For many years, mention of a trip to the Gold Coast conjured up images of the bright lights of Surfers Paradise and its reputation as a partygoers playground. But there are so many fun things to do in Surfers Paradise aside from its famed nightlife offerings. With water sports and active pursuits aplenty, a focus on culinary innovation, and a strong culture of wellness, this is a Queensland destination that may just become a fast favourite.
How to Get to the Gold Coast
Boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, plenty of entertainment on offer from water activities to theme parks, stunning stretches of beach from Broadbeach to Burleigh, and ancient rainforest at its fringes, it should come as no surprise the city welcomes more than 12 million visitors annually. Here’s how to get to Surfers Paradise.
- International visitors will likely touch down in Brisbane. Pre-book a shuttle or a hire car to reach the Gold Coast.
- Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta welcomes domestic flights from around the country.
- Brisbane to the Gold Coast is an easy 90-minute drive.
- I would highly recommend hiring a car for at least a couple of days while in Surfers Paradise to explore the Gold Coast hinterland as well.
- Gold Coast public transport is very easy to use and there are ample walking and cycling paths running along the coastline.
Where to Stay in Surfers Paradise
Peppers Soul is a hotel that was designed to impress. Rising up 77 stories from the sand at Surfers Paradise, the building itself will catch your eye as you drive down the famed Esplanade.
Peppers Soul offers one, two, and three-bedroom 5-star apartments, right in the heart of the city.
Perfect for couples, all the luxury amenities you would expect from a Peppers property, including a 25-metre tired pool overlooking the beach and the hatted Seaduction Restaurant are at your fingertips.
QT Gold Coast has a vibrant, young feel. With a distinct Miami vibe from the hotel’s colour palette to the kitsch design touches, there’s a surprise around every corner that makes it uniquely QT.
During our stay, we were sent a cute amenity each day, from a cocktail-making kit to a mini surfboard covered in handmade chocolates.
The general feel of the hotel is more casual and coastal with splashes of colour and smiles from staff a constant, with plenty of unique spaces to relax, work or play.
The QT is a great option for couples or groups of friends travelling to the Gold Coast for a fun weekend away, close to all the action.
This large beachfront hotel is a great option for groups. Boasting six hectares of beautifully maintained tropical grounds there is plenty of space to spread out from the lagoon-style pool to the patrolled Mirage beach.
Seaworld is just five minutes down the road, making this a popular option with families.
The rooms are also generously sized with all of the 5-star amenities you would expect in this calibre of a property. There are ample dining spaces, all beach and pool facing so you instantly feel like you are on a Gold Coast holiday.
If you want to stay away from the buzz of Surfers Paradise, the Mantra is located on the beautiful and calm Coolangatta beach.
It’s a lovely place to stay with a young family.
The one and two-bedroom apartments are very generously sized with all the amenities you could possibly need, including a full-sized kitchen and large balcony overlooking the beach, enticing you to stay in and relax each evening.
There are also a number of great bars and restaurants on Marine Parade just footsteps of the resort.
Things to do in Surfers Paradise
Learn to Paddleboard
Definitely one of the most fun things to do in Surfers Paradise is to learn how to Stand up paddleboard.
As far as morning workouts go, stand-up paddleboarding with three-time Australian Ironwoman champion, Karla Gilbert in Currumbin was one of the best I’ve ever done.
Having tried SUP in choppy seas in the Maldives before, with little success, I wasn’t overly confident that I would stay up for long. But, after a little direction and encouragement from Karla, our SUP coach for the morning, the experience was entirely different; the water was warm, the sun bouncing off the surface, the area was buzzing with families out swimming and boarding and the sun wasn’t biting, just yet.
Karla fell in love with SUP some years ago and began to compete in the sport. She has taken the Australian title and continues to travel to stunning locations around the world for competitions.
Karla is also a SUP coach and Lifestyle and Wellness coach combining her passions for health and fitness with her experience as a busy, working mother.
Bike Ride From Beach to Beach
The cycleways on the Gold Coast beaches are off-road and very safe, so they are ideal for a family bike ride too. Take the afternoon so you can stop at all the cute cafes and beaches along the way for a snack and a swim.
There are share bikes on the Gold Coast as well as a number of bike hire services. Ask them to deliver the bikes to you to save you time, that way you can cycle the route you choose.
Learn to Surf
You can’t possibly go to a place called Surfers Paradise without trying out your surfing legs, can you?
The waves on Surfers Paradise are great for beginners and there are many learn-to-surf schools that offer one-on-one or group lessons as well as board hire to get you started.
Go Shopping in Surfers Paradise
One of the best things to do in Surfers Paradise has to be a little holiday retail therapy. With small boutiques.
