Pristine, sundrenched beaches and crisp, cool water await on the Gold Coast. A region of South-East Queensland renowned for fantastic weather, an abundance of great local eateries and plenty to see and do, it’s an iconic destination suited to every type of traveller! Located only 66 km’s from the state capital, Brisbane, with access from either Brisbane or Gold Coast airports, it’s easy to visit and, once you do, you’ll want to come back time and time again. To help you plan an amazing trip of your own here, in no particular order, are 14 of the best things to in the central region of the Gold Coast from Surfers Paradise to Burleigh Heads.
But first, you might also like to read:
- 6 of the Gold Coast’s BEST things to do on the water!
- 13 of the BEST things to do on the Gold Coast: Currumbin to Coolangatta
- Where to stay Gold Coast: Meriton Suites Surfers Paradise
1. Indoor Skydiving at iFLY
You won’t be able to wipe the big smile off your face after your first visit to iFLY. Located in Surfers Paradise, a short walk from the iconic Q1 building, this indoor skydiving experience is not something you’ll forget anytime soon. Pull-on a special suit, google and a helmet and you’re good to go! Under the watchful eye of your instructor, step inside the incredible wind tail and do your best to keep the excitement at bay as you relax into it. We absolutely loved this experience and wish we’d had a longer flight time as it was totally addictive!
2. Soak in the views from SkyPoint
At a staggering 230 metres above ground, you’ll find the SkyPoint Observation Deck located at the top of Q1 in Surfer’s Paradise. This Gold Coast icon offers the very best views over the area, from the hinterland to the coast and out to sea. It really is the perfect place to start any Gold Coast adventure as it’ll give you a better appreciation for the local area and just how stunning it really is. If you want to kick things up a notch, check out the SkyPoint Climb where you head outside and quite literally hang off the side of Q1! It’s an unforgettable experience.
3. Eat at Lot 1 Coffee
For a delicious lunch in Surfer’s Paradise head directly to Lot 1 Coffee on Hanlan Street. The menu here is really well-priced, offering a great range of options for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Tuck into a refreshing ice bowl, indulgent peanut butter French toast or healthy spinach scramble or sample the double beef burger, chicken lemongrass salad or vegetarian falafel wrap, just to name a few. The coffee at Lot 1 is delicious too, with a few dairy-free milk options to choose from. Find Lot 1 Coffee.
4. Check out local thrift stores
If you love thrifting, you’ll be spoilt for choice on the Gold Coast! There are plenty of great thrift stores to explore and, best of all, they’re dotted all along the coast. To find them, just open Google Maps on your phone, ensuring your location is on the Gold Coast, and simply search for thrift stores. You may also like to check out this guide by the Urban List to some of the best op shops on the Gold Coast and, if you do find some great ones, please come back here and let me know so I can go check them out too!
5. Grab a beachfront drink at a Surf Life Saving Club
Beachfront spots don’t come much better than Surf Life Saving Clubs (SLSCs). Dotted along the coastline, they boast absolute beachfront views and the perfect setting for a cold drink or two. SLSC’s are an iconic part of Queensland’s past, present and future as well as an important part of the community. You’ll often find them serving up great meals at good prices including favourites like steaks, fish and chips and the good ol’ parmy (that’s Aussie for chicken parmigiana). There are plenty to choose from including Southport Surf Life Saving Club, BMD Northcliffe Surf Club, Broadbeach Surf Life Saving Club, Kurrawa Surf Club, Mermaid Beach AEME Surf Life Saving Club, Miami Beach Surf Life Saving Club and more!
6. Dine at Hail Mary
Located in beautiful Burleigh Heads, down an inconspicuous laneway off James Street, you’ll find Hail Mary serving up truly delicious Mexican fare! This place has a super cool fit-out with loads of greenery, peachy-pink paint and quirky modern touches, including a couple of vibrant neon signs, to finish it off. Incredibly popular, I’d recommend you book a table to make sure you don’t miss out as the menu is fantastic. Margarita lovers, like myself, should definitely try the mango margarita before tucking into tasty bites including nachos, tacos, tortas, burritos, enchiladas and more. With plenty of vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options to choose from you may also like to take advantage of their Taco Tuesday, Burrito Night-Wenedsya or Pineapply Thursday deals!
7. Enjoy breakfast at Paddock Bakery
One of my favourite breakfast or brunch spots on the coast, Paddock Bakery in Burleigh Heads is a must-try spot! The clever folk at Paddock set up shop in an old Queenslander home, transforming it and the surrounding garden into a relaxing destination for fantastic food. There are no bookings so either time your visit for a weekday or be prepared to wait if visiting on a weekend (trust me, it’s worth it). The menu is stacked with delectable options including their famous dippy eggs, doughnut french toast, pea and halloumi fritters or their iconic rustic avo. The food here is fresh, flavoursome and elevated by freshly baked bread, rolls and goodies. Not to mention, the coffee is fantastic too!
