So, you’ve got guests rollin’ into town?
Be it your long-lost travel buddy from a 2010 Euro trip, your rellies flying in from OS or interstate, or your fave massive-inheritance-coming-your-way Aunt May.
You want to prove to them the Gold Coast is so much more than theme parks and high rises that’s marketed the world over? We hear ya! Sure Surfers Paradise is what made us famous for fun, but we’re so much more than wax museums, arcade games, Aquaduck safaris, booze-fuelled nightlife, and Metremaids.
Let this be your bible of 27 epic things to do on the Gold Coast with out of towners, which just might see your guests packing their bags and making a permanent sea change.
1. Throw on your sneakers or sturdiest thongs, and whisk your friends up to the northern end of Springbrook National Park. The view is damn spectacular from the top, but the two-hour round trip hike to the base of 100-metre high Purling Brook Falls is amaze-balls. Rained recently? Jackpot.
2. Show your once-upon-a-time drinking buddy that your place of residence is no sleeping duck, with a craft beer scene that exploded in recent years. Plan an afternoon of brewery hopping starting at neighbourhood watering hole Black Hops, stellar brewing veteran Burleigh Brewing, and ending with a chance sighting of Mick Fanning or Parko at cool-as-hell Balter Brewing. Fridays and Sundays are your best bet if you’re eager to hit all three. #handsupnotdriving
3. Want to impress with the most breathtaking beach-y precinct on the Coast? Our pick would be a splash in the shallows of Rainbow Bay, with a front row seat to the wave-slaying action of world-famous point break, Snapper Rocks. With one sweeping arm across the coastline, from here you can validate there’s soooo much more to the Gold Coast than that cluster of high rise in the hazy distance.
4. This leads us to the next stop on our list of fave things to do on the Gold Coast with out of towners. Snag one of the best seats in the house for beers and a pub meal at the characterful Rainbow Bay Surf Club. Knock back the cheapest pot of Balter in town, with views over the same surf break where the legendary shark-punching world champ, and his mates, got their water wings.
5. Dive head first into GC’s adored coastal nature reserve with a stroll around Burleigh Headland, not forgetting an uphill hike to Tumgun Lookout to admire magnificent Palm Beach in all her glory.
6. Magic hour—that wedge of time when the sun dips, the sky melts into pinks and purples, and the ocean surface radiates steel blue. This is the hour you and your guests want to be seated at one of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast with water views, Rick Shores.
7. Nothing exemplifies the Coast’s bohemian slash surf culture and the creativity of our talented populace than a Sunday morning stroll around Burleigh’s beloved The Village Markets (8:30am to 1pm, first and third Sunday of the month).
8. So we ain’t the next Sydney or Brisbane (and we’re certainly not trying to be!), but our humble home has gained its fair share of funky foodie hotspots in recent years. Our pick of neighbourhood gems that guarantee a fun night for all involved? Atmosphere-plus at Etsu, stuff-yourself Mexican banquet at Bonita Bonita, American nosh done right at Tribeca NYC or Lester and Earl, burgers with ‘tude at Ze Pickle or Eddie’s Grub House, authentic home-grown Italian at Gemelli, Palm Beach breezes at 8th Ave. Terrace and The Collective or sunsets at Baskk.
9. Bike ride along the glorious foreshore from Burleigh to Surfers Paradise, or north to Southport if you want buns of steal. Stop off at every other neighbourhood along the way for coffees, cronuts, or beers (you didn’t hear the last one from us). Oh yeah, and if you can swing it, probably best you plan the return trip so you’re riding downwind.
10. Shop-a-holics in your party? If a day smashing the credit card at Pacific Fair, with massive international brand names including H&M, Sephora, Zara, or UNIQLO doesn’t impress ‘em, nothing will. Or if food is a high priority, you’ll be spoilt for choice at The Kitchens at Robina Town Centre
11. Any sandy strip on the GC will impress a non-beach dwelling visitor. Take ‘em straight to the local faves, Tallebudgera Creek and Currumbin Creek for a dip without fear of being tumble-rolled in the breakers. Better yet, do your dandiest to look coordinated while showing ‘em what’s up on a SUP.
12. Out of towners itching for a taste of the glitter strip? Your safest bet is Broadbeach. Spoilt for choice these days, we’d start a foodie crawl with espresso martinis at Social Eating House, followed closely by Asian fusion tapas at Mamasan, dessert at Bin 89, stiff whiskies at The Loose Moose, or pineapple-infused shenanigans at laneway pop-up, Aloha. Still got energy to burn? Okay, Uber your way to Elsewhere for some Saturday Night Fever-style D-floor action.
