Beginners Guide to the Gold Coast

Known as the Disneyland of Australia, but delve a little deeper and you will soon discover there is more to this golden paradise than theme parks and beaches. First of all, the Gold Coast is more than just beach and sky rise buildings. The locals will tell you that it stretches beyond the sandy beaches to the farmlands just 40 minutes away.

Most people who visit will flock to Surfers Paradise not realising this was not its original names. In fact, the tourist hotspot was known by a not so glamorous name – Elston. In 1933, it was changed to Surfers Paradise.

In fact, go back in history and you will discover how the Gold Coast really got its name. Local aboriginal people named the south Queensland coast as Kurrungul; meaning a place of endless timber supplies. It was also a meeting place for them to come together for fishing and camping.

Word soon got around and the cedar supplies soon drew attention from timber cutters who flocked to the area between 1800 to 1865. This created the town of Nerang; an Aboriginal word for shovel nose shark. Nerang was established as a hub for the cedar timber industry.

As cedar became extremely valuable, it was also known as red gold and the area soon became known as the Gold Coast.

Getting There

While flights are still opening up, there is a nice travel bubble between Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory. Book limited flights through Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia.


While there are many hotels, resorts and other accommodation on offer; be mindful not to pay for more than you really need. After all, you are on the Gold Coast, how often will you spend indoors? Choose from self catering apartments, holiday rentals, luxury resorts, standard hotel rooms or hostels. Your choice will depend on the activities you have planned for your stay.

Eating In

If you are booking a self catering apartment, there are supermarkets located in the centre of Surfers Paradise. These are the most affordable option for meals and other essentials during your stay.

Eating Out

Of course, you will want to go out and sample the local restaurants and immerse yourself in Queenslander culture. At the time of writing, it is recommended that advance bookings are made for the popular restaurants. Especially around the holiday seasons; including school holidays and public holiday long weekends.

Some popular restaurants you might want to try:

Things to Do

Acqua Duck City Tour

A land and water tour to help you get your bearings upon your first or second day in town. A novelty for children of all ages (adults enjoy the splashdown as much as their children). The tour guides you around to the main points of interest while providing a little history, and gossip, about the city. The drive does get a little bumpy on the roads, but once you splashdown into the Nerang River it is all smooth sailing for most of the tour. Sit back and relax as you cruise passed the back of SeaWorld, posh waterfront properties and other places of interest your guide will point out along the way.Sky Point Observation Deck

View the Gold Coast from 77 floors above the ground. You can see north to South Stradbroke Island and all the way south to Byron Bay just across the NSW border. Yes, you are that close to NSW. There is a bar and cafe for lunch, snacks or a drink. Settle back in a chair and sip a delicious glass of wine, or cocktail, as you admire the view below. While you are taking in the views, be sure to check out the history boards around the inner walls and learn about the history of the Gold Coast.Cavill Avenue

The centre of Surfers Paradise for shopping , games and dining. Wander up and down the pedestrian mall and check out the variety stores and maybe pick up a small souvenir. It does get crowded, but you can experience the local vibe on the Gold Coast. The pedestrian mall is a main walkthrough from the beach, so expect to see people in various bathing and beach attire as you browse the shops or eat in the restaurants. People are pretty casual on the Gold Coast.Beachfront Markets

On Friday and Saturday you will find the Beachfront Markets set up along the Esplanade. Walk through a row of stalls as vendors sell everything from street food, art, crafts and trinkets. There are no skateboards, bikes or other leisured wheeled vehicle allowed on the boardwalk while the markets are in operation. So you only have foot traffic to worry about as you browse the market stalls.Surfers Paradise Beach

It is a metal sign arching above you as you cross the Esplanade from Cavill Mall to get to the golden beach. An iconic landmark and a popular selfie moment – just because. While the beach does get crowded during peak season and weekends, but if you want to swim it is important to stay between the red and yellow flags. This is the area where lifeguards patrol and you will be rescued quickly if need be. However, a stroll along the golden sand is relaxing as you listen to the waves wash up onto the sand before retreating again.Day trip to a Rainforest

Explore more of the Gold Coast by jumping on a 4WD tour into the Hinterland rainforest to Springbrook National Park. Go as far south to the Antarctic forest where you can lookout towards Byron Bay across the NSW border. If you have an iPhone, be mindful to notice the time may change to NSW time during daylight savings. Queensland do not have daylight savings. Take a stroll through the park to the Natural Bridge, a serene waterfall inside a cave.

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