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The top things to do on the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is Australia’s favourite holiday destination with glorious beaches, rainforest retreats and a bounty of things to do for families, couples and solo travellers. Get your discounted tickets to Currumbin Wildlife sanctuary here to fill your days with koala cuddles or scream your lungs out at one of the Gold Coast theme parks. Adventurers will love a Gold Coast jet boating adventure or hot air balloon flight over the region. By day, take in the scenery on a Gold Coast cruise but when dusk falls enjoy evening entertainment at Dracula’s Cabaret or the Australian Outback Spectacular. Extraordinary adventures await with a bounty of things to do in the Gold Coast all available at your fingertips.

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Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast

From the stunning golden beaches and theme parks to whale watching, rainforest tours and world-class events - the Gold Coast is an entertainment hub for all travellers. Combine this with the region’s famously beautiful weather all year round, and it’s safe to say the Gold Coast is Australia’s favourite holiday destination.

The sheer variety of things to do on the Gold Coast is what makes it a special destination and given the blessings of the climate and proximity to the ocean and the rainforest, a vast array of outdoor activities are viable any day of the year. There are so many Gold Coast attractions to visit. It would be impossible to fit them all into one visit.

From the world-class Gold Coast theme parks to relaxing sightseeing cruise winding through the waterways and tours to the Gold Coast hinterland - the opportunities to craft an extraordinary holiday here are endless. Then there are the famous Gold Coast jet boating adventures and the aquatic activities that will see you learn how to surf, stand up paddleboard or snorkel and dive secret locations in the Gold Coast seaway. Wildlife lovers won't be disappointed either with numerous opportunities to snuggle up to koalas or hand-feed kangaroos at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Paradise Country.

Creatures of the night can party till dawn at night club hotspots in Surfers Paradise or sit down for an evening show at the Dracula's Gold Coast or the Australian Outback Spectacular. If you are want to chill a little and let someone else take the wheel while you have a drive free holiday then a wide range of Gold Coast tours can cater your every whim and help you cover the must-see Gold Coast beaches, rainforest and attractions.

But with so much to see and do, how does a visitor decide the best activities to take part in? Here, we break down the Top 10 Things to Do on the Gold Coast to ensure you don't miss out on the best places to visit.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Visit a Theme Park

1. Visit a Theme Park

Location: Various locations, northern end of Gold Coast

The region’s theme parks are major features that set the Gold Coast apart from other popular holiday destinations in Australia. The parks are a huge drawcard for many people visiting from both interstate and overseas and are the major reason the city is such a popular spot for families.

It’s not without reason as each of the theme parks is a quality attraction in their own right, and each one offers something slightly different to the next.

From the high-quality thrill rides of Dreamworld to everyone’s favourite film and cartoon characters at Movie World to the watery, aquatic fun available at both Sea World and Wet ‘n’ Wild, there’s a theme park on the Gold Coast for all age groups, interest types and weather conditions.

While they’re best visited outside school holidays, each of the parks has grown over the years to accommodate large crowds. The immense variety of rides and sideshows for all ages also provides something interesting to see, try or ride at all times of the day.

The Gold Coast is the theme park capital of Australia with thrilling rides, slides, live entertainment and animal experiences on offer for all ages making it a great day out for the whole family.

While buying tickets to the theme parks isn’t cheap, there are numerous passes and package options available that give greater value than standalone one-day entry tickets. Options include passes for three parks for 7 consecutive days, unlimited entry for a few weeks, and even full-blown VIP style theme park packages that allow an entire year worth of unlimited entry.

These passes change regularly with sales and discounts sporadically appearing. Check our Gold Coast theme parks section for an up to date listing of value passes for the parks.

