Gold Coast, Queensland – The Ultimate Guide

From the tacky to the tranquil, the Gold Coast in Queensland’s southeast has guaranteed to have something for everyone.

A tourism mecca since the 1960s for its stunning beaches, the Gold Coast has grown to become the ultimate go-to local holiday destination for Australians.

From the bustling nightlife of Surfers Paradise and world-class theme parks to the more peaceful, laid-back surroundings of Burleigh Heads, the Gold Coast has everything covered no matter how you like to holiday.

Best Time Of Year To Visit The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast enjoys a subtropical climate, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine throughout the year, making it a popular destination for visitors at any time. However, there are some slight differences in weather and crowds that may make certain times of year better.

The peak travel season on the Gold Coast is from December to February, during the traditional summer holiday period in Australia. The weather is hot and humid during this time, and the beaches and attractions can get quite crowded.

March to May and September to November are considered the shoulder seasons on the Gold Coast and can be great times to visit for those looking to avoid the larger crowds. Just keep in mind that this is also often when major events are held on the Gold Coast, like Schoolies (end-of-school celebrations) and the Gold Coast 500 (Supercars race). So just watch out for those dates.

June to August is the low season on the Gold Coast, as it is winter in Australia. However, the weather is still mild, and there are often fewer crowds and lower prices.

The Best Things To Do On The Gold Coast

Surfers Paradise Beach - Gold Coast

Being the popular tourist destination that it is, the Gold Coast has hundreds of attractions to choose from. So what you do when you get there will ultimately come down to the type of experience that you are looking for.

That said, I’ve put together my best suggestions of attractions and activities that you absolutely shouldn’t miss on your trip to the Gold Coast in this post. So make sure you also check out that post so you make the most of all that the Gold Coast has to offer.

Best Places To Stay On The Gold Coast

Where To Stay On The Gold Coast

Being such a popular tourist destination, the Gold Coast is chock full of accommodation options.

Your only real concerns will be how much you are looking to spend, what sort of experience you are looking for, and how centrally located you would like to be.

That said, in my experience, not all accommodation options are equal. If you know what you are looking for, you can spend exactly the same amount of money on a much nicer, better-located accommodation option as something that is older and just far enough away from things to be inconvenient.

I’ve picked out a couple of my suggestions, with a few extra tidbits, that will help you choose the right accommodation for your stay on the Gold Coast.

Surfers Paradise

If you are looking for the full Gold Coast experience, then you have to stay in Surfers Paradise.

It’s the go-to for most first-time visitors and extremely popular for those looking to make the most of everything the region has to offer.

You will find a vast array of accommodation types around Surfers Paradise, but holiday apartments are definitely the most popular option.

If you want to stay right in the heart of the action, then I would suggest Mantra Towers of Chevron, Hilton Surfers Paradise or Circle on Cavil. Either on or just off Carvill Avenue, all three of these accommodation options are ideal for those who are looking to enjoy all that the Gold Coast has to offer, especially their nights out in Surfers.

For a little bit of a quieter option, while still within a comfortable walking distance from Carvill Avenue, I would recommend either Rhapsody Resort or Q1 Resort & Spa. Both are very modern buildings with a variety of room/apartment options. But the best part is the views that these two buildings offer as some of the tallest on the Gold Coast.

However, if you are looking for something a bit cheaper, don’t stress. Surfers Paradise has plenty of options for those who are a little more budget-conscious (those theme park tickets are expensive, after all!).

If you are travelling as a couple or family, then I would suggest The Shore Apartments for the views and convenience while not being overly expensive.

While if you don’t mind roughing it in a dorm, Backpackers In Paradise Resort is the best backpacker of the hostel options.

Broadbeach

If you are looking for a quieter Gold Coast experience but still with all the convenience of being able to walk to restaurants and the beach, Broadbeach is a great alternative to Surfers Paradise.

Broadbeach is effectively the southern end of Surfers Paradise, with the two suburbs all but interlinked. But staying in Broadbeach does allow you to enjoy all that Surfers has to offer and then take a short tram trip (or even just walk) to somewhere a little bit quieter with its own shopping centres, restaurants (see below) and a more relaxed atmosphere.

That said, the range of options in Broadbeach is quite limited, with mostly short-stay apartment buildings.

I recommend booking to stay in one of the newer buildings. I don’t know why, but all apartments seem to go for very similar prices, but obviously, the newer buildings have more modern features than the older ones.

I’d suggest you look at The Wave Resort or Peppers Broadbeach as your key options in Broadbeach. All have great food options within a couple of hundred meters from their reception areas, and the tram stop is a short stroll away – all very, very good options.

Broadbeach is also home to the newest and most extravagant option on the Gold Coast, with the recently opened The Langham. Right on the beach between Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise, this new offering is the most deluxe stay you can have on the Gold Coast at the time of writing this post (May 2023).

Burleigh Heads/Currumbin

Down on the southern end of the Gold Coast, both Burleigh Heads and Currumbin and their surrounding suburbs are great options for a much quieter and more relaxed experience.

