The Gold Coast has hundreds of attractions and continues to add more and more as it grows as a tourist destination. The question really is, what sort of experience are you looking for while you are on the Gold Coast?
In this post, we’ll delve into the attractions and activities you really shouldn’t miss during your trip to the Gold Coast. As with all of my guides, there are many more things to discover while you are in the area, but this will give you the must-dos while planning your trip, and you can discover the rest for yourself when you get there.
In terms of beaches, I’m not going to list them. As the name of the region implies, there is a huge stretch of stunning beaches the entire length of the Gold Coast. You won’t have any trouble finding a good one.
Let’s start with the theme parks because that is probably what the Gold Coast is best known for.
The three major theme parks, Dreamworld, Movie World and Sea World, are the stars of the show and one of the key reasons so many people flock to the Gold Coast every year.
The best thing to keep in mind when planning to visit theme parks is that they are owned by two major companies. So look out for the multi-park/experience pass options, where you can visit multiple parks/attractions over a series of a few days.
I’ll outline the different subsidiaries of the two groups below.
Australia’s biggest theme park, Dreamworld, was opened in 1981 and has continued to grow and evolve.
Dreamworld offers something for everyone with a mix of experiences, including thrill rides, wildlife attractions, and children’s entertainment.
The park is divided into separate themed areas and is the most diverse of the Gold Coast theme parks, with over twenty different rides, including seven major thrill rides.
The entrance takes you straight into Main Street, where you can immerse yourself in the park experience. It’s also where you will find several retail and food outlet spaces.
Gold Rush County was the first expansion of the original park, and although it is undergoing revamp at the moment, it still features many of the first rides that Dreamworld offered.
And if you wanted to ride one of the original rides from Dreamworld’s opening back in 1918, the Vintage Cars are now found in the Corroboree section of the park, which is also where you will also find the wildlife attractions, along with Tiger Island.
Ocean Parade is one of the newer areas of the park and features a beach theme, tying in nicely with the Gold Coast experience. It’s also the park’s largest area, with the bulk of the major thrill rides.
If you are travelling with kids, they can be kept entertained in the ABC Kids World and DreamWorks Experience sections of the park.
It’s also worth noting that Dreamworld also has a separate water park, interlinked but with its own entry fees, called WhiteWater World. It’s open over the summer with its own attractions, including ten different waterslides and a wave pool.
Dubbed Hollywood on the Gold Coast, Warner Bros Movie World, as it is officially known, is Australia’s only film-related theme park.
If you are seeking a predominantly thrill-ride experience, Movie World is the park for you.
Not nearly as big as Dreamworld, what it lacks in size it makes up for in adrenalin rushes as the home of the “longest and fastest HyperCoaster in the Southern Hemisphere” as one of three major superhero-themed rollercoasters that definitely get the heart racing.
Don’t stress if you have younger children as well. A whole WB Kids section is designed especially with younger kids in mind. But for most people, the star of the show is definitely the big coasters.
Also, make sure you don’t miss out on Movie World’s famous Hollywood Stunt Driver show, which ties the whole movie-making theme together.
Movie World is also part of a massive precinct owned and operated by Village Roadshow (who also own Seaworld, which we’ll get to shortly). That complex also features a working movie production facility, although the park doesn’t offer backlot tours like you might expect if you have visited Universal Studios or Disney.
The Movie World precinct also features a number of other separate attractions, each with its own entry fees (although you can get combined tickets), including Wet ‘n’ Wild Gold Coast, Paradise Country, the Australian Outback Spectacular and Top Golf.
The Gold Coast’s original theme park, which first opened in 1971, Sea World is predominantly a marine life park, but it still has its thrill rides.
Having started out as a small park in Surfers Paradise with water ski shows and dolphin experiences, Sea World has grown and evolved into the park that can be experienced today. That said, it hasn’t completely thrown away its roots.
Sea World on the Gold Coast is best known for its animal attractions with special exhibits that you can’t experience to the same degree elsewhere in Australia.
It’s the only place in Australia where you can see polar bears in person, and it is home to a variety of penguins, including a special king penguin exhibit.
While the ever-popular sharks and stingrays can be found in the world’s largest man-made lagoon system for sharks called Shark Bay. Not to mention the park’s world-famous dolphin breeding and sealife protection programs.
