, Runaway Bay and Labrador - northern suburbs, largely residential.
- Southport - The commercial centre with shops, hospitals, business, industry and government offices.
- Main Beach - An upmarket suburb with high-rises and resorts.
- Mermaid Beach and Miami - Largely low-rise residential suburbs with motels and restaurants along the highway.
- Burleigh Heads - Numerous highrise apartment buildings and a small commercial area. The beaches are popular with surfers and families.
- Palm Beach - Largely residential area.
The Gold Coast is a large urban area with a population of 550,000. The Gold Coast shares its infrastructure, facilities, services and labour market with Brisbane to the north. Workers commonly commute between the two by rail and road.
Unfortunately, many tourists believe the highrise buildings and crowds of Surfers Paradise make it an overdeveloped 'tourist trap'. Most of these buildings are however local residential. The city also has many services and industries not directly related to tourism.
The Gold Coast, that visitors are more familiar with, stretches along the coastal suburbs from Paradise Point to Tweed Heads (about 35km). Surfers Paradise, towards the northern end, is the hub of the leisure activity.
|Daily highs (°C)||29||29||28||26||24||21||21||22||24||25||27||28|
|Nightly lows (°C)||22||22||21||18||15||13||12||13||15||17||19||21|
The climate of the Gold Coast ensures that travellers are able to enjoy the area year round. It has a mild, sub-tropical climate, with an average high of 29°C in January and 21°C in July. The winter months tend to have little rainfall, while the summer has frequent storms originating from the west.
In planning your days on the Gold Coast, note that predictions of rain often equate to brief and intense afternoon storms, rather than extended periods of gentle rain.
Lieutenant James Cook became the first European to chart the region when he sailed along the coast on 16 May 1770. Captain Matthew Flinders, an explorer charting continent north of the colony of New South Wales sailed past in 1802. Escaped convicts from Moreton Boy penal settlement hid in the region. The region remained uninhabited when John Oxley landed at Mermaid Beach, which was named after a cutter named mermaid.
The XXI Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast between 4 to 15 April 2018. The Commonwealth Games is an international multi-sport event with competitors from around 70 countries. This is likely to lead to pressure on accommodation around this time, and building work and preparations may be evident for some time before the event. However visiting during the games may be worthwhile as the games usually bring a good "atmosphere" to the host city.
Gold Coast Airport (IATA: OOL)is widely known as Coolangatta Airport, even though it is technically in Bilinga. It may be unique in the world in that, because it straddles the NSW and Queensland borders, you land in one state and arrive in another.
It is a fairly small terminal but handles around 3.5 million passengers per year with frequent connections from major Australian cities and some international flights from New Zealand and Asia. It is NOT a 24hr airport and closes at night, so don't plan on spending the night before an early morning flight. It is around 30 minutes drive to Surfers Paradise. There is a shuttle bus connecting the airport to the main Surfside buses route on Gold Coast Hwy between Tweed Heads and Surfers Paradise.
Brisbane Airport (IATA: BNE) is used by many overseas visitors because it is larger and served by many international air carriers and has direct air flights to many Australian cities. However, the transport to the airport is more tedious and inconvenient. Options include:
- Rental Car - 80 minute drive along the Gateway and Pacific Motorway but the most viable option.
- Direct Airport Transfer - about 1hr 40 min, can drop off at accommodation, fares about $40 to $50.
- Train with car transfer package
- Train with connecting local bus at Nerang or Robina
Queensland Rail runs an electric CityTrain service from Brisbane to Coomera, Helensvale, Nerang and Robina. Trains run half hourly 06:00-23:59 daily taking approximately 70 minutes from Brisbane Central to Nerang and Robina. The trains can get crowded at peak times. Buses connect from Helensvale, Nerang and Robina to Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, and into northern New South Wales.
As the train runs parallel to the coast you should check which station is actually closest to your final destination in the Gold Coast.
Countrylink in NSW runs trains from Sydney with bus connections at Casino for services direct to Surfers Paradise or Tweed Heads. However, this is a very slow (11.5 hr) and expensive service. Set aside a whole day for the trip.
All attractions around the Gold Coast are accessible by car, and there are large parking lots at the theme parks and other attractions. Parking meters are found in the busiest streets of Surfers Paradise, Southport and Burleigh Heads, but free parking can be found a few street blocks away. There are paid parking areas in Surfers Paradise and Southport operated by shopping centres and the city council that charge about $1 per hour, the largest is the Bruce Bishop Car Park adjacent to the transit centre.