8. Go shopping at Pacific Fair
If you fancy a bit of shopping you absolutely must check out Pacific Fair. Home to over 400 shops from Louis Vuitton to KMart and absolutely everything in-between, you could spend an entire day or two wandering around and still not see everything. More than just a great destination for shopping, the renovation of ‘Pac Fair,’ as it’s known locally, has seen it transform into a resort-like oasis. Be sure to check out my favourite spot, near Mecca Maxima, where you’ll find water features, bridges, poolside loungers and the most stunning bottle tree. There’s also a great range of restaurants to dine at to keep you fueled up and ready to shop!
9. Explore James Street in Burleigh Heads
For a more local shopping experience, you may want to check out James Street in the heart of Burleigh Heads. Lined on both sides with an array of cafes, restaurants, bars and some very cool boutiques, you can wander along popping into stores that take your fancy. From eclectic homewares and bohemian clothing to books, jewellery, organic goodies and a whole host of great clothing and accessory spots too. Branch out and peruse surrounding Park Avenue and stores lining the Gold Coast Highway for more shopping too. Find James Street in Burleigh Heads on Google Maps.
10. Visit Doughnut Time
‘It’s always a good time!’ is the perfect slogan for one of our favourite spots, Doughnut Time. Shop fit-outs don’t get much cooler than this one, with a mouth-watering assortment of doughnuts sitting plump and pretty in the window, tempting you inside. It’s important you know that one is not enough so don’t be sure, stock up on a box of four or more to take home and enjoy with friends (or just by yourself while binge-watching your favourite show!) Tuck into their decadent concoctions including vegan options like the Fairy Godmother topped with buttercream frosting and colourful 100’s and 1000’s or the red velvet and cookie & cream topped Liam Hemsworthy (also vegan!). Sink your teeth into the Strawberry Cheese Bae, Time Tam Time, Caramilk or Slim Shady lavished with vanilla glaze and mini M&M’s. With a brand new gelato bar just opened, you’ll definitely satisfy your sweet tooth.
11. Check out the views from Lores Bonney Lookout
Boasting 180-degree views of the Gold Coast from Surfers Paradise all the way to Burleigh, you’ll want to check out the Lores Bonney lookout. You can find it on Google Maps and will want to park in one of the four or so parking spots or, if they’re full, on the street. Head up the stairs (there are a few of them and it’s a bit steep but you’ll be okay, I promise!) and, once you reach the top, pause to take in your first round of views. Head to the right and you’ll notice a goat track, which you should only follow if you’re feeling sure-footed and don’t do anything silly. Wander along the path and you’ll find the very best, unobstructed views!
12. Have fish and chips on the beach
Forget fancy restaurants, one of the best things to do on the coast is to visit a local fishmonger and enjoy a laid-back feast on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Personally, we love visiting the Burleigh Heads Fishmonger but there are plenty of others dotting the coast (read this guide by The Weekend Edition sharing where to find the Gold Coast’s best fish and chips for more inspo!). Then, wander down to a secluded spot under the shade of a tree and breathe in the fresh ocean air while savouring your lunch. For vegans, you may want to grab an Açai bowl instead! They’re a beloved favourite among GC locals so you won’t have too much trouble finding one (in fact, there’s a number of great spots on James Street in Burleigh Heads including one right next to the fishmonger).
13. Enjoy a sunset drink at Burleigh Pavillion
Trendy spots perfect for a sunset drink or four don’t come much better than the iconic Burleigh Pavillion. Perched high on the rocks, overlooking the water, this beachfront spot offers absolutely stunning views over the local area. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to nab a seat along the windows and spend a good few hours watching surfers paddle on to waves while you sip a frozen rosé, cocktail, glass of wine or an ice-cold beer. The food menu also offers up some great snacks to share including freshly shucked oysters, prawns on ice, wood-fired garlic bread (omg!) and guacamole with corn chips as well as mains, burgers, wood-fired pizzas and more.
14. Go to the Miami Marketta
Held every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 5pm until late, the Miami Marketta offers a laneway dining experience with 25 food vendors of all nationalities. From decadent cannoli and the thickest, plumpest lamingtons I have ever seen with my own two eyes to tender brisket, Mexican and Japanese fare, tasty yiros and so much more! There’s also a great rotation of events including Drag Queen Bingo, live music and the ever-popular rummage sale. Be sure to check out the official website for more info on upcoming events.
Where to stay
For our one-night stay on the Gold Coast, exploring the central region from Surfer’s Paradise to Burleigh Heads, we stayed at The Star. Locals may remember it as Jupiter’s Casino, however, it has undergone renovation transforming into The Star. We stayed in room 1517 and absolutely loved how plush and luxurious the room was! With great views looking out over Broadbeach and out to the water, we found our room to be modern and comfortable with a very cosy bed, huge television and fantastic bathroom. If you’re after a great, centrally located hotel, you can’t go past The Star. I mean, check out the below photo of our room!
Book your stay at The Star here
Your Gold Coast pocket guide:
Save this image to your phone or Pinterest board for easy, on-the-go reference!
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you used the affiliate links below. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the products and services I love and use. Thanks for your support! – Matt
Read the disclaimer for more information.
Agoda – hotels
Booking.com – hotels
Cover-More – insurance
Motorhome Republic – RVs
RentalCars.com – rentals
SimsDirect – SIM cards
Skyscanner – flights
Surfshark – VPN
TourRadar – tours
Uber Carshare – rentals