The Gold Coast in South-East Queensland is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations. Stretching some 42km along South-East Queensland’s sun-drenched coastline and out 100km or so from the coastline to the hinterland. It offers people of all ages whether single, in a couple, a group of friends or travelling as a family good food, great shopping, a lush hinterland, legendary theme parks, nightlife and golden beaches. If you are planning a trip to the Gold Coast and you are not sure what to see and do, follow this 8 day itinerary. Featuring handpicked experiences it will help you get the most out of your Gold Coast holiday.
When to visit the Gold Coast
Anytime is a good time to visit the Gold Coast. In my opinion however, there might be a few deciding factors as to when you actually go. School holidays is one factor. The climate is another. The Gold Coast is sub-tropical where it is warm year-round. Winter (June to August) offers beautiful clear days with cool nights. While summer (November to February) heat can be very hot and humid with tropical storms. Autumn and Spring can be very pleasant and also quieter. If you want to see the Humpback Whales migrating along the coast then aim to be on the Gold Coast between August to October. While in January there is the Magic Millions Horse Race. And finally, if you don’t want to party like there is no tomorrow you may wish to miss ‘Schoolies’. This occurs every year from mid-November to mid-December and is when the Gold Coast is inundated with school leavers.
Getting to the Gold Coast, your accommodation and around
Many people fly into the Gold Coast for their holiday. There is an airport at Coolangatta which is well serviced by local transport, particularly the Surfside Bus Network. So buses can get you to your accommodation and to travel around the area. Or there are taxis and pre-organised transfers.
Many people also drive to the Gold Coast. There are many routes you can drive. Here are two that may be of interest. Pacific Highway – Sydney to Brisbane or the New England Highway – Newcastle, NSW to Brisbane.
Where will you stay on the Gold Coast
Before you can choose accommodation you will need to know what area in the Gold Coast you would like to stay. The Gold Coast is renowned for its beaches and many choose where to stay by what the beach has to offer. Some are family friendly while others are great for surfing. And it is wise to choose a beach that might suit your lifestyle because you don’t want to be stuck in a party zone if you prefer family outings.
TIP: Beach Safety – Swim between the red and yellow flags.
Even though there are a number of beaches on the Gold Coast you could choose to stay at, for your first trip I would suggest one of these three beach suburbs: Coolangatta, Broadbeach or Surfers Paradise. Here’s why.
Coolangattais the southernmost suburb on the Gold Coast in Queensland. It borders New South Wales and is not only home to the airport but has north facing beaches offering sheltered conditions ideal for swimming. Not too far away is Snapper Rocks, great for surfing as is the world-class surf break of Duranbah. There are also many coffee shops, restaurants, shops and nightlife.
Accommodation in Coolangatta
Broadbeach is near Surfers Paradise and offers picturesque parks along the foreshore with many shelters, BBQs, picnic areas and children’s playgrounds. Good swimming and surfing also and home to a couple of casinos if you want to go out on the town each night. Also home to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. There you will find over 400 stores, some being iconic retail brands to small boutique stores. So if you love to shop, it will be handy to have Pacific Fair Shopping Centre nearby.
Accommodation in Broadbeach
Surfers Paradise is a tourist hot spot. It is known for its long sandy beach, 24 hour dining and nightlife. Shopping is plentiful along the famed Cavill Mall. It is also home to King Tutt’s Putt Putt where you will find people of all ages enjoying a game. Whether you want fun in the sun or a relaxing experience you can find it in Surfers Paradise.
Accommodation in Surfers Paradise
Hostels: Backpackers in Paradise
Apartments: Breakfree Beach Front Apartments
Holiday Resorts: Paradise Resort (has a kids club), SeaWorld Resort
Camping – Big4 Gold Coast Holiday Park, Commera – past Surfers near the theme parks.
8 Day Gold Coast Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive, Explore the Local Area, Dinner Australia Outback Experience
The first thing to do on your arrival on the Gold Coast is to check into your accommodation. Then quickly get those travel clothes off and your holiday clothes on and get ready to explore your immediate area. You may want to ensure you have a towel and sunscreen with you if you plan to hit the beach either for a swim or a surf. Or maybe walk around getting your bearings before popping into a local coffee shop for a pick me up.
As you will be pumped to be on the Gold Coast why not have your first evening out enjoying the Australia Outback Experience. Enjoy a 3-course BBQ dinner and a 90 minute show about the High Country and Outback. I won’t tell you all about it because I don’t want to spoil it. But be prepared for yelling, hooting, cheering and good food. It only operates a few nights a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights).
The Australia Outback Experience is located on Entertainment Rd, Oxenford. You can drive there yourself or catch a bus. To purchase a ticket to the Australia Outback Experience click on the link following.
Day 2: Sea World
Spend the day at Sea World a marine park. Be prepared to see shows involving seals, dolphins and penguins and you may even get up close and personal with them. And don’t forget the water skiing show. There are also rides to enjoy and plenty of other entertainment. It is a great day out. And you could follow the day up with a night out in a local restaurant.
Sea World is located on Sea World Drive at Main Beach. There is plenty of parking if you decide to drive there and also plenty of buses will take you to the front entrance. You can purchase a ticket here.