The Gold Coast doesn't suffer from the same congestion as Brisbane, largely because it has several business centres. The morning peak hour is 07:00-08.30, while the afternoon peak is 15.30-17:00. Roads to avoid at these times include Bundall Road, Southport-Nerang Road, The Gold Coast Hwy at Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Motorway between Nerang and Palm Beach.
Most car rental dealers are located in the main business district of the suburb, between the Gold Coast Highway and Surfers Paradise Boulevard. The following major car rental companies are available in the Gold Coast(Surfers Paradise): Budget, Avis, Thrifty, Europcar, Hertz. There are also local car rental companies such as Costless Car Rental, Brian's Auto Centre & East Coast Car Rentals which may also offer competitive pricing.
While most car rental companies hire to people 25 years of age and over, some all-age car rental companies do hire to younger drivers over 18 years of age with an additional surcharge. To avoid delays, check with your car rental provider beforehand if you are under 25.
The Gold Coast Light Rail, or "G:Link" is a new public transport service launched in July 2014. It is advertised as the fastest and simplest way of traveling around the Gold Coast and services the most built up areas of the city. The service runs a 13km route from the Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South via Griffith University, Southport, Main Beach and Surfers Paradise. The trams run from 5am till midnight on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends running every 15 minutes or less in the hours of 5am till midnight. You cannot buy a ticket once on the tram so you must arrive early enough to buy your ticket. Alternatively you can purchase a Go Card giving you cheaper fares and allowing you to swipe as you enter and exit the tram, they can be purchased from most 7-Eleven's throughout the city.
Surfside Buslines provide the main form of public transport around the Gold Coast and stops are located on most main roads. Buses run 24 hours a day, but are more frequent in the daytime. All the main tourist attractions are serviced by bus. The frequency of services up and down the coast along the beach between Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise is very good at least every half hour. For other routes, and theme parks, it is best to check the timetable in advance.
Surfside Buslines uses the Translink GoCard Ticketless system which allows you to deposit funds into the card and use them up as you travel.
Airport Transfers (shuttles) operate 'door to door' between Coolangatta Airport and accommodation along the coast and are a popular alternative to taxis. They cost approximately $21 per person
Expect to wait up to an hour or more for a taxi on busy nights:Taxi services. A taxi fare between the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise costs around $55 and a sedan limousine is about the same. Stretch limousines are another option for groups of more than four with a cost of around $100-110.
The Gold Coast Oceanway is a 36 km pathway for pedestrians and cyclists linking Point Danger to the Gold Coast Seaway, stretching along most of the city coastline. It can be a little crowded with pedestrians in parts.
Ocean (or surf) beaches
There are over 52 kilometres of ocean beaches maintained by the local council. In addition to this there are (largely un-patrolled) ocean beaches in the Tweed Shire of Northern NSW and numerous waterway beaches.
List of Beaches (North to South):
|Beach Name||Length (km)||Description|
|South Stradbroke Island||22||The longest and least crowded but also the most remote and inaccessible beach. Accessible by private boat, cruises from the Broadwater or Surfers Paradise, the ferry to Couran Cove, or by surfers paddling across the Gold Coast Seaway (which is dangerous especially without local knowledge).|
|The Spit||3.5||Another long and uncrowded beach, easily accessible from Seaworld or by driving up to the Seaway.|
|Main Beach||1.5||One of the first beaches to be used on the coast due to its proximity to Southport. The cosmopolitan Tedder Ave is nearby.|
|Narrow Neck||1||This is very popular for those would like to observe the beach without actually getting out of their car or tour bus, and also for taking photos. Not surprisingly almost every tour will stop there, but the beach itself is fairly uncrowded.|
|Surfers Paradise||1.5||Flags and patrols ever few hundred metres along the beach. You can be sure to find a place to swim, but the beach right opposite Cavill Ave is generally very busy and packed with tourists. Just walk north or south along the beach to find a (slightly) less crowded alternative.|
