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Our Guide To The Best Parties & Events To Hit During The Commonwealth Games

By Brooke Darling - 29 Mar 2018

things to do on the gold coast during commonweath games

With 6,000-plus athletes and team officials, along with thousands of additional media and visiting spectators descending on the Coast for the Commonwealth Games, the event we’ve been hearing and reading about for years is FINALLY HERE. 

From pop-up nation houses to free music concerts, cultural arts events, impromptu street parties and elite-level competition; the electrifying atmosphere, flag-waving patriotism and downright 12-day party the Gold Coast is about to experience will induce goose bumps and is something we’re unlikely to experience again in our lifetime.

To ensure you don’t miss a beat, we’ve done the hard yards and pulled together a concise list of epic things to do on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games. Now, get planning! 

Don’t-Miss Festivities—Parties, Arts, Music, Food & More 

Festival 2018 

So you know something seriously big is brewing, but we don’t think you’re prepared for the magnitude of the high jinx about to envelope this surf city. While the Commonwealth Games is all about celebrating ridiculously talented athletes at the pinnacle of their careers, it’s also about putting a spotlight on the arts and culture that is the beating heart of our creative community. Festival 2018 promises to be 12 action-packed days of performances, theatre, film, music, art installations and indigenous culture, certain to deliver party vibes throughout the city, away from the key sporting venues. With Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise the main focal areas, plan your time around free musical performances by Yothu Yindi and The Cat Empire, the famed Arboria inflatable maze at Kurruwa Park, art installations from the Impulse musical seesaws and floating mega sea urchins. You won’t go too far without stumbling over something that’ll make your heart smile. 

Highlights: 

  • Free main stage music concerts at Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach (nightly from 7pm to 11pm)  
  • Arboria pop-up maze exhibit 
  • Various interactive art installations from Impulse musical seesaws to massive floating sea urchins
  • Giant sing-along—with a field of microphones on Surfers Paradise beach
  • For more information, click here 

Bleach* Festival 

Bleach* Festival is adding a dazzling creative dimension to April’s sports-driven Commonwealth Games alongside the broader GC2018 arts and culture program, Festival 2018. With over 140 arts and cultural events popping up across the Coast—including various international and Australian premieres, majority of which are free—this year's Bleach* is set to go down in the history books. Key activation sites from Coolangatta to Currumbin, Burleigh, Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise, Mudgeeraba, Helensvale and everywhere in between, will ensure April's festivities are accessible to both visitors and residents across the city. We suggest you pour yourself a wine, peruse the mind-bogglingly packed schedule here, start highlighting your faves and making a plan of attack for Thursday 29 March to Sunday 15 April. 

Highlights:

Pop-Up Festival & Themed Parties At The Star Gold Coast

As the official major partner of the Commonwealth Games, The Star Gold Coast is shaping up to be the hottest destination in town (as if they weren’t already). With more happening then we have space to mention here, the stand out attraction will see Garden Kitchen & Bar’s lawn transformed into a sprawling pop-up festival dubbed The Arena. Come relish in the atmosphere when the Opening Ceremony is broadcast on the big screens, with regular appearances from medal-winning athletes, rotating musos and DJ sets, endless telecasts of the sports action on the big screens (both in The Arena and Sports Bar), games, pop-up bars and the odd fireworks display. Add to that, crazy fun themed nights including Best of British (Saturday 7 April), The Great Aussie BBQ (Sunday 8 April) and a Caribbean Celebration (Tuesday 10 April). Yep, it’ll be non-stop action at The Star, and you don’t wanna miss this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle right here on your home turf.  

Highlights:

  • Themed nights: Best of British, The Great Aussie BBQ, Caribbean Celebration + more
  • Regular appearances from medal-winning athletes
  • Opening and Closing ceremony telecasts + continuous sports competitions on the big screen
  • For more information, click here 

Free Live Music Events Galore

As part of both Bleach* and Festival 2018, there are a tonne of free live music performances happening across the Coast, with the most action happening on Broadbeach’s Surf Parade and Surfers Paradise’s beachfront esplanade, where mega stages will be set up for the duration of the festival. In Broadbeach, the Queensland Music Stage will fill the streets with sounds from some of the state’s best and emerging musicians—including our very own prodigy Amy Shark (Wednesday 4 April). While in Surfers Paradise, plan your week around live gigs by Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project, The Cat Empire and Hot Dub Time Machine.

NightQuarter Festival 

Northerners and those with easy access to the new extended light rail would be crazy not to take advantage of the buzzing 10-day long food, music and indigenous culture festival happening at NightQuarter. With NightQuarter situated in close proximity to many official venues and the athlete’s village, it was a no brainer to pump up the volume and keep the party rolling throughout. We’ve been tempted with teasers including a Kupmurri bush tucker food experience, native cooking demos plus weaving and dance activations in the Jimbelung Space Indigenous area. In addition, anticipate long lunches, gardening workshops, botanical mixologist and cheese maker masterclasses, and a ridic live music line up in the Paddock—all wrapped up in NightQuarter’s signature carnival atmosphere. For a full round up of what’s happening from Thursday 5 to Saturday 14 April (noon to 9pm), hit the website here. We reckon this will be one of the best things to do on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games, fo’ sure! 

Watch The Opening Ceremony—For Free!