Day 3: Aquaduck, SkyPoint Tower, Pacific World Shopping, Putt-Putt
Fun on the Aquaduck
Start your day with a fun ride on an amphibious Aquaduck. This tank like vehicle drives on land and sails on the water. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my kids and it was, but I think I enjoyed the ride just as much as them. During the hour tour we were shown around the Gold Coast area and saw famous landmarks. Then when we went in the water and saw waterfront mansions and lots of landmarks. You get a different perspective of the Gold Coast from the water.
Aquaduck leaves daily from Caville Avenue, Surfers Paradise at various times during the day. You can purchase a ticket following.
After the Aquaduck head to the SkyPoint Obsersation Deck located on levels 77 and 78 of the Q1 Building in Surfers Paradise. Here you will get magnificent 360 degree views over the Gold Coast. On a clear day you will see from the beach to the hinterland and up to Brisbane and down to Byron Bay. If you enjoyed the view by day you could always come back and enjoy it by night. If feeling hungry enjoy a meal from the café as you take in the views. Or you might want to undertake the SkyPoint Climb which is Australia’s highest external building climb. Too high for me I’m afraid but there are plenty of people who do the climb. To purchase a SkyTower ticket see following.
After enjoying the views you could head to Australia Fair in Southport for some shopping. Here you will find many major chain stores to small boutique shops.
Why not end your day with a game of putt-putt. A great way to spend a few hours before or after dinner.
For dinner go to one of the Gold Coast’s institutions, Draculas. This dinner and show venue has been around since the 1980s and provides a fantasy cabaret show. You can book for dinner and show or just the show. Be prepared for visitor participation, loud music, partial nudity and lots of comedy. Check whether it might be suitable for your family to see before purchasing a ticket.
Draculas is located at 1 Hooker Boulevard at Broadbeach. You can drive there but parking is limited so it might be easier to catch a local tram or bus.
Day 4: Movie World
Meet the locals at Movie World
Spend the day at Movie World with all the Disney World Characters. Walk around the streets and mingle with many stars, characters and superheroes. You might run into Bugs Bunny, Wonder Woman, Shrek or Batman. See stunt shows, the parade of characters and go on a few different rides. A great way to spend a day.
Movie World is on Pacific Motorway, Oxenford. There is loads of parking available if you choose to drive there or there are plenty of buses that can get you to the front door. Purchase your ticket following.
Day 5: Gold Coast Hinterland
Natural Bridge in the Hinterland, thanks to Gold Coast Tourism for the use of the image.
Take a drive into the Gold Coast Hinterland today. Visit the Mt Tambourine National Park, Springbrook National Park and the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest. You can walk on tracks through subtropical rainforests – so wear a pair of good walking shoes. Visit waterfalls, close to around 500 of them and maybe see kangaroos, platypus, koalas and the glow worm cave. And don’t forget your swimmers and a towel as you might dip your toes into the cool waters at the Natural Arch or other watering holes.
The Hinterland offers more than beautiful rainforests to explore. It is also a hub for craft breweries, quaint cafes and is a foodie heaven with plenty of local produce to sample.
The best way to explore the Hinterland is by vehicle. If you don’t have one I’d suggest you rent one for the day – check out availability and prices here – or go on a day tour. You can book a day tour following.
Day 6: Dream World or South Stradbroke Island
Today spend the day at Dreamworld. Yes, another theme park. Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia, or so I am told by a number of sources. I wouldn’t normally be going to theme parks however, when on the Gold Coast, you do. There are loads of rides, over 40 with five rollercoasters, some not for the faint hearted.
Dreamworld is located in Coomera. There is plenty of parking out the front if you drive yourself there or there are a number of buses.
An alternative to riding the rides at another theme park today could be to take a trip to South Stradbroke Island. South Straddie as it is often called is a sand island near Southport. You can reach it by charter boat, ferry, water taxi and private boat from various points along the Gold Coast. There is plenty to do on the island like hiking, rock climbing, swimming and fishing.
To purchase a ticket for Dreamworld or for your day on South Stradbroke Island click on the following links.
Day 7: Currumbin Wildlife Park, Swimming or Surf Lesson
If interested to have a cuddle with a koala, interact with kangaroos and feed some native birds then a visit to Currumbin Wildlife Park is a must. The sanctuary is 27 hectares of lush rainforest that is home to about 1,000 native animals. While at the park don’t miss visiting the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and if you are an adrenaline junkie take the TreeTop Challenge that includes 11 zip lines. There are also shows highlighting specific animals during the day. I suggest you visit their website for times to ensure you don’t miss out on specific things you would like to see. And every day at 8am and 4pm you can feed the lorikeets. You buy a plate of food and the birds will land right on you to get to the food. It can be a little scary but good fun.
Currumbin Wildlife Park is at 28 Tomewin Street, Currumbin. You can drive there or catch public transport. To purchase a ticket to the Currumbin Wildlife Park click on the link following.
If you don’t want to spend all day at the wildlife park you might want to visit Snapper Rocks for a surf or swim. Maybe even hit the Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club for lunch or dinner. Right on the beach you will be afforded good food and fabulous ocean views.
Day 8: last swim or shop before heading home
Today is the last day of this 8 day Gold Coast itinerary. Depending on the time you are leaving the Gold Coast you might want to have a final swim, surf or shop before heading home.
And as you bid your 8 day Gold Coast Itinerary good bye I hope you leave with a smile on your face. I know I always do.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She is the creator of Live Work and Play in Australia. She loves coffee, chocolate and parmas and currently calls Melbourne home. Read More.