How to spend a day exploring the real Gold Coast

Queensland’s sunniest season has finally left us, along with our summer bodies, rigid body hair maintenance and those hot, balmy days that make us equally love and hate living in the Sunshine State, depending on whether we’re frolicking on the beach or stuck at work.

Here’s the special thing about Queensland – the sun always shines, even with the depths of winter quickly approaching. We’re still catching glorious rays on the daily… and it’s May! Keeping this in mind, we challenge you to take advantage of the low season and hit the Gold Coast for the best ever day trip to make some memories with your posse. All you’ll need is a car.

Obviously, the guide below can be chopped, changed and switched up to suit however you roll – we get that a sunrise wake-up doesn’t fit everyone’s MO. Also, we’re playing nice. We won’t be sending you to hidden beaches or on three-hour treks – our guide to the Gold Coast is about a simple, fun day with friends.

The basic premise of this day trip (heck, even weekend if you want to stretch it out) is we want you to see some of the real Gold Coast. We’re talking about the kilometres of uncrowded beaches and hinterland that combine to create one of Queensland’s most beautiful regions. For the best way to do this, read on.

Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Start your day at Froggies

This is a little piece of heaven neatly spliced between Snapper Rocks and Point Danger (Google Maps Snapper Rocks for directions). This could be your first port-of-call at sunrise, or you could head here mid-morning after having breakfast at any number of awesome cafes on the coast (Think Paddock Bakery, Elk Espresso, Skull & Bones Espresso or Commune). It’s just next to gorgeous Rainbow Bay, which reminds us of Byron with its turquoise waters. Have a swim or a surf with the locals amongst the gently rolling waves, or jump into the sea baths set into Snapper Rocks as the sun comes up over Point Danger for the best view in the house. We at Checkin-Out are obsessed with Sydney’s ocean pools (read our guide to the incredible Figure 8 Pools here) and have always been jealous Queensland had no answer to Bondi’s famous Icebergs Pool. All this has changed – now we’ve discovered Gold Coast’s own roughly constructed ocean pool, well, Sydney, you can suck it.

Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Head to Currumbin Valley

When you can tear yourself away from the gems of the Coolangatta region, it’s time to head to the Currumbin Valley for a little waterfall action. For the most beautiful cascading waterfall, head to the Cougal Cascades. You can find some information about getting there here or simply head to Currumbin Rock Pools as per the map here. Then, just keep driving until you reach the Mt Cougal National Park car park.

It’s a tiny bit further to drive than the more popular Currumbin rock pools but completely worth it and just a short walk from the car park. Here you can sun yourself on the rocks, jump into the waterhole (at your own risk) or take advantage of the natural water slide formed by the falls like we did. Be warned, the last one is addictive and you’ll end up acting like kids on speed. Completely unavoidable.

Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Tallebudgera to Burleigh

Next up, dry yourselves off and head to Tallebudgera Creek, the coast’s worst kept secret. A perfect spot for a swim, sunbake and SUP if you wish. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, make like the many thrill seekers gathered on the bridge and dunk yourself into the refreshing inlet waters.

Once you’ve showered off the salt water, jump in the car to Burleigh and take a quick walk into the Burleigh Head National Park for one of the most scenic perspectives the coast has to offer at Tumgun lookout. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better ask someone from around where you can find Cock Rock (the name makes total sense when you see it) for an unmissable photo op.

Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Time for a Sundowner

At this stage, you’re thirsty and starting to get hella hungry. It’s time to grab some ciders and a blanket (or a dry towel/sarong will do) and head to where the locals lay on Burleigh Hill for sundowners most nights.

Insider Tip: Sundays are packed so get there early with some nibbles if you’re here on the weekend. As you watch the sun go down, you can’t help but feel wistfully jealous of the laid-back GC lifestyle as you watch grommets skate by, bleached blonde fringes in their face, tanned teenagers strumming guitars and young couples treating themselves to seafood picnics.

Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
Image: Nat and Bonnie Check-in Out
End on a high

It’s right about now you’re feeling sun-kissed (OK let’s be honest, you’re burnt) and sad about heading home when rumbling stomachs interrupt your leaving arrangements. Yep, it’s time to kick on, and where else but Justin Lane? Luckily your OCD bestie knows the squad too well and made a booking, otherwise, there’d be no chance of getting a seat in the packed rooftop mezzanine. Located just a block back from Burleigh beach, prepare for the best pizza of your life and be sure to include the James St Deli Ham and a bottle of pinot noir in the table’s order. You’re welcome.

If you’re a total freak and pizza is not your thing (or maybe you need to stop lying to yourself) there are some absolutely awesome places to try from Burleigh to Broadbeach, including

  • Bonita Bonita and the Bon Bon bar next door – the former for hands down our favourite food and overall dining experience on the Gold Coast and the latter for drinks so good they taste out of this world;
  • Etsu for the coolest hidden restaurant experience, a delicate cocktail list and amazing Japanese; and
  • Hank for beautiful food and impeccable service in Broadbeach.

Regardless of where you head for dinner, it’s been a big day. Eat, drink and be messy. And, designated driver, our thoughts are with you.

circleNat and Bonnie are two travel lovers, hailing from beautiful Brisbane in Queensland. Combining Nat’s love of photography and Bonnie’s passion for words with their devotion to travel and each other, Check-in Out was born. Now, they share their adventures and eternal search for the very best hidden spots around the world with other travel-lovers. You can find the girls on Instagram or Facebook



Little Grey Box

I'm a writer and presenter and my husband Matt is a videographer. Together, we run Little Grey Box; an award-winning travel blog and YouTube channel.

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