A Gold Coast Itinerary can be filled with so many activities. My first trip to the Gold Coast was when I was about 7 years old – and it was the farthest I had ever been from my home in Melbourne.
Growing up in Australia, the Gold Coast in Queensland was always about sun and beaches and more of a family holiday destination.
The Gold Coast still has the sun and the beaches, but you can now add in fantastic restaurants, world-class tourism experiences, wineries, boutique hotels, and spas – there are so many great things to do on the Gold Coast for adults as well as families.
The Gold Coast is about 60km long which means it is quite easy to stay at any of the towns as a base for this itinerary. There is a huge range of accommodation options from which to choose.
I would recommend avoiding Surfers Paradise if you don’t want to be in the middle of a tourist hot spot. Look at some of the smaller more atmospheric towns along the Gold Coast.
Here is my 3 Day Gold Coast Itinerary designed for adults.
Gold Coast Itinerary: How to get to the Gold Coast and who to get around with
Table of Contents
- Gold Coast Itinerary: How to get to the Gold Coast and who to get around with
- Gold Coast Itinerary 3 Days: Day One – Beaches and Lattes
- 1. Burleigh Heads
- 2. Broadbeach
- 3. Coolangatta Beach and Snapper Rocks
- Three Day Itinerary Gold Coast: Day Two – Wildlife and Nightlife
- 1. Wildlife
- 2. Sea World
- 3. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
- 4. Dream World
- 5. Surfers Paradise Nightlife
- Day Three: Relax and Rejuvenate
- 1. Tamborine Mountain
- 2. Lamington National Park
- What About Theme Parks?
- Where else to stay near the Gold Coast
- 1. BroadBeach
- 2. Coolangatta
- What to Pack for a Gold Coast Holiday
- Best Time to Travel to the Gold Coast
If you are coming from overseas then yes, I am afraid it is a very long flight to Queensland and there is no way around that! A stopover in Asia is often a good idea to break things up.
Quite a few international airlines including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Delta and more fly into the Gold Coast Airport (formerly known as Coolangatta Airport).
Alternatively, the Gold Coast is just one hour south of Brisbane. More international carriers fly into Brisbane Airport, but this may not be their first stop in Australia so do check the number of connections before you book your flight.
If you are travelling to the Gold Coast from within Australia all the main domestic carriers fly into Gold Coast Airport e.g. Virgin Australia, Qantas, Jetstar, and Tiger Air.
⇒ And definitely log in to 12Go when you’re organising how you’re going to get around Australia. This super easy to use platform has all modes of transport on the one platform and allows you to compare based on time, cost, and reviews.
Once you have arrived on the Gold Coast or Brisbane, I highly recommend hiring a car to take you around the best places to visit in the Gold Coast. There are lots of buses and trams which cover the Gold Coast area.
However, 3 days is not a lot of time, so you don’t want to waste any of your Gold Coast holiday waiting for a bus.
If you do decide not to hire a car, buy a Go Card at the airport or order it online ahead of your trip. The Go Card can be used for all buses, ferries, and trams in the Gold Coast and Brisbane areas. The G Link is the light rail that links Helensvale to Broadbeach south.
And if you choose to fly into or out of Brisbane Airport, the Airtrain connects Brisbane Airport to the Gold Coast and its stops include Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach. The Airtrain runs every 15 minutes at peak and every 30 minutes during off-peak.
⇒ If you’re heading to Queensland’s capital check out my post on the top Brisbane Boutique Hotels.
Gold Coast Itinerary 3 Days: Day One – Beaches and Lattes
Start your holiday in the Gold Coast by embracing what it and Australia are best known for – beautiful beaches and great coffee! There are many options when it comes to Gold Coast beaches. Indeed some are virtually Australian landmarks.
Personally, I would avoid Surfers Paradise as it is generally crazy busy and more oriented to families.
My best Gold Coast travel guide beaches for adults are:
1. Burleigh Heads
For a more laid-back vibe head to Burleigh Heads. The beach at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast is great because it has a protected area which tends to be calm even on the choppiest days. Or if you want a bit more surf there is the headland area of the beach at Burleigh Heads.
Head to James Street for your coffee and some shopping – it is all about local brands and boutiques. If you feel like being a bit more active, then head to Burleigh Head National Park for a hike.
This beautiful park borders the ocean. John Laws Park at the top of Burleigh Hill is a great spot to watch the sunset and surfers.
