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Visit Gold Coast's Best Beaches

Home > Gold Coast > Beaches | Family | Free | Lists | Outdoor
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published October 12th 2015
Follow this guide to find a Gold Coast beach you will love
Visit Gold Coast's Best Beaches

Brisbane lacks decent beaches, but luckily to the north and south of us are some of the best beaches in the world. Let's look at which of the Gold Coast's many beaches are the best to visit from Brisbane.

The Gold Coast is a great place to visit, but which are the best beaches?
The Gold Coast is a great place to visit, but which are the best beaches?


The Gold Coast has many beaches and each has their own characteristic. There are quiet areas bordered by bushland through to hotbeds of tourist activities and everything in between. If you plan to visit the Gold Coast you have to know where to find the beach that is best for you.

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


Brisbanites often have a love hate relationship with the Gold Coast and as a result few truly explore the entire strip of beaches. Yet the Gold Coast experience comes from the fact you can easily walk from a bustling all night tourist zone to a quiet isolated beach and then move on to trendy cafes or pubs that attract mostly locals.

Surfers Paradise: the heart of the tourist zone

If you have never visited the Gold Coast then the first place that you will want to go is Surfers Paradise. It is this location that often provides the hate part of the love hate relationship people have with the Gold Coast.

The tall buildings of Surfers Paradise
The tall buildings of Surfers Paradise


The good is that you have lots of cheap food. From $2 pizza slices at takeaway shops to $10 steaks and fish & chip deals in restaurants. There are also plenty of $20-30 meals around a number of more expensive restaurants.

There is also plenty to do. This is the jumping off point for lots of touristy activities as well as some local activities such as walking around the outside of Q1 (Queensland's tallest building), photographic studio (for fake historic photos) and other kitschy entertainment. There are often live entertainers outside of restaurant strips. There are shopping centres, night markets, late night shops on all nights of the week.

There are plenty of bars and clubs in this area and you can have a lot of fun just in this one area. Start with a cheap meal, followed by beers in a pub and then dancing in the club and then breakfast on the beach.

Last of all, this is all right next to a surf beach. So yes, Surfers Paradise is a great place to visit.

Early morning at Surfers Paradise
Early morning at Surfers Paradise


Now the bad news. The food tends to be generic. The cheap options are pretty terrible and if you pay more it feels very overpriced for what you get.

The family entertainment can run through your family holiday budget pretty quickly. It can be great for a day or two, but there is only so much of this you can really put up with.

As for the clubs and pubs. There tends to be a bit too many loud mouth yobbos. It is a great place to party if you are a loud mouth yobbo, but this puts other people off.

The beach is okay, but not the best one on the coast. For surfers, there are much better breaks in other locations and for families, the size of the waves can be a problem.

If you are going to stay on the Gold Coast, then most of the accommodation is here. There is everything from fully equipped resorts to backpacker places and everything in between. Often if you are looking for a deal on accommodation, this is the easiest place to find somewhere to stay.

Broadbeach: Surfers Paradises nicer neighbour

Broadbeach is essentially a quieter gentler Surfers Paradise. The primary jewel in this area is Jupiters Casino, which these days is looking a little small and worn compared with some other casinos around Australia. Still it has several well regarded restaurants, bars with live music on weekends and a theatre that shows movies and shows.

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


Broadbeach also has a good reputation for restaurants. Though personally I just see them as larger, more expensive (though better quality) versions of the generic restaurants you find at Surfers Paradise. If you are looking for a good meal without too much innovation, Broadbeach is the place to go.

However, there are still a number of great restaurants, especially around Broadbeach Mall. But they are being pushed out by the types of generic fair you find in Surfers Paradise. Still worth looking around to see what you can find.

Pacific Fair Shopping Centre
Pacific Fair Shopping Centre


Broadbeach is also a nice place to shop. Around Broadbeach Mall are a couple of smaller shopping malls, but the main mall is Pacific Fair, one of the largest on the Gold Coast, but lacks any most of the exclusive brands found in some of the more upmarket shopping centres.

