Australia is on nearly every traveler’s bucket list and with good reason. Australia is famous for the miles of pristine coastline, tropical forests, bustling cities, and wild outback. When researching and planning an Australia vacation it would be a mistake to exclude the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast in Queensland is one of Australia’s most beautiful destinations. Don’t miss out on incredible beaches, hikes (a.k.a bush walks), and other family-friendly activities.
We visited the Gold Coast in winter and although we didn’t spend our time lounging on the beaches or indulging in water sports, winter still offered plenty to enjoy! Arguably, visiting the Gold Coast in winter was one of the best decisions we made when planning our Australia trip. The crowds are sparse and the weather is ideal for hiking.
Prices for food, accommodations, and activities can add up in Australia. Coming from Hawai’i, it wasn’t too much of a sticker shock for us. However, if you are traveling from the mainland in the U.S., you’ll want to calculate your budget based on the increased prices in Australia. I’m happy to report that many of the attractions listed below are completely free, family-friendly, and only require a bit of itinerary planning beforehand!
Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored, we paid for all the activities mentioned and all opinions are our own. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission (at no extra charge to you) if you make a purchase after clicking my link. Thank you for being a loyal reader!
Unmissable Gold Coast Australia Attractions
#7 Go for the ride of your life at Dreamworld, Gold Coast
Dreamworld is a roller coaster theme park. But, it’s not just any theme park. It’s the LARGEST in Australia! Dreamworld also has a water park called Whitewater World and offer 40+ rides and slides. What makes Dreamworld special is the DreamWorks Experience. Kiddos have the opportunity to learn the art of karate with Kung Fu Panda and many more exciting experiences with other DreamWorks characters such as Shrek and Marty from Madagascar.
In addition to being a theme park, Dreamworld is also a wildlife conservation park. They house and care for over 500 animals. The park helps to support the protection and conservation of tigers, koalas, and more. Spend all day at the park enjoying rides, water activities, wildlife encounters, and casual dining. If amusement parks are your jam, then Dreamworld needs to be on your must-do list for your visit to Australia.
#6 Explore the Natural Bridge, Springbrook
- Length: 0.6 mile
- Difficulty: Easy
Located in the heart of Springbrook National Park, amidst the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, is Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge is a unique rock formation sculpted by a waterfall.
The walk to visit the bridge was mostly paved with a few stairs. At 6:30 AM in July, this trail was completely empty and we lingered in the cave to our heart’s content. Although, swimming is not allowed in the creek or within the cave, enjoy the view of the waterfall from “under” the natural bridge, and “over” it with a bird’s eye view of the waterfall pouring through.
During the summer months, if you visit in the evening or at night, you’ll have a good chance of seeing glow worms and microbats!
#5 See the Sunrise or Sunset at Burleigh Head National Park, Gold Coast
Regardless of the time of year you choose to visit the Gold Coast, you’re nearly guaranteed to spot a colorful sunset along the coast of Burleigh Head National Park. Only a 20 minute drive from the heart of the Gold Coast, Burleigh Head is a great place to spend the day or simply for an evening sunset.
And, truly, what is a better way to spend a morning or evening than to lounge on the rocky coastline watching the surfers and the Gold Coast city skyline in the distance? You may even spot a pod of dolphins, humpback whales, or sea eagles! If you have a full day to spend at Burleigh Head, check out Echo Beach and the Ocean View Lookout Track.
Getting into the park is free and you can park at the northern entrance near The Cove or the southern entrance near Echo Beach. Either parking lot has direct access to the trails of Burleigh Head National Park.
#4 Eat fudge while soaking in The Best of All Lookout, Springbrook
The Best of All Lookout was indeed impressive, however, it wasn’t the most stunning vista we had seen in Australia. Although, if you are already visiting the Springbrook National Park area, this makes for a lovely pit stop!
I think what surprised me the most was how much of a walk the lookout was from the parking lot. I’m accustomed to lookouts being within sight distance of the car, however, this bad boy made us work a little harder to see. The trail is relatively flat and takes about half a mile, round trip. About mid-morning, there was only a handful of other people on the trail and at the lookout.
What made this lookout exceptional was bringing along a sweet snack to enjoy the view! We stopped at a cozy candy store called The Fudge Shop along our route through Springbrook National Park. We purchased coffee and an assortment of fudge flavors. Every single one was creamy and decadent! We highly recommend visiting The Fudge Shop and trying your favorite flavor of “the best damn fudge on the coast!”.
#3 Hike the Twin Falls Circuit, Springbrook
- Length: 2.8 miles
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Reaching the trailhead was a bit tricky for us. We attempted to start the hike from Goomoolahra Picnic Area, but this proved to be the longer, more difficult trail to the falls. After turning around we headed back to the Tallanbana Picnic Area, which is the correct starting point for the hike. Apparently, you can also navigate the trail to the falls via the Canyon Lookout and Warrie Circuit.
