Planning a trip to the Gold Coast in Queensland and not sure what to see and do? Follow this 5-day see-it-all itinerary and make the most of your Gold Coast Holiday.
Recently I had a chance to visit the most frequented place for Indian tourists in the Queensland region of Australia — the Gold Coast, during a blog trip with Queensland Tourism and Scoot Airlines. A nearly 60-km expanse of photogenic beaches, the Gold Coast, that I, before my visit, expected to be no different than any other upcoming beach-destination in Australia (dominated by water sports, traditional cafes, and a laid-back Australian life) started surprising me as soon as I get there. As I explored its one neighbourhood after the other, I realised that the Gold Coast had much more to offer than what I had initially thought it will. It wasn’t just another laid-back beach towns in Australia (which in fact it was) but much more than that. There were nature trails, beaches, crazy unheard-of-before adventure tours, beautiful wildlife, cafes, casinos and everything else you can think of — and to actually see it all, I had to in-fact extend my holiday and stay back another 3 nights.
So out of many different experiences, laughter, confusion, memories and my 8-day stay in the Gold Coast, these are a few handpicked experiences I would recommend you to try. What I also recommend is staying for at least 5 days in the town to be able to soak it all in well!
Spending 5 Days In The Gold Coast: An Ideal Itinerary
DAY1: GETTING UNDER THE SKIN OF THE GOLD COAST
Fueling Up At Cafe D’Bar
About 15min drive from the Gold Coast Airport lies one of the serenest and most popular surfing beaches — the Snapper Rocks and about 1-minute drive away from the beach is the traditional D-Bar cafe. Located on Point Danger, while overlooking the famous surf breaks, Cafe D’Bar offers a picturesque coastal dining experience, featuring local seaside art and homewares during the day and home to live music throughout the night. On a perfect sunny day, as we had it, a satisfying breakfast, perfectly blended with cafe D’Bar’s traditional laid-back ambience is all you need to kickstart with your real Aussie holiday.
Next, Spend A Few Morning Hours At Snapper Rocks To Get Your Bearing
A perfect place to go if you want to surf, and even if you don’t the Snapper Rocks beach (and the adjoining Coolangatta as well) will quintessentially introduce you to a true Aussie lifestyle near the shore(s) — that’s either beautiful and relaxing or active and adventurous. If you’re into surfing, there can’t be a better place than the Snapper Rocks in the entire Gold Coast to try it, and even if not, it’s still a great place to watch others surfing as you relax and unwind. If you’re lucky, you might also spot whale further out in the ocean.
So spend a good share of your morning around the area, before you head to Currumbin Beach for lunch.
Lunch at Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club
Nestled on Elephant Rock, The Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club offers visitors a view of the Gold Coast like no other place does. I completed (like literally!) my day with beautiful views of the ocean on my right and a filling (massively big!) veggie burger with some fries and a drink, before a few hours of walk in and around the sanctuary of Currumbin that was next in our list.
Visiting The Wildlife Sanctuary Park of Currumbin
One of the prime experiences for anyone to be travelling to Australia, no matter what part of the country they are visiting, is spotting a Kangaroo and a Koala. But what if you also get to feed one and hug the other. Well, that’s what the wildlife sanctuary of Currumbin offers, in addition to a few other things.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, that in fact, is also a wildlife conservation organisation, offers Kangaroo feeding and Koala cuddling experiences. Just pay a 60 AUD entry fee (for adults) and explore its 27-hectare of rainforest, and with that, a few endangered species of reptiles, birds and other wildlife animals.
With over a dozen different shows and activities, one can spend an entire day at the park and not get bored. However, if short with time (yes, a 5-day trip to the Gold Coast is still not enough!) just try a few recommended activities like Kangaroo feeding and Koala cuddling (to complete your Aussie trip) and get going.
Try to visit the park around 2 pm to witness a Free Flight Bird Show, where different species of (trained) birds — ranging from a cockatoo and a barking owl to Australia’s largest bird the impressive wedge-tailed eagle — will literally free fly back and forth over your head.
Exploring The Surfers Paradise In The Evening
The Surfers Paradise is the most happening and the very centre of the Gold Coast city. It’s in the Surfers Paradise where most travellers and backpackers looking to get some sun, surf, and spending time partying can be found throughout the year. A couple of hours stroll at the Surfers Paradise the day you ended up in the Gold Coast will help you get the essence and understand the town better There are moreover enough places to eat and get a few drinks around.
Day2: VISITING THE FREQUENTED
Breakfast At Sykpoint Observation Desk
A must see for everyone visiting the Gold Coast, SkyPoint Observation Deck unveils beautiful 360-degree views from the coast to the hinterland, giving you a fair idea of what to expect from the city — and that’s a bit more beauty than you’ve seen in your life. A breakfast at Skypoint observation desk is a great way to kickstart your day. For 32 AUD (or just 15 AUD if you don’t want the breakfast and only the entry to the Skypoint Observation Desk) you get one full-day ticket to explore Skypoint observation desk as well as enjoy a lovely buffet breakfast.
