- For other places with the same name, see Gold Coast (disambiguation).
The Gold Coast is a large city along the coast in the southeast corner of the state of Queensland in Australia. The year-round warm weather, theme parks and many beaches 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.
The most commercialised tourist suburb, with the highest concentration of accommodation and attractions.
The second busiest tourist suburb and quieter than Surfers Paradise. It has a casino, 2 shopping complexes and many restaurants and highrises.
Largely residential area dotted with apartments, popular with families and locals. Convenient to the airport.
|Tweed Heads and Coolangatta
The southern end has several high-rise apartments with a small, but popular, shopping and entertainment area.
Numerous highrise apartment buildings, a national park and a small commercial area. The beaches are popular with surfers and families.
An upmarket suburb with high-rises and resorts.
The commercial centre with shops, hospitals, business, industry and government offices.
Includes Paradise Point, Hollywell, Runaway Bay and Labrador which are all largely residential but these contain some of the most wildest theme parks in Australia.
|Gold Coast Hinterland (Numinbah Valley, Springbrook)
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.
Other districts include:
- Mermaid Beach and Miami - Largely low-rise residential suburbs with motels and restaurants along the highway.
- Palm Beach - Largely residential area.
The Gold Coast is a large urban area with a population of 720,000, the largest non-state capital in Australia.
Most visitors will the Gold Coast as a long thin strip of modern high-rise buildings next to seemingly endless beaches, although the city itself extends far inland to the hills of the Scenic Rim. Surfers Paradise, towards the northern end, is the main hub of the leisure activity. There is a huge choice of hotels, restaurants, tourist shops and tourist experiences to be found. In recent years the city is also developing itself as a work-hub for large corporations that want to offer their employees a better work-life balance away from the capital cities. The city shares its infrastructure, facilities, services and labour market with Brisbane to the north. Workers commonly commute between the two by rail and road.
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 Bay 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.
|Climate chart (explanation)
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. Daylight hours run from 6:40AM to just before 5PM in the winter months. During the summer, sunrise is as early as 4:40AM, and sunset is around 6:45PM.
Predictions of rain often equate to brief and intense afternoon storms, rather than extended periods of gentle rain.
The Gold Coast, that visitors are more familiar with, stretches along the coastal suburbs from Paradise Point to Tweed Heads (about 35 km).
Get in edit
By plane edit
Gold Coast Airport (OOL IATA) is widely known as Coolangatta Airport, even though it is 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 24-hour 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.
The 777 bus runs every 15 minutes connecting the airport to the southernmost tram station at Broadbeach South, from where you can easily transfer to Surfers Paradise.
Public transport from Gold Coast Airport to Brisbane city: Take public bus No 470 (Robina) to Varsity Lakes Train Station. Then take the train to Brisbane City. Bus 470 picks up and drops off passengers inside the terminal complex, and not (as Google Maps will tell you) 800 meters from the terminal. The cost is about $19.50 (August 2018). You only need to buy one ticket from the bus driver. Using the express train Varsity Lakes to Brisbane, total traveling time is about two hours.
Brisbane Airport (BNE IATA) is used by many overseas visitors because it is larger, served by more 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 from $40 to $50.
- Train with car transfer package
- Train with connecting local bus at Nerang or Robina
- Train with connecting local tram at Helensvale
Major domestic carriers include Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Qantas.
There are regional Queensland flights to make many cities and towns.
- Airnorth, Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Virgin Australia
- Air Asia X from Kuala Lumpur
- Air New Zealand from Auckland and Christchurch
- Jetstar from Auckland, Queenstown, Seoul Incheon International Airport, Tokyo Narita International Airport, Wellington
By train edit
Queensland Rail runs a train service from Brisbane to Coomera, Helensvale, Nerang and Robina. Trains run half-hourly 06:00-23:59 daily taking just over an hour from Brisbane Central to Helensvale, Nerang and Robina. The trains can get crowded at peak times, but it's unusual to have to stand. The tram connects to Southport, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach at Helensvale. Buses connect Nerang and Robina to Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, and into northern New South Wales.
NSW Trainlink in NSW runs trains from Sydney with bus connections at Casino for services direct to Surfers Paradise or Tweed Heads. However, this is a slow (11½ hr) and expensive service. Set aside a whole day for the trip.
Get around edit
By car edit
All attractions around the Gold Coast are accessible by car, and there are large car parks 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 in the main business district of the suburb, between the Gold Coast Highway and Surfers Paradise Boulevard. Most major car rental companies allow you to hire cars for a one way trip. 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.
By tram edit
The G:Link (Gold Coast Light Rail) service runs a route from Helensvale Station via Gold Coast University Hospital and Surfers Paradise to Broadbeach South. 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.