There are also a number of shows, from informational animal experiences to just pure entertainment, that runs throughout the day.
It’s also worth noting that a trip to Sea World doesn’t mean missing out on the rides either. The park’s Nickelodeon section has several rides specifically catered to kids. While the park recently added a new precinct, Atlantis, bolstering its thrill ride offering.
The key new attraction is Leviathan, a wooden rollercoaster thrill ride, adding to the two aquatic-themed rollercoasters Seaworld already had, Jet Rescue Coaster and Storm Coaster. At the same time, Trident and Vortex are also new additions to the park.
Just keep in mind that since Sea World, Movie World, Wet and Wild and the Australian Outback Spectacular are all owned by the same group, you can save a lot of money on the experiences by buying a bundled ticket deal.
The heart of Surfers Paradise, Cavill Avenue is a buzz of activity both day and night.
As the central tourist hub of Surfers Paradise, there are restaurants, attractions, shops, bars, nightclubs… Just a little bit of everything going on in this part of the Gold Coast.
Cavill Avenue can be a bit too much for some people; it is a bit of a sensory overload, particularly at its busiest on weekends. But I do still strongly recommend visiting if you’ve never been before.
During the week and in the morning, Cavill Avenue is very relaxed, but as the day goes on, the hustle and bustle builds, especially later in the week. If bars and nightclubs aren’t your things, you will find some great restaurants and other great attractions, including:
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
From the intriguing to the straight-up bizarre, Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a novelty well worth a visit while you are on the Gold Coast.
Part of the global chain of Ripley’s experiences, the Surfers Paradise Ripley’s Believe It or Not is unique in Australia.
Obviously, if you’ve been to one of the other Ripley’s around the world, you will have some idea of what to expect, but I can’t really explain it to you. It’s a combination of art, interactive experiences, weird momentos, and just a little bit of everything.
Short answer, you really need to see it for yourself. There is some weird stuff, but it does cater to all ages, and it’s open until late.
Also, make sure you do the 7D Moving Theatre experience as well.
Timezone Surfers Paradise
Timezone isn’t exactly unique to the Gold Coast; I get that. But the one in Surfers Paradise is one of the bigger arcades with plenty to keep everyone entertained. Especially if you need a break from the sun or to get out of the rain.
Located above the shopping mall on Carvill Avenue, Timezone Surfers Paradise not only features your typical range of arcade games that everyone loves. It also offers a glow-in-the-dark putt putt golf course, laser tag, bumper cars and a mini-bowling lane.
If you are looking to mix up your time in Surfers Paradise, just looking for some light-hearted fun for a couple of hours while not breaking the bank, Timezone is a great option to keep in mind.
For something truly different, Holoverse offers an immersive interactive hologram experience like something you would have seen in those sci-fi movies, certainly unlike anything else I’ve seen around.
Located in the Paradise Center shopping mall on Carvill Avenue (underneath Timezone), this experience is definitely targeted more towards kids, at least the Dinosaurs and Aquarium experiences. That said, they do offer Monsters and Sports experiences for those slightly older.
Don’t let the rudimentary shopfront fool you; the experience is high-tech and exclusive to Queensland at this stage (they have one other location in Brisbane). So for something you won’t be able to experience elsewhere, it’s well worth a visit.
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets
If you just happen to be staying in or around Surfers Paradise on Friday and Saturday nights, the Surfers Paradise boardwalk along The Esplanade transforms into a hive of activity with the Beachfront Markets.
At the Beachfront Markets, you will find all the typical stalls that you would expect at this style of pop-up market, with food and craft vendors being the most popular. But it’s the musicians performing and the laid-back atmosphere that really sets these markets apart.
If you just happen to be in the area or on your way into Cavill Avenue for the evening, it would be well worth making the short stroll through the markets either to see if something grabs your attention or even just to soak up the atmosphere.
SkyPoint Observation Deck
How would you like to see all of the Gold Coast from a single vantage point? Q1 Resort is technically the tallest building on the Gold Coast.
I say technically because the lighting-rod/communication tower on Q1 is easily the highest structure, but there have been a handful of new buildings that have just recently been finished or are in the process of being finished (as of May 2023) that have rooms that are slightly higher. But we won’t dwell on that.
