The Gold Coast is a large city with many districts, see articles for Surfers Paradise and Tweed Heads and Coolangatta containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings for those districts
The Gold Coast is a coastal city in the southeast corner of the state of Queensland in Australia, located between the state capital of Brisbane to the north and the New South Wales state border to the south. The Gold Coast has long been a high-profile tourist destination for Australians and overseas travelers, with Surfers Paradise being the hub of tourist activity.
The Gold Coast has a mild, sub-tropical climate, with consistent temperatures year-round, averaging 31 degrees in the summer and 25 degrees in the winter. The winter months tend to have little rainfall, while the summer has frequent storms originating from the west.
The Gold Coast is a large urban area with a population of 550,000 administered by the Gold Coast City Council (headquartered at Evandale in Surfers Paradise) and the Tweed Shire in NSW. It is a key part of Greater Brisbane, a conurbation of over 3 million people. 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.
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.
Surfers Paradise - The most commercialised tourist suburb, with the highest concentration of accommodation and attractions.
Broadbeach - The second busiest tourist suburb and quieter than Surfers Paradise. It has a casino, 2 shopping complexes and many restaurants and highrises.
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.
Currumbin, Tugun and Bilinga - Largely residential area dotted with apartments, popular with families and locals. Convenient to the airport and motorway.
Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads - The southern end has several high-rise apartments with a small, but popular, shopping and entertainment area.
The Gold Coast Hinterland is the largely 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.
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 around 30 minutes drive to Surfers Paradise. There is a shuttle bus connecting the airport to the main Surfside buses route between Tweed Heads and Surfers Paradise.
Queensland Rail runs an electric CityTrain service from Brisbane to Coomera, Helensvale, Nerang and Robina. Trains run half hourly from 6 am to midnight, 7 days per week 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 hrs, 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 doesnt suffer from the same congestion as Brisbane, largely because it has several business centres. The morning peak hour is 7 am to 8.30 am, while the afternoon peak is 3.30 pm to 5 pm. 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 reputable car hire companies have offices located at Brisbane and Gold Coast Airports. 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.
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. 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 36km 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.
There are well over 30 beaches stretching a total of 40km. Almost all 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.
Surfers stay outside the flags.
Surfers Paradise has a long stretch of beach, with 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.
Broadbeach is about 3km (40 minutes walk, 5 minute drive) south of Surfers Paradise and usually has 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.
North Burleigh is a further 4km down from Broadbeach (over a small hill). It's generally less popular than its bigger brother, Burleigh Heads, but a good place to go if there are winds blowing from the north, as the hill provides a bit of protection. Northerly winds in the afternoon can bring in "stingers", an unpleasant jellyfish, so swimming is not advised.
Burleigh Heads is only 2km south of North Burleigh and 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).
That's as far down as you can walk from Surfers. Any further and it's wise to catch a bus or drive.
Tallebudgeera Creek is a popular swimming lagoon with families, fantastic for people who don't feel comfortable in the surf but still want to take a dip.
Currumbin is 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.
Kirra is another famous surfing spot.
Greenmount Beach in Coolangatta offers the most spectacular scenery and views up the coast, and is also a fantastic place for a picnic.
Rainbow Bay is just on the other side of Greenmount
Referred to as "the green behind the gold" (a reference to Australia's national colours - green and gold), the Gold Coast Hinterland is home to three national parks, numerous mountains, creeks, waterfalls valleys, and natural 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.
Numinbah Valley (including Natural Bridge/Arch)
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.
Sea World is the oldest and also one of the most established theme parks in Australia. It first opened in 1958 before moving to its present site in 1971. It is the closest to heart of the Gold Coast and will be interesting for those who like marine animals. Lots of shows and live acts, and you could easily spend a day here without going on any rides, such as the corkscrew roller coaster, and speed water slides.
Dreamworld is a traditional theme park with a popular tiger zoo and is the home of the Australian Big Brother House. The park itself is quite small but it is one of the best places to go in Australia if you are after thrill rides. Also includes Wiggleworld a great little kids area named after the Wiggles group.
