This golden stretch of city and sand 80km from Brisbane boasts skyscrapers and surf, markets and music, celebrities and hippies, and countless ways to dip in.
The Gold Coast has endured its fair share of comparisons. But if Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach are like Miami, then Mermaid Beach and Burleigh Heads are Santa Monica and Venice Beach, with acai and poke bowls, hot yoga studios, surf boutiques and bronzed babes to prove it. Whether you’re here for the pumping surf, thumping nightlife or bubbling local culture, you’ll find it just an hour south of Brisbane.
Where to eat
The jury is still out about who makes the best acai bowls, but Niche & Co in Tugun is a crowd pleaser for nutritious and naughty versions – the salted caramel is whipped with vanilla protein, caramel sauce and chocolate coconut yogurt.
Continue your sugar high at Bam Bam Bakehouse, the bold Mermaid Beach sister of the bucolic Paddock Bakery in nearby suburban Miami. The blackcurrant eclairs, S’mores pain au chocolat, and twice baked Snickers croissants have won over the likes of Margot Robbie and Matt Preston.
Another celeb spotting opportunity is over at Balter Brewing Company in Currumbin; Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning rank among the brewery’s pro surfer founders. But first you’ll need some real food, whether it’s a super green salad from Mandala & Co back in Mermaid Beach or the nacho filled Pablo Escoburger from Ze Pickle in Burleigh Heads.
Eat at the famous Hard Rock Cafe for the ultimate culinary experience for music fans and food lovers alike or grab a Burger and Beer combo (as long as you're not driving) at Main Street Burger Bar, both of which NRMA Blue Members get great discounts at.
Resume your cocktail crawl on the rooftop of Justin Lane – the kombucha and Aperol based Adeline cocktail will sort you out – then walk over to Rick Shores as the sun sets for an Asian feast backed by Burleigh’s breakers.
Where to play
There’s no better way to start a Gold Coast day than at one of its golden beaches. At the beginner friendly point break Currumbin Alley down south, Surf Services Australia offers wave riding lessons run by Mark Richardson and his wife Bianca, who happens to be Joel Parkinson’s sister. On your way back north, you can feed rainbow lorikeets and kangaroos and hold a baby saltwater crocodile at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
For those seeking a little more wilderness, there’s Burleigh Head National Park with its stunning ocean track and secret swimming holes. This is also an excellent place to watch whales from June to November or see the sun set over the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise.
If you’re a fan of heights, go inside the Q1 building, which is among the tallest residential structures in the world. The Skypoint Observation Deck affords 360 degree views from the ocean horizon to the hinterland. End your night at the design and street food hub Miami Marketta. If you’re lucky, a band like the Growlers or Allah-Las will be playing.
And, of course, if you’re travelling with kids (or the young at heart), you can’t go past the Gold Coast’s top three theme parks – Wet ‘n’ Wild, Sea World and Movie World. Each park has a range of rides, attractions and entertainment, so spread your visit over a few days to experience it all, including Dreamworld and Outback Spectacular. Members can take advantage of discounted passes that include ride photos – a perfect souvenir of your time on the Gold Coast.
Where to shop
Down the road – look for the Miami peach warehouse door – The Borrowed Nursery is festooned with tropical plants and pots plus functional furniture and beachy bedding. Salt Living in Coolangatta takes the seaside lifestyle a step further with Seea surf suits and Citta Design hammocks added to its interiors collection.
Burleigh Heads is a shopping bonanza. The Freedom State, Bikini & Me, Anuk and the twice monthly Village Markets all showcase the best in Australian style. Arkive in Surfers Paradise is tops for vintage duds, Six Things in Tweed Heads wins for pop culture novelties (Tupac prayer candle or lunging George Costanza poster, anyone?); and Little Maisy in Palm Beach stocks the cutest kids clothes you’ve ever seen.
Where to stay
Just 15 minutes north of Surfers Paradise and in the middle of all the local theme parks, NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort is ideal for a family holiday on the Gold Coast. From campsites to three bedroom cabins and villas – some overlooking Biggera Creek – plus swimming pools, heated spas, a tennis court, a bounce house, pirate themed mini golf, an outdoor cinema and an on site bistro, your family is well and truly taken care of here.
To experience some of the Goldie’s glam, within proximity to local hotspots like Mermaid Beach and Miami, check into the Sofitel hotel at Broadbeach, a sophisticated property where every room has beach or river views. With the double hatted Room 81 restaurant on the ground floor, you have every excuse to stay in.