|Northcliffe||1.5||Almost indistinguishable to Surfers for most visitors, but a little quieter and popular with families due its proximity to apartments and other accommodation.|
|Broadbeach (Kurrawa Beach)||2||Often the same surf conditions as Surfers Paradise. The upside, however, is that it's not that far away and nowhere near as busy as Surfers. Just in from the beach is Kurrawa Park, a shopping centre full of cafes, restaurants, and Jupiters Casino.|
|Mermaid Beach||2||Along what is locally known as 'millionairs row'|
|Nobby Beach and Miami||2||A quiet beach very popular with locals due to its ample parking and barbeque facilities. Its at the southern end of a continuous stretch of sand from the Gold Coast Seaway.|
|North Burleigh||1||Separated from Miami by a small headland known as South Nobby. The headland provides outstanding views of the beaches to the north and south. North Burleigh is good place to go if there are winds blowing from the north, as the headland also provides a bit of protection.|
|Burleigh||1.5||A nice beach with a large park and a hill that is good for picnics. There are cafes surrounding the beach and the hill cover means that this beach is usually pretty nice when the winds are blowing from the south (when Surfers and other beaches will be exposed and horrible).|
|Palm Beach||3.3||Includes Tallebudgera Surf Beach and Pacific Beach.|
|Currumbin||1.4||A fantastic lagoon-cross-beach, if you can get there it's well worth a trip. Mostly inhabited by locals learning to surf, easiest waves on the coast.|
|Tugun||2||A pleasant local beach.|
|Bilinga||2.5||One of the few beaches in the world within 5 minutes walk of an international airport (OOL). Perfect as a short walk for those who check in early.|
|Kirra||2||Famous surfing spot, the beach has become very wide due to the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypassing Project|
|Coolangatta and Greenmount||0.8||Offers the most spectacular scenery and views up the coast, and is also a fantastic place for a picnic.|
|Rainbow bay||0.4||The world renown Snapper Rocks is right next to Rainbow Bay and is the home of the Quiksilver Pro .|
|Duranbah||0.4||Located right on the NSW border, it is very popular for surfing.|
Other (calm water) beaches
The Gold Coast also has numerous beaches in calmer, more protected water away from the surf, ideal for families with small children.
|Beach Name||Length (km)||Description|
|Paradise Point||1.2||A quiet beach on the Broadwater popular with locals. Its very family friendly beach due to its swimming enclosure and adjacent are featuring food, parklands, barbeque areas and playgrounds.|
|Southport (Broadwater) Beach||2||A beach along the Broadwater shore at Southport with a swimming enclosure. The adjacent Broadwater Parklands features a swimming pool, boat ramps, public jetty, playgrounds and picnic areas. Part of the area is closed due to the construction as part of the Commonwealth Games.|
|Marine Stadium||1||A casuarina-fringed beach used by the many anchored boats and weekend fishing enthusiansts. The eastern side is also a off-leash dog exercise area.|
|Budds Beach||0.1||A hidden beach on the Nerang River near the heart of Surfers Paradise|
|Tallebudgera Creek||0.5||A popular swimming lagoon with families, fantastic for people who don't feel comfortable in the surf but still want to take a dip. It is one of the few patrolled beaches in water protected from the surf.|
|Currumbin Creek||0.8||Popular with longboarders and families due to its shelter from the sea. The beach runs around lagoons on both sides of the creek|
Gold Coast Hinterland
Promoted as "the green behind the gold", the Gold Coast Hinterland refers to the mountainous area between the Gold Coast and the Scenic Rim region. It is home to national parks, mountain resorts, waterfalls, reservoirs, scenic drives and lookouts, wineries, rock formations. The area is mostly covered in sub-tropical rainforest, but sections have been cleared for dairy farm land and wineries. The Hinterland is best seen by car or on a bus tour as the roads wind through the mountains with various lookout points along the way and towering trees lining the roads - it is truly a beautiful drive.
- Tamborine Mountain featuring:
- Numerous lookouts offering panoramic views in all directions
- A great cottage industry with fantastic restaurants, fudge shops, and wineries - many of which offer free samples!
- Springbrook Mountain
- Hinze Dam and Advancetown Lake
- Beechmont Plateau with the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and the eastern part of the Lamington National Park
- Darlington Range featuring O'Reilleys Guest House and the western part of the Lamington National Park
- Numinbah Valley featuring the Natural Bridge rockpool and waterfall (see glow worms at night).