Warner Bros. Movie World is a Warner Bros. movie themed park. WB Movie and Loony Toon characters wander around all over the place. It is the most themed of the Gold Coast parks and includes the fastest (and in fact only really good) rollercoaster in Australia (Superman Escape). Once again a good place for the thrillseekers.
Wet'n'Wild , +61 7 5573 2255, 10AM - 5PM (9PM during Jan) except Dec 25 and April 25 (1.30PM - 5PM), Water theme park with a wide range of slides, a wave pool, 'dive-in movies' at night in the wave pool (if you wish) and even a river where you can just lie in a tube and float around and around! A definite must during the summer, though best left to a day that isn't stupidly hot or the queues are too ridiculous. The water is heated in winter.
Australian Outback Spectacular , 133 386, Nightly Tues-Sun (except Dec 25 ), ~7PM, is a new Epic Outback Show, complete with stampeding cattle, wild horses and an Australian Dinner. Free stockman's hat!
WhiteWater World , +61 7 5588 1111, 10AM - 5PM except Dec 25 and April 25 (1.30PM - 5PM), is a newer water park next to Dreamworld, said to be just as good as Wet'n'Wild, if not better. Combined tickets available.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary , is famous for feeding huge flocks of rainbow lorikeets, which will perch all over your head and arms. This park has expanded to have a number of animal exhibits. The lorikeet feeding takes place just inside the entrance, but there are also hundreds of native Australian animals on display in natural bushland and rainforest settings around the park. You can get close to the usual assortment of kangaroos, emus, wallabies, etc. in open enclosures.
Easy hike up Burleigh Mountain, half an hour busride south of Surfers Paradise, take route 700 (Tweed Heads) bus from Cavill Avenue, get off at the Gold Coast Highway/Ikkina Road stop., This small mountain is situated at the mouth of Tallebudgera Creek as it joins the ocean and is flanked by swimming spots along the river and beach. The mountain is just beside the main road, and is an easy walk to the top. At the top you can visit the information centre, see the remains of Aboriginal middens, rock formations left behind by ancient eruptions of Mount Warning, and try spotting whales and sea eagles from the lookouts over the southern coastline.
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.
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).
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 Conrad Jupiters Casino that offers lunch for $22.50, dinner for $40 (seafood on fri/sat for $50). The food there is delicious and there are plenty of entrees, mains, roasts and desserts. The only thing not included are 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.
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, 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 operater 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 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.
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 "artefacts". 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 souvineer 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.
Carrara Markets , Sat and Sun 7AM-4PM, Carrara, corner of Gooding Drive and Manchester Road, Massive outdoor market of over 500 stalls, selling everything from food to clothing to plants, and a lot more. Cheap shuttle bus service from Surfer's Paradise, a good FREE day out, something for the whole family.
Harbourtown, Biggera Waters, Cnr Gold Coast Hwy and Oxley Drive, Offers 'warehouse direct' and discount fashion outlets as well as Reading Cinema. Bus from Southport.
Robina Town Centre, Robina, near Railway Station, Large urban shopping mall with supermarkets, cinemas and variety stores.
Pacific Fair , Broadbeach , Nerang Broadbeach Rd near Gold Coast Hwy, Houses a Myer department store, KMart and Target variety stores and numerous specialty shops selling pretty much every consumer item you can think of, although its labyrinthine layout can be very confusing for the first-time visitor.
Q Super Centre , Mermaid Waters, Cnr Bermuda Street and Merkeri Street, A good suburban shopping centre with lower grocery prices owing to competition between Aldi, Coles and Woolworths. It also has Clive Anthonys (electical retailer) and Sams Warehouse (discount variety shop).
Payphones are common.
Many accommodation operators offer free WiFi access to their guests. Other Wifi hotspots include McDonalds restaurants and coffee shops such as Starbucks and Gloria Jeans.
Always swim between the flags, see Gold Coast Beaches.
Violence often erupts 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.
Brisbane, the state capital, is about 1 hour North.
The Sunshine Coast lies north of Brisbane.
Byron Bay is only an hour's drive south
Spend a day or longer in the hinterland - visit Springbrook Falls, Mt Tamborine, Natural Arch (see glow worms at night).
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