The Gold Coast, Australia is east of Brisbane and full of sun, surf, and sand dotting the coast. It’s known for its sunny subtropical climate, surfing, beaches, and waterways, a skyline dominated by high-rise apartment buildings, a rainforest hinterland, and a wild night life. The most famous city in the area is Surfer’s Paradise, a major stop for travelers and backpackers looking to get some sun, surf, and spend time partying. It’s a fun place but my advice is to avoid Surfer’s Paradise, and head to some of the better, less crowded cities like Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta. This travel guide will help you figure out where to go, what to see, and how to save money.
Hostel prices – Dorms cost 25 AUD per night, and private rooms are 50 – 90 AUD per room per night. Since the region is so popular among travelers, prices here tend to be a lot higher than elsewhere in the country. Surf and Sun hostel in Surfer’s Paradise is one of my favorite hostels in the country. (It’s a party hostel though!)
Budget hotel prices – A single room starts at about 82 AUD per night and doubles can range from 110-135 AUD.
Average cost of food – Most meals cost 34 AUD or more. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 95-110 AUD per week. An average restaurant meal will run you about 20-28 AUD for no frills eating. If you are staying in hostels, most offer family style meals each night for around 8 AUD.
Transportation costs – Cabs can range anywhere from 4-18 AUD per person depending on where you are going. For example, a cab ride from the airport in a 4 passenger sedan will cost 18 AUD per person. There is also a bus system that goes up and down the coast- fares vary depending on where you want to go.
Read more on the costs of traveling around Oz.
Money Saving Tips
Free transport – Some hostels provide free transport to and from the airport. If you are going to Surfer’s Paradise, they will also pick you up for free at the bus station.
Top Things to See and Do on the Gold Coast
Visit Q1 – The world’s tallest residential tower is also the only observation deck in Australia by the beach. Clearly recognizable among the many high rises, the landmark Q1 lets you gaze at the length of the coastline, which stretches out as far as the eye can see in both directions. It’s best visited during the day, although bad weather can also be a plus—visitors like to lay out on the floor during thunderstorms to watch lightning strike the Q1’s impressive 97.7 meter spire.
Get off the beach – Surprisingly, there is more to the Gold Coast than beaches. Head into the “hinterland” for great rivers, swimming holes, hiking, and parks. During the weekend, you can snap up some local produce at a farmer’s market. For the more adventurous, you can tackle one of the many rainforest walks available on Tamborine Mountain.
Walk the Burleigh Hill – Make like the locals and stretch your legs along Burleigh’s esplanade before heading around the hill. The track is bordered by lush rainforest on one side and stunning views north to Surfers Paradise and south over Tallebudgera Creek.
Whale watching – Between June-October, humpback whales make their migratory journey from the Antarctic to warmer waters where they mate and give birth. Later in the season the whales are on their return journey, swimming with their calves beside them. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the whales breaching, slapping their tails, and waving their pectoral fins. Also spotted on cruises are bottle nose dolphins, huge loggerhead turtles, orcas, sea birds, and other marine life.
Hit the beaches – The region has more than 70 km of fantastic beaches, and Surfers Paradise is home to the “best beach in the world” according to some. Other beaches include Southport, Broadbeach, Nobby’s, and Coolongatta. I like Coolongatta the best!
Learn to surf – It’s isn’t called “Surfer’s Paradise” for no reason. Up and down the coast, whether in Surfers or another town, you’ll find some of the best surfing in Australia. Even if you don’t know how to surf, you’ll be able to find cheap lessons up and down the coast.
Party – “The Goldie” is one of the biggest party destinations in Australia. There are countless bars, clubs, and pub crawls here. Surfer’s Paradise has the biggest night life (but not really fun unless you want to get reaaaaaalllly drunk), but Coolangatta is just as good and less touristy (and cheaper).
The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – Over 65 acres in size, this compound is massive and is host to aviaries, open displays, reptiles, and more. Since there is so much to see, including wildlife presentations held throughout the day, a guided train tour is available with purchase of admission ticket.
The Infinity Maze – If you are looking to do something that you’ve never done before, the Infinity Maze is an intriguing place to start. This winding walk is filled with funky music, sound effects, and illusions—all you need to do is strap on some cotton gloves and socks and feel your way through.