When you think of Australia, do you think of miles of beaches, sunshine, and surfer style laid-back outdoor living? The Gold Coast is exactly like this; barefoot surfers strolling through the centre of town with their surfboard under their arms, and early morning joggers and walkers on the Esplanade, all enjoying the glorious sunshine.
But surfing and soaking up the sun aren’t the only things to do in the Gold Coast. This region is a fantastic place for wildlife lovers too, as it’s home to a rainforest, a wildlife sanctuary, the Everglades and the famous Australia Zoo.
If you’re heading to east coast Australia, here are some ideas to explore this rich part of the country.
I flew into Brisbane from London Heathrow with Etihad, via Abu Dhabi. A total flight time of 22.5hrs. Our first night was in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, about one hour’s drive south from Brisbane.
We stayed in the QT Gold Coast; a fresh, young, funky hotel brand found in Australia & New Zealand. Everything was fabulous, from the spacious rooms (I recommend Ocean View) to the famed Bazaar restaurant with its breakfast and dinner buffet with fresh local produce, and chefs more than happy to cook your order on demand. Make sure you include breakfast with your room booking as it really is exceptional.
We went on a 3.5-hour whale watching cruise with Whales in Paradise who enforce strict regulations about how close you can cruise to protect the whales. Just being able to see whales swim close by is amazing. We spotted a mother and calf and followed them while learning all about these majestic creatures. Just as it was time to leave, they both breached – offering a grand finale to our cruise.
SkyPoint is the Gold Coast’s only Observation Deck, with unparalleled views. You’ll take one of the world’s fastest lifts up to Level 77 and get 360-degree views of the coastline and the hinterlands and beyond. If you’re not scared of heights, you can Join the 90-minute SkyPoint Climb which takes you a further 270 metres above everyone else.
If you’re hungry after your adrenaline rush, why not venture a little further out of town for dinner and join a walking tour of restaurants in Broadbeach, an up and coming beachside suburb filled with bars and restaurants? We met the lively Karen from Gold Coast Food & Wine Tours who took us on a food tour.
We tried some delicious Indonesian food at Skewers restaurant then headed to Double Zero where they make wood-fired pizzas in 90 seconds. For dessert and a nightcap, I can recommend finishing the night at Room 81 with tailor-made cocktails and a deliciously refreshing lemon lime and bitters dessert.
If you feel like a relaxing yet invigorating morning, you can try a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga lesson in Tallebudgera Creek, just outside Surfers Paradise - it’s easier than it sounds! If you do fall in, the water is likely to be so warm that you won’t mind. We had a fully trained teacher who combined her passion for both yoga and SUP and made the morning thoroughly enjoyable.
Within walking distance of Tallebudgera creek is the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Take a guided walk up and through the Jellurgal mountain and learn about the local Aboriginal life, past and present. You’ll arrive at the top of the mountain to a stunning lookout point out over the ocean and down to Tweed Heads, the border of New South Wales so keep an eye out for whales.
This sanctuary is a great go-to for families. Take a walk through the park and you can see the animals up close. Kids can feed the kangaroos in the same enclosure as the emus, walk through the aviary to spot the colourful lorikeet birds, and finish with a visit to the Wildlife Hospital to watch the vets work their magic on poorly animals.
In Coolangatta, the southernmost coastal suburb of Queensland, we stayed at the Mantra Twin Towns, a hotel built over the border between two states. This means that some rooms are in Queensland and some are in New South Wales!
Bear in mind that New South Wales use daylight savings for six months of the year, so there will be a 1-hour time difference, which could be confusing. The hotel will always use Queensland time though, so just make sure your phones and watches are correct.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is the place to stay and a good spot to begin exploring the hinterland of Queensland. You can spend the night at the retreat in one of their rooms or villas overlooking the rainforest and the nearby mountains and there’s an infinity pool with expansive views across the rainforest.
You can join a tour that visits waterfalls and lookouts and you’ll enjoy a barbecue lunch before trying your hand at throwing boomerangs. You can also go for a tree-top walk through the rainforest, across nine suspension bridges, 16 metres high with the option to climb further to the lookout platform at 30 metres.
The retreat offers plenty of free activities too. Every morning you can join a free bird tour, and every evening after sunset, a 4WD will take you on a glow worm tour. The most popular tour is feeding the birds – colourful King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas will descend on you as soon as they get a sniff of the bird seeds! Beware – they will land not only on the tray of bird seeds but also your head!
If you’re heading north when you leave O’Reilly’s, be sure to stop at Mary Cairncross Reserve and take in the views of the Glasshouse Mountains and the hinterlands. It’s also great for children with their interactive, hands-on centre. There’s a great little craft brewery not far from here in Maleny called Brouhaha for a refreshing lunch stop – delicious food and delicious beer!
The natural stop from here is the iconic Australia Zoo, made famous by the late Steve Irwin. There’s so much to see and do here, and this has all been created by the Irwin family who is famed for their love and passion for all kinds of wildlife. The zoo is huge, so you should really allow the most part of a day to see everything.
You can cuddle koalas (only allowed in Queensland, South Australia & Western Australia), and even ‘cuddle’ a snake or an alligator! Visit the Crocoseum and watch crocs, birds and snakes take part in the ‘Wildlife Warriors’ show.
A little outside Noosa, you'll find one of only two everglade systems in the world (the other is in Florida). With its 60km stretch of pristine waters and narrow waterways, the Noosa Everglades are home to rich fauna and flora. Join an everglade cruise for stunning views of the rainforest and to be astounded at the abundance of birdlife (there’s more birdlife here than in any other part of the country, a magnet for bird lovers).
Just up the road (or should I say beach!) from Noosa, is Rainbow Beach. The Beach is a registered highway, meaning you can drive along the 50 miles of sand, with the Pacific Ocean to your right, and the famous rainbow coloured sands to your left.
If you’re headed for east coast Australia, there are plenty of things to do in Gold Coast and around. If you’d like to visit this beautiful region, we can advise you on tours and places to stay and arrange every aspect of your trip. Give us a call on 01273 005 157 or request a quote by email.