⇒ Planning a trip to Melbourne? Read about the Best Place to Stay in Melbourne, where to have a fantastic Melbourne Brunch, 18 brilliant places to watch the sunset in Melbourne, and 2 of Melbourne’s best side-trips: The Mornington Peninsula and Daylesford.
Broadbeach is one of the largest beaches on the Gold Coast. Head to Kurrawa Beach for a safe and relaxed patch of sand and sea. If you’re after more than just beach lounging, the Broadbeach Arts and Crafts Festival runs the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month all year round. Or learn to surf at the Broadbeach surf school.
For a great latte, head to Elk Espresso on the beachfront. Another good option is the laneway café No Name Lane .
3. Coolangatta Beach and Snapper Rocks
Coolangatta is the southern-most town on the Gold Coast. Coolangatta beaches include Kirra, Rainbow Bay, and Greenmount. Greenmount and Rainbow Bay are best if you are seeking gentle breaks in the sea.
Snapper Rocks is a surf beach but its location on the border with New South Wales provides some fantastic views north up to Surfer’s Paradise.
Head to Café D-Bar for your latte. Located on Point Danger, Café D-Bar has fantastic views over the surf beaches of the area and all the way to Byron Bay. It is a relaxed, open café filled with local art and a perfect place for avocado on toast.
Three Day Itinerary Gold Coast: Day Two – Wildlife and Nightlife
When it comes to the best places to visit on the Gold Coast, quite a few involve seeing some of the local wildlife!
If you’re visiting the Gold Coast in the winter head out for some whale watching. From June to November about 20,000 humpback whales pass up the beaches of the Gold Coast as they head to the warmer waters of North Queensland.
2. Sea World
Sea World offers some terrific wildlife experiences. Interactive experiences are available with animals from sharks to penguins at Sea World on the Gold Coast.
See Australia’s only polar bears, swim with dolphins in deep water, snorkel in a tropical reef lagoon or have a penguin encounter. This marine park is one of the top places to visit in Queensland.
Something Different: Sea World Helicopters offer scenic flights between 5 and 30 minutes. The flights cover different areas of the Gold Coast and are a different and very photogenic way to experience the beautiful coastline.
3. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin is a wildlife sanctuary and a zoo. It is home to thousands of beautiful lorikeet birds – their colours are absolutely stunning! There are two daily feedings for the Lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Do try to plan your visit to ensure you are able to visit the Lorikeet experience – seeing so many of these stunning birds together is quite the sight. And the lorikeets aren’t shy with humans at all so you can grab some great shots of the birds landing on your head, hands, etc.
Queensland is one of only two states in Australia that allows for Koala cuddles and you can experience this at Currumbin on the Gold Coast – and of course have the experience photographed! There are also encounters and experiences on offer with other native Australian animals such as dingoes and possums.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is also a fantastic place to see many of Australia’s native animals – from the Tasmanian devil to saltwater crocodiles to of course kangaroos and koalas.
4. Dream World
Dream World is home to Tiger Island, one of the only interactive Tiger exhibits in the world. Tiger presentations are held twice a day. Dream World also offers Tiger cub walking experiences as well as tiger feeding experiences!
If tigers aren’t for you Dream World on the Gold Coast has interactive experiences on offer with dingoes, koalas (it is possible to hold them!!), tree kangaroos and feeding crocodiles.
5. Surfers Paradise Nightlife
Surfer’s Paradise is well known for its nightlife. Kick-off your evening by heading to the Skypoint Observation Deck to watch the sunset. Or if you’re feeling really brave, do an external climb of the tower.
Skypoint Observation Deck is at the top of Q1, the highest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, and this is Australia’s highest external building climb.
Or take a river cruise on the canals and rivers of Surfers Paradise and check out the local mansions. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights are the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Market.
If you’re a fan of craft beer, check out the House of Brews. For more classic cocktails and some night air, head to the Island Hotel and Rooftop Bar. Or for some live music in Surfer’s Paradise check out Elsewhere.
Day Three: Relax and Rejuvenate
Less well known than its beaches is the Gold Coast Hinterland or inland area. This beautiful rainforest region is full of mountains and waterfalls and only 40 minutes from the Gold Coast.
1. Tamborine Mountain
Tamborine Mountain has 12 walking tracks that don’t exceed 3kms. Head to Curtis Falls, take the treetop challenge at Australia’s largest Treetops adventure park or check out the glow worms.
The Tamborine Mountain Queensland area isn’t just rainforest. It is also home to some fantastic wine and food. Wineries include Witches Falls, Cedar Creek Estate and Heritage Estate. The mountain even has its own distillery, Tamborine Mountain Distillery.
