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The 12 best things to do on the Gold Coast

Discover the world-famous coastal region of Queensland with our guide to the best things to do on the Gold Coast

Written by
Tiana Templeman

Whether you're in the mood for relaxation, exploration or partying, the top things to do on the Gold Coast have you covered. With its golden sands and laid-back holiday vibe, the Gold Coast has always been a favourite destination for those seeking a relaxed seaside escape. However, this famous Queensland holiday spot offers more than a day at the beach. With its rich Indigenous heritage, vibrant markets, heart-pumping adrenaline activities and thriving live music scene, there is plenty to keep you entertained along the coastal strip. For a change of pace, head to the naturally beautiful Gold Coast hinterland where you’ll find an oasis of calm and stunning scenery. Bring your swimsuit and your sense of adventure. It’s time to discover a different side of the Gold Coast.

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do on the Gold Coast

Twilight climb at Q1
Photograph: Murray Rix

1. Twilight climb at Q1

What is it? Australia’s highest external building walk.

Why go? Swap the beach for the clouds atop the Gold Coast skyscraper Q1 and watch the sunset on a twilight climb. After a safety briefing you’ll put on a sturdy harness and head outside to climb the stairs to the top of Q1 and marvel at jaw-dropping ocean views as the sun sets.

Jet Boat Extreme

2. Jet Boat Extreme

What is it? Hold onto your hats – this is a thrilling jetboating trip which leaves from Surfers Paradise.

Why go? Get your heart racing with an adrenaline-packed hour spent zipping around sandbars and zooming past pelicans. Hang on tight as the driver cuts across the wake from larger boats, teasing the wheel so the jetboat dances across the waves. 

Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre

3. Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre

What is it? The opportunity to explore Burleigh Head National Park with an Indigenous guide.

Why go? To connect with the Gold Coast’s rich Indigenous culture. You’ll walk the tracks of the cool rainforest with a guide, and hear one of the Gold Coast’s oldest Dreamtime stories as you learn more about the traditional sites used by the Yugambeh people.

Whale watching cruise

4. Whale watching cruise

What is it? A chance to see the gentle marine mammals from a boat, available from June to November.

Why go? The Gold Coast has one of Australia’s longest whale watching seasons and offers the chance to see humpback whales and even the occasional orca whale if you’re lucky. Dolphins, flying fish, turtles and sharks are also spotted regularly during this scenic boat tour.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

5. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

What is it? A historic guesthouse located in the heart of Lamington National Park.

Why go? Lamington National Park is a natural wonderland filled with walking trails and jewel-bright native Australian birds. Don’t miss the free treetop canopy walk which has a 30-metre-high observation deck.

Surf lesson

6. Surf lesson

What is it? An award-winning surf school on the Gold Coast.

Why go? The Gold Coast is famous for surfing so you would be crazy not to try it at least once. It’s a fun atmosphere as everyone practices their surf moves on the beach before the instructors charge into the water with the class to help everyone learn how to hang ten. Wetsuit, on.

Brewery tour with Burleigh Brewery Co.
Photograph: Trent Mitchell

7. Brewery tour with Burleigh Brewery Co.

What is it? A fascinating (and tasty) tour of one of the Gold Coast’s most famous craft breweries.  

Why go? Explore the boutique Burleigh Brewery Co. with a brew master to learn the tricks of the trade, and drink beers with the guy who created them. You’ll sample four of their most popular beers.

Mount Tamborine

8. Mount Tamborine

What is it? A day trip to the picturesque Gold Coast hinterland.

Why? Mt Tamborine is an easy 40-minute drive from the Gold Coast but feels like a world away. Galleries and cafés line the cute main street, and Queensland’s oldest national park, (Tamborine Mountain National Park) offers impressive views of the distant Pacific Ocean.

Yoga class by the beach

9. Yoga class by the beach

What is it? Free yoga classes available throughout the Gold Coast.

Why go? Kick off your morning with some downward-facing dog by the water, with ocean waves providing a soothing natural soundtrack. These free classes are part of the Gold Coast City Council’s ‘Active and Healthy’ programme.

Surf World Gold Coast

10. Surf World Gold Coast

What is it? A museum that's home to Australia’s largest surfboard collection and loads of other surfing-based objects of interest.

Why go? Surf World Gold Coast celebrates the history of surfing and its impact on popular culture with an impressive array of boards, trophies, photographs, clothing and other memorabilia. Exhibitions and events frequently change so you'll never get bored. Plus, the terrific gift shop is ideal for those seeking a souvenir that’s a little different. 

Miami Marketta

11. Miami Marketta

What is it? A live music venue and street food market in the Gold Coast suburb of Miami.

Why go? Catch a gig at Miami Marketta, a live music venue and hawker-style food market with shared tables, funky bars and a lively atmosphere every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night. There is plenty of tasty street food and seating for 450 people, so be sure to bring your entire posse.

Pacific Fair

12. Pacific Fair

What is it? A vast shopping centre set amongst a tropical landscape.

Why go? Pacific Fair has more than 400 shops, ranging from department stores to high-end boutiques like Prada and Gucci. The Visitors Lounge with chilled water and fresh fruit, free Wi-Fi and restrooms with showers, is a great spot to freshen up if the sun is getting a little intense.

Ready for some local shopping?

  • Things to do
  • Markets

The Gold Coast is home to some of Queensland’s best, and most unusual, indoor and outdoor markets. Whether you’re after a cane toad purse, designer fashion, antiques, or original artworks, you’re sure to find it at one of these must-visit markets.

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