Climbing The Skypoint
To make your visit to the Skypoint even memorable, however, just like we ended up doing try a 1-hour tour of the Skypoint Climb that offers unparalleled 360views of the entire Gold Coast city. Rising 270m into the air, SkyPoint Climb is Australia’s highest external building climb and is entire southern hemisphere’s highest point. Tickets start from AUD 74 per person.
Spending The Rest Of The Day Exploring The Themepark of Dreamland
From Kangaroo feeding to adult-thrill rides, learning about the Aboriginals to a Madagascar-themed setup for kids, the theme park of Dreamland has something for everyone. One can spend an entire day inside the premises and not get bored — after all, it’s the biggest theme park in the entire Gold Coast and one of the biggest in Australia. We had spent almost 4 hours trying a few thrill rides in addition to activities like holding a Python, Tiger presentation, and an interactive walk-through experience celebrating Aboriginal culture, wildlife and stories of native Australia. There are almost 50 rides and attractions in the park in total, with a lovely in-house restaurant too (called the Billabong Restaurant) for some buffet lunch.
It’s a lovely place to spend a day for families, especially for families with kids under 15 years old as the entire place offers a lovely fantasy world. Just make sure you plan a visit on a weekday and not on a school or a public holiday, it may get quite busy and crowded.
Trying Vegan In The Dinner
Among the all other things to appreciate about Australia, one thing is the fact that a big chunk of Australians, every day, are becoming Vegan. And to appreciate and understand that fact a little more, a visit to one of the many vegan restaurants across Gold Coast (or whatever part of Australia you’re visiting) is a must. For trying some great vegan food in Gold Coast, a recommended stop, however, is Greenhouse Canteen & Bar in Miami. Just try one of the many platters they’ve complemented with a drink to conclude your day beautifully.
Day3: GOING OFFBEAT
Catching The Sunrise & The Surreal Ariel Views of Gold Coast While Hot Air Ballooning
If you think that the Gold Coast is all about exploring beaches and trying water sports, think again. Because there is enough to see and do in the Gold Coast that has nothing with do with the sea and one such thing that tops the list is a hot air ballooning ride. A morning Hot Air Balloon ride is an exceptional way to watch the sun rise over Surfers Paradise as well as the rolling hills of the majestic Gold Coast Hinterland. The only problem is, you will have to wake super-early, but trust me if you can handle that, a hot air balloon ride may just be the most memorable experience of your entire holiday in the Gold Coast.
Prices start at AUD 280 that also includes a buffet breakfast followed by the ride & a glass of champagne at a local vineyard with return transfers, of course!
A half Day Tour To Natural Bridge and Springbrook
This is another offbeat thing to do while in the GoldCoast. Experience World Heritage listed Gondwana rainforest — one of the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world and home to wild kangaroos, wallabies, platypus and koalas. With beautiful waterfalls and scenery and unique Australian wildlife, this half-day tour to Natural Bridge and Springbrook National Park is a great way to try a nature trail in the Gold Coast & exploring the region’s most iconic rainforests, waterfalls and panoramic lookouts of white chalk cliffs.
Though there are a few companies doing the same tour, I did it with Southern Cross 4WD Tours and totally recommend them. It took a total of 5 hours to cover the two places, a half an hour drive on both sides and a quick stop-over at a cosy café on-site for some freshly baked cookies and afternoon tea.
Dining At The Bazaar
Though I was staying at the hotel QT itself and The Bazaar happened to be their in-house restaurant, a dinner at the Bazaar is certainly recommended. Popular among the locals and tourists alike, The Bazaar offers a fine buffet-style dining experience with food ranging from smoked beef to lobsters to veg Pizzas. They also offer a great selection of locally brewed beer for enthusiastic beer-guzzlers (try a Balter though!). Even if you wished to eat at someplace else, a quick visit to The Bazaar during one of the evenings while you’re in the Gold Coast is totally recommended.
DAY 4: SHOPPING + FUN TOURS
Shopping At Pacific Fair
Offering an expansive collection of luxury, iconic global brands and leading Australian retailers, Pacific Fair is the Gold Coast’s unmissable shopping and dining destination. It has over 400 stores all belonging to luxury and iconic retailer brands making it exclusive in the entire Queensland if you are looking for a blend of the world’s best brands. The ambience of the Pacific Fair is moreover worth appreciating which includes various cosy sitting pods and community areas making it a great place to wander through, even if you are not going to be shopping much.
Pacific Fair is moreover a great place to find a great section of foods. Post our three-hour shopping spree, we had our lunch at a place called Bin 232 — which I particularly loved for its great selection of cocktails and a lively atmosphere.
Adventure Jet Boating Ride
For those who are not into surfing or find solo jet-ski hire a bit too much to handle, a Jet Boating ride is a great option to try some adventure water sports while you’re in the Gold Coast. A 55-min of fun and adventure, the ride that takes you through a 35km stretch of Moreton Bay Marine Park, with wonderful scenery and sightseeing at your disposal. Enjoy 360 degree spins, high-speed drifting, power slides, beach-buzzing and other exciting manoeuvres through the beautiful, pristine waterways. If you’re lucky, you may also end up spotting some wild dolphin spotting.
