Known largely for its magnificent long stretches of golden sandy beaches and its high-rise buildings that dominate the skyline, the Gold Coast is a very popular tourist destination situated on the east coast of Australia.
On the western side of the city you will find the Gold Coast Hinterland: comprising of the stunning Gondwana Rainforests, mount villages, and Lamington National Park. So whether you dream of relaxing on beaches in the temperate weather; or exploring enchanting rainforests; wining and dining in classy restaurants literally ON the beach, or dancing the night away in some swanky night clubs in the well-known Surfers Paradise: you won’t be disappointed!
So let’s jump in and see what the Gold Coast has to offer you!
What to Pack for the Gold Coast
Before you can start packing your bags, you need to have a rough idea of how long you plan on staying for, as well as what activities you will likely be taking part in. For instance, if hitting the beach & shopping on the Gold Coast is what intrigues you most, then you will mostly be living in cute swimmers and sarongs, with some shorts and singlets to throw on over the top.
However, if you really like the idea of exploring the Gold Coast Hinterland, then you will need to pack for cool rainforest weather, with activewear and good walking shoes.
Don’t overlook the nightlife activities either: if you think you would be most likely going out most nights, you’ll need room in the suitcase for some classy dresses & heels!
Also, whilst the weather is sub-tropical and warm most of the year-round, it is best to do a quick check of the conditions that you can expect during your stay before packing!
My recommendation for packing:
- Activity-appropriate clothing
- Activity-appropriate shoes (don’t forget your thongs!)
- Turkish Beach Towel: there are some really lovely designs out there: plus, they’re far lighter and more compact than traditional beach towels.
- Refillable Water Bottle: it can get humid on the coast and it is important to stay hydrated. There are bubblers and drinking stations throughout the city where you can refill your bottle: making rehydration inexpensive and kind to the environment.
- Sunscreen and broad brim hat: these are absolute must-haves. Sun safety is imperative in Australia. The harsh UV sun rays can’t be felt in the same way that the heat and light from the sun can be, therefore your skin doesn’t need to feel hot for you to be burning. I speak from experience: I once went kayaking in my swimmers on the Gold Coast canals for three hours on an overcast day without applying sunscreen to my legs as I just didn’t think I needed to. Well I burnt my legs so badly I couldn’t leave the house for almost a week: I couldn’t pull on any sort of pants or have anything touch my skin. It was so painful and looked like I had been burnt with boiling water. Please don’t overlook sun safety!
- Sunglasses: good ones because you’ll likely encounter some water glare at some point!
- A good-sized beach bag for all of your beach essentials
- Makeup and toiletries
- Any prescription medications you may need
- A camera: you will take so many photos of the picturesque Gold Coast, so ensure you have enough space in the memory!
- Technological devices: and don’t forget the chargers (Australian plug friendly – adapters can be purchased before you head overseas)
- Your Body Wand: because holidays are meant to have you as relaxed as possible! 😉
Top Things to do on the Gold Coast
As I mentioned before: there are plenty of things to see, do & experience on the Gold Coast. With so much on offer, I will just touch on the highlights:
The scores of beaches of the Gold Coast stretch over 31 miles, and they’re all enticing: however, the most popular (and therefore I regard as the safest) beaches are Surfers Paradise Beach; Burleigh Beach; Coolangatta; Kirra & Mermaid Beach.
Shopping! There are a few large shopping centers: Australia Fair is located across from the Broadwater; Pacific Fair is very close to the Casino, and Harbour Town is in the north of the Gold Coast but is an outlet shopping center that is open air. When arriving at a shopping center, be sure to make your first stop the information desk and ask about the tourist books of coupons. Some stores offer discounts for purchases within their store; some food outlets offer a free drink with a purchase for example; etc.
Take a stroll down the beautiful Esplanade and Cavill Avenue: both are iconic to the Gold Coast, and feature historical buildings
Experience one or more of the theme parks:
Dreamworld has the biggest high-thrill factor with many rollercoasters & rides. There are also souvenir shops; food outlets; the Lego shop; and of course Tiger Island where you can get up close and personal with the jungle’s most fearsome predator.
White Water World is a smaller water park with insane water rides that is located right beside Dreamworld
Warner Bros Movie World: everything is based around Warner Brothers (think Looney Tunes and movies). There are stunt car shows; stunt driver experiences; 4D movie experiences; great souvenir shops; and of course loads of exciting rides!
Wet’n’Wild is a large, and very wild, water park with some of the biggest and most extreme water slides in Australia
Springbrook National Park & Tamborine Mountain day tour: I cannot speak highly enough of the calming effects that the beautiful Gondwana Rainforests can have on a person. Tamborine Mountain is about forty-five minutes from Surfers Paradise, and it makes a great day trip from the Gold Coast. The roads are a little steep and bendy in some places, so I recommend booking a tour group to get the most out of this experience. Amazing Australian landscape; waterfalls; glow worms in caves; a rainforest skywalk; wine tasting; and Devonshire Tea are all things you can expect to find in the beautiful Hinterlands.
The Gold Coast Nightlife
There is always so much going on at the GC!
The Star Casino in Broadbeach. The casino offers live concerts & shows; dining that ranges from food court to five star; hotels with views & an alluring spa; and of course the world-class casino floor.
