Damn we’re blessed to call the Sunshine State home. Amiright?
Whenever we have a whimsical long weekend at our disposal, one of our fave spots to escape, that’s still in easy driving distance, is the glittery Gold Coast. Trust us when we say, the “other coast” has certainly found its cool these past few years.
So, if you’re headed south, let this be your bible of 27 epic things to do on the Gold Coast, brought to you by a local in the know. You’re welcome!
1. Throw on the joggers, or your sturdiest pluggas and whisk your butt up to the northern end-accessed 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. The Gold Coast is no sleeping duck, with a craft beer scene that’s exploded in 2016. 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 are your best bet if you’re eager to hit all three. #handsupnotdriving
3. Want to hit up the most breathtaking beach-ey 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.
4. This leads us to the next stop on our epic list of things to do on the Gold Coast. 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 Tumgum 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 steal blue. This is the hour you and your roadtrippin’ buddy 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 its 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 it isn’t the next Sydney or Brisbane, but the Gold Coast 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, burgers with ‘tude at Ze Pickle, or authentic home-grown Italian at Gemelli.
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, or UNIQLO doesn’t get you grinning from ear to ear, nothing will.
11. Any sandy strip on the GC will impress a non-beach dwelling visitor. But head 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 testing out your SUP skillz.
12. 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, and 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 Rock Pools. 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 you eat nothing else, make sure it’s breakfast. With a warm and fuzzy café culture defining our fair city, here’s a few of our faves that’ll show you what GC is made of: BSKT, Café D’Bar, Espresso Moto, Commune, Bam Bam Bakehouse, Canteen Kitchen, Bumbles, Elk Espresso, Paddock Bakery, and Burleigh Social, or any from this list of the best breakfasts on the Gold Coast.
15. 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. Here’s our handy little guide to the best of Byron Bay.
16. Trusty ol’ Jups Casino is making a resurgence of epic proportions and is soon to join the calibre of The Star family. Get a taste of what’s to come at Jupiters, 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. 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. Gold Coasters are blessed 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 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. Roof top bars? Hell, we need more of these in our life, please hospitality gods. 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 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, head to 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 or newbie Gemellini, a night cap at Cambus Wallace, or Bine if brews are more their thang.
22. No trip to the Gold Coast 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 socks clean off. Chicken parmy, anyone?
23. Maybe gettin’ swanky is more your style? You’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 Gold Coast itinerary. Sure, it’s already got a helluva lot of high rises, but the GC can also claim it’s home to the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (thanks to that cheeky spire). Test your 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 its 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: Weiner Haus, Zicatela, Fiery Deli, Burgers by Junior, and JR’s Smokehouse.
26. Time a visit to Coolangatta for dessert under the Norfolk pines, where you can witness the hilarity of the screaming lorikeets on dusk. We can’t go past Gelato Messina or (coming soon) Mister Fitz. 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? Head 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 Elston, Clifford’s Grill, BarItalia, burgers at Bettys or Longboards, get boozey on craft beer at House of Brews or Surfers Sandbar, or par-tay at QT’s Stingray Bar.
Image Credit: Hayley Williamson and Brooke Darling