Regardless of what your style of the theme park is – and particularly if you have kids – if it’s your first time to the Gold Coast you’ll no doubt want to pay a visit to one of these high-quality entertainment attractions.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Make some furry friends at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

2. Make some furry friends at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: 28 Tomewin St, Currumbin, Gold Coast

One of the longest-running and most beloved attractions on the Gold Coast, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the definitive place of choice for those looking to get a dose of family-friendly animal fun on the Gold Coast.

Previously called Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, the facility offers a full and great value day out with reasonable prices on tickets and a wide variety of native Australian and exotic wildlife. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary features interactive displays and wide-open enclosures all set within a lush, cool eucalyptus and rainforest environment.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is both easy to find and easy to get to, with a location just off the Gold Coast Highway at Currumbin, around 20 minutes’ drive from Surfers Paradise and with bus stops right on its doorstep.

Home to all your favourite Aussie animals, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the place to cuddle a koala, hand-feed kangaroos and see exotic animals on display in the Lost Valley.

Families will be in their element here, as the park offers not only a great variety of animals but also its iconic train that takes you around the park regularly, this is something kids love and it gives parents a chance to rest their legs.

In addition, Currumbin Sanctuary also has a fun tree ropes course called the Green Challenge which is likewise a huge hit with the little ones at just a few dollars extra charge.

If you’re wanting to hand-feed kangaroos, cuddle a koala, see wombats, echidnas, emus and more, then Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is your destination of choice on the Gold Coast.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Enjoy the view from the SkyPoint Observation Deck

3. Enjoy the view from the SkyPoint Observation Deck

Location: 9 Hamilton Ave, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

Most major cities have their iconic towers and the Gold Coast’s answer to this is the towering Q1 Building and its viewing platform on the 77th floor named the SkyPoint Observation Deck.

Venturing to the top of the tower offers some stunning 360-degree views of all the sights that the Gold Coast is famous for. Think vibrant blue ocean, the Surfers Paradise skyline, lush green hinterland, and perhaps most of all, the endless kilometres of golden beaches below.

The SkyPoint Deck serves as a great starting point for your visit to the Gold Coast as it will allow you to get your bearings and can be easily found right in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Be sure to bring your camera along if you’re making the trip up top, as you’re unlikely to find another viewpoint in the region that can compare.

For a spectacular view of the Gold Coast, head to the SkyPoint Observation Deck on Level 77 of the Q1 Resort and Spa to enjoy beautiful panoramic vistas from the surf to the hinterland.

The SkyPoint Deck also serves as a bar and restaurant, so whether you simply choose to take in the views as most do or turn your visit into a dining experience is entirely up to you.

SkyPoint also offers a SkyPoint Climb experience that allows you to harness up and go outside the glass for an adventure that is both stunning and thrilling.

There is no other place on the Gold Coast that can offer views quite like the SkyPoint Observation Deck, making it a must-do.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Spend a day at the beach

4. Spend a day at the beach

Location: Various locations along the coastline, Gold Coast

If there’s one thing that the Gold Coast is famous for, it is the beaches – and with around 57 kilometres of beach available, there are plenty to choose from for those who love their surf and sunshine.

Which beach you choose to visit will likely depend on a variety of things; where you’re living or staying, whether you’re bringing kids, or if you’re looking to swim or surf.

Each of the main beaches on the coast, including Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Coolangatta, Currumbin, Duranbah, Kirra, Main Beach, Nobby Beach, Palm Beach and perhaps most famously, Surfers Paradise, offer something slightly different, however, all of them are of a universally high quality and exceptionally clean.

The Gold Coast is famous for its pristine beaches and with 57 kilometres of beach available, there are certainly plenty to choose from for those who love the surf and sunshine.

All of the beaches listed above are regularly patrolled by volunteer Surf Life Savers, and many offer some blend of public picnic and barbeque areas, nearby cafes and restaurants, and great walking tracks.