When the weather isn’t as glorious as it usually is on the Gold Coast, hit the shops. Pacific Fair in Broadbeach Waters really is a one-stop spot for everything from high-end labels to fast fashion. The centre reminds me of an American-style open-air mall. Spend the morning browsing or buying, grab a bite to eat, pick up some goodies from the grocery stores or even settle in for a movie at the cinema in the afternoon.
Harbour Town is about 20 minutes from Surfers Paradise. An outlet shopping centre it’s a paradise for bargain hunters.
In another huge outdoor mall, while there are a few designer brands here, you will find most high street stores and fast fashion labels at some very good prices.
There is a broad array of markets in the Gold Coast area where you can pick up locally made artisan goods, from food to clothing or homewares.
It’s the perfect place to pick up souvenirs to take home while meeting local makers and supporting their businesses.
The Surfers Paradise Markets are held three times a week on the foreshore from 4 pm. Expect a buzz of stalls selling local food, artisanal products, live music and fun for the kids.
Check the schedule and the weather before you go here.
Experience an Iconic Australian Health Retreat
An oasis in the beautiful bushland on the Gold Coast hinterland, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat is the ultimate escape from the Gold Coast buzz, conveniently located just 15 minutes from the beach.
One of the more highly regarded health retreats in Australia, Gwinganna caters to a broad cross-section of guests from celebrities to busy corporates, those with health concerns or couples looking for a healthy weekend away.
Their packages vary from restorative weekend retreats to more intense week-long detox programs, depending on how much time you have to retreat yourself.
Guests stay in stunning eco-conscious accommodations spread throughout the property, with plenty of space to ensure privacy and peace.
For me, The Spa Sanctuary is a stand-out at Gwinganna and one of the best spas I’ve been to anywhere in the world. The unique space has been built around its natural environment.
Floating decking winds in a circular pattern around three central trees, the boards lead the way to the 33 indoor/outdoor treatment rooms.
Wrapped in a fluffy robe and slippers, a therapist guides you to one of the rooms, where you discuss your needs so the treatment can be adapted to you, personally and the pampering and nurturing begins.
After our treatments, we were treated to an amazing lunch, created from scratch by the Gwinganna chef using fresh ingredients grown on-site. Gwinganna is a place where you lose a sense of time and regain a sense of calm.
Try Some Local Seasonal Fare
Cafe DBar is set in a historic Queenslander, DBar House, perched high on the hill at Point Danger in Coolangatta. Ask for a table upstairs to take in the ocean views directly across the road while dining. That’s exactly what we did when stopping in for breakfast, one morning.
Our coffees were delivered quickly and the meals soon followed as we bathed in the morning sun and enjoyed the breeze kicking off the ocean. The menu is full of healthy options, all made to showcase seasonal produce from the Gold Coast Hinterland.
I ordered the Portobello mushrooms with quinoa salad, asparagus, truffle oil, Persian feta, and tomato. I only wish I could have made my way through the very generous serving.
Cafe DBar is one of those cafes that doesn’t only deliver breakfast. You will want to return to settle in at a table on the verandah for a long lunch or afternoon drinks with friends.
Make sure you wander through the art gallery that supports local artists while you are there too.
This cute and casual cafe welcomes customers with friendly smiles and incredibly fresh and healthy food, with a few naughty options on the menu too for those looking to splurge.
As the name indicates, they are also keen on their coffee and you’ll find a great pour here too.
The Salt Mill is a beachy little hole-in-the-wall cafe in Currumbin. This is the spot to grab an Acai bowl, green juice or smoothie and a great cup of coffee after a morning swim or surf.
Take a seat at the sidewalk tables or cross over to the beach and sink your toes in the sand for a morning picnic.
Foodies will love The Kitchens at Robina Town Centre. Celebrating local, seasonal produce from the region, The Kitchens brings together producers, makers and diners in a delicious urban marketplace.
Meet the celebrity chefs in residence, book in for a food workshop or simply stop in for lunch to savour some local fare and pick up a few products to take home with you.
Just a few minutes from Broadbeach and 20 minutes from Coolangatta, Miami Marketta is a fun spot to grab an afternoon tipple and settle in for an evening of food, cocktails, and entertainment.
We wandered to do a little window shopping at the pop-up fashion stalls inside, before making the tough decision of which dish to try from the vendors in the laneway.
The creative precinct showcases local artists and makers as well as hosting a number of street food stalls serving up dishes from around the world from souvlaki to paella and moqueca, with clean eating dishes thanks to the Good Food Catering Company.
The covered laneway is lit up with lights with free seating set up near a stage where you’ll enjoy live music as you feast. The Marketta Laneway is open from 4 pm on Friday and Saturday nights
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.