As a local, I had come to think I’d seen and done it all on the Gold Coast. When I would think of visiting, the same experiences would pop into my mind. Thankfully, Matt and I recently had the chance to experience a host of new activities and an absolutely spectacular place to stay, none of which we even knew existed! With more opportunities than ever to live a local but travel like a tourist, now is the perfect time to visit the Gold Coast and discover for yourself just why it’s Australia’s favourite place to play. To help you plan your own trip, here’s the perfect 3-night Gold Coast itinerary, based on ours! Scroll to the end to get your free pocket guide itinerary.
12 pm Lunch at Jimmy Wah’s
Depart home and make your way to beautiful Burleigh Heads. Jimmy Wah’s serves up modern Vietnamese food in a comfortable setting, right in the heart of Burleigh on The Esplanade. You’ll definitely want to make a booking as we arrived right at opening time, having booked, and the place was immediately packed. When you get a glimpse of the menu, it’s easy to see why! The food here is best-enjoyed family-style, so you can sample as many tasty treats as possible. There are plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free folk too! The food is incredibly fresh, packed full of flavour and absolutely delicious. Highlights include the steamed bao buns, Banh Mi with tempura soft shell crab and caramelised pork belly. Also, don’t sleep on the mocktails! Find Jimmy Wah’s here.
2 pm Explore James Street
After lunch, spend some time exploring nearby James Street. 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. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on a stop at Doughnut Time, you can definitely stock up on a doughnut or two for later. Find James Street in Burleigh Heads on Google Maps.
3:30 pm Check-in to The Loft
Perched on the very top of Burleigh Esplanade Apartments, The Loft is unlike any other accommodation on the Gold Coast. Through a fire door, up a hidden staircase and you’ll find this incredible spot waiting for you. With the very best views of the Gold Coast, you’re treated to an unbelievable panorama including the Gold Coast Hinterland, Burleigh and beyond, right up to Surfers Paradise and, of course, uninterrupted views of the ocean.
This luxury spot is made for two, with rooftop bathtubs making for the perfect sunset spot as well as a huge outdoor area with multiple seating spots, a pool table and plenty of places to relax and unwind indoors too. With a full kitchen, spiral staircase and cosy bedroom tucked beneath a thatched ceiling, you’ll feel far away from the world below, nestled in your own little slice of the world. Find The Loft via Burleigh Esplanade Apartments here or contact them directly for help with your booking. The Loft is trendy, and there’s a 3-night minimum stay, so if you have trouble finding dates, it may be booked out. Be sure to plan ahead to avoid missing out!
Pro Tip: Pack light, if possible, and use a soft bag you can carry easily, rather than a heavy suitcase on wheels. You will need to go up two flights of stairs to reach The Loft and carrying a big, bulky suitcase (like I did!) isn’t ideal.
7 pm Dinner from Justin Lane Establishment
Trust me, you’ll want to make the most of your first night at The Loft! We opted for take-away pizzas from nearby Justin Lane Establishment, a spot famous for their incredible sourdough crust, wood-fired pizzas and delectable pasta. Grab a couple of pizzas to go, pick some ice-cold beers and settle in for a sunset you won’t soon forget. We absolutely loved sitting on the comfy loungers, soaking in the million-dollar views, watching the sky change colour and the world below us come to life in a glittering display of lights. Find Justin Lane Establishment here.
7:15 am Breakfast at Social Brew
It’s going to be a big day of activities so you’ll want to fuel up with plenty of coffee and breakfast! Located along James Street in Burleigh, Social Brew is quite the oasis. With tables and an abundance of booths spread out beneath a canopy of plants and twinkling lights, it’s a cosy and welcoming place to start the day. Dig into their iconic Social Stack with all the trimmings, Harissa Haloumi Burger, Breaky Burrito or tuck into one of their tasty acai bowls. Find Social Brew here.
8:45 am Pot to Plate Adventure with Tweed Eco Cruises
Climb aboard a truly unique river cruise and explore the gorgeous Tweed River with Tweed Eco Cruises. Their Pot to Plate Adventure is led by local legend and Bundjalung Nation descendent, Luther Cora, a.k.a ‘The Black Cockatoo.’ Following a traditional welcome, Luther and his son led us through the mangroves, sharing local insight on the area, mud crabs and must-know intel on how to catch them and not lose a finger! The days catch is cooked fresh on the fire and enjoyed right away, followed by even more seafood and snacks on board. A spot of fishing, followed by pelican feeding and a scenic cruise through the waterways complimented the day perfectly. Find Tweed Eco Cruises here.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check if Daylight Savings Time is in effect as this and the next activity are located just across the New South Wales Border. You may need to adjust your itinerary timing to take AEDT into account!
