Looking for the best things to do in Surfers Paradise & the Gold Coast!? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Surfers Paradise is the gateway to Queensland’s stunning coasts, and as the name suggests, the beaches are fit for any surfer with rolling waves, golden beaches lined with palm trees and a relatively mellow vibe.
With world-famous surf breaks such as Snapper Rocks, pristine river systems of Tallebudgera to stunning coastal national parks, Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast has a perfect mix of nature integrated into the daily life of those living upon its shores and those visiting on holidays.
With nature one of the main reasons people visit the Gold Coast, this coastal community is known for being the entertainment capital of Australia. It features a mad mix of theme parks, cabaret shows, crazy gaming centers, and an epic Brisbane music festival, all bound to blow your mind.
There are so many elements that make Surfers Paradise fantastic. While I agree it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and often gets a bad reputation but if we push past those things, it’s really not so bad after all. What more do you want than surf, sand and sweet vibes? Surfers Paradise is a hub for adventure, you’ve just got to step outside and seek it!
1) Go Surfing at a Surfers Paradise Beach
If you don’t love the ocean then why are you even in Surfers Paradise? The Gold Coast is home to a multitude of stunning beaches starting from the New South Wales border. They stretch all the way to Stradbroke Island so there will never be a day where the swell is bad.
If you don’t have a surfboard and are keen to give surfing a go, you’ll find many surf shops renting out boards on the beach fronts. These are available at reasonable prices and some offer lessons for anyone who wants to learn to surf.
With so many options, you may find it hard to choose a Surfers Paradise beach to catch a wave at. Worry not, here are a few places to wax up the board and get surfing. Just remember to swim between the red and yellow flags.
- Burleigh Heads Beach – with an assortment of waves ranging from big to small, Burleigh Heads Beach is one of my favorites and the locals favorite especially when a swell sets in.
- Miami – not the Miami in Florida but the Miami of the Gold Coast is an open stretch of coastline suitable for everyone, even a beginner.
- Mermaid Beach – is a place I wish mermaids were, instead there are some nice waves in a not-so-busy part of the Gold Coast.
- Kurrawa – this Surfers Paradise beach is popular with surf boats, meaning the waves are bound to be pumping.
- Snapper Rocks – a place not cut for the amateurs, a place for the professionals but that never stopped a keen grom from carving up a few waves.
2) Visit Burleigh Heads
South of Surfers Paradise is a piece of paradise and a local favorite, Burleigh Heads. Out of all the places I go when on the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads always tops the list. Why? Burleigh Heads National Park is stunning and often untouched by those who visit the area.
With a loop track starting at the end of Julia Street North, the Ocean View Track trails through thick bushland prickled with Pandanus palms, past Tallebudgera Creek and back up to Tumgun Lookout for spectacular views of the sea and down to Currumbin.
Burleigh Heads National Park is an incredible spot for catching a scenic Gold Coast sunrise or watching the early morning surfers. Don’t forget to grab a coffee from Nook Espresso, a hole in the wall style café with a mean brew.
3) Catch a ferry to South Stradbroke Island
No visit to the Gold Coast is complete without a day or two spent on the shores of South Stradbroke Island or Straddie to the locals.
South Stradbroke Island is situated about a 30-minute drive from Surfers Paradise to the north. However, you can get a taxi across to Straddie at various points throughout Surfers Paradise.
Not to get you confused, but Stradbroke Island is broken up into two islands, the north and south. The north island is closer to Brisbane, while the south island is closer to Surfers Paradise.
South Straddie is blessed with natural surroundings like idyllic fishing holes, rock pools, hidden surf spots, and beautiful rainforests. South Straddie is your epic dose of nature and a great way to spend on the stunning Gold Coast.
4) Theme Park Madness
The Gold Coast is a mecca for theme parks and one of the first things you’ll notice when zooming along the Gold Coast Highway.
Here’s a solid list of all the theme parks that you can visit, maybe not all in one day…
- Wet ‘N’ Wild – is complete with wave pools, waterslides and beaches to sunbathe on.
- Movie World – is kind of like a mini Universal Studios with epic rollercoasters, DC Comic style parades and movie set stunt performances.
- Dream World – is home to the mighty Tower of Terror which was once the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Today Dream World is an epic place for everyone — it’s one of the best things to do in Surfers Paradise for couples, families and friends with rides and fair-style food on offer.
- SeaWorld – another theme park near Surfers Paradise but I don’t really recommend Sea World as dolphins are used as entertainment tools and they’re held in small concrete pools.
- Surfers Paradise Mini Golf – okay, it’s not actually a theme park but the western-themed attraction is perfect for the whole family. The only outdoor mini golf course here, they also have games like giant jenga, a giant dartboard and a table tennis table.