For a more comprehensive and detailed breakdown of each Gold Coast beach and what it has to offer, check out our Gold Coast Beaches Guide to help determine which beach on the “Goldy” is the best choice for you.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Chase waterfalls in the hinterland

5. Chase waterfalls in the hinterland

Location: Approx. 45-minute drive from Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

While the gold is what most people think of with the Gold Coast, it’s the green areas that round out the package and make visiting the region such a solid overall experience.

All it takes is roughly a 45-minute drive from the heart of the glitz and glamour in Surfers Paradise and you’ll find yourself in the Gold Coast Hinterland, an oasis of greenery and scenery that feels like it is the world away from the main tourism hub.

It’s a gem of an area that is still relatively untouched given its proximity to one of Australia’s top holiday spots, and features the likes of glow worm caves, cascading waterfalls, wonderful mountain views and wineries all within a reasonably close distance of one another.

The laid-back atmosphere and abundance of greenery on offer here may surprise new visitors, and may, in fact, turn out to be your favourite part of the trip to the Gold Coast.

Away from the glitz and glamour, the Gold Coast hinterland is an oasis of greenery filled with glow worm caves, cascading waterfalls, wineries and tranquil nature walks just waiting to be explored.

All of this centres around the lovely Mount Tamborine and the various World Heritage-Listed National Parks which provide plenty of great vantage points for taking in the views that spread out into the distance beyond.

There are numerous options available for exploring the Gold Coast Hinterland, you can drive yourself (it’s quite a scenic route) although the roads tend to be steep and windy, while there are also various tours, which can take some of the hassles out of the adventure and take you directly to the winery or sightseeing area of your choice.

Horse riding in the Hinterland is also quite popular and provides plenty of chances for exploration around the scenic Natural Bridge area, allowing you to combine a dose of wildlife with your sightseeing (and always a hit with the kids).

There’s also the charming mini-village of Gallery Walk that features a range of quaint, boutique arts and craft stores producing everything from oil paintings to honey, and charming little cafes that allow you to kick back and revel in the greenery. If you’re looking for a break from the typical Gold Coast, then making the trip to the Hinterland is well worth the effort.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Discover the nightlife

6. Discover the nightlife

Location: Majority centred around Cavill & Orchid Avenues, Surfers Paradise

The vibrant nightlife of the Gold Coast is another one of the popular drawcards for people to visit, and while there of plenty of nice dining areas and shopping centres, the focal point of all this is without a doubt Surfers Paradise.

Dance the night away at the nightclubs or sink down a refreshing drink as the sun goes down from a rooftop bar in the iconic Surfers Paradise glitter strip.

Surfers is home to a wide array of nightclubs and bars that are simultaneously one of its biggest attractions. The majority of the Gold Coast’s nightlife is concentrated around the hub streets of Cavill and Orchid Avenues in the heart of Surfers Paradise, and each club offers its own take on the typical clubbing experience.

Other suburbs such as Broadbeach and Coolangatta to the south also offer additional nightlife options for those looking for an alternative to the main hub.

Long-time staple nightclubs on the Gold Coast include Melbas, Shooters, Sin City, The Avenue and various others. For a full, detailed look at what each club has to offer, check out our Gold Coast Nightclubs Guide for an in-depth breakdown.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Cruise the waterways with Sea World Cruises

7. Cruise the waterways with Sea World Cruises

Location: Various departure points, Gold Coast

Water is a central theme on the Gold Coast and the beaches aren’t the only source of fun and entertainment. The city has a highly developed and quite scenic canal system that is actually larger than those of both Amsterdam and Venice combined.

As a result, there are plenty of different cruises on offer that allow visitors to explore the city and its waters from a whole other vantage point. Whether it’s the ocean or the canals, on a sunny day (which the Gold Coast has plenty of) the colour of the water can be quite spectacular.

Cruises on the Gold Coast take part typically either within the canal system or out on the Broadwater (or sometimes both) and offer detailed commentary on local history and highlights. This makes them a solid choice of sightseeing options for first-time visitors to the region.