For a tour, as I had it, I can recommend Paradise Jet Boating located on the Main Beach, that happens to be Australia’s only jetboat tour to be certified by Eco Australia — recognising a commitment to Eco-sustainability, customer safety, quality experience and great service.
Next, A Fire Truck Tour
No wonder, a ride in a firetruck and holding a real working water-hose is on everyone’s wishlist – especially during their early days of life. So for those travelling with kids, something as crazy as a fire truck ride and posing and clicking pictures while holding a fire nozzle and wearing real Fire Helmets can be an exceptional thing to do while in the Gold Coast.
Both, the Fire Truck Tour and The Jet Boating take less than two hours in total to finish.
Dinner At The Island Bistro Followed By Drinks At The Island Rooftop
Located right in the centre of the Surfers Paradise, the in-inhouse restaurant of The Island hotel is a great place for a casual dining experience. With impressive burgers, seafood, steaks, wood oven pizzas and fresh locally-sourced produce, The Island Bistro is certainly a place I would like to recommended among all the places I had tried during my stay in the Gold Coast. And if you have a taste for some live music, the Island Rooftop (the bar-with-a-view) is a great place to chill out and relax after the food over a few cocktails, or your usual beer.
During our visit, we had a lovely jazz- band playing for us.
DAY 5: THE HIGHLIGHTED LADY ELLIOT ISLAND & THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
A Day Tour To The Lady Elliot Island
Any trip to Australia is incomplete without visiting and exploring the rich coral life at the Great Barrier Reef. And if you’re visiting the eastern coast of the country, it becomes even more crucial. From the Gold Coast you can access the most southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and with it, perhaps one of the most unspoilt and unexplored island in the region: the island of Lady Elliot. The island is regarded as one of the best snorkelling and diving locations on the reef, famous for its unspoilt coral reef and an amazing array of marine life.
Located at about 1.5-hour flight from the Gold Coast (or 100-min to be precise) the Lady Elliot Island can be explored during a day trip from the Gold Coast (as well as from Brisbane). However, if you have time a one night stay is totally advised to enjoy the place even more.
The flight to the island and back is itself a highlight that offers scenic views of the Gold Coast, North and South Stradbroke Islands, Moreton Island and Fraser Island. The day trip (that starts with a hotel pickup at 5:45 in the morning and finishes at around 5 in the evening with a hotel drop) includes a brief 1-hour snorkelling trip with a 15 min glass bottom boat ride. During most days, the visitors get to spot (and even swim with) a turtle and/or a manta-ray. The trip also includes an in-flight breakfast and a buffet lunch with a choice of wine, beer and soft drink.
A trip to the Lady Elliot Island is certainly going to be the highlight of your entire time in the Gold Coast.
Read More: A Day Trip to Lady Elliot Island From The Gold Coast
Concluding Your Tour At The Nightquarter
Conclude your trip to the Gold Coast with a cheer and a festive vibe with a visit to the Nightquarter in Helensvale: a weekend market full of colourful market stalls, exotic street food and live music all stocked up into one happy playground. At Nightquarter, you will find everything: culture, food, art, fashion, music and local talent of every kind. The entire place is moreover so photogenic that you’re going to end up clicking more pictures here than during your entire trip.
For those looking for a happy ending, try a Nutella Ice-cream cookie at the Nightquarter after the food.
Where To Stay In The Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has enough accommodation option, ranging from budget backpacking hostels to high-end hotels, with most of the hotels being located at the Surfers Paradise.
- During my visit to the Gold Coast, I stayed at three places in total in the town and found all three worth recommending as they all served a very different niche. So, to those looking for a high-end business class sort of ambience, can try QT Gold Coast. At prices still not too brutal to afford, the QT offers a great luxury experience.
- For almost a similar price, but a more cosy, loud and a friendly ambience, try The Island Hotel. Located right in the centre of the Surfers Paradise, the Island Hotel is only a stone through away from most attractions and nightclubs in the town.
- If, however, your budget is comparatively less and you’re looking for a friendly backpacking hostel, I can recommend Surfers Paradise YHA. Tucked away from the crowded centre the hostel offers a great friendly atmosphere, with a big common room, a communal kitchen and a TV room. And since the hostel is a little detached from the city centre, they offer a free pickup and drop too (four times a day) to make it easier to make it easier for their guests to commute to the city centre. So enjoy the perks of staying in a quieter neighbourhood while still having virtually everything at your disposal.
If you are looking for cheap flight tickets from India to the Gold Coast, I will suggest checking out fares for Scoot Airlines. They’ve been flying to the Gold Coast in addition to a few other destinations in Australia for amazingly cheaper prices. Though a low-cost airline, for those who appreciate a little more comfort they have a premium economy and business class too. I also flew to the Gold Coast with The Scoot airlines.
Have you been to the Gold Coast? Do you have anything to add to the itinerary?
Disclaimer: I was invited by Queensland Tourism for a 5 day trip to the Gold Coast. Though the trip was hosted by them, all recommendations and suggestions are solely my own. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating. Also, in addition to a 5-day trip with the Queensland Tourism, I overstayed 3-more nights in the Gold Coast to experience it at my own pace and on my own.