If you aren’t staying in one of those fancy new buildings, then a visit to Q1’s SkyPoint Observation Deck on a clear day is definitely worthwhile to just simply understand the scale of the Gold Coast. It’s a bigger area than a lot of people give it credit for.
The Observation Deck is worthwhile, offering stunning views that I do recommend that you have to see for yourself.
However, to take the experience up another level (so to speak) head up to SkyPoint’s Bar and Bistro for dinner and watch the sunset over the Gold Coast.
Just taking in the view is amazing, but taking your time and enjoying some food and drinks is a much better overall experience. Best of all, unlike other viewpoint restaurants, the food isn’t as nearly expensive (or overly fancy). It’s priced (and menued) like a decent pub, just with better views.
If you really want to take the whole experience to the extreme, as with all these tall buildings, there is a climb to the very top. In fact, SkyPoint Climb is Australia’s highest external building climb. The climb starts at the SkyPoint Observation Deck (for an additional fee) and takes you 270 meters above sea level.
Springbrook National Park/Natural Bridge
Just to mix things up for a moment… There is more to the Gold Coast than beaches and expensive attractions.
In fact, if you are willing to go for a bit of a drive, the Gold Coast also has plenty of natural wonders to explore. The most notable of which is Natural Bridge, located within the Springbrook National Park.
Natural Bridge is a stunning rock formation best known for the underground waterfall, which makes for spectacular photos often featured in the tourism promotion for the Gold Coast.
If you are willing to hang around after dark, the cave transforms with another amazing display as the home to Queensland’s largest glow-worm colony.
You’ll find Natural Bridge located off Nerang Murwillumbah Road. It is well-signposted and really easy to get to.
The 1km walk isn’t strenuous, and you will find all the usual national park facilities you would expect at a major attraction like this if you would like to make a day of it. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a swimming spot.
However, there is so much more to Springbrook National Park than just the Natural Bridge. Part of the World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforests along the New South Wales and Queensland border, these forests pre-date the dinosaurs.
There is a number of walking/hiking trails and other fantastic wonders to discover in the area, particularly endangered wildlife local to only this area. If that grabs your attention, there is plenty to explore within the Springbrook National Park.
Tamborine National Park/Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk
Sticking with the getting out in nature theme for a second, at the northern end of the Gold Coast is Tamborine National Park.
An expansion on the oldest national park in Queensland, Tamborine National Park was first declared back in 1908 and offers another great option away from the beaches to get outside and stretch your legs.
The park features a number of trails, lookouts and picnic areas, but what it is best known for are Witches Falls and Curtis Falls.
That said, the best way to get a proper understanding of the rainforest that makes up much of the Tamborine National Park is to visit the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
Advertised as an eco-adventure, the Skywalk not only allows you to get up into the rainforests canopy but also features an “Eco-Gallery” with a couple of enclosures to allow you can see some of the harder-to-spot wildlife that calls the rainforest home without forcing you to be overly adventurous.
I don’t even know where to begin to try and explain what Infinity is.
Part maze, part sensory experience… Infinity can only be described as a funhouse-style attraction from a carnival, but it uses a combination of illusions, special effects, mirrors and music to immerse you in this unique, dare I say, trippy experience.
The only thing I can say with any certainty is that you have to experience it for yourself. Then you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey.
Out of intrigue alone, it’s well worth a visit, and I’m sure the kids will love it too if you’re travelling as a family.
If you are looking for an indoor activity in Surfers Paradise, this one is for you. Infinity is located in the Chevron Renaissance Shopping Center, not far from the Surfers Paradise tram station.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a little bit different from the other wildlife experiences you will find on the Gold Coast and around Australia, for that matter.
The park in Currumbin is actually heritage-listed, having been originally built in 1947. Back then, the park was primarily a bird sanctuary, but over the years, it has diversified and is home to a wide array of animals.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is probably best known for its twice-a-day lorikeet feeding, which you don’t even need to buy a ticket to witness. Each day at 8am and 4pm the 70-year tradition sees huge flocks of wild lorikeet descend on the park for the feeding experience out the front.