- Tallebudgera Valley
- Currumbin Valley
There are many tours that operate in the hinterland area. Some are more of a bus tour as opposed to an all inclusive day. Watch the small print and enjoy. 4WD tours companies generally offer all inclusive tours to the hinterland area
The Gold Coast region is big on theme parks. During peak season expect them all to be quite busy. Before you go, investigate ticket discounts for combined travel and entry, multi-park and multi-day passes. Members of Australian motoring associations can purchase discounted tickets from them before you travel.
A short list of attractions and admission prices:
- Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary: koalas, kangaroos, birds, snakes, crocodiles. Admission $31 to $99.
- Sea World: sharks, dolphins, penguins, polar bears. Admission $50 to $80.
- Warner Bros Movie World: Admission $50 to $80.
- Dreamworld: Amusement park, animals. Admission $50 to $80.
- WhiteWater World: Water park with pools, slides. Admission $30 to $50.
- Australian Outback Spectacular: horses and unique Australian lifestyle (dinner provided). Admission $55 to $110. Located right next to Movie world.
- Wet 'n' Wild: Water park with pools, slides, rides. Admission $35 to $60.
- Tropical Fruit World: Fruit plantation orchard, with tour, shows, tasting. Admission Adults $44, Children $25 (ages 4-16), Concession $35, Family Pass $110 (2A+2C) or $120 (2A+3C).
Be wary of street vendors promising free tickets to theme parks. Generally found along Cavill Mall in Surfers Paradise, they promise free theme park tickets in return for 3-4 hours of your time watching a timeshare presentation followed by high pressure salesmanship to sign up.
Cavill Mall and surrounds have some cheap souvenir and t-shirt shops. There are dozens of stores around Surfers Paradise catering exclusively for the tourist market and Australian opals, sheepskins, wool products, and aboriginal "artifacts". Watch out for overpriced goods. Local newspapers regularly run stories about "discount warehouses" being taken to court for selling souvenirs at exorbitant prices to Asian tourists on organized tours.
Surfers Paradise has several shopping centres including the Centro Shopping Plaza (with Woolworths supermarket and numerous souvenir shops) and the Chevron Renaissance (with Coles Supermarkets and fashion shops). Although these cater for most tourist needs, better value for everyday items can generally be found outside Surfers Paradise.
The back arcades of Surfers Paradise have dozens of cheap Japanese and Korean "lunchbox" style restaurants and the quality is usually excellent, not to mention the price (less than $15 for a large main meal).
A variety of quick eats is available in the mall off Cavill Avenue. A highlight for vegetarians is Govinda's Veg-O-Rama in the mall. There is a very well priced sushi train one street north of Cavill Ave called Sushi in Paradise (2 Elkhorn Ave).
Tedder Avenue in Main Beach and the Broadbeach area have the largest concentration of restaurants and cafés with food ranging from gourmet seafood to pub fare. Expect to pay $20–$50 for a main meal. Don't forget that most of the restaurants are BYO.
There is an all you can eat Buffet in Jupiters Casino that offers lunch for $29.90, dinner for $40 (seafood on fri/sat for $50). The food there is delicious and there are plenty of entrees, mains, roasts and desserts.
Heading north to the Marina's around the Broadwater will put you right amongst the Gold Coast's freshest fish markets. Peter's Fish Market is just north of Marina Mirage and will happily cook fish and chips if you have nowhere to do it yourself.
If there is a local speciality it has to be Mud Crabs, known as muddies, which are great when in season.
If you are in Broadbeach, The Kurrawa Surf Club is one of the best pubs around. It has heaps of options, plus for the vegetarians there is a falafel burger. It is right in front of the beach and the view is sublime.
Good Food Gold Coast is an independent food and restaurant review website which will help you choose a place to eat.
Try a local surf club for a cheap beer with a great view, you'll find one or two in every beachside suburb of the Gold Coast. They're generally located right in front of the beach their members patrol and serve deliciously affordable food and drinks. The fish doesn't actually get much fresher. Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise offer the biggest choice of bars, clubs, and cafes, and you can order almost anything you can dream up.
Further south,Kirra Surf Lifesaving Club, Coolangatta Surf Lifesaving Club, Tweed Heads & Coolangatta Surf Lifesaving Club and Rainbow Bay Surf Lifesaving Club have spectacular decks, good food and entertainment and friendly welcomes. Just sign in as a guest.
