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A Quick Guide to Gold Coast's Beaches

Home > Gold Coast > Outdoor | Lists | Free | Family | Beaches
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published September 29th 2015
Do you know which beach you will fall in love with?
There are two types of people, those who like the Gold Coast and those who have yet to visit the beach that they will fall in love with. The Gold Coast has a great diversity of beachside locations. I can guarantee that you will find somewhere that you like.

Surfers Paradise seen from Coolangatta
Surfers Paradise seen from Coolangatta


Here is a guick guide to the beaches starting at the North at the Spit and going all the way down to Tweed Heads which is actually across the border in New South Wales.

Gold Coast is always a colourful place
Gold Coast is always a colourful place

Overview

The Gold is a series of beaches, both large and small, connected by the Gold Coast Highway (excluding the Main Beach and The Spit in the North). Getting around Gold Coast beaches is easy. If you are taking public transport it will become easier when the tram line is extended all the way down. Though the bus drivers are always prepared to help a tourist get around.

Driving is pretty straightforward and mostly you follow the Gold Coast Highway up and down the coast where you can turn off and finding a car park is fairly easily.

The diversity of beach side locations is what makes the Gold Coast one of the most interesting tourist destinations in Australia. While it is a tourist destination, it also attracts a lot of locals and people from the region. This makes the place tourist friendly but much of the Gold Coast is not touristy.

Note

This is not meant to be a definitive guide to the Gold Coast's Beaches, rather it is a rough guide for people trying to decide which part of the Gold Coast matches their style, needs and personality. Also, I have left off some of the smaller beaches such as Nobbys Beach as often you blink and you have missed them and are essentially just part of the neighbouring larger beaches.

The Spit

The spit is the most northern part of the Gold Coast's ocean side beaches that is accessible by cars. It is also a surprise for many people when they realise how underdeveloped this area is. Essentially it is an area of bushland that attracts a mostly locals only crowd.

The Beach at the Spit tends to attract locals
The Beach at the Spit tends to attract locals


Drive up to the end of the spit, grab some fish and chips from the fish and chip shop there, then do a little fishing off the rocks and maybe carry your surf board through the bushland to surf on a beach where few other people visit.

My recommendation is hire some bicycles (or bring your own) and cycle the bush tracks up to the end of the spit. You can easily go from the crowds in Surfers Paradise to the end of the spit and back in 3 or 4 hours with plenty of time to sight see and even swim.

Main Beach

Main Beach runs from south of The Spit down to Surfers Paradise. It is connected to Surfers Paradise by only a small neck of land and bridges that go over an island. Going from Surfers Paradise up to the Spit you are mostly passing through parks. .

Park in Main Beach
Park in Main Beach


People normally go to Main Beach to visit a particular location. Perhaps it is the Seaworld Theme Park, Peter's Fish Market, The Marina Mirage Shopping Centre or one of the many fine restaurants in this area. Yes, Main Beach is where you go if you have money or want to look at people with money.

If you have the money and you want to stay in places that say you have money and eat in restaurants that also say that you have money, then stay in Main Beach. Actually hotels here are no more expensive than the good hotels elsewhere on the Gold Coast, but Main Beach really only has hotels like that.

Surfers Paradise

When people think of the Gold Coast, it is Surfers Paradise that they are thinking of. When people say that they hate the Gold Coast, it is Surfers Paradise that they hate.

There is a lot to like about Surfers and a lot to hate as well. First of all it is a hive of activity at all hours of the day and night. If you get up to watch the sunrise, after stepping over a few people sleeping off the night before on the beach, you will see people beach fishing, surfing, swimming and running on the beach. Even in the evening most shops remain open until late and live music plays in front of restaurant strips. Then the party people start to head out for a night out in various pubs and clubs with the stragglers being the ones you are stepping over come the next morning.

Surfers Paradise
Surfers Paradise


Another thing that makes Surfers great is that there is a lot of cheap options. Every restaurant has $10 fish & chips and steak options and there are pizza shops with $2 slices of pizza. Most tourists know the need to stretch their money as far as it will go and Surfers Paradise allows them to do this.

This is also where most of the hotels are. There are expensive resorts in the heart of this district to cheaper family type places around the fringes and places aimed at backpackers. There is such an oversupply that it is easy to find somewhere to say here even during peak season.

Early morning at Surfers Paradise
Early morning at Surfers Paradise


But this all leads into the reason why people don't like Surfers Paradise. The cheap $2 pizza slices are terrible, the $10 steaks are rubbery and the more expensive food is overpriced. The shops are for tourists and while there is plenty to do it is pricey and touristy. The crowds of tourists are replaced by drunken young people heading out on the town.