When it comes to entertainment, along with the casino, there are also several pubs with live music. The mall is also a popular location for free outdoor concerts.

Accommodation is similar is style and price as Surfers Paradise, though there are more options on the lower end of mid priced range.

Currumbin Area: fun for the family

If you want to avoid the commercial areas there are plenty of quiet beaches to visit. The main one that attracts families is Currumbin. When people say that they are going to Currumbin, they usually mean that they are going to the area that surrounds Currumbin Creek. This goes from Palm Beach to the north of the creek to Currumbin Beach south of the creek.

Currumbin Beach seen from Elephant Rock
Currumbin Beach seen from Elephant Rock


The heart of Currumbin is Currumbin Creek. This is a little inlet perfect for swimming, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Just north of the creek is a board walk over tidal wetlands and to the south it is a grassy parklands. The south side has several nice cafes and takeaway shops.

Boardwalk at Currumbin Beach
Boardwalk at Currumbin Beach


The Boatshed is both a cafe and a place to hire paddle craft and fishing gear. The flat waters are perfect for stand up paddle boards and the creek is a nice place to go kayaking.

Kayaking at Currumbin Creek
Kayaking at Currumbin Creek


The biggest attraction in the area is of course the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This is by and far the best zoo in South East Queensland for native animals. There is more to the zoo than just the animals. There is plenty of entertainment such as Bird Show, Sheep Shearing, Crocodiles and Aboriginal Dancing. There are also Segway tours and the Tree Top Challenge for people looking for more active adventures.

Palm beach is just to the north of Currumbin Creek
Palm beach is just to the north of Currumbin Creek


The Currumbin Creek area has a couple of nice resorts, lots of apartment style accommodation and some cheaper motels. While the area is not that developed, you are still near lots of shops along the Gold Coast Highway.

Burleigh Heads: Gold Coast's coolest beach

If you want a location that is more sophisticated, then you will love Burleigh Heads. First of all you have a lovely beach that is worth visiting in itself.

Burleigh Heads National Park and Beach
Burleigh Heads National Park and Beach


Then you have the Burleigh Heads National Park. This great little wild area has a walking circuit that goes along the shore then up to a lookout where you can see whales during whale watching season. The path is only a little over 3 km, but it attracts everyone from people going for a casual stroll to those looking to exercise by running the circuit a few times.

Walking path in the Burleigh Heads National Park
Walking path in the Burleigh Heads National Park


What really tops off Burleigh heads is the large number of trendy cafes and interesting takeaway shops in the area. This makes Burleigh Heads the coolest place on the Gold Coast. If you had to go to just one place on the Gold Coast I would recommend Burleigh Heads.

There are many trendy cafes in Burleigh Heads
There are many trendy cafes in Burleigh Heads


Burleigh Heads itself is not that good for accommodation options. There are cheaper motels up at Miami and Mermaid beach, and on Palm Beach. Burleigh itself tends to be a little expensive, as you would expect from such a trendy place.

Coolangatta: Gold Coat's other city centre

While Surfers Paradise is the most famous part of the Gold Coast, in many ways the best location on the Gold Coast is Coolangatta. This area includes Kirra Beach, Coolangatta Beach, the lovely and popular Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks and Tweed Heads including Duranbah Beach.

Coolangatta Beach
Coolangatta Beach


It is this wealth of natural variety that makes the Coolangatta area such a treasure. Both Rainbow Bay and Coolangatta have great surf breaks while the beaches themselves are perfect for swimmers. The heads are a great place to walk, not as good as Burleigh Heads, but still still a lovely area. There are also several places to go rock fishing. Snapper Rocks can be a bit exposed to waves, but there are numerous other locations as well.

Sunset at Rainbow Bay
Sunset at Rainbow Bay


There is more to Coolangatta than just its wonderful natural beatuy. This is a fairly developed area. As a result there are numerous beachside cafes, takeaways, restaurants and bars. Nothing as trendy as Burleigh Heads or as upmarket as Main Beach, but still a great place to dine. One of the best is the Cafe D-Bar which combines a great restaurant, a lovely art gallery and live music on weekends.