1:30 pm Snorkel with Turtles Tour with Watersports Guru
After a relaxing morning, it’s time to kick things up a notch! Located less than 1 km off Fingal Headland, the tiny volcanic outcrop of Cook Island is home to a permanent population of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles. Thanks to the team at Watersports Guru, we can get up close to these majestic creatures on their Snorkel with the Turtles Tour. Under the watchful eye of the skipper and an experienced guide, you’ll set off on the short 10 or 15-minute boat ride out to Cook Island, stopping along the way to say hello to dolphins and hear about the local area. Then, it’s into the water to explore the reef and spot turtles as well as fish and even a few small wobbegongs. Find Watersports Guru here.
Pro Tip: If you get boat sick (me!) be sure to take the appropriate medicine beforehand so you can enjoy every moment of your turtle encounter. I recommend a non-drowsy medicine as you’ll be swimming and need to be fully alert – talk to your doctor or pharmacist for options.
4 pm Freshen up back at The Loft
Drive back to The Loft for a nice, hot shower or soak in the rooftop bathtubs to freshen up and relax after all those activities! You’ve earned it. Be sure to have a refreshing beverage of your choice on hand so you can spread out on the comfy outdoor seating and soak in all the fresh ocean air.
7 pm Dinner at The Collective
Located in Palm Beach in a truly beautiful, open setting adorned with festival lights, murals, plants and the night sky above, The Collective is the perfect spot for dinner. The great thing about this spot is it brings together a range of different kitchens, giving you the ability to choose food from all different cuisines if you like! Enjoy handmade gnocchi from The Italian Job, dumplings from Umami, tacos from Tala, souvlaki from Mazi and burgers from Luckies Diner or simply max out on cuisine, if that’s more your style. Whatever you do, just be sure to book because The Collective is very popular. Find The Collective here.
8:30 am Breakfast at Commune Cafe
Start your morning with a visit to nearby Commune Cafe, a fantastic local spot with great outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere. The coffee here is fantastic, so start with a few of those then get stuck into their breakfast menu. From classics like eggs bene and free-range eggs on toast to coriander corn fritters, cacao pancakes and shakshuka to a range of truly delicious superpower bowls (the ‘We’ve gone nuts’ Acai is amazing!) you’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s plenty to choose from for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free folk too. Find Commune Cafe here.
10 am Yoga SUP with Pure Aloha Yoga
If you think you know what to expect from a SUP Yoga session, you need to think again. Sparkling Tallebudgera Creek sets the scene for a morning of fun and relaxation but rather than mixing it with lots of other visitors, the session takes place in a quiet pocket, surrounded by the beauty of Fleays Wildlife Conservation Park. The water’s nice and shallow so when you inevitably fall in you don’t have far to go, won’t get hurt and it’s incredibly refreshing. The session is a great mix of mindfulness, yoga poses and a whole lot of fun. Sarni’a, founder and instructor, brings such great energy to the experience you may never want to leave but, when you finally do, you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and buzzing with joy! Best of all, you don’t need to be a SUP or Yoga expert to do this one. I’m a master of neither of those things and I had a great time. Find Pure Aloha Yoga here.
12:30 pm Lunch at Custard Canteen
Get dried off and head over to nearby Custard Canteen for lunch. Nestled below a canopy of trees, this cool spot near Talle Creek oozes relaxation with a wide range of seating options. From the same team who brought us Bam Bam Bakehouse, Custard Canteen is a dream come true for lovers of pastries and baked goods. The Portuguese custard tarts are a must-try as is, well, everything else freshly baked and on offer at the counter! The coffee here is fantastic and the menu boasts plenty of goodies like their Butter Boy Benny, served on a fresh croissant if you like, Crispy Shroom Burger, Karaage Chicken Slammer and Prawn Po Boy. Find Custard Canteen here.
2 pm Relax at The Loft
Get your box of Portuguese custard tarts and jump back in the car, making your way to The Loft. Freshen up with a shower, put your feet up, start that book you’ve been meaning to get to and let the relaxing afternoon sun wash over you.
7 pm Dinner at Hail Mary
When the hunger starts to build once more, you’ll want to head directly to 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-Wednesday or Pineapply Thursday deals! Find Hail Mary here.
9 pm Enjoy your last night
Stay up late and watch the stars overhead while listening to the world below, back at The Loft. Get a great night’s sleep and treat yourself to a sleep-in the next morning before checking out. If you fancy one last breakfast out you can’t go past Paddock Bakery, one of my favourite spots on the Coast! If you need more inspiration on great things to do on the Gold Coast you can find 14 of the best things to do from Surfers Paradise to Burleigh here and 13 of the best things to do from Currumbin to Coolangatta here.
Your perfect Gold Coast itinerary pocket guide
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Our itinerary was made possible by Destination Gold Coast and local partners. As always, all opinions in this guide are authentically and honestly our own. A huge thank you to the amazing team at Destination Gold Coast for supporting us and local tourism.
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