I think the conclusion is, this is a fun place to visit, but you wouldn't necessarily be keen to return. But well worth a visit.


Broadbeach

I used to love Broadbeach and there are a number of reasons to still like this area. First of all, it is not that far from Surfer's Paradise and a lot of places here say open and it is fairly tourist orientated. But it is not as crowded or hectic as Surfer's Paradise.

Broadbeach looking north towards Surfers Paradise
Broadbeach looking north towards Surfers Paradise


The main reason that people come here is the Casino. I have never been here to gamble but have come to listen to live music in the various bars and watch a show.

However there are a number of bars in the area and the Broadbeach mall often plays host to free outdoor music. My favourite event here is the Blues on Broadbeach music festival held in May every year. This is the part of the Gold Coast you go to have fun rather than to party to excess.

There are a number of restaurants with good reputations on Broadbeach. Unfortunately some of the more interesting restaurants have closed and the restaurants are beginning to become increasingly more generic like those at Surfer's Paradise. It is still a better place to eat than the Gold Coast.

There is also the huge Pacific Fair Shopping Centre if you are looking to do a lot of shopping as well as some additional shopping centres on the mall. So this is the place to do some buik shopping. The shopping centre has a fairly unique combination of indoor and outdoor shopping areas.

The wonderful Pacific Fair at Broadbeach
The wonderful Pacific Fair at Broadbeach


Personally I would prefer to stay at Broadbeach than at Surfer's Paradise. But it is no longer my favourite place on the Gold Coast.

Mermaid Beach

The first European to visit and explore the Gold Coast was John Oxley who landed at Mermaid Beach. The name sounds fanciful but the only story behind it was a passing ship named Mermaid. This area is one of the nicest places for a cheap holiday. With no highrise development it still has a long strip of shops, takeway shops, cafes and restaurants not far from the beach..

Mermaid Beach, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise
Mermaid Beach, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise


Here is a place to stay in cheaper hotels but still have access to lots of shops and food outlets. It is also a short distance away from the action at Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise.

The main problem with Mermaid Beach is the lack of public beach front. It is very easy to get to the beach, but there are no footpaths or parks along the beach. But overall, not a bad place to stay.


Miami

Another quiet beach similar to Mermaid Beach, but with a much nicer beach front, a nice park at a point to the south with great views and easy access to Burleigh Heads.

Miami beach looking towards Burleigh Heads
Miami beach looking towards Burleigh Heads


In addition, on weekends there are the lovely Miami Markets. These markets stay open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, which make them the place to go for market meals and entertainment on those evenings.

Burliegh Heads

As a place to visit on the Gold Coast, my number 1 spot is Burleigh Heads. First of all there is Burleigh Heads National Park with a 3-4 km walking track that goes along the coast and up to a lookout. It hardly sounds worth it compared with other national parks, but is a great location to visit. Many locals use it as a place to exercise.

Burleigh Heads and Beach
Burleigh Heads and Beach


The lookouts from Burleigh Heads National Park is the place to look for wales. The beach is also nice place to swim and surf, so you can cool off after walking the heads with a swim.

Burleigh Heads National Park
Burleigh Heads National Park


Burleigh heads has become gentrified over the years. Along with the famous The Fish House seafood restaurant it is now also home to numerous trendy cafes and innovative takeaway restaurants. This is the place to go to enjoy coffee and cake near the sea.

Burleigh Heads Cafe
Burleigh Heads Cafe


Accommodation here is a little expensive and the area is so popular that it is very hard to find mid-priced ranged rooms here during peak times. It is more of a place that I go to exercise and eat during the day.

Palm Beach

With Burleigh Heads in the North and Currumbin in the South, this is one of the best places to stay if you are looking for a more relaxed and cheaper area that is suitable for kids.

Palm Beach
Palm Beach


Most people who say they are going to Currumbin actually end up at Palm Beach and Currumbin Creek.It is the palm beach side of Currumbin Creek that has the board walk, so it is the preferred side to visit, barbecue and paddle in the creek.

Currumbin Creek boardwalk is on the Palm Beach side of the creek
Currumbin Creek boardwalk is on the Palm Beach side of the creek


Currumbin

Currumbin is a little beach just South of Currumbin Creak. Mostly people though confuse it with Palm Beach which is on the Northern Side of the creek. When people say that they are going to Currumbin , they usually plan to go the creak.

Currumbin Beach looking towards Palm Beach
Currumbin Beach looking towards Palm Beach


Currumbin Creek is a lovely family friendly spot to swim and paddle. The calm waters of the creek are perfect for anyone not comfortable about swimming at the open beach. It is also a great place to go kayaking at standup paddle boarding. These can be hired from The Boat Shed a little way up the creek. Oh, and the Currumbin side of the creek has the cafes and restaurants.