Grab a coffee at Crema Lovers Café and check out the Gallery Walk. Have lunch at Songbirds or the Rainforest Restaurant and Lounge Bar. Or relax with a massage at the Ripple Mt Tamborine Day Spa.
⇒ Heading to Sydney? Check out my posts on the best Barangaroo Restaurants, the perfect Sydney Itinerary, a day trip to Watsons Bay Sydney and the best weekend getaways from Sydney.
2. Lamington National Park
Further south is Lamington National Park. Explore the beautiful park through one of its walks and head to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat to hand feed the birds or to take a walk in the treetops. Or visit the Lost World Spa at O’Reilly’s.
Head to O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for a tasting or grab something to eat at O’Reilly’s Mountain Café.
What About Theme Parks?
The Gold Coast is famous for its world-class theme parks – Movie World, Sea World, Dream World, and Wet n Wild. Sure, these are normally seen as family destinations, but they can still be lots of fun for adults. As I have already mentioned, Dream World and Sea World offer some great wildlife experiences.
Movie World is, of course, fantastic for movie lovers. For grown-ups, its highlights include stunt driving, the Lego Movie 4D experience (who doesn’t love the Lego Movies???), a behind the scenes tour and of course selfies with Sylvester and Tweety!
If Wet n Wild sounds appealing, check out their attractions like the Black Hole and the Kamikaze if you would like to avoid the toddlers!
Where else to stay near the Gold Coast
The Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach is perfect for a luxury stay on the Gold Coast. Just 50 yards from the beach, the Sofitel also has two stylish outdoor pools overlooking Broadbeach.
Room 81 is the Sofitel Broadbeach’s award-winning restaurant and bar, it also has a gaming lounge and a gym – as well as Rogers and Galley toiletries which I love. Make sure you ask for a room with a view over the coastline!
If you’re after a coastal resort experience, head to the Mantra Broadbeach on the Park. They have a range of contemporary 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments with air conditioning and full kitchens – perfect if you would like to grab some of the local seafood and enjoy it privately or use their BBQ!
The Mantra Broadbeach also has an outdoor heated lap pool, outdoor spa, and gym.
Hotel Mantra Sierra Grand Broadbeach is 30 storeys tall so it has some amazing views over the Gold Coast. It has a great location in the middle of Broadbeach and a range of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments.
Hotel Break Free Diamond Beach offers self-contained accommodation within tropical gardens and 2 large outdoor lagoon pools. All the apartments have a full kitchen and a large balcony. And the Hotel Break Free Diamond Beach is located just 250 yards from Kurrawa Beach.
Hotel Mantra Coolangatta Beach has a fantastic location on Marine Parade overlooking three of the area’s best beaches – Kirra, Greenmount, and Rainbow Bay. These spacious and airy modern apartments come with kitchens, balconies (make sure you ask for an ocean view) and there is a communal tennis court, pool, and gym.
Mantra Twin Towers Coolangatta is just a 2-minute walk from Coolangatta beach. The hotel has two swimming pools, a hot tub, a fitness centre with steam rooms and a BBQ area. Rooms at the Mantra Twin Towers Coolangatta come with kitchen facilities and most have balconies. And this Gold coast hotel is less than 2km from Coolangatta Airport.
If you’d prefer an inland option, check out the Hotel Mercure Gold Coast Resort in Carrara.
What to Pack for a Gold Coast Holiday
The Gold Coast is very relaxed. During the day all you’ll need are shorts and t-shirts and other light comfortable clothing. And of course, several swimsuits.
Evenings on the Gold Coast Queensland are generally just as relaxed unless you are heading out in Surfer’s Paradise where you may see some heels and frocks in the more upmarket destinations.
Don’t forget your sunscreen – although this is Australia so you can buy sunscreen everywhere. Hats, caps, sunglasses, thongs (Australian for flip flops) and comfortable shoes that are easy to get off to get your toes into the sand.
Best Time to Travel to the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and hot, humid summers. January and February have peak humidity and average temps of 28 with peak rainfall and not a great time to visit.
July to the end of October are the best times of year to visit the Gold Coast with average temperatures between 21 and 25 degrees.
This Gold Coast Itinerary post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.
Saturday 4th of April 2020
Wow this looks like a great itinerary with many fun activities and places.lovely post saving for future
Saturday 4th of April 2020
I think I went to the Gold Coast for the first time when I was about 7 also. It was one of our favourite family destinations. I now take my family there. Great post.