Surfers Paradise is a popular tourist destination on the Gold Coast, only one hour south of Brisbane. It may be iconic, but it’s not on my list of the best things to do on the Gold Coast: I find many other cool places on the Gold Coast are more beautiful.
So if you’re planning a trip to Australia’s east coast, take a few minutes to consider if it’s worth spending your precious time in Surfers Paradise. First, let’s be clear that Surfers Paradise is not a destination to avoid and many people absolutely love it. It’s actually one of the most visited places in Australia. And there is nothing wrong with it – except maybe during Schoolies, the giant end-of-school party. If I advise you to re-think about going there, it’s only because I think there are many better things to do in the Gold Coast region.
Why Surfers Paradise may not be the best destination on the Gold Coast for you
Surfers Paradise… what do these words evoke to you?
For me, Paradise is a quiet and relaxing natural place far away from the crowd. Add to the picture great waves and a couple of surfers. In summary, it’s the opposite of the town of Surfers Paradise.
What’s special about the beach in Surfers Paradise are the skyscrapers and the buzzing life. Yes, there are nice waves in Surfers Paradise…. but you have to share them with dozens of other surfers. In Australia, we’re lucky to have kilometres of empty stunning beaches. So I personally prefer picking a less busy place to enjoy my time in the outdoors.
If you love shopping, skyscrapers and want to party, maybe Surfers Paradise is your kind of paradise, and you’ll most probably love it. It’s also a fantastic destination for families as the kids will be entertained without having to look for things to do for long. Plus, you’ll find a variety of accommodations, including luxurious resorts with stunning ocean views (like The Langham* and Peppers Soul*), as well as captivating hinterland and river views for sunset lovers (like Mantra Circle on Cavill*).
I prefer natural adventures or historical cities, so this “Paradise” isn’t for me! However, I do appreciate that life continues at night and restaurants stay open late.
What are the best things to do on the Gold Coast?
The best beaches on the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is a succession of beaches. It’s hard to tell which ones are better than others, as it all depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve selected a few of them below.
Fingal Head is my favourite place on the Gold Coast (well, it’s actually in NSW but really close to the border). I’m not the only one who enjoys what used to be a well-kept secret: the nearby Dreamtime beach has been named the third-best beach in Australia. I like the short walk to see the trees, the funny rock formations and the lighthouse. You can even have a fantastic snorkel or scuba diving experience with corals and turtles on Cook Island just in front of it.
Burleigh Head makes it to the list for the views and the small national park. Surf Life Saving Queensland named it the Best Beach in Queensland in 2016, but I was honestly a bit surprised. It’s apparently a good spot for surfers. I don’t surf, but I’ve heard that Coolangatta / Kirra Beach up to Snapper Rock are good for the waves. It’s for sure an amazing spot for sunsets and for a short walk with coastal views.
If you want to skip the waves, there are lovely estuaries like Tallebudgera Creek (just near Burleigh Head) and Currumbin Creek. The water in Rainbow Bay (Coolangatta again, near Snapper Rock) is also generally calm, and there are lovely views in this area.
Go snorkelling or scuba diving
There are a few snorkelling and scuba diving spots not far from the Gold Coast.
If you don’t want to go far and spend a lot of money, the Gold Coast Seaway will be perfect for you. It’s not the best dive on Australia’s East Coast, but it’s known to be one of the best shore dives in Australia. We also had fun scuba diving Kirra Reef, but it’s harder to find.
Leave the coast for the Gold Coast Hinterland
You may be surprised to read that my favourite part of the Gold Coast is inland.
A few kilometres from the beach, there are stunning national parks with lush rainforest and amazing waterfalls, like Springbrook National Park or the Elabana Falls in Lamington National Park. The free Tree Top Walk is also worth a visit.
The Gold Coast even has wineries!
I am yet to explore all of them, but it’s on my to-do list, and I will, of course, share my tips with you when I’m done. At the moment, I cannot judge if these wineries deserve a spot on the list of the best things to do on the Gold Coast.
What would you pick as the best things to do on the Gold Coast? Leave a comment below!
Where is the Gold Coast?
The Gold Coast is on the east coast of Australia, one hour south of Brisbane at the limit with New South Wales. You can fly directly to the Gold Coast: the airport in Coolangatta is an international and domestic airport.