Travel Guide: The Gold Coast, A Perfect Australian Beach Destination

If you ask anyone what they look for on an Australian vacation, the answers typically remain consistent. Some want to see the sprawling, pristine coastline with white sand beaches. Others look to experience the fun surfing culture and try to catch the perfect wave. Also, some may want to see the unique wildlife and vast rainforests. Whatever you are looking for, Australia’s Gold Coast has it all and more. For those looking to book a trip Down Under, the Gold Coast should not be missed. 

A historical overview of the Gold Coast

Australia’s Gold Coast is widely known for its gorgeous beaches and over 70 kilometers of uninterrupted, immaculate coastline. Further, it’s laid-back atmosphere, world-class surfing and array of enchanting cafes and bars have also made it the premier Australian holiday destination. The city of Gold Coast is the southernmost city in the state of Queensland. It is composed of over 60 suburbs, including the famous Surfers Paradise. Also, aside from its glorious beaches and famous suburbs, Gold Coast boasts a sprawling rainforest hinterland and several unique national parks. 

Development of the Gold Coast

Despite now being an attractive, widely known vacation destination, Gold Coast has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In the mid-1800’s, the settlement of Gold Coast began as people in the lumber industry were enticed by the red cedars in the hinterland. Soon thereafter, people began to take notice of the lush land and gorgeous beaches, and the rich began developing vacation homes on the land. Towns begun to be established in the early 1900s, in what was then called the city of ‘South Coast’. In 1958, after a real estate boom sparked by tourists, businesses began referring to the area as the ‘Gold Coast’. Thus, on May 16th, 1958, the Gold Coast was named a city. 

A retro image of Australia's Gold Coast, Currumbin Beach, on a perfect surf day.
Gold Coast’s Currumbin Beach in 1963. Image by Bonzle

Indigenous Land

When noting the history of any Australian city, it is important to acknowledge the traditional Indigenous land it came from. The Yugambeh language people are the Indigenous people of the land of south-east Queensland. There were several clans of Yugambeh people including the Kombumerri, Bullongin, and Tulgi-gi-gin clans. In fact, these clans were said to have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years before European settlers arrived.

The Yugambeh people lived in camps along rivers, as they relied upon the vast river network in the area. They used innovations such as canoes to travel along these rivers for hunting and gathering and to reach camps of other tribes. Furthermore, the Yugambeh people developed a kinship with other tribes, in areas that are now known as southern Brisbane and northern New South Wales, through a shared connection to the land. A recent census noted that there are over 3600 Indigenous people living in Gold Coast today who still feel a deep connection to this land.

The ideal Australian climate

The Gold Coast has nearly perfect weather year-round. The Gold Coast has a sub-tropic climate, resulting in a blissful average of 300 days of sunshine per year. Furthermore, the temperature in Gold Coast remains consistently pleasant throughout the year. The summers (December to February) can be classified as moderately hot, with daily maximum temperatures averaging around 26 °C. Even the winters (June to August) are very comfortable. The coldest month of the year (July) has average daily highs of nearly 19°C. Although a bit chillier, the waters are still swimmable in winter, making Gold Coast a perfect year-round beach destination

Surfer surfing into a barrel on a clear, sunny day in Gold Coast.
Surfer on a bright, sunny day in Gold Coast. Image by MiGoldCoast

The Gold Coast does not experience extreme year-round humidity, unlike its popular Queensland tourism counterpart of Caines. Although the summers can be humid, it drops off to more temperate humidity during the fall, winter and spring, which can be classified as dry. Additionally, the UV index peaks during the summer months, but remains high throughout the year. In summary, there is no ‘bad time’ to visit the Gold Coast for your perfect beach vacation.

Transportation

The ease and accessibility of the public transit system in Gold Coast makes exploring every end of the city and coastline effortless. Additionally, the transit is cheap and efficient, and can effectively replace expensive cab fare or Ubers in many situations. From airport transportation to every day travel, this system can easily enhance your experience in Gold Coast. 

Just an hour south of Queensland’s capital city of Brisbane, Gold Coast is easily reachable for international travelers. Many opt to fly directly into Brisbane, which has a connecting train line that runs directly to Gold Coast’s Helensvale tram station. Alternatively, travelers may also fly into Gold Coast’s airport, located in southern Gold Coast. From here, buses are available to take you to your accommodation, or to the Broadbeach tram station. 