There are numerous cruises available, you choose from sightseeing cruises, lunch or dinner cruises, crab-catching cruises and sailing cruises. However, you choose to do so, seeing the Gold Coast from the water can provide you with a whole new perspective of the region.

Nestled behind the beaches and highrises, a network of beautiful canals sit behind Surfers Paradise. A Gold Coast sightseeing cruise provides a relaxing way to kick back and enjoy the scenery.
Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Go whale watching

8. Go whale watching

Location: Various departure points, Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s premier whale watching destinations and during the annual whale migration season, as the humpbacks come out to play, you’ll be able to get up close to these gentle giants.

Lasting from late May to early November each year, the whales make for a spectacular sight as they perform their regular trip up the east coast of Australia searching for warmer waters. The Gold Coast’s seaside location makes it an ideal spot to get out on the water and get a firsthand look as they breach, spout and relax.

The Gold Coast typically has a very high number of whales passing through and with a five month whale season, there are plenty of chances for visitors to take part.

There are also a variety of operators to choose from each with their own benefits. Some offer longer trips, others include bonus lunches, or perhaps packages that combine with other essential Gold Coast experiences at a reduced price.

The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s premier whale-watching destinations. Say hello to the majestic humpback whales during their annual migration on a whale watching cruise.

Over 10,000 whales pass close to the Gold Coast’s shores every season, and the city has a large, shallow bay that serves as an ideal location for the whales to rest and mingle on their way to the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re interested in doing some whale watching during your time on the Gold Coast, it’s a good idea to plan your trip between June and November.

Many of the operators who provide whale watching tours also offer whale sighting money-back guarantees or at least a free return trip if no whales are sighted as well, providing a bit of extra peace of mind if you’re thinking of booking.

Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Take a jet boat ride

9. Take a jet boat ride

Location: Surfers Paradise and Marina Mirage, Gold Coast, QLD

Taking a step away from the standard sightseeing cruise, the Gold Coast offers numerous opportunities for jet boat rides. This provides a more adventurous way of exploring the waters while garnering a dose of adrenaline as well.

Heading out onto the Gold Coast Broadwater with a jet boat ride you’ll be able to take in the city skyline and surrounding islands and marinas while performing some extreme water-based stunts. Think 360-degree spins, high-speed drifting and taking advantage of the boat’s construction for some beach buzzing as well.

It’s a fun activity that is enjoyable for most people as it isn’t too extreme. Jet boat rides on the Gold Coast have the added bonus of providing great views of local landmarks including the likes of South Stradbroke Island, the Palazzo Versace hotel, and Sea World. As a result, it’s the ideal activity for those who want to do some sightseeing but also have a little fun along the way.

Rides typically last 30 minutes or 1 hour are suitable for kids and adults.

A fast and furious jet boat ride through the Broadwater should be high on your agenda if you crave a bit of excitement and adrenaline in your life.
Top 10 Things to do on the Gold Coast - Dance with the devil at Dracula's Cabaret

10. Dance with the devil at Dracula's Cabaret

Location: Broadbeach, Gold Coast, QLD

Dracula’s Cabaret is a long-running entertainment venue that provides a dose of raunchy fun blended with humour and a touch of fun intended mainly for adults. Both standalone show tickets and combined dinner-with-show packages are available.

The venue features a glam-horror theme and combines burlesque-style entertainment with live rock music and stand-up comedy performed by their talented cast. If you’re the type who doesn’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy live acts then it’s a great spot to go as a group.

With shows held during the week and on the weekend, you’ll want to get in quick as its reputation precedes itself and often results in shows filling up very quickly.

Experience Oz + NZ recently enjoyed the VIP seating at Dracula’s on the Gold Coast, read their review and book your spot for an upcoming show online!

Step into the underworld at Dracula’s Cabaret to enjoy a glam-horror themed evening filled with raucous laughter, live rock music, raunchy burlesque and delicious food.