Save yourself some money and book a combo pass to these attractions for multple days of fun!
5) Shop til you drop
The Gold Coast will certainly make your pockets lighter — but not in the way you think. Shopping in the area and its surrounds is one of the best Surfers Paradise activities for those visiting this sunny part of Australia. It has enough shops to have you going to a different outlet every day of the year.
Pacific Fair and Harbour Town are the biggest and best on the Gold Coast with every piece of equipment, clothing, and cookery or if you just want to grab a snag at Bunnings, then be my guest! Don’t forget boutique shopping at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets.
6) SkyPoint Deck
Views of Surfers Paradise doesn’t get much better than being on top of Q1, Australia’s tallest building reaching a staggering 323 meters. The SkyPoint Deck isn’t quite at the top; instead, it gets you 230 meters up! Getting to the 77th floor, where the observation deck is located, takes 43 seconds…that’s seriously quick.
Getting to the SkyPoint Observation Deck is pricey, but trust me, views of the Surfers Paradise skyline are worth the price tag.
- SkyPoint Observation Deck 1 Day Ticket: “Enjoy amazing views of the Gold Coast from up the top of Skypoint! Ride in one of the world’s fastest elevators up to the 77th floor of the Q1 Tower and take in the views from the only coastal observation deck in Australia! Don’t forget your camera!”
- Price: Starting at $23
7) Springbrook National Park
Surfer’s Paradise isn’t all about the surf and sea. Its lush national parks are fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in this part of south east Queensland.
Springbrook National Park is home to Purling Brook Falls, a towering stream of pristine water plummeting into a pool below. The other noteworthy waterfall is Twin Falls, where the waterfall is divided into 2 streams as it cascades to the ground.
Springbrook National Park has a reasonable amount of lookouts but the best of them all is literally called Best of All Lookout. Here, views take you all the way to Mount Warning in New South Wales and Brunswick Heads down near Byron Bay! Springbrook National Park is an easy 45-minute drive from Surfers Paradise.
8) Watch the pros at Snapper Rock
If you’ve ever watched the World Surf League, this Surfers Paradise beach has probably popped up on your television. Snapper Rock is commonly surfed by local legends Steph Gilmore and Mick Fanning, and on certain occasions, these pros have been spotted dropping in on a few sets at Snapper Rock.
Mick Fanning, a local hero and a 3-time World Surf Champion was already famous before he was attacked by a shark in Johannesburg, South Africa. While he punched the shark in its head to avoid its gnarly jaws, swimming and surfing on the Gold Coast is super safe.
9) Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park is home to exceptional wildlife species, mountain ranges and endless trails to be explored. The geology of this national park is quite unique as it is part of a shield volcano which in fact was seriously big and scary many millions of years ago. The center of this volcano was Mount Warning and the total diameter of the volcano was 100 kilometers.
Today, Lamington National Park has a staggering 500 waterfalls so there won’t be a shortage of cascades to visit when you’re there! Lamington National Park is an easy 1-hour drive down towards the Queensland and New South Wales border, making it one of the best day trips for you and the family.
10) Cavill Avenue
Cavill Ave, as the locals like to say, is the light and party of Surfers Paradise with a enough things to keep you occupied for days.
Cavill Avenue is very much unlike Sydney or Brisbane’s main CBD areas. Instead, Cavill Avenue is more of a family-friendly street full of colorful buildings and planter boxes full of tropical palm trees sending a warm and welcoming vibe.
Cavill Avenue isn’t a large place, and yes, it’s one street, so what can you do?
- Timezone – was my second-favorite place to visit as a kid, complete with endless arcade games, bowling alleys and activities one would find at a fair. Timezone is based on how many tokens you collect: the more the better and the bigger the prize at the end of the night. Best of all, it’s not just for kids, this place is lit when the adults rock up for a bit of fun!
- Ripley’s Believe it Or Not – one of the unusual things to do in Surfers Paradise, it definitely scares me with its creepy statistics and wax figures. But, Ripley’s is quite a cool Gold Coast museum to check out.
- Duck Boats – now if you’re wondering what a duck boat is, I don’t blame you. A duck boat is a truck that can drive on land and float on water. I’m not sure who came up with the idea but when in Surfers Paradise, it’s a rite of passage for locals and tourists.
- Surfers Paradise Beach – is the area’s main beach that meets the city and is considered one of the best beaches in Australia. It’s not every day that you get to relax on a beach, catch a wave or soak up the sun right next to one of Australia’s tallest skylines. How awesome would it be to work in a building like Q1, finish work, wax the surfboard and within 2 minutes be dropping in on a classic Surfers Paradise wave?
- Gold Coast Afternoon River Cruise – from Cavill Avenue, you can enjoy a river cruise along the waterways of this Gold Coast region. The Surfers Paradise sightseeing experience comes complete with a drink and complimentary cheese and crackers enjoyed from the sundeck.