There are several several pubs and bars with live music, giving you a lot of entertainment options, without attracting the crazier party goers.

Snapper Rocks
Snapper Rocks


There are also a number of Coolangatta based tourist activities, including whale watching tours, surfing lessons and bicycle hire. Coolangatta is usually where sky divers land on the beach.

Duranbah Beach attracts fisher folk and surfers
Duranbah Beach attracts fisher folk and surfers


Staying is pretty convenient as well. There is everything here from expensive resorts to some of the cheapest motels on the Gold Coast. Though Coolangatta tends to lack in mid-riced accommodation. There are some mid-priced options available, but you need to often book early.

The best part of Coolangatta is its proximity to the Gold Coast Airport, which is only 10 minutes away by car. Buses also go directly to the Airport from Coolangatta.

The Spit: locals only bushland

Then of course there is The Spit at the very north of the Gold Coast. Here is a location on the Gold Coast that is the polar opposite of what people expect the Gold Coast to be. This area has a beach that is bordered by bushland that is truly a locals only beach. Though of course there is enough room for everyone.

The view from the beach at the spit
The view from the beach at the spit


The very northern end of the spit is a popular fishing location and there is a nice fish & chip cafe nearby. While it is possible to drive out, my preferred way to get to the spit is to cycle along the dirt paths. A leisurely cycle from Surfers Paradise and back with lots of stops takes half a day.

The inland side of the Spit, which is really the northern end of Main Beach, is home to Sea World. Proposed future development threatens this last remaining natural area on the Gold Coast and could mean this last remaining natural area could disappear. See it while it is there.

Main Beach: the most expensive destinations

Main Beach is the one place in the Gold Coat that people don't really go just to go there. Instead it is a place of destinations, including Sea World and some of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast.

Main Beach has many parks
Main Beach has many parks


If there is a reason to go here is for the parks that link Surfers Paradise to The Spit. It is also a nice place to stay if you want to stay in higher end accommodation away from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise.

Mermaid Beach: for cheap places to stay

Mermaid's Beach very romantic name has a very mundane origin. John Oxley, the first European to explore the the Gold Coast area, landed at Mermaid Beach. While trying to think of a good name for the beach he saw a ship, the Mermaid, passing by and used the name of that ship.

Today the area running south of Broadbeach, which includes Mermaid Beach and Miami, is a quiet family orientated place to stay. With lots of cheaper hotels, motels and cabins close the beach, this is a value for money location. Though of course there are an increasing number of higher end resorts and hotels.

Mermaid beach has no high rise development
Mermaid beach has no high rise development


The beach front is more accessible than Broadbeach and beachside paths run all the way from just south of Broadbeach, to the lookout at Mick Schamburg Park, and continues down to Burleigh Heads. This area of the Gold Coast Highway is lined with shops, retaurants, takeaway shops, massage parlours, cafes and bars. So while it is a quiet location, you are in no way isolated.

Bilinga Beach: The Gold Coat's quietest beach

Having looked at all the options listed so far for beaches to go on the Gold Coast, you might still be interested in somewhere that gets you away from it all. If you want to stay in a place right by the beach without many people hanging around. The place to go is Bilinga Beach.

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


Bilinga Beach is opposite the airport and is the least developed area along the Gold Coast strip (excluding The Spit). There are a number of hotels and motels here that you can stay in. One reason to stay here is the proximity to the airport. This can make the location noisy, depending on the route the planes are using for take off and landing. My own experience is that there was little noise from aircraft.

Sunrise at Bilinga Beach
Sunrise at Bilinga Beach


The strip along the Gold Coast highway that runs past Bilinga beach has no shops, though the Golden Four Drive that runs parallel to it has a few.

Despite the quiet location that are plenty of buses and you are not far from Tugan and Kirra if you want to dine or shop. The distance is a slightly long stroll or a quick drive.

Accommodation here is limited mostly to low to mid priced motels. This is definitely the place to go to relax.
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