When I embarked on a 2-year “working holiday” trip to Australia—a rite of passage for British backpackers—the Gold Coast was my first stop. Welcomed into the home of a close friend and former housemate (we’d lived together in London when she studied abroad), this bright and balmy beach hub soon felt like home —albeit a far sunnier one.
I returned several times during my travels, each time uncovering new surf beaches and seaside towns, venturing beyond the theme parks and shopping malls to explore the hinterlands and national parks. There’s so much to discover that it’s hard to whittle it down to three days, but this itinerary will give you a glimmer of the Gold Coast’s many faces.
When it's swim season (Sep.-Nov., Mar.-May), it's also stinger season; swim between the flags.
If you only have time for one thing, make it Burleigh Heads beach.
It’s a quick tram ride to Broadbeach, where you can have lunch at Pacific Fair mall, then stroll through the seafront parklands to the beach. Head back to Surfers for a sunset canal cruise and then visit the town’s thrice-weekly night markets.
Escape the coast for a scenic road trip through the Gold Coast hinterlands (rent a car or join a tour for ease). Enjoy the lush rainforest, waterfalls, and cedar forests of Mount Tamborine National Park, and walk to Curtis Falls, the 98-foot (30-meter) high Tamborine Mountain Forest Skywalk, and Witches Falls.
Tamborine Mountain is known for farm-to-table restaurants and vineyards, so a wine-tasting lunch is all part of the experience (Hampton Estate Winery and Cedar Creek Estate Winery are popular). Then, walk beneath a canopy of glittering glow worms at the Glow Worm Caves for an unforgettable experience.
In the evening, head to SkyPoint Observation Deck in nearby Surfers Paradise to watch your final sunset over the Gold Coast; then catch the tram to Miami Beach for a street food feast (and a few cocktails) at the Miami Marketta night market on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.