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Free things to do on the Gold Coast with Kids

While one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia due to its wide array of things to do, visiting the Gold Coast can soon become quite an expensive trip if you're looking to stay at quality accommodation or take part in and visit a lot of activities and attractions - especially if you have kids with you.

If you are planning a trip to the Gold Coast with your kids during the school holidays that means that you'll often end up paying school holiday prices. This makes it all the more important to seek out other ways to balance out the financials of the trip while still having the most fun experience as possible with the family in tow.

Luckily, there are multiple ways to enjoy many great things the greater Gold Coast area has to offer without having to fork over extravagant amounts of cash. We've done some of the legwork for you here in order to suggest some of what we feel are the best free activities and attractions on the Gold Coast here! Here are some of our top recommendations:

6. The Currumbin Rock Pools

Location: Currumbin Creek Rd, Currumbin Valley Currumbin Rock Pools Free things to do with kids on the Gold Coast

Located further away from the coast and heading deeper into lovely Currumbin Valley, the Currumbin Rock Pools have long been a popular secret for locals looking for a place that's quieter and more relaxed than some of the alternatives in the more easily accessible suburbs.

Accessible via a roughly 25-minute drive from the coast at Palm Beach that also happens to be quite scenic, the rock pools are fairly easy to miss if you're not careful. You'll be heading on a drive through some winding road periodically covered with greenery past homes and farmland before coming to a small store and parking area, with the rock pools waiting below.

While parking is limited to a fairly small set of spaces, parking along the roadside is fine and you'll never have to walk far to get down to the pools themselves. Once there, you'll be presented with a small, grassy area that sits directly alongside the creek that has barbeques, covered picnic areas and plenty of bushlands to round out the atmosphere. There's a single main pool which is incredibly popular with children (and children-at-heart alike) for jumping into from the side of the rocks, and although this has been hazardous in the past it rarely stops scores of them from participating.

There's not much here in terms of facilities – toilets and the aforementioned amenities are about the limit, while the shop across the road sells snacks and other small foods, which can be quite expensive, so it's advisable to pack your own picnic lunch.

The Currumbin Rock Pools are quite simply one of the best spots on the Gold Coast to get away from it all and serves as a great alternative to the beach, as the smallish size and relatively unknown nature of the spot means it will never be too crowded.

5. Picnic at Tamborine Mountain

Location: Tamborine Mountain Tamborine Mountain Free things to do with kids on the Gold Coast Image: Mira Budd Photography

The Gold Coast Hinterland is an area of the region that gets very little promotion or publicity considering how beautiful it truly is.

Less than an hour's drive from most major points of accommodation lies this wonderfully green wilderness area that is easily reachable by either car or tour bus. The road is dotted with many lovely sightseeing lookouts and picnic areas that make for a great place to stop and admire the views that stretch out far into the distance.

At several of these stops there are large, grassed areas that overlook the valleys and farms below that make for the perfect place to spread out the picnic rug and watch hang gliders launch off the edge into the skies.

When driving up the mountain, another popular spot to stop off is Guanaba Park, located just past the golf course. The park has a wide play area for kids with good playground equipment and plenty of space for outdoor games of all kinds.

Lastly, don't forget to take time for a visit to Cedar Creek Falls, one of the most famous images of the Gold Coast Hinterland. There are two separate picnic areas on the way to the falls themselves, the first being close to the car park with plenty of space and all necessary picnic facilities, while the second can be found around 200m walk along a track situated just to the right of the boardwalk that leads towards the falls.

4. Carrara Markets

Location: Manchester Rd, Carrara Carrara Markets Free things to do with kids on the Gold Coast Image: Carrara Markets

Carrara Markets is of the largest, best-known and longest-running markets on the Gold Coast. Located in a convenient and centrally-located position that makes it a great place to spend a day browsing its huge array of stalls, stands, festivities and more and come away with a bargain. With over 500 stalls covering 10 acres of land, it offers a wonderful mix of crafts that cover all angles of the shopping spectrum.

While the idea of browsing through a market may not initially feel like the most suitable activity to drag the kids along to, there is plenty of entertainment to keep them occupied. You'll find buskers, pony rides, merry-go-rounds, bungee trampolines and face painters that will allow you to have a browse whilst also keeping a smile on your kids faces.

In recent years even greater efforts have gone towards making the markets more appealing for kids, as there are also plenty of mini-rides as well as a Ferris Wheel and bouncing castle that you may want to let them have a play on while you relax for a few minutes with some of the freshly-produced food from one of the nearby stalls.

One thing to bear in mind is that the Carrara Markets are usually exceptionally busy if you are planning to attend during their peak hours, so if either you or your kids don't like fighting through crowds you may not enjoy yourselves as much as you expected.