Twin Towns RSL is the largest RSL in NSW. On the border of Queensland and NSW it offers a variety of dining options, frequent entertainment acts, and a friendly environment all at club prices. It has the sterile renovated feel of many of the newer clubs, but it is possible to get a seat with nice view.
- Backpacker hostels are mostly located in Surfers Paradise, Southport, Main Beach and Coolangatta with dorm beds starting at around $20 a night.
- Motels are located all along the Gold Coast Hwy. Most can be found in Labrador, Mermaid Beach, Miami, Palm Beach and Tweed Heads. Single rooms are $60 to $80, while doubles rooms are $70 to $90 but prices increase during peak summer. Prices are lower and availability is better, the further they are away from Surfers Paradise.
- Camping and Caravan grounds are dotted about the Gold Coast, although many have closed to make way for other development. The largest operator is Gold Coast Tourist Parks, a business arm of the Gold Coast City Council. It has 7 parks: Main Beach, Tallebudgera Creek, Burleigh Heads, Kirra Beach, Broadwater, Jacobs Well, Ocean Beach (Miami). Other caravan parks can be found in Ashmore, Miami, Carrara, Labrador, Nerang and Mudgeeraba. Accommodation options include caravan and camping sites, luxury cabins and group lodgings. Facilities may include swimming pools, play equipment and barbecue areas.
- Apartment accommodation in high- and low-rise buildings. A two-bedroom apartment in Surfers Paradise will cost around $150 per night in the off-season, and upwards of $300 a night in peak summer. Many have a minimum stay of 3 or 5 nights and may allow only one Saturday night per seven days (also one Tuesday). Reception hours are limited and a bond may be required in some cases. Inside amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. Outside amenities may include swimming pool, gym and other resort facilities.
- Hotels, include chains such as the Mariott, Crowne Plaza. Hotels are concentrated in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
Payphones are common.
Many accommodation operators offer free Wi-Fi access to their guests. Other Wi-Fi hotspots include McDonalds and Hungry Jacks restaurants and coffee shops such as Starbucks and Gloria Jeans. Free Wi-Fi is also available in all Gold Coast City Branch libraries, except Mudgeeraba and the mobile library.
Almost all between the Gold Coast Seaway and Coolangatta are patrolled by volunteer and professional lifesavers. The patrolled areas are marked by red and yellow flags. Signs on the beaches will show you the closest patrolled beaches at any particular time of year.
Always swim between the flags. The flags have been lined up with the safest parts of the beach and are patrolled by lifesavers. If you do get into trouble or feel yourself being pulled out of your depth by a "rip", don't try to swim against the water. Swim parallel to the beach and raise your hand to attract the attention of a lifesaver. Always check the lifeguard chalk board located near the (usually) yellow flag for up to date swimming conditions, water temperature, tide times and other information.
Swimming is also not recommended:
- After heavy rain when water quality and clarity becomes poor. Debris and other aquatic organisms are in the water and sometimes an algae or seaweed bloom occurs for a few days afterwards.
- When jellyfish (or stingers) are present. They usually appear in the summer months brought in by northerly winds in the afternoon.
- If schools of small fish are present as these may attract sharks. If a shark has been spotted, lifeguards will direct people to get out of the water quickly.
- During choppy or unstable surf conditions, check the lifeguard chalk board.
- In canals due to bull sharks and jet skis.
Dogs are permitted on beaches provided except within 200 metres of flagged areas, part of Gold Coast City Dog Exercise Areas.
Surfers must not surf in the zone between the flags.
The Gold Coast Oceanway, which is a 36-kilometre network of pathways along beaches from the Gold Coast Seaway (The Spit) to the Point Danger Lighthouse (Coolangatta), is a great way to walk or cycle between the beaches.
Violence can erupt late at night and in the early hours of the morning, particularly from Thursday to Saturday. Areas to be careful to avoid include Cavill Ave and Orchid Ave in Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach Mall in Broadbeach and Griffith St in Coolangatta.
- Northern Rivers region of NSW which includes:
- Coolangatta airport has inexpensive flights on budget carriers to New Zealand, only about 2 to 3 hours away,
- Gold Coast Hinterland
- Scenic Rim area (60 to 120 km west), a farming area overlooked by Mt Barney, and the quiet town of Boonah.
- Granite Belt (120 to 200 km west) with the towns of Stanthorpe and Warwick