If your main reason for visiting the Gold Coast is to catch some waves, relax and maybe enjoy some local cafes, either Burleigh Heads or Currumbin are good places to stay.

Again it’s mostly apartment-style accommodation, but they do have a bit more variety for families. And being away from the heart of the action, they are often cheaper alternatives as well.

If beach views are important to you, I would suggest The Rocks Resort at Currumbin or Gemini Court Holiday Apartments at Burleigh.

Alternatively, The Village at Burleigh is a bit of a cheaper option, a short walk from the beach.

Just keep in mind that the tram system doesn’t stretch this far south yet, so having your own transport is going to be important if you want to explore the rest of what the Gold Coast has to offer.

Southport Spit

Up until the completion of The Langham, if you are looking for the ultimate luxury experience for your Gold Coast stay, you had to look at the Southport Spit.

Nestled between the Broadwater and the beach, the Southport Spit is some of the Gold Coast’s prime real estate and where you will find some of the luxurious resort options that the Gold Coast has to offer.

The Palazzo Versace has been the pinnacle of resorts on the Gold Coast for a long time, with the most premium experience available. However, this resort is set to undergo a major rebrand in 2023, with the fashion brand separating itself from the resort.

The Sheraton Grand Mirage is another five-star resort offering a premium experience with its own restaurants and bars. But it doesn’t quite have the grandeur of The Langham or Palazzo Versace.

Something else unique to Southport is the Sea World Resort. Attached to the iconic theme park, the resort is more suited towards families with its own waterpark and restaurants. If you stay at Sea World Resort, you can take advantage of the exclusive entrance to the park (tickets to the park can be packaged in with your accommodation booking), which does open earlier than the main entrance as well.

Alternatives

I’ve obviously catered for the above suggestions for longer stays on the Gold Coast, so I’ve picked out places I’ve stayed that are both comfortable and convenient. That said, there are so many options for places to stay.

Here are a couple more interesting options to keep in mind while planning your trip to the Gold Coast

If you are looking for just a cheaper stay on the Gold Coast, these options:

  • Nightcap at Hinterland Hotel Nerang – The best of the cheaper options with its own restaurant and bar for a quick overnight stay.
  • Coomera Motor Inn – Oppersite Dreamworld, its proximity to the motorway makes it ideal for a quick, cheap overnight stay.
  • Quest Robina – A better option if you need a short couple of days stay in the region.

How To Get Around The Gold Coast

Getting around the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is a pretty big place, and if you really want to explore it properly, having your own car will make your life so much easier.

If you aren’t planning on driving up, then I’ve found that throughout Australia, Thrifty and Avis are the most convenient rental car options without any hidden fees. Both are represented at Gold Coast Airport as a couple of other locations around the Gold Coast.

That said, the public transport around the region will get you to most places you’d like to go, including the major theme parks.

In 2014 the local tram line, known as the G:link, was opened and currently operates between Broadbeach and Helensvale. Following the beach and the major road, the 20km route links a lot of the key tourist areas of the Gold Coast.

The Helensvale end on the G:link connects with the Gold Coast line of Queensland Rail’s train service. The line heads all the way to Brisbane Airport via the city.

Currently, the G:link ends at Broadbeach, right next to the Pacific Fair shopping centre. But an extension is underway that will see the tram continue all the way to Burleigh Heads. Although, it won’t be completed until 2024 at the earliest.

If you are staying in the main tourist areas of Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise or South Port, the G:link is a convenient, cheap and extremely reliable way to get between the main part of town, with a tram every few minutes during peak times.

Beyond the tram service, busses also operate around the Gold Coast.

Some key bus routes to look for are as follows:

  • Sea World: 705 (from Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise) or 704 (from Southport)
  • Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet ‘n’ Wild: TX7 (from Helensvale Station)
  • Gold Coast Airport: 700 or 777 (from Broadbeach)

Just note that you will need a Go card to travel on Queensland’s public transport system, but they can be easily purchased at train, and tram stops as well as most convenience stores around the Gold Coast.

For more information about the public transport options around the Gold Coast, head over to the Translink website for more detailed service information.

The Gold Coast is also well-serviced by taxis and ride-sharing services, including Uber, Lyft and DiDi.

Getting To and From Gold Coast Airport

Getting To and From Gold Coast Airport

The Gold Coast has its own international airport, so you won’t need to fly into Brisbane if you plan on visiting the Gold Coast exclusively.

Located down at Coolangatta, Gold Coast Airport is so close to the New South Wales border that the runway actually crosses over it.

Given that location, the Gold Coast Airport is also frequently used by travellers who are planning on visiting NSW towns, including Tweed Heads and Byron Bay, just on the other side of the border.

To give you a better idea of the distance, it’s about a 30-minute drive from the airport to Surfer Paradise, while if you are going to use the public transport options, it will take you at least an hour to cover the same distance.