Kayaking Currumbin Beach
Kayaking Currumbin Beach


The beach itself is a nice beach area with a surf life saving club at the southern end. Currumbin has the fabulous Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a must visit place for both kids and tourists.

View from Elephant Rock at Currumbin Beach
View from Elephant Rock at Currumbin Beach


Staying at Currumbin is not particularly convenient. There are some hotels and apartments, but most places tend to be a little pricey. Better to stay somewhere nearby like Palm Beach.

Also every year this beach is host to the Swell Sculptor Festival which is well worth checking out.

Sculptor on Currumbin Beach
Sculptor on Currumbin Beach


Tugun

Tugun is a lovely little beach just south of Currumbin. This area has a town centre with a village feel. If you are looking for a restaurant, cafe, takeway or pub which is not too touristy, this is the place to go.

Not really a great place to stay but a nice place to visit.

Bilinga Beach.

Bilinga Beach is opposite the Gold Coast Airport. Other than the airport there are few shops or restaurants along here. There are a few beachside motels you can stay at if you want to overnight before catching a flight from the Gold Coast. It is also only 400 metres from the beach to the airport. Can you imagine a better stop over location than the Gold Coast, where you can pop down to the beach.

Bilinga Beach is the Gold Coast's quietest beach
Bilinga Beach is the Gold Coast's quietest beach


If you are looking for a stretch of beach guaranteed to have few people, then Bilinga Beach is the place to go. Some people who have stayed in hotels on Bilinga Beach have complained about noise from planes, especially early in the morning. Other than that this the Gold Coast's most peaceful location.

Sunrise at Bilinga Beach
Sunrise at Bilinga Beach


Kirra

When people say they are going to stay at Coolangatta, they usually end up staying at Kirra. The hotels and motels here are definitely cheaper and area is really laid back.

View of Kirra Beach
View of Kirra Beach


There is something about Kirra that I like but can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it is because this is where people who can't afford to open a business in Coolangatta come to open a restaurant, cafe, shop or takeaway place. I personally would much rather stop here for lunch than in Coolangatta..

The only annoyance I have with Kirra is that this is the beach where skydivers tend to land. So keep a look out above you just in case.

Coolangatta

Coolangatta tends to be where people driving up from New South Wales or people from Brisbane stay. This is one of the most developed areas on the Gold Coast outside of the strip around Surfer's Paradise but it has a very different feel.

Coolangatta Beach
Coolangatta Beach


So when we talk about Coolangatta we are really talking about the whole area that extends from Kirra down to Tweed Heads. There are many reasons that make this the nicest place to stay on the Gold Coast.

First of all, it is fairly developed, so there are plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. There are a number of activities in the area for tourists. But it is nowhere near as busy as Surfer's Paradise.

Sunbakers at Coolangatta
Sunbakers at Coolangatta


There are also a large number of different beaches here. This is probably one of the most diverse surfing areas on the Gold Coast and there are also lots of beaches suitable for a dip. Oh and the headland is a great place to watch the sunrise in the morning.

The biggest problem I have found is that you have choice between cheap and nasty motels and more expensive resorts. There is not that much in between. You will find a better deal on mid-price ranged hotels if you stay around Surfer's Paradise.

Another nice feature thing is that it is close to the Gold Coast airport. Stay here if are taking a flight out of the Gold Coast. It is a cheap taxi trip or an even cheaper local bus ride to the airport.

Rainbow Bay to Tweed Heads

This is where things become confusing. Instead of the border of New South Wales starting somewhere sensible, such as across the Tweed River, it instead cuts through the developed area of Coolangatta. The locals don't care, they just refer to it as Twin Towns and get on with their lives. Queensland buses will even have stops in New South Wales and on the sidewalk of at least one street is a diagonal line showing where the border is. Oh, and because daylight savings is not used in Queensland but in New South Wales, you will find that for part of the year one side of the street is an hour ahead of the other.

Rainbow Bay at sunset
Rainbow Bay at sunset


But really, none of that matters. The physical heads themselves is made up of lovely Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks, Duranbah Beach and and the start of the Tweed River.

Duranbah Beach
Duranbah Beach


This area is mostly a selection of cheaper resort hotels and holiday apartments. The notable exception is the Cafe dbar. This lovely cafe and art gallery also has live music on the weekends.

Snapper Rocks
Snapper Rocks


The Beaches and rocks are popular destinations for surfers and rock fisherfolk. I just love the area as a place to walk. If you stay in Coolangatta or Tweed Heads, then you can easily go here early in the morning to watch the sunrise. This is definitely the nicest place to go for people who enjoy seaside strolls.
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