Things to do in Gold Coast

Itineraries for Your Trip to Gold Coast

Gold Coast locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in Gold Coast for First Timers

Curated by Zoe Smithwho lived, worked, and traveled in Australia for several years.

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.

Day 1

When you wake up on the Gold Coast, you head to the beach. Either walk, or take the G:link tram. Burleigh Heads is my favorite beach, or visit Surfers Paradise or Main Beach to watch the sunrise. Then, sign up for a surf class or Jet Ski safari, and paddle out to snorkel around Wave Break Island.

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.

Day 2

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.

Day 3

The Gold Coast is Australia’s theme park capital, so devote your final day to adrenaline. There are five parks, but with just one day, it’s best to pick one—Warner Bros Movie World is the top choice for thrill-seekers, while you can see seals, dolphins, polar bears, and more at Sea World.

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.

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