First time Australia visitors usually make their way to the East Coast before anything else, where they normally end up booking several activities at the Gold Coast. In the article below, we will list some of the best 10 activities on the Gold Coast we can think of, so you won’t have to do as much digging and googling. We like to think our selection includes a wide variety of activities, so anyone will be able to pinpoint something to their liking.
Explore the theme Parks in- and around the Gold Coast
For young families looking to spend some family time in Queensland, theme parks are a great choice. The big three are without a doubt Warner Bros Movieworld, Sea World and Wet’n Wild. For history buffs and for a deeper focus on Australia itself, “Outback Spectacular” makes a lot of sense too, whereas Paradise Country offers farm-stay accommodations including a lot of activities where you will learn and interact with local wildlife. From milking a cow to feeding baby animals and encountering koalas, Paradise Country offers a great mix of the Australian farm experience, combined with the outback adventure.
For people who have always dreamt about learning to surf, but never really had the opportunity, Australia delivers! The East Coast has some amazing breaks rolling in and there are beginner spots at virtually every beach with surf schools offering daily lessons.
Having a well-developed sense of balance is certainly going to help, but even windsurfers or snowboarders will have difficulties finding the right timing and confidence to stand up and let a wave carry them to the beach. And that’s why it is so great to have all these surf schools around, helping you to make fast progress on the board. Feeling the ocean pushing you along and the sensation of acceleration makes surfing one of the most fun activities around the Gold Coast, so we highly recommend spending at least a few hours surfing.
Honestly, we don’t know what’s better; your first standing up ride, or the beer on the beach afterwards, watching the sun set after an accomplished day in Queensland.
Visit the Q1 Building
If you happen to travel through Surfers Paradise, a Queensland community, a visit to the Q1 building is an absolute must. While most travelers enjoy the nightlife of this particular area, seeing everything from above really gives you a unique perspective, making it one of the must-do activities at the gold coast. The observation deck called “SkyPoint” is situated at levels 78 and 77 and will accommodate you and 400 of your best friends at the same time.
Imagine hovering 230 meters over the Gold Coast, with a 360-degree view at your disposal. What makes this so special is that there no other panoramic viewpoint on the entire coast like it. So, unless you regularly fly a drone around the Gold Coast, this really is one of the best indoor sightseeing places. It’s also a well-known spot for admiring the fireworks during NYE, as Q1 is used as a launch platform for a professional firework show at midnight. And if you are in Surfers Paradise already, you simply have to meet the next group of helpful locals:
Meet the Surfers Paradise Meter Maids
The Surfer Paradise Meter Maids are unique in the sense that they do not issue parking tickets or fines. These lovely ladies walk around in golden hot pants and an Australian bush hat, refilling parking meters so as to avoid penalties for an unsuspecting visitor.
If there ever was a charm offensive inside the tourism industry, this is it! Dating back to 1965, the maids have been a staple of Surfers Paradise life for the better half of a century, promoting tourism, helping out visitors and selling merchandise. The stubby holder is as Australian as it gets, and if you buy one from the Meter Maids, you’ll have a souvenir for life. We don’t all live in the tropics, but when you do, even if it is for a short stay, you’ll appreciate these foam sleeves Australians pull over their drinks to keep your can or bottle as cold as possible.
Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef pretty much extends all along the Gold Coast and together with the Sydney Opera House, it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Australia. Not everyone seems to know the off-shore location of the reef requires you to take a high-speed jetty through. The ones from Cairns, for instance, takes at least 90 minutes, but then again, snorkelling out here is a rewarding thing to do at the Gold Coast and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
If you’re in the area, definitely look into Marine World at Moore Reef, as they have a sizeable pontoon, or platform, that caters to everyone young and old, and it’s really a great way to spend the day, snorkelling, showering and grabbing some tea, all at your own leisure.
Introductory dives are offered as well, meaning you will go up to eight meters deep during a half-hour dive with a very small group. For an extended stay on the reef, there’s always our next recommendation:
Spend a few days on Whitsunday Islands
Many of the Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited and National Park Property. However, four of them offer a wide range of accommodations with the Great Barrier Reef and colourful coral reefs right on your doorstep! And whether you prefer sustainable tourism, all-inclusive, family friendly or an activity–based stay, you’ll find a Queensland Resort Experience to your liking on one of these beautiful islands.
Spend a few relaxing days at the pool with a cocktail in hand or dabble into Stand-Up Paddling for the first time in your life and be amazed at the progress you’ll make in a mere 15 minutes. Before you know it, you and your family venture out on the reefs, paddling around without ever falling off as you take in the views below the surface.
During the creation of this article, 7 of the 74 islands are developed with accommodation on them, while most of the other islands are for day treks and campers with the proper permits.
Discover Boodjamulla National Park
Landlocked, Boodjamulla National Park is full of hiking trails, gorge country, sandstone ranges and the spring water attracts all kinds of wildlife. Visitors will often stay several days, camping outdoors at one of the twenty sites in the park. If you’re a bit of a luxury beast, fear not because alternative accommodation is available, a mere 10 kilometers away. Do keep in mind that the time period between March and October is considered high season, so make sure you reserve your spot. Note that this applies just as much to the camping permits as this is all very well regulated at Boodjamulla.
For visitors who prefer to do something other than just hiking, canoeing is a great alternative, plus it’s the best way to explore the different gorges. Fishing is not allowed though, and neither are you allowed to bring any animals into the park.
Go on a LARC tour
During our latest trip to Australia, my friends and I ended up in 1770, a town in the Gladstone region with a fairly famous lookout point. When I saw a bright pink, amphibious vehicle riding around the area doing guided tours, it instantly reminded me of the Boston Duck Tours, one of my very best memories of Massachusetts, USA.
The LARC tours are even better, as amphibious vehicles can really get you into places no other mode of transportation is able to. So if you are lost for thing to do on the Gold Coast, an amphibious LARC tour is highly recommended.
Take a ride
Since tourism is a very important industry in Queensland, there are tons of adrenaline-fuelled activities on the Gold Coast. From zip lining to bungee jumping, right onto jet boat tours or one of the many rollercoasters at movie world. However, the best ride I would recommend is the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Not only do you get to see an amazing subtropical jungle move by the window, the tracks themselves wind past waterfalls, deep ravines and impressive old bridges. I’m sure the Australians don’t like to hear it, but it felt like a slow Western movie at some points and as you pass through the thirteen tunnels and reappear in one beautiful valley after another, the sights really are very scenic.
Rent a 4×4 and drive 75-mile beach
Having your own mode of transportation in a foreign country means autonomy and requires a lot less planning on your behalf, as you are completely independent and free to stay and go as you please. Fraser Island is a paradise for 4×4 enthusiasts and unlike the obligatory rock climbing, the entire island is made of sand, ensuring a smooth ride so all the passengers get to enjoy themselves as well.
There are countless tours available on the island itself, but I recommend just renting a car and picking a spot on the map where you would like to picnic with your friends. It’s all the adventure you need and without a doubt one of the most memorable activities on the Gold Coast you will remember.
Pro tip: Make sure your insurance covers off-road driving and that your driver’s license is recognised in Australia.
Melissa is a passionate foodie, travel writer, and editor working in media internationally and in the USA. She has lived in Bangkok since 2004 and has a background in the travel industry. Melissa’s writing has been published globally in many prestigious online and print magazines for over a decade. Her motto for life is “You cannot live or love well if you have not wined and dined well!”