We get it, we don’t have a spare $300+ bucks lying around for a ticket either, which is why we were stoked to learn Gold Coasters and visitors are being welcomed inside for a sneak peek during the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsals! This Easter weekend (Saturday 31 March and Monday 2 April; gates open 5pm) you can attend the final rehearsals—for FREE! Read more here. It goes without saying though, no cameras or social media sharing is allowed! #dontruinthesurprise

Nation Houses

If you’re looking for one of the most unique things to do on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games, it would have to be spending a few hours sinking brews and waving another flag at one of the pop-up nation houses. Most of the larger teams will have a dedicated home base where you can visit, mingle with the athletes and their visiting supporters and generally immerse yourself in the incredible patriotism the Games brings. While we’re still gathering details (check back again soon), here are the first few nation houses we’ve caught wind of…

Jamaica House | Bringing the island reggae vibes together under one roof, Team Jamaica is taking over Helm Bistro on the Nerang River. The public is welcome daily, with international award-winning chef Karl Thomas flown in specifically to whip up traditional Caribbean foods. Red Stripe and Appletons is also on board, meaning flowing Jamaican beer and rum cocktails to amplify what will no doubt be one of the most happening places to be on the Coast. Don’t miss the opening and closing parties on Tuesday 3 and Friday 13 April respectively. 

Canada House | With more than half of the bar’s staff hailing from the Great North, it makes perfect sense that the friendly Canuks have adopted Surfer Paradise’s House of Brews for their home base. Dress in red and white, come mingle with the athletes, knock back caesars and poutine and add “eh?” to the end of every sentence. 

ANZ New Zealand House | Word has it the Kiwis are taking over QT Gold Coast for the duration of the Games, with festivities centered in the buzzing Stingray Lounge. Open daily throughout the Games from 11am ‘til 1am, with free entertainment delivered by an all-Kiwi musical line up on various nights, we expect all the Gold Coast-based cuzzy bros to make an appearance at this one!

Wales House | After a long winter, the Welsh are getting a dose of sun and beach life with their home base at the the fandangle new Kurrawa SLSC. While we’ve not received confirmation if us regular plebs are welcome to join them in their celebrations, if you wanna spot a Welsh athlete outside of the sporting events, it might be worth stalking around here…  

Australia House | Details coming soon…

Great Britain House | Details coming soon… 

Detour Street Art Festival At Robina Town Centre

Imagine letting 12 of Australia’s best street artists loose to create whatever the f they want? Well, friends, that's exactly what’s going down at Robina Town Centre this April. DETOUR Street Art Festival is a walk-through interactive art installation that will take place over an epic (and v aesthetic) two weeks (Tuesday 3 to Sunday 15 April). The visual arts spectacle will showcase the best of the Gold Coast’s street art scene with 12 vivid street-art masterpieces sprinkled throughout the shopping center. Think: local artists creating masterpieces live right before your eyes, like John Kaye, Kiel Tillman, Mike Shankster and Luke Day (to name a few) plus international street art legend, Sofles. Reward all that hard work soaking up the arts with a trip to The Live Lawn for a fun pop-up bar that will be pumping from 10am daily, including performances from some of the Gold Coast’s most talented entertainers. 

Other Interesting Snippets 

Currumbin’s Balter HQ will be opening the brewery barn door and letting the taps flow throughout the duration of the Games. Open every afternoon from Wednesday 4 to Sunday 15 April (times vary), which means those weekend hospitality warriors can enjoy mid-week frothy pots direct from the source. Cheers to that! 

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is transforming their leafy deck into the Village Green Beer Garden for the Games (Wednesday 4 to Sunday 15 April), with live telecasts of the sports events, free entertainment, brews from Burleigh Brewing and games for the ankle biters.

Sydney’s famed Down N’ Out burgers are descending on the Coast for a 10-day stint in a pop-up location opposite Broadbeach’s main stage. Available from Thursday 5 to Sunday 15 April, grab a front row seat to the free concerts and wrap your lips around juicy burgs that have been likened to America’s crazy popular In-N-Out franchise. 

Check back for more parties and events to be added as they’re announced…  

Sporting Events

Let’s be honest, when it all boils down to it, the Commonwealth Games is alllll about the world-class sporting competition. Never again will we be graced with such staggering athletic talent gathered together on our home soil. Don’t let the Games pass you by without experiencing the electric atmosphere surrounding at least one sporting event. With events stretching the full length of the Coast, even if you can’t spare a cent on a ticket, there are several free-to-watch competitions happening between Runaway Bay and Currumbin. So there goes that excuse. 

Free-To-Watch Sporting Events 

The aerial vision of this gorgeous coastal town that’s soon to be broadcast across the globe is literally worth billions in a publicity sense #prayforsunshine. You can be street-side to the action as the Commonwealth’s sporting best run, cycle and power walk through some of our most visually iconic suburbs. And best of all, it will cost you nada! From the marathon event that passes along the Broadwater, Runaway Bay, Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Mermaid’s million dollar mile Hedges Avenue and right through to Burleigh (and return) on Sunday 15 April. Or perhaps the road cycling that touches our leafy backyard paradise of the Currumbin Valley and Currumbin Alley on Tuesday 10 and Saturday 14 April, to the walking (also in Currumbin) and triathlon happening around the Southport Broadwater on Thursday 5 April and Saturday 7 April. If you live within easy access of the coast, you’ve got no excuse not to wander down (or catch the bus or G:Link) and cheer on the athletes from every nation, with years of dedicated training and human grit on show at this pinnacle level of competition. For more details on all the free sporting events, click here and go to ‘The Sport’. 

Ticketed Sporting Events

Weren’t organised enough last year, or perhaps you’re only now realising the honour of being the host city of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and wanna get in on the action? Good news! There are still plenty of tickets available to various events. Hit the website here and take your pick of sports from athletics and rhythmic gymnastics to rugby sevens, track cycling, shooting, badminton and (if you’ve got some cash to splash) the opening and closing ceremonies. Don’t let the Games pass you by without attending at least one sporting event IRL. You’ll regret it forever, trust us.  

With so many things to do on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games, you’re bound to work up a healthy appetite. We’ve got you covered with some of our faves places to eat, drinks and be merry below:  

Image credit: Destination Gold Coast

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