If you’re planning a trip to Queensland, you may hesitate between visiting Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Which one is the best for holidays? There’s no straight answer to this question. However, the two cities offer very different experiences, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pick the best destination according to the type of activities you’re looking for.

It only takes one hour to go from one city to the other, so you’ll even be able to visit both during your time in South East Queensland. I live in Brisbane and spend a lot of time on the Gold Coast, so my experience can help you make the best decision for your trip.

Long beach with white sand and buildings next to it, including sky-scrappers
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast (view from Peppers Soul*)

Brisbane vs Gold Coast: Flights and accommodation

Both cities have their international airport, but they’re very different. Many airlines operate multiple routes to Brisbane, giving both domestic and international visitors the flexibility to choose from various schedules and pricing. The Gold Coast airport on the other hand is a lot smaller, with a more limited selection of flights. International destinations are particularly restricted, and there is sometimes only one flight a day to domestic cities.

However, Brisbane and the Gold Coast are not far away, so you could also easily fly to Brisbane and catch a train* or a transfer* to the Gold Coast (or vice-versa), but they don’t go all the way to the Gold Coast airport yet. The budget airline Scoot offers international flights from the Gold Coast, so it could be worth checking their options.

As for accommodations, if you’re travelling on a budget, you may find cheaper options in Brisbane, especially for solo travellers, as hostels tend to be more affordable in Brisbane. However, those travelling as a group may find better deals on the Gold Coast. Both cities offer luxurious hotel or high-end apartment options with panoramic views, but visitors may particularly like the beach or nature views from some of the best accommodations on the Gold Coast.

Looking for accommodation to enjoy the best of Surfers Paradise? We love this stunning corner apartment in the Circle on Cavill tower, just a short walk from the beach. Its unique corner setting with floor-to-ceiling windows offers unbeatable views of the hinterland that get even better at sunset. Relax in the private spa with river views, or take a dip in one of the multiple pools available in the complex. Book now*.

Why Brisbane is better than the Gold Coast

Known as the third-biggest city in Australia and the capital of Queensland, Brisbane is a much larger city than the Gold Coast. In the CBD, skyscrapers blend with historic buildings like the Brisbane City Hall or Custom House. There’s a lot to see while exploring the streets of the city centre, on foot or on an e-scooter (Beam or Neuron) on the dedicated path along the meandering Brisbane River, or while cruising on the river*. Those interested in museums, art galleries and exhibitions will find all this in Brisbane.

New to Beam? You can download their app here and use the referral code ydXTF (it’s case-sensitive). We’ll both get free credits!
New to Neuron? Register here or use the coupon code 12D5HSYE, and we’ll both get a free 10-minute ride.

At night, you can choose among different neighbourhoods with different atmospheres if you want to go out for dining, drinks or to party. In recent years, Brisbane has grown a burgeoning culinary reputation to please foodies.

It’s also easy to take a break from the city while wandering around the many lush parks, and the urban beach at South Bank is a must-see for all visitors. It’s also the gateway city to beautiful islands: Mulgumpin/Moreton Island (you can join a tour*) and Minjerribah/Stradbroke Island (you can join a tour*), and the famous Lone Pine Sanctuary to see iconic animals from up close.

But all this is also accessible on a day trip from the Gold Coast.

Why the Gold Coast is better than Brisbane

The Gold Coast is renowned as Australia’s playground. The first thing that comes to mind are the endless golden beaches and Surfers Paradise. But it’s also famous for having thrilling amusement parks and a vibrant nightlife scene.

Surfers Paradise is the heart of the Gold Coast, where skyscrapers overlook the Pacific Ocean, and vibrant energy fills the streets. This iconic stretch of coastline is renowned for its world-class surf breaks and lively atmosphere. It can sometimes get really busy, and some visitors absolutely prefer to avoid the peak season there. For those seeking adventure, the theme parks – including Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, and Sea World* – offer endless entertainment options.

The Gold Coast hinterland, just a short drive inland, showcases a different and cooler side of the region. Here, you can explore lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and charming villages like Tamborine Mountain. It’s home to amazing national parks (Springbrook, Lamington) and the perfect escape for nature lovers or those seeking a quieter pace. You’ll also find one of the best places in Australia to see wildlife at Coombabah Lake Conservation Park.

But all this is also accessible on a day trip* from Brisbane.

Brisbane vs Gold Coast: The debate

When it comes to comparing Brisbane and the Gold Coast, it ultimately comes down to personal preferences. Brisbane’s appeal lies in its vibrant urban atmosphere, cultural events, and riverfront beauty. On the other hand, the Gold Coast draws visitors with its stunning beaches, thrilling attractions, and lively nightlife (in Surfers Paradise). The Gold Coast hinterland attracts nature lovers with its stunning rainforest.

If you’re a lover of arts, culture, and city vibes, Brisbane may be the perfect fit for you. However, if you’re seeking a beach-centric vacation with a dash of adventure and excitement, the Gold Coast will not disappoint. Nature lovers will find amazing things to do from both destinations.

Both destinations have their own unique allure and offer a wide range of experiences to cater to different preferences. Whichever choice you make, you’ll have fun discovering what the two big cities in Australia’s Sunshine State have to offer and their beautiful surroundings.

So, whether you find yourself exploring the vibrant streets of Brisbane, catching waves along the golden sands of the Gold Coast or hiking the rainforest in the Gold Coast hinterland, get ready for an Australian adventure!

Where are Brisbane and the Gold Coast located?

Brisbane and Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise) are both located in South East Queensland, less than 100 kilometres from each other. The most common choice to travel between these two cities is driving, taking the M1 motorway for about one hour. Alternatively, you can catch a train* with regular services departing from Brisbane’s stations and arriving at various stations along the Gold Coast connected with a tram (but not all the way to the Gold Coast airport). I recommend using the TransLink journey planner to find the best route and timings.

The Gold Coast hinterland is harder to get to. You’ll need a car or, if you prefer not to drive, you can join a tour from either Brisbane* or the coast* (including night tours*).


Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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