We started the hike at about 7AM in late July and only ran into one other couple. Not only does this hike feature a twin waterfall, but you also navigate across creeks and through a cave (rock cleft). Keep an eye out for the ancient Antarctic beech trees! In the summer, you can swim in the pool beneath the falls. Walk behind the waterfall and around the pool to get amazing photos from every perspective.
Not sure what to bring on your first hike? Check out my simple Hiking Essentials!
#2 Visit another world at the Glow Worm Caves of Tamborine Mountain, Gold Coast
One of Queensland’s hidden treasures is 40 minutes inland from the Gold Coast. Tamborine Mountain is the “green behind the gold”. Escape the congestion of the city and explore the lush forests and gorges at Tamborine Mountain National Park.
Our favorite attraction at Tamborine Mountain was the iconic Glow Worm Caves. Although this particular cave is “man-made”, the colony is abundant and thriving! A biologist leads the way on a guided tour through the cave and explains the glow worm’s habitat. Glow worm sightings are guaranteed and you can see the colony up close. Walking through the cave was like walking along a path under the night sky!
In addition, prior to the glow worm tour- there is a flourishing rainforest boardwalk to explore. There are numerous reptiles, amphibians, and other insects to see in their natural habitat. We even saw a large carpet python just slithering around the grounds!
The tours are 30 minutes long and are good for all skill levels as the tour is on level ground with little to no hiking effort involved! Reservations are required to secure a spot on the tour.
There are a few restrictions when visiting the glow worm cave. Photography or artificial lights inside the glow worm’s habitat is prohibited. The light interferes with their glowing behavior. Therefore, cameras (including cell phones and go pros), light up shoes, or other electronic lights are not allowed inside the cave.
#1 View the Skyline at Skypoint Observation Deck, Surfers Paradise
The Skypoint Observation deck is in the heart of the Gold Coast right along the coastline. SkyPoint is fully enclosed and towers nearly 755 feet above the ground. It is Australia’s only beach side observation deck.
When arriving at the ticket booth, we opted for the one day ticket which gave us one time entry. However, you can purchase a multi-day ticket or “deck and dine” ticket combo. Enjoy a meal and a view with the latter option!
If you want to indulge your adventurous side, check out the Skypoint Climb! However, remember to book tickets well in advance as the spots fill up quickly.
After riding a super fast elevator to the top (I kinda felt like my ears were gonna explode!), you’ll witness 360 degree views of the city, gold coast beaches, and ocean. I think what surprised me the most was how sparse the crowds were. For a sunset view, I expected the tower to be fairly congested. We lingered at various viewpoints from the deck and enjoyed unobstructed views mostly to ourselves.
Alternatively, simply lounge about the deck with a pair of binoculars (you might spot whales in winter!) and watch the surfers, enjoy the virtual displays that highlight interesting features of the Gold Coast, and watch the sunset dip into the city’s horizon.
Read about more Australian adventures with my One Day Itinerary in Kuranda, Queensland!
Restaurants to try on the Gold Coast
- The Loose Moose -Delicious food with amazing open air dining and relaxed ambiance. However, service was severely lacking. Apparently, if you aren’t there to drink, you’re a low priority. Still a great eatery if you have up to 4 hours to kill. Try the Haloumi Fries- so YUM!
- Three Blue Ducks -Yes, it’s an hour from the Gold Coast, but it’s worth it! Truly, the best meal we had in Australia. You could head to the location in Brisbane or the location in Byron. The food is fresh, delicious, and prepared and cooked with great care. It’s an experience, not just a meal!
- Elk Espresso -A funky cafe with specialty coffee that’s open for breakfast and lunch.
- Bam Bam Bakehouse -Located near Mermaid Beach, this is the place to go for homemade baked goods!
Where to Stay on the Gold Coast
- Try an Airbnb! We enjoyed our stay at a home in Bonogin overlooking downtown Broadbeach. We enjoy the peacefulness and privacy of staying in our own “home” when we travel versus a single room. This particular Airbnb was perfect for us because it offered a washer and dryer and small kitchen.
- There are abundant hotel options in the heart of Broadbeach along the coast. Check out booking.com to peruse through various condos, beachfront apartments, and suites. The prices range from $80 usd to $400 usd per night depending on your need for luxury accommodations. In addition, if you have a Rakuten account, you can get money back on your room, air, or car rentals!
Broadbeach Upcoming Events
Search for local events in Broadbeach and the Gold Coast by month or by activity by clicking here.
What activity are you most excited to try on the Gold Coast? Let me know in the comments below!
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