Payment can be made using a contactless card (Visa/MasterCard/American Express). This is far more convenient than purchasing a reloadable go card, and you don't have to worry about residual amounts remaining on the card when you leave. All the same benefits apply to using a contactless card as apply to using an adult go card. Remember to touch on and off using the pink validators on the platforms. Single tickets are available from the fare machine on the platform but they are 30% more expensive.
An extension to Burleigh Heads is under construction and is expected to be in operation by 2025. A further extension to the NSW border via Gold Coast Airport is planned to open before the 2032 Olympics.
By bus edit
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 same ticketing system as the trams, individual tickets are no longer sold on board.
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
By taxi edit
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 $100-110.
By bike edit
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 edit
There are over 52 km of ocean beaches maintained by the local council[dead link]. 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):
|South Stradbroke Island
|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).
|Another long and uncrowded beach, easily accessible from Seaworld or by driving up to the Seaway.
|One of the first beaches to be used on the coast due to its proximity to Southport. The cosmopolitan Tedder Ave is nearby.
|This is very popular for those who would like to observe the beach without getting out of their car or tour bus, and also for taking photos. Not surprisingly almost every tour will stop there, but the beach is fairly uncrowded.
|Flags and patrols every 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.
|Almost indistinguishable from Surfers for most visitors, but a little quieter and popular with families due to its proximity to apartments and other accommodation.
|Broadbeach (Kurrawa Beach)
|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.
|Along what is locally known as 'millionaires row'.
|Nobby Beach and Miami
|A quiet beach very popular with locals due to its ample parking and barbeque facilities. It's at the southern end of a continuous stretch of sand from the Gold Coast Seaway.
|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 a good place to go if there are winds blowing from the north, as the headland also provides a bit of protection.
|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).
|Includes Tallebudgera Surf Beach and Pacific Beach.
|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.
|A pleasant local beach.
|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.
|Famous surfing spot, the beach has become very wide due to the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypassing Project
|Coolangatta and Greenmount
|Offers the most spectacular scenery and views up the coast, and is also a fantastic place for a picnic.
|The world renowned Snapper Rocks is right next to Rainbow Bay and is the home of the Quiksilver Pro [dead link].
|Right on the New South Wales border, it is very popular for surfing.
Other (calm water) beaches edit
The Gold Coast also has numerous beaches in calmer, more protected water away from the surf, ideal for families with small children.
|A quiet beach on the Broadwater popular with locals. Its a very family-friendly beach due to its swimming enclosure and surrounds featuring food, parklands, barbeque areas and playgrounds.
|Southport (Broadwater) Beach
|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.
|A casuarina-fringed beach used by the many anchored boats and weekend fishing enthusiasts. The eastern side is also an off-leash dog exercise area.
|A hidden beach on the Nerang River near the heart of Surfers Paradise
|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.
|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 edit
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, and rock formations. The area is mostly covered in subtropical rainforest, but sections have been cleared for dairy farmland 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
- Lamington National Park
- Numinbah Valley featuring the Natural Bridge rockpool and waterfall (see glow worms at night).
- Tallebudgera Valley
- Currumbin Valley
Many tours 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 tour 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 $40-50.
- Sea World: Marine park with rides, sharks, dolphins, penguins, polar bears. Admission $50-80.
- Warner Bros. Movie World: Movie-themed rides and photo opportunities with famous characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Admission $50-80.
- Dreamworld: Amusement park, rides, themed lands and animals. Admission $50-80.
- WhiteWater World: Water park with pools, slides. Admission $30-50.
- Australian Outback Spectacular: horses and unique Australian lifestyle (dinner provided). Admission $55-110. Next to Movie World.
- Wet'n'Wild: Water park with pools, slides, rides. Admission $35-60.
- 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).
Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild are owned by the same company, so check out one of their combo tickets if you're planning on hitting two or more of them.
Dreamworld and WhiteWater World offer the same kind of deal.
Be wary edit
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.
Many legitimate vendors sell discounted theme park tickets. Check out the tourist information booths run by Gold Coast Tourism Corporation[dead link].
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 Shopping Centre (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. At most of the restaurants, you can bring your own alcohol.
There is an all you can eat Buffet in Jupiters Casino that offers lunch for $29.90, dinner for $40 (seafood on F Sa 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 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 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 $60-80, while doubles rooms are $70-90 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 Marriott and Crowne Plaza. Hotels are concentrated in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
Wireless Internet edit
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.
Stay safe edit
Almost all beaches 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 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 become 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 m of flagged areas, part of Gold Coast City Dog Exercise Areas[dead link].
Surfers must not surf in the zone between the flags.
The Gold Coast Oceanway, which is a 36-km 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.
105.7 Radio Metro has detailed surf reports at 07:00, 12:00 and 15:00 daily.
Alcohol-fuelled violence edit
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.
Go next edit
- 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
|Brisbane ← becomes ← Logan City ←
|→ Tweed Heads → Ballina