As always, I do recommend renting a car to maximise what you can see and do on the Gold Coast while you are there. All the major rental car companies are represented at the airport, but I do tend to stick with Thrifty and Avis.

The easiest way to get to and from the airport (assuming you haven’t rented a car) is either a taxi or a ride-sharing service like Uber, Lyft or DiDi. To give you an idea of the cost, expect to pay somewhere between $35 and $80 depending on where you are staying on the Gold Coast. The further south (closer to the airport), the cheaper it will be.

In terms of cheaper public transport options, over the years, there has been talk that the Gold Coast’s tram service (G:link) will be linked up to the airport; however, at this stage, as mentioned above, the tram only travels as far south as Broadbeach.

You can link up with the G:link by catching either the #777 or the #700 bus service from the airport, which will take you all the way to Broadbeach, where you can link up with the tram.

The #777 bus operates out of the airport terminal with fewer stops, but if you are really eager to save money, the #700 operates from the main road just outside of the airport and is a fair bit cheaper.

Where To Find Food/What To Do In The Evenings?

What To Do In The Evenings on the Gold Coast

It can be said that the Gold Coast really comes alive after the sun sets.

The beaches, theme parks and other attractions are great for families, but after dark, the young adult crowd shows up, and the area kicks up a gear, especially around Surfer Paradise and, to a slightly lesser extent, Broadbeach.

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and so much more… The Gold Coast really has it all covered. That is probably why it’s such a popular destination for Schoolies (the end-of-high school party) and Bucks and Hens weekends.

Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is the go-to for most people looking to enjoy a night out with a number of restaurants and bars to get things started.

If you were to ask me for a couple of recommendations, I would suggest Costa D’oro Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria for a good wholesome Italian meal, White Rhino for your typical style pub grub meals and drinks, while Brazilian Flame Bar & Grill is a good option for something a bit different.

If you are looking to kick on beyond that, there is no shortage of options around Surfers Paradise. Two of the more popular nightclubs are Cocktails and Retros, but there is a myriad of options; just wander around (along Orchard Avenue in particular) until you find the vibe you are looking for.

Broadbeach

Broadbeach is another good option for a night out.

You will find more variety of sit-down restaurants and bars down in and around Broadbeach. A couple of my favourites include Miss Moneypenny’s for a proper gourmet experience; the Loose Moose Tap & Grill House is a more casual option, while along the Victoria Avenue mall, you will find some other really good options.

Just keep in mind that new restaurants and experiences are always opening up around the Gold Coast. It’s very easy to just walk around the Broadbeach or Surfers Paradise areas to see where you might find the vibe you are looking for.

So always worth going for a wander and exploring.

Dracula’s Cabaret Gold Coast

Dinner and a show… Dracula’s is a staple of the Gold Coast experience, having first opened in 1985.

The longest-running and most successful dinner theatre in Australia, Dacula’s throws together a little bit of everything for a memorable night out.

It all starts when you walk into the venue and then take the ghost train into the theatre – an experience in itself.

The included dinner is a semi-set three-course meal, but the highlight is the signature dessert. The drinks are also themed! While the performance is an entertaining mix of burlesque, comedy and horror (kind of). It’s a unique mix, you might have a fright, but you will certainly have a laugh.

Dracula’s is certainly not for all ages (15+, I believe, is what they suggest), but they do have a separate kids-centric experience at certain times of the year, which you might want to keep an eye out for.

Just note that Dracula’s does tend to book out in advance, so make sure you book your tickets early.

Miami Marketta

For something a bit different, check out Miami Marketta.

If street food is your thing, Miami Marketta is the best place to find it on the Gold Coast, and it is located between the main tourist areas of Broadbeach and Burleigh.

Open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, the market-style food stalls offer a huge variety of options to eat. While the atmosphere, especially the local music acts, makes the whole experience a fun night out.

Beyond The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is a big area, with plenty to keep you occupied, no matter how long you plan on visiting. However, there is also plenty to explore beyond the Gold Coast as well.

A quick day trip up to Brisbane is always an option.

About an hour up the motorway (depending on the traffic), the Queensland capital offers plenty, especially if you are looking to explore some museums or art galleries etc., things that aren’t as common on the Gold Coast.

Make sure you check out my comprehensive guide to Brisbane for more suggestions on things you can do there. Just make sure you don’t drive there (or back) during peak hours. The motorway is notorious for lengthy delays during typical peak travel times.

Also, given the Gold Coast’s proximity to the New South Wales/Queensland border, both Tweed Heads and Byron Bay are popular day trips as well.

Check out my guide for driving between Brisbane and Sydney for some suggestions on things to do in these NSW towns.

Early morning surf on the Gold Coast

If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.

Also, make sure you check out the travel tools I use most to help you save money when booking your next trip.

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About the author

Rhys Vandersyde

Traveller, Photographer, Content Creator - I've spent the last 20 years actively seeking out new destinations and new adventures. Find out more about me here: vandersyde.com.au

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