13. Get wet at Currumbin Valley’s Cougal Cascades. This little slice of paradise is hidden among some lush SE QLD greenery and is the perfect place to chill out and swim without being attacked by a vicious wave.
14. If they eat nothing else, make sure it’s breakfast. With a warm and fuzzy cafe culture defining our fair city, here’s a few of our faves that are sure to show ‘em what GC is made of: BSKT, Cafe D’Bar, Espresso Moto, Commune, Bam Bam Bakehouse, Canteen Kitchen, Parlour Coffee, Elk Espresso, Paddock Bakery and Burleigh Social, or any from this list of the best breakfasts on the Gold Coast.
15. While travelling to Brisbane feels a mission with guests, we like to think of Byron Bay as an adopted extension of the Tweed. Backpackers the world over flock to this once-hippie-now-too-cool-for-school enclave. So you know your guests are gonna want to visit too! Here’s our handy little guide to the best of Byron Bay.
16. Trusty ol’ Jups Casino is made a resurgence of epic proportions, recently joining The Star family. Show your visitors a taste of what’s to come, with cocktails under the palm trees of Garden Kitchen and Bar. Got cash to burn? Kiyomi’s next-level Japanese offerings make us weak at the knees.
17. Burleigh Hill is the greatest picnic spot on the Gold Coast and our absolute weekend arvo go-to when guests are in town. Unless you hate crowds and looking for a place to park, in which case it could be the worst. But, for most of us, the sweeping views from Burleigh Hill up to the big smoke and the “always Sunday” mood make it well worth it.
18. How many times have you stopped to ponder how bloody blessed we are to live on the edge of 50+ kilometres of jaw-dropping beaches and, just 30-minutes inland, towering ranges bursting with ancient rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife? Life is good, eh? Consider this your host’s guide to exploring Mount Tamborine and the surrounding hinterland. You’re welcome.
19. Heading to Burleigh? Pizza and bevvies at Justin Lane Establishment is just one of those things you gotta do to impress your out-of-town friends. This is where the beautiful people go for Sunday cocktails in the sunshine.
20. We love the electricity in the air at Gold Coast’s energetic night markets, Miami Marketta and Helensvale’s NightQuarter. Held every Friday and Saturday, it makes for a cheap crowd-pleaser evening out, where everyone can choose what country to dine in for the night (Souvlaki? Sushi? Saganaki? No problem!); the entertainment comes for free.
21. Proof the GC can also do hip neighbourhood dining nooks with panache, take your mates for an evening flitting around Nobby Beach. Our itinerary would start with drool-worthy cocktails and a share plate or three at Sparrow Eating House; dins at GC institution Hellenika, Gemellini or Fire Cue; a night cap at The Cambus Wallace; or Bine if brews are more their thang.
22. No trip to the Sunshine State is complete without sinking a few frosty pots at a surf club. If you’ve already hit up Rainbow Bay SLSC, the views from Currumbin Vikings or Palm Beach SLSC will knock your guests socks clean off. Chicken parmy, anyone?
23. Maybe gettin’ swanky is more your guest’s style? They’re going to loooove the dreamy views from Marina Mirage’s waterside dining haunts of Glass or Scandinavian luxe newcomer, Pier. Heading south? We’ve got three words: The Fish House.
24. Okay, so this is the only cliché tourist activity to creep onto our host-with-the-most itinerary. We’re already home to a helluva lot of high rises, so it’s pretty cool to claim we’ve got the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere (thanks to that cheeky spire). Test your mate’s fear of heights 77 floors up at Q1 Hotel’s SkyPoint observation deck. Selfies essential.
25. When it comes to food trucks, Gold Coast’s obsession can squarely compete with our capital city cousins. There seems to be a food truck round-up somewhere most weekends, or hunt down some of our faves wherever they hang out: The Weiner Haus, Zicatela, Ze Qickle, Fiery Deli, Barraca and JR’s Smokehouse.
26. Time a visit to Coolangatta for dessert under the Norfolk pines, where your friends can witness the hilarity of the screaming lorikeets on dusk. We can’t go past Gelato Messina. Mother Nature’s sideshow? The best things in life are free.
27. So, you’ve got a trip into Surfers Paradise on the cards to experience the hype? Guide ‘em straight to the best. Our hot tips? Hit up The 4217 complex for brunch at Paradox, and dinner at Salt Meats Cheese or Brooklyn Depot. Otherwise bee-line for The Island Rooftop, Elston, Clifford’s Grill, BarItalia, burgers at Bettys or Longboards, get boozey on craft beer at House of Brews or Sandbar, or par-tay at QT’s Stingray Lounge.
Phew! So, have they left yet? Looking for more things to do on the Gold Coast with out of towners? Test their drinking legs with 28 of the best bars around.
Image credit: Brooke Darling for The Urban List