There are plenty of restaurants at every turn: from takeaway fish & chips to fine dining and everything in between!
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Night Markets: these are on from 4pm to 9pm, every Wednesday, Friday & Sunday nights. They are quite well lit and usually busy too.
Nightclubs: the most popular nightclubs have good security and are mostly located within close proximity, so bar-hopping is made safer and easier. Some of these nightclubs include Melbas on the Park; Love Nightlife; Platinum Nightclub; and Elsewhere Bar. There are dozens of more great ones, too!
Q1 Building: this is Australia’s highest external building climb…and the best part? It can be done at night! The experience is exhilarating, and the views are well worth it! If you don’t feel quite up to the challenge, though, you can always take the insanely fast elevator and sip a glass of champagne as you survey the fairytale-like lights from the comfort of the Skypoint Observation Deck.
A Nocturnal Rainforest & Glow Worm Tour: this expedition includes an off-road adventure to see the rainforest come to life at night and the stunning glow worms in the caves. The tour ends with dessert and a hot drink at a mountain restaurant before the forty-minute drive back to the central Gold Coast. The tour group also offers free pick up and drop off to central hotels!
How to Get to Surfers Paradise from the Airport
The Gold Coast airport is located in the southern-most suburb of the Gold Coast: Coolangatta. Given that the Gold Coast stretches for 43 miles (from Coolangatta up to Beenleigh). Being central to a lot of attractions, I have made the ‘hub’ for this article Surfers Paradise: it is also close to public transport.
There are a few options for getting to Surfers Paradise from the Gold Coast airport:
Rental cars are available for hire directly from the airport if you are confident driving yourself around. Just be sure to check the insurance excess and policy!
There is a bus (it takes 45 minutes to get to Surfers), depending on what time you are flying into the airport.
Taxis! There is a taxi rank right out the front of the airport with a constant supply of taxis waiting to take people to where they want to be! I have never had an issue with a taxi on the Gold Coast: I am a very cautious person though and always sit in the backseat of the vehicle, not in the passenger seat by the driver.
Uber/ Ola: These are both ride-share services which allow you to book somebody with a private vehicle to drive you around.
Public Transport on The Gold Coast
The public transport on the Gold Coast is quite impressive! There is a public transport integrated bus, train & tram network called TransLink. The best and cheapest way to get around on the Gold Coast is by picking up a ‘Go card’ from any tram; train; or busway station fare machine to get cheaper fares and convenient top-ups.
For more information, visit Translink
The light rail tram is great for hitting the beaches; sightseeing; or getting from one attraction to another safely and at a reasonable price. For anything off the light rail tram line, I recommend taking a taxi. The bus schedules are a little difficult to decipher with the stations and stops, and there is no one that is available onsite to ask for assistance. In my experience, I have found that buses also have a tendency to run late due to the unpredictable traffic, and I didn’t find them all that reliable.
Whilst public transport is safe to use, caution should always be exercised and commonsense should prevail. For example, avoid getting into a tram car where there is a group of intoxicated or rowdy people. Don’t walk by yourself early morning or after dark, particularly through parks or isolated stretches.
Basically, if you don’t feel safe, it probably isn’t a good idea to proceed.
Where To Stay On The Gold Coast
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation! Whilst there are many alternatives for every budget, the majority are mid-high range accommodation. There are Backpacker Hostels and budget motel rooms for those traveling on a tight budget.
The best mid-range to slightly more luxurious hotels in the Surfers Paradise vicinity are:
If you like to stay in style, the best resorts on the Gold Coast are actually incredible! We all like a little luxury from time to time, after all!
Safety Tips for the Gold Coast
I like to think that Australia is one of the safest places in the world. There are a few key tips that I have to stay as safe as possible, though!
Always, always, ALWAYS swim between the red and yellow flags on the beaches. The area between these flags are patrolled by surf lifesavers and has been determined to be the safest space to swim (this is evaluated daily). If you do get into trouble (caught in a rip, swamped by a wave, etc) and require assistance, try to remain calm, raise and wave your hand to get the attention of the lifeguard in the watchtower.
Do not walk alone in isolated areas at night. Have your taxi drop you to the door of where you are staying after your night time experiences.
Be aware that Cavill Avenue is a bit notorious for drunken behavior. There are frequent police patrols through the area, but I wouldn’t stay out alone past midnight-1am.
Like almost everywhere, there are opportunist thieves: don’t leave your valuables on the beach whilst going for a swim; always lock your vehicle (if you hire one) and hotel room.
Be wary and alert of your surroundings. That is the biggest and most important piece of advice: if it doesn’t feel right, seek help immediately.
The emergency phone number in Australia is 000: call this number to reach the emergency services (police, firefighters and ambulance).
The Gold Coast is a safe and beautiful place to experience and discover. It’s a perfect balance between a big city and a picturesque tourist town, with plenty on offer for all. I recommend at least a week, preferably two, to get the most out of your time here!
If you love beaches, Australia has many more great beach holiday spots to visit!
Silvia and partner Mark run MumsDelivery – a trusted resource for Australian parents for over 10 years, providing travel tips, parenting advice, and family-centered product reviews. Although most of her travel these days is with partner and kids in tow, Silvia arrived in Australia as a solo traveler from Brazil, after an 11-year stopover in Italy!