3. Gold Coast Playgrounds

Location: Various locations Gold Coast playgrounds Free things to do with kids on the Gold Coast Image: Destination Gold Coast

The Gold Coast has one of the best balances of beaches, waterways and parks out of any city in Australia, and many of these parks make for great destinations to take the kids. This is a great free way to spend a few hours while the kids get some fresh air and burn off some energy as they are decked out with playground equipment.

Most of the parks are well-maintained and have plenty of room for physical activity with an adventure of some kind for children to be had at every park. Some of the best parks with playground equipment for kids on the Gold Coast include:

Laguna Park, Palm Beach, Laguna Avenue Palm Beach:

  • A huge range of fun equipment for children of all ages
  • Fenced
  • Includes a large adventure playground
  • Pirate Ship, slides, rockers
  • Pedal power monorail

Washington Waters Southport, Gold Coast Highway, Opposite Australia Fair Shopping Centre:

  • Adventure for all ages by the broadwate
  • Mini bike circuit
  • Flying Fox
  • Pedal-powered monorail
  • Safe swimming enclosure
  • Velectron

Pratten Park, Old Burleigh Road, Broadbeach:

  • Located in central Broadbeach
  • Large shaded playground
  • Pedal-powered monorail
  • Slides & sandpit
  • Near the beach – bring a swimsuit

Ed Hardy Park, Corner the Esplanade and Kelly Avenue Miami:

  • A nautical-inspired playground
  • Plenty of pirate-themed playground equipment

Pacific Pines Central Park, Hotham Drive, Pacific Pines:

  • A huge park with plenty of running room for kids
  • Fully-fenced
  • Large flying fox
  • Adventure playground with spinning poles, slides, rockers, swings and suspension bridge

2. Go to the Beach

Location: Various locations Beaches Free Things to do with Kids Gold Coast

There's a reason the Gold Coast's reputation rests on the quality of its beaches, the city's entire stretch is brimming with them, and with few exceptions, all of them are of a high standard that makes for a great, free day out with the kids.

With over 57 kilometres worth of uninterrupted, pristine coastline, visitors looking for a day full of surf, sun and sand are certainly spoiled for choice.

There are few areas along the main tourist strip of the Gold Coast that are ever very far from the beach, meaning that regardless of where you are staying, you'll no doubt have access to one in a minimal amount of either walking or driving.

However, the wide range of beaches to choose from begs the question, which beach (or beaches) is best suited for families with kids and young children? For specific answers to this question, check out our detailed Gold Coast Family Friendly Beaches Guide.

1. The Rockpools at Southport

Location: Marine Parade, Southport Broadwater Parklands Southport Free things with kids Gold Coast Image: Weekend Notes

If there's any singular go-to, free destination on the Gold Coast to take the kids, the well-designed and extremely popular Rockpools playground at Southport would most likely be it.

Situated on the waterfront at the Broadwater Parklands, the facility has everything you would want for providing the kids with a day out in the fresh air, regardless of if it's a hot or cool day. Here you'll find numerous water features and activities combined with plenty of shaded areas to cater to an enjoyable experience regardless of the weather.

While it can be crowded - particularly during school holidays - there's simply no better alternative for those on a budget looking to give their kids the chance to cool off. While Gold Coast theme parks Wet 'n' Wild and WhiteWater World can provide water entertainment of their own, the price can understandably often be a turnoff for some.

Large, shallow water pools make for the ideal way for even the youngest of kids to cool off, while other fountains and creature-shaped water spraying toys add a dash of colour and more watery goodness to the proceedings.

On the dry side of things, there are various pieces of inventive playground equipment ranging from standard all the way up to a large jumping pillow and bouncy house (although this is restricted to kids over the age of 10) and a fixed pedalling track.

All this is set amongst some lovely, spacious parkland with a wonderful look out onto the Broadwater. The area even has its own small beach area that is regularly patrolled by a lifeguard should you wish to get some sand between your toes. As an added bonus, it's within a short walking distance from Australia Fair Shopping Centre which is located across the road. The centre's location makes it easy to grab yourself either some takeaway lunch or visit a supermarket and bring back some fresh food for a picnic in the parklands. Perhaps the only downside is that parking can be a chore, however, Australia Fair offers 3 hours' worth of free parking for shoppers and is just a short walk away. In all, The Rockpools is our choice for the top thing to do on the Gold Coast with kids for the best possible price, FREE.

These are just a few of the best free things to do with kids on the Gold Coast - if you're looking for a full range of activities, attractions and things to do on the Gold Coast, be sure to check out our main region page for full details!

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