11) Tamborine National Park
Tamborine National Park is one of the local’s favorite spots to chill out every day of the week, be it on Sunday night or a calm Tuesday afternoon.
Only 1 hour from Surfers Paradise, Tamborine National Park is home to stunning mountain lookouts spanning back to Surfers Paradise. There is also lush bushland and verdant forestry with cedar creeks and trails perfect for a walk on a warm summer’s day.
Along with Tamborine’s epic lookouts, waterfalls make this place a worthy destination to visit while in Surfers Paradise. You’ll find majestic waterfalls like Cameron Falls, Curtis Falls and Cedar Creek Rock Pools. The latter is a beauty of a place that falls into one of the beautiful Gold Coast waterways perfect for admiring the natural splendor.
12) Tallebudgera Creek
If you’re in Burleigh Heads and looking for something else to do, Tallebudgera Creek is a hotspot for everything water! Located on the edge of Burleigh Head National Park, Tallebudgera Creek flows right on by out to the ocean and over the years has become the best place to chill out on the Gold Coast.
Tallebudgera Creek has facilities for cooking up a classic Australian barbecue, but I still question whether or not Australians throw ‘a shrimp on the barbie’. Stand-up paddle boarding is another fun thing to do here, especially when the tides are low, which makes for an incredible day out on the water.
13) Mount Barney National Park
Sure, Mount Barney National Park is the furthest place away from the Gold Coast on this list. However, the 1.5-hour drive from the bustling skyline to this natural beauty is very much worth doing. In fact, I would say that this park is the definite winner in the contest with other Surfers Paradise parks like Springbrook, Lamington, and Macintosh Island Park.
Mount Barney National Park is home to exceptional hiking trails, flowing creeks and cute koalas — what more could you ask for? If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll be blessed with some scenic and indescribable views at the area’s peak.
Mount Barney has around 8 different routes that all lead to the summit, some 1,359 meters above sea level. Mount Barney has its own microclimate, with clouds often inundating the summit, which soon clears by mid-morning.
Camping on the summit of Mount Barney is also possible at a place called Rum Jungle and as beautiful as the camping area is, I was thoroughly disappointed to hear that there was no rum in Rum Jungle.
Conditions can change quite rapidly so be prepared if camping on the summit. Be sure to check with the Mount Barney official website. While visiting any other national park in the Gold Coast area, Parks Queensland will provide the best and most up-to-date information.
Food and Dining in Surfers Paradise
Food is one of my favorite past times and when I am in a new destination or one I’ve been to, I need to know immediately where the best food is. So, here’s a couple of my favorite spots to go and chow down on the Gold Coast.
- The Collective Palm Beach – serves a mean array of burgers, fries and fresh brewed beers which sounds like my perfect Sunday!
- Jimmy Wah’s – is located at Burleigh Heads and is one of the best Vietnamese eateries on the coast. If I see a sign that says Pho you can take my money, credit card or watch because Vietnamese cuisine holds a special place in my heart.
- Hardrock Café – isn’t generally a place I’d go to dine but it’s a thing you just gotta do when in Surfers Paradise. With a solid menu built around something you’d find in the streets of Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Hardrock Café is bound to give you a food coma.
If you’re a serious foodie, check out this article “All The Very Best Restaurants In Surfers Paradise” for a bit more information on dining needs!
Where to Stay in Surfers Paradise – Best Accommodation Options
Surfers Paradise and its surrounds have no shortage of places to crash; it just comes down to your budget, a thing that affects us all in one way or another.
- Alpha Sovereign Hotel Gold Coast – is relatively cheap considering how close it is to Surfers Paradise. Rooms start at $93 AUD.
- Surfers Paradise YHA – is a cheap as it gets, and with a dorm room so close to all of the action, $50 AUD is a great deal. YHA is one of the best hotel chains in Australia and New Zealand and gets my tick of approval.
- Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort – is even cheaper than the YHA with rates for a dorm room starting at $40 AUD per night, a damn good deal when you’re right on the doorstep of Cavill Avenue.
Am I Missing Any Epic Things to do in Surfers Paradise / Gold Coast?
I’m hoping to make it back down to Australia soon, and definitely planning to visit Surfers Paradise again when that happens! I’ve got some really close mates who live there, and it would be great to get to know the area a bit more! If you think I need to add anything like a tour, day trip, national park, cafe, bar, or whatever else – I’d love to hear about it. It’d help expand my list with more fun things to do Surfers Paradise has to offer!
Planning a Trip to Australia…?
My travel blog is filled with helpful articles, itineraries, and things to do around the country! Check out a few of my other posts below, and feel free to reach out to me with any questions you’ve got about the land down under!
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