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Things to do on the Gold Coast (That Aren't Theme Parks!)

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by Taneesha Davis (subscribe)
Taneesha Davis is a writer and editor living on the Mornington Peninsula. Visit for more.
Published November 24th 2019
See more of the Gold Coast than the theme parks
If you've taken a family holiday to the Gold Coast, chances are you've made your way through at least one (or all four!) theme parks. They bring a whole heap of fun to the favourite tourist destination, and there is no doubt it can make a family vacation very memorable. But there is also no doubt that theme parks can be exhausting, and not just for the adults. As much as the sugar rush and rides might give them a thrill, some downtime is much needed, especially after jam-packed days of intense fun. Take a break from the rush of the Gold Coast with family-friendly activities that can slow your days down.

Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets

While staying in the heart of Surfers Paradise, you must attend a beachfront market at least once during your stay. With the cool sea breeze making the balmy nights the perfect weather for a stroll along the beach while checking out local stallholders and their wares and services. Grab a bite to eat from a nearby vendor while you stroll, or sit down on the beach for a family picnic after the market.

The Beachfront markets are held on the Surfers Paradise foreshore every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night from 5pm.

Pacific Fair

If it's just too hot outside, but staying inside your hotel is not an option for kids with too much energy, wear them out at one of the biggest shopping complexes in Queensland. The tram that runs through Surfers Paradise stops essentially right at the door of Pacific Fair, making it a hop skip and jump to get to from most hotels. Do some shopping, just browse, or enjoy one of the many dining options available.

Pacific Fair also hosts great kids' activities from time to time, we were lucky enough to catch a free show of Pinkfong's Baby Shark last time we visited, coupled with a sit on Santa's lap. Take a peek at the events listing on their website before you make your trip.

Carrara Markets

If the glitz and glam of Pacific Fair is a little too commercial for you, it's time to enjoy the largest market in Australia, holding both day and night markets at various times during the week. Boasting 350 stalls over 24 acres, the market also offers visitors attractions such as mini-golf, and their Butterfly House. Events are held at Carrara Market all the time, so check ahead to see what is happening.

Carrara Markets isn't particularly difficult to get to via public transport either, making it super simple for families without a car.

Broadwater Parklands Southport

Wanting a water park but on a budget? The 'rockpool' playground at Broadwater is sure to keep little ones occupied for hours, as they play with an assortment of water-based activities and equipment. This free waterpark is manned by lifeguards, has a shallow wading section, and plenty of fountains for children to enjoy.

In the other section of the park, a jumping pillow can be enjoyed during various hours of the day, and a great playground for children wanting a break from the water activities. There is so much to do here, with Australia Fair Shopping Centre just across the road.

Burleigh Head National Park

If you have a car but not wanting to travel too far with kids, Burleigh Head National Park is the number one spot to get back to nature. There are tracks to be enjoyed and explored for all abilities, so if you're after a small walk with a great view, this is the place to be. Whether it's exploring the rainforest or spotting humpback whales, do not miss this popular family location.

There is so much to do on the Gold Coast for families, you don't need to stick to the familiar route of constant theme parks. Break up your big days with relaxing days on the beach, strolling through markets or walking through rainforests!
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Where: Gold Coast, Queensland
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