Inside the park, you’ll be able to see a number of local species, including a Saltwater Crocodile, Tasmanian Devils, Dingos, Kangaroos, Cassowaries and Koalas just to name a few. At the same time, there are some notable international inclusions, including Red Pandas, Binturong and Tamarin Monkeys.
The star of the show is, however, the newish Birds of Lost Valley sanctuary, with a huge variety of free-flying birds from around the world.
Just don’t let the size of the park as it appears from the road deceive you. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is much, much bigger than it looks from the road. The design is actually quite clever, and you wouldn’t pick it unless you’ve been there before.
iFLY Gold Coast
Ever wanted to try skydiving, but the thought of jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane seems like a silly idea? iFly might be the alternative you are looking for.
iFly isn’t unique to the Gold Coast; in fact, they have locations in a couple of cities around Australia, but it is the sort of thing you don’t tend to do unless you are on holiday, and that is why it’s on this list.
Located just a short walk from the heart of Surfers Paradise, the iFly on the Gold Coast is extremely convenient, with a range of experiences to cater to all ages and sky diving experience levels.
Obviously, if you’ve done it before, you will know what to expect, but they also cater to first-timers. If you aren’t quite sure what you might be signing up for, you can watch someone else from the observation deck before committing to it yourself, which I highly recommend, even if you don’t plan on doing it yourself.
King Tutts Putt Putt
To be fair, there are many Putt Putt/Mini Golf options around the Gold Coast, but King Tutt’s Putt Putt is one of the bigger options, with three separately themed 18-hole courses to choose from.
Located at the northern end of Surfers Paradise, King Tutt’s is reasonably priced and offers an Egyptian-themed course, Jurrasic Park, as well as the one outside, which is the most difficult. If you are super keen, you can play all three in one day!
Travelling with friends, as a family or even with work colleagues, it’s a good way to have some light-hearted fun while on the Gold Coast.
If you just can’t get enough Putt Putt, you’ve got an abundance of options right across the region. I would also suggest taking a look at Holey Moley Surfers Paradise, Putt Putt Golf Mermaid Beach and Boulders and Badlands. They each offer their own unique experience that caters to different age groups.
Quack’R’Duck Gold Coast
If you’ve never been to the Gold Coast before, or at least it’s been a long time since your last visit, then Quack’R’Duck is a great way to get an overview and insight into the key attractions with a city tour and river cruise.
As with all these amphibious style tours, the main attraction is getting out on the waterways, in this case, the Gold Coast Broadwater and Nerang River, where you’ll see the true variety of the Gold Coast. But the “city tour” is also a great way to get your bearings.
It’s also worth noting that Aquaduck (an entirely separate company) offers a very similar service and tour. And they are priced very similarly as well.
Inspired by your trip to Movie World to take up a career in movies? Maybe you are just an avid fan of those Ninja Warrior-style TV shows.
For something very different, Stunt Park allows you to live out your stuntperson dreams with a variety of experiences.
Located in Nerang, Stunt Park allows you to sample the limelight as the leading character in your own action film as one of a number of experiences that they offer, from a ninja obstacle course all the way through to proper stunt training so you can take up a role as a stunt double in the movies!
It’s probably better as a group activity, and they do cater for hens and buck parties, but they have activities catered to all age groups.
Slideways Go Karting World
Yes, there are a lot of go-karting options on the Gold Coast; in fact, there are many options all over Australia.
But what makes Slideways stand out is where other karting tracks frown upon you sliding the karts around and bouncing off the walls. They’ve purposely set up the track to encourage you to slide.
The track surface has been designed to encourage drifting so you can slide your way around the multi-story track, just as the name implies.
Definitely a group activity, but so much fun. While they do have two tracks on the Gold Coast, the indoor facility at Nerang is best.
If you are looking for a little more conventional karting experience, Game Over is another option.
Save Money On Queensland Attractions
With so much to see and do, not only in Brisbane but in Queensland as a whole, the admission to all these attractions can really add up. A great way to save money is to make sure you take advantage of the bundle ticket offers.
Personally, I use the Queensland Klook Pass if I’m planning on visiting a few things while I’m in the state, but you can also find good deals on individual attractions as well.
For more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia, check out the rest of my posts from around the country.
And if you have a travel-related question, you would like me to answer, head on over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.