People wait by the tram station in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia.
The Gold Coast tram in Surfers Paradise. Image by Gold Coast, Australia

As previously mentioned, in Gold Coast, there are two main options for public transportation- buses and the Light Rail (otherwise known as the tram). The tram is an inner-city rail system that connects many coastal suburbs from Helensvale to Broadbeach. From the tram, you can easily access significant areas such as Surfers Paradise, Main Beach and Southport. For areas outside the reach of the tram, the public buses can be used with ease to connect to suburbs such as Coolangatta and Burleigh, which are popular among locals and tourists.

Nightlife on the Gold Coast

The city of Gold Coast proudly boasts one of the most diverse and vibrant nightlife scenes in Australia. With a plentitude of bars, beer gardens, clubs and events, there is truly something for everyone. Further, unlike cities in New South Wales, Gold Coast has never followed ‘lockout’ rules that prohibit re-entering bars after 1:00am. Thus, with bar-hopping permitted, it has allowed the nightlife scene in Gold Coast to continue to grow and flourish. 

Surfers Paradise is the nightlife hub of the city. There are bars and clubs packed along the streets, bringing in a host of locals and tourists every night of the week. Further, with late night eateries open along the street and public transit running late on weekends, Surfers Paradise is perfect for a night out. 

Diners enjoying a casual night out at The Island rooftop bar in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast.
The gorgeous rooftop bar at The Island, Surfers Paradise. Image by Queensland Brides

Alternatively, the suburb of Broadbeach also has a great nightlife scene. The nightlife in Broadbeach has many options for all ages (18+). Similar to Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach has many clubs and bars, just without the plethora of tourists. However, most notably, Broadbeach is host of the famous Gold Coast casino The Star, which is an option for a much fancier night out for all adults. In addition to Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, almost all suburbs (especially coastal suburbs) have excellent nightlife options to experience. Truly, there is never a dull night on the Gold Coast.

Professional sports  

As one of Australia’s largest cities, Gold Coast is able to host and support professional-caliber teams and sporting events. The Gold Coast is represented in two of Australia’s most prominent team sports: Aussie Rules Football in the Australian Football League (AFL) and rugby in the National Rugby League (NRL). Firstly, the Gold Coast Suns are the local AFL team. Aussie Rules Football is a fast-paced sport native to Australia that is played on a modified cricket field, often likened to rugby or Gaelic football. This exciting sport is a must-watch if the team is in town while you are visiting. Alternatively, the Gold Coast Titans is the city’s NRL team. Rugby, often considered the most popular sport in Australia, is another high-intensity, hard-hitting sport. Accordingly, going to a Titans or Suns game is a great way to immerse yourself in the sporting culture of the city. 

Watching an Australian Rules Football match on a sunny day at Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast.
A Suns AFL match at Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast. Image by AFL

Furthermore, the Gold Coast is home to exciting sporting competitions. As the nature of the area allows for superb surfing, the Gold Coast hosts a multitude of surfing competitions each year. Famously, the greatest surfers in the world come to town as the World Surf Tour makes annual stops locally with the Roxy Pro and Quiksilver Pro. Consequently, many plan their trips around these popular events, but there is never a bad time to see incredible surfing in the Gold Coast.

Where to start on the Gold Coast

With so many incredible aspects of the Gold Coast, it may be difficult to determine which parts to see on your vacation. The following areas are among the highlights of the Gold Coast. 

Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is the quintessential Gold Coast experience. Many are drawn in with the iconic Surfers Paradise sign that leads out to the gorgeous beach. Moreover, this is where you can see the buildings that compose the famous skyline up close, including Australia’s tallest building– Q1. As this suburb caters to tourists, there are endless options for unique and exciting experiences. 

Nightlife

As previously mentioned, this is the nightlife hub of the coast. In fact, this area is notorious for loud, fun clubs that entice many young Australian adults and tourists. See Sin City, Bedroom or Cocktails for your typical club atmosphere. In contrast, for more of a laid-back Aussie bar, there are many great options to choose from. The newly renovated Surfers Beer Garden and The Island are local favourites, with a spacious, picturesque rooftop patios and great drinks. 

The iconic Surfers Paradise sign at sunrise
The iconic Surfers Paradise sign. Image by Queensland Uncovered

Climb Q1

The Skypoint Observation Deck lets you take in a panoramic view of Gold Coast atop Q1. Atop the ‘eagles nest’ climbers will be a staggering 270 meters above ground. From this incredible vantage point, climbers can see views of the gorgeous coastline to the expansive hinterland.  

