10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Gold Coast, Australia

10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Gold Coast, Australia

Stretching along the south-east Queensland coast, from Coolangatta to Southport, the Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most famous holiday destinations. The tourist hub of this glamorous coastal strip, aptly named Surfers Paradise, is like an Aussie version of Las Vegas. A forest of skyscrapers bristles along the beach, entertainment venues flaunt flashy neon signs, and designer boutiques beckon from beachside malls. In the surrounding area, a clutch of theme parks adds to all the excitement. But the Gold Coast also boasts a bevvy of natural assets: beautiful blond beaches, an emerald hinterland, and a mild subtropical climate with more than 300 days of sunshine a year.

Not far from the hubbub of this tourist hotspot, sightseers can find plenty of peaceful escapes. Golden beaches stretch for miles south to Coolangatta with a perfect patch of sand for everyone, and wildlife attractions abound. And in the hinterland, nature lovers can relax amid rolling green valleys, lushly cloaked peaks, and World Heritage-listed rainforests.

1 Surfers Paradise Beach

Surfers Paradise Beach
Surfers Paradise Beach
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Sun, sand, and sea – the Gold Coast’s alliterative assets – are on impressive display at this iconic 3 km strand. Despite all the skyscrapers rising behind the beach and the many bronzed bodies basking along its shore, it remains a surprisingly clean and picturesque stretch. Kids can splash around in the shallows or build sandcastles in the soft white sand, surfers can ride the typically gentle swells, and the sun-struck can stumble off the beach to one of the many shops, cafés, and restaurants to rehydrate.

Lifeguards patrol 365 days a year, but swimmers should stay between the red and yellow flags at all times. At night, the beach is illuminated for evening strolls. Bargain hunters flock here Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights to the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets with more than a hundred stalls selling everything from fashion, photographs, and art to souvenirs and jewelry.

2 SkyPoint, Surfer’s Paradise

SkyPoint, Surfer's Paradise
SkyPoint, Surfer’s Paradise

SkyPoint, in the contemporary Q1 hotel, is Australia’s tallest residential tower and offers giddy views of the entire Gold Coast. Visitors can choose from two sightseeing attractions here. The SkyPoint Observation Deck on level 77 affords 360-degree panoramas of the Gold Coast, the sea, and the distant green hinterland. Those seeking a little more adventure can opt for the SkyPoint Climb, where thrill seekers clamber upon a 270 m platform perched above the city. It’s an exciting way to appreciate the lay of the land. The pricier SkyPoint Climb includes entry to the observation deck where visitors can relax at the café and browse the informative exhibits to help plan their stay. Morning, day, and twilight climbs are offered.

3 Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Feeding kangaroos
Feeding kangaroos

A favorite with families, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a well-known wildlife park owned by the non-profit National Trust of Queensland. Bird lovers are in for a treat here. Hundreds of brightly colored rainbow lorikeets eat from visitors’ hands and even perch on their heads. Other highlights include the free-flight bird show, a Tarzan-worthy Adventure Park High Ropes Course, Segway tours, and a little train that will delight toddlers. In addition to all the feathered residents, visitors can commune with kangaroos, cuddle koalas, and keep their distance from the resident crocodiles. All proceeds support the animals.

4 Cavill Avenue in Surfer’s Paradise

Cavill Avenue is the shopping and entertainment heart of Surfer’s Paradise. The street stretches from the city center through Cavill Mall to the sun-splashed beaches along the Esplanade. Dotted with date palms and Norfolk pines, the pedestrian-only Cavill Mall is a focal point with its alfresco eateries, restaurants, boutiques, and abundant entertainment venues. Also along the avenue, the Centro Surfers Paradise is a large shopping complex with more eateries and fashion stores. Other top tourist spots are Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Hard Rock Café.

5 Coolangatta

Coolangatta
Coolangatta
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Relaxed Coolangatta provides a more peaceful alternative to tourist-packed Surfer’s Paradise. The last town before the New South Wales border, Coolangatta is much loved for its beautiful beach. Parents bring their children here to play and splash along its gleaming shores, while surfers head to the northern end of the beach for the best breaks and beginners can take surf lessons. Near here, Snapper Rocks is a famous point break, and Kirra Beach is another favorite strand. Coolangatta is also the site of the Gold Coast airport.

6 Sea World

Sea World
Sea World

Sea World, the largest marine park in Australia, appeals to young and old. The busy lineup of shows includes performing dolphins, sea lions, and water-ski ballet. To gain a great overview of the park, visitors can hop aboard the monorail. Favorite animal species include polar bears, penguins, tropical fish, and small sharks. The park even offers sea-themed rides like a roller coaster. After viewing all the marine creatures, the small water park is a great spot to cool off with the kids.

7 Dreamworld

Dreamworld
Dreamworld

Dreamworld is one of the Gold Coast’s favorite theme parks – with an Aussie twist. In addition to a thrilling lineup of roller coasters, live shows, and movie characters, the park hosts more than 500 native Australian animals with kangaroo feeding and koala cuddling, a Dreamworld aboriginal corroboree, and every toddler’s favorite – Wiggles World. If time permits, visitors can bring their swimsuits and pop next door to WhiteWater World, an extravaganza of waterslides and splash pools.

8 Warner Bros Movie World

Warner Bros Movie World
Warner Bros Movie World

At Warner Bros Movie World, kids can come face-to-face with superheroes, ride roller coasters, see stunt shows, and immerse themselves in fantasylands on 3D interactive rides. Little ones will love the kids’ Fun Zone with colorful rides and Looney Tunes characters, and the parades on “Main Street” are also a hit. Those doing the theme park tour of the Gold Coast should consider purchasing a combination pass, which allows access to multiple parks at a discount. Check the website for details.

9 Lamington National Park

Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park
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About an hour drive from Surfers Paradise, World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is renowned for its beautiful rainforest scenery, many waterfalls, and quirky wildlife. The park lies in the lush hills of the Border Ranges; remnants of an ancient volcano, where the Lamington Plateau plunges into dramatic cliffs and gorges. Birders will be in heaven here with more than 190 species to spot, including brilliantly colored parrots and the elusive Bowerbird, named for the elaborate arches they build and decorate to impress possible mates. Other quirky creatures include red-necked pademelons and long-nosed bandicoots. A twisty hilltop road leads to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, a guesthouse and spa where visitors can also enjoy a meal at the café. From here, nature buffs can explore the park on the O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk, a 180 m series of suspension bridges strung through the rainforest canopy.

10 Springbrook National Park

Purling Brook Falls
Purling Brook Falls
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Not far from the busy beach strip, Springbrook National Park offers a tranquil escape in World Heritage-listed wilderness. Soaring rock faces, rainforests, waterfalls, and the gorges of the McPherson Range dominate the park. A popular attraction is Natural Arch Bridge where a waterfall plunges into a cave (home to a colony of glow worms) and through a natural basalt arch. Rainforest-fringed trails lead from the picnic area to the river and a lookout. From here, visitors can see Mount Warning, the remnant of a large shield volcano. Pretty Purling Brook Falls, in the central section of the park, is another highlight. The park is also a haven for birds and protects several threatened species.

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