Queensland’s Gold Coast Offers Non-Stop Discovery

Where do Aussies go when it’s time for a great beach vacation in their own country? Chances are, you’ll find Queensland’s Gold Coast near the top of the list. Known for its soft, white sand beaches, fantastic surfing, dining, natural rainforest hinterland, and laid-back charm, the Gold Coast makes an ideal base for any Southeast Queensland vacation.

Just one hour north, Brisbane International Airport is North America’s easiest gateway to the Gold Coast, with non-stop United Airlines flights operating from San Francisco and, in season, Los Angeles.

Besides its big-ticket theme parks and family activities, the Gold Coast offers luxury accommodation, dining, nightlife and shopping options for couples, families, and solo travellers alike. It’s also located in one of Australia’s most beautiful strips between the gorgeous subtropical rainforest and the sea. In other words, no matter what brings you to Australia, there’s a reason to stop by the GC!

Where to Stay on the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast’s diversity extends to its many towns and communities. If you’re looking for a super convenient location with lots of hotel options, easy access to the most famous beaches and shopping galore, Surfers Paradise will check every box. It’s also the busiest part of the strip, so for a more relaxed experience that’s almost as central, Broadbeach might tickle your fancy. If you’ve rented a car (highly recommended for exploring the hinterland and surrounding towns), you might want to stay further south in Burleigh Heads, or Coolangatta, which lends itself to longer stays, giving you plenty of time to relax and explore.

The Wilder (& Wine-ier) Side of the Gold Coast

No, we’re not talking rollercoasters. The Gold Coast sits right on the doorstep of the world’s largest subtropical rainforest. Lamington National Park offers over 62 mi (100 km) of trails, showcasing Australian native birds, waterfalls, and enormous strangler fig trees. It also boasts some of the most spectacular views over the hinterland, plus accommodation options like O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which maximize immersion in these natural surrounds. Springbrook National Park is another beautiful section of the forest, where locals and visitors enjoy hikes for all fitness levels.

A guided tour of the rainforest can help you spot wildlife and ancient plant species you might otherwise miss. You can even up the excitement with a zip-lining tour. After dark, a night tour and boat ride lets you see cave-dwelling glow worms, plus hidden waterfalls lit for optimal beauty.

One thing that surprises visitors to the Gold Coast hinterland is its vineyards. Queensland’s wine producers are small, boutique operations that take advantage of the warm climate to produce big, bold Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and other popular varieties. Be sure to try some Chambourcin, a red hybrid that thrives in Queensland’s warm weather, but is seldom found in other Australian states.

Get to Know Australia’s Cutest Critters Up Close

With so much nature on its doorstep, the Gold Coast is a prime spot for wildlife research and education, which has spawned some of its best known and loved attractions. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has delighted visitors since 1947 and is today listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Ever expanding, changing, and updating, the sanctuary’s most famous attraction hasn’t changed. Each day at 8am and 4pm, hundreds of rainbow lorikeets swoop in to be fed by delighted guests, just as they have since the park opened.

David Fleay’s Wildlife Park is small and unassuming by comparison, but is no less a part of Gold Coast history. It’s also the only park where you can see the bridled nailtail wallaby, which was thought to be extinct for over 30 years, not to mention a saltwater crocodile named Madonna who’s every bit the diva. Nearby is the Gold Coast Oceanway, where you can explore the Gold Coast’s most world-renowned beaches by foot or bike on this 22-mile coastal route. Queensland is also one of only two Australian states where you can legally hold a koala, making this an essential photo if you’re coming to the Sunshine State.

The wildlife adventures continue off-shore. Keep an eye on the ocean for humpback whales from May to November (Gold Coast Oceanway has some great viewing points), and take a whale watching cruise for a closer look. Over 30,000 humpback whales migrate along the ‘humpback highway’ each year. In between thrill rides, Sea World (no relation to its American namesake) has continued its commitment to marine life research, rescue, and education.

“Only on the Gold Coast” Experiences

Art comes together with nature at Wonder Reef, the world’s first buoyant reef, which sits approximately 72 ft (22 m) above the sea floor, drawing colourful ocean creatures and curious visitors alike. You can also combine a love of nature with your inner foodie on a rainforest lunch cruise. For a more active day out, rent a Kayak and explore the Gold Coast’s natural waterways—the Gold Coast has more waterways than Amsterdam and Venice combined!

Its iconic row of towers gives Surfers Paradise an instantly recognizable skyline. Now, imagine the view from above it all. Helicopter rides over the coast have long been popular, but for a real adrenaline rush, suit and tether up for the SkyPoint Climb, atop Australia’s tallest building. Twice the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it’s an unbeatable way to see the Gold Coast from the sky.

Flying into Brisbane International Airport with United Airlines, settle into your preferred Gold Coast accommodation and give yourself at least a few days to explore. From here, you can expand your adventure with a day in Brisbane or elsewhere in Southeast Queensland. From non-stop flights to non-stop adventures, there’s never been a better time to add the Gold Coast to your Australia vacation.

Getting to the Gold Coast

From North America, United Airlines operates a daily non-stop flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Brisbane (BNE), plus seasonal flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Brisbane.

From Brisbane’s International Terminal, it’s an easy one-hour drive to the Gold Coast by car or shuttle, or take the AirTrain directly from International Terminal Station to the Gold Coast station closest to your accommodation (Nerang for Surfers Paradise). The trip takes approximately 1.5 hours.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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