Burleigh Heads

Burleigh is a quaint, picturesque suburb that is nestled along one of the most scenic stretches of coast in the area. It is the perfect example of what one would expect out of an Australian suburb. There are perfect beaches, cute cafes and gorgeous nature walks. There is a reason many locals choose Burleigh for a quiet Sunday escape. 

Burleigh Head National Park

This gorgeous national park has it all: scenic coastal walks, lush rainforest and secluded creeks. Take the famous coastal walk from the southern end of Burleigh to the gorgeous Tallebudgera Creek. With isolation from the ocean, this creek is perfect for swimming and paddle boarding.

The palm trees and bright blue water of Tallebudgera Creek
The final stop at Burleigh Head National Park– Tallebudgera Creek. Image by Imagur

Visit the markets

On bi-weekly Sundays, Burleigh hosts The Village Markets in an experience that combines Australian culture, fashion and lifestyle. Hundreds of small business owners and designers congregate here in a show of their collections. This is a popular outing for locals, often visited for the welcoming and laid-back vibe.

Eat and drink

Take in the unique food scene in Burleigh that is sure to boost your Instagram feed. With numerous quaint eateries, trendy breweries and stereotypical Aussie cafes, there are endless options for foodies. Check out Burleigh Brewing, Burleigh Pavilion and Commune Café for the best of all.

Southern Gold Coast

The southern end of Gold Coast is classified by some of the most scenic beaches and best surf on the coast, as well as a noticeably slower, relaxed pace. Many locals come to the suburbs of Coolangatta and Currumbin to escape from the busy downtown core. This is a vacation from your vacation. 

Visit Coolangatta 

Coolangatta is known for its positive vibes and gorgeous beaches. For a laid-back day you can check out the lighthouse at Port Danger and see the iconic surf at Snapper Rocks. Alternatively, for those looking to keep the weekend going, you can relax with a cocktail at a Sunday Session at Hotel Komune. Truly, the options for the perfect relaxing getaway are endless in Coolangatta.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary 

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary provides visitors with an immersive experience in which they can interact with a plethora of Australian-native animals. These animals, including the famous Tasmanian devil and the adorable quokkas, are housed in large enclosures that mimic their natural environment. Additionally, in their keystone experiences, visitors can feed kangaroos in an open-roaming enclosure and cuddle with a koala. 

A family feeds a kangaroo at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
A family feeds a kangaroo at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Image by Holidays with Kids

Learn to surf

With this area’s emphasis on tourism, they have many options for visitors to experience a cornerstone part of Australian culture– surfing. As this is a very difficult sport to pick up, there are several surf schools that offer lessons right on Coolangatta’s scenic beaches. Not only will experienced surfers show you the ropes, but they will ensure the safety of all participants. With some of the best surfing on the coast, this is the perfect area to learn the popular Australian pastime.

Springbrook National Park 

Springbrook National Park is just one of the spectacular national parks in the region’s hinterland. It is unique amongst Gold Coast’s national parks due to its ecological significance and ancient vegetation dating back hundreds of millions of years. In fact, this significance has earned it a classification as a World Heritage Site. This sprawling rainforest has a wide array of attractions, including gorgeous waterfalls, ancient trees and expansive views.

Twin Falls circuit

This short, 4km hike is a must for waterfall lovers. It’s scenic route takes you deep into the park with great views along the way. This hike culminates at a rock pool in the middle of the rainforest, fed by a lengthy waterfall with two steady streams– known as Twin Falls

Natural Bridge circuit

An even shorter, 1km circuit takes you to Springbrook’s most famous destination. The Natural Bridge circuit takes you through the ancient forest towards a sunken cave surrounded by greenery. In the cave, you are treated to spectacular views of a waterfall behind what appears to be a natural bridge made of rock face. Additionally, the cave comes alive at night from the bright green lights of thousands of glow worms. This is a unique and captivating sight.

Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park
Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. Image by Flickr

The perfect Australian destination

The Gold Coast truly encapsulates every aspect you can look for in an Australian vacation. With a pristine coastline, incredible surf, sprawling rainforests and unique wildlife, you can experience a little bit of everything. Truly, the Gold Coast is the quintessential Australian destination.

3 women walking along the Gold Coast with background skyline and sunny cloudy skies.
Image credit: © Little Grey Box via www.littlegreybox.net

 

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