As a destination, the Gold Coast of Australia is truly unique. It’s blessed with endless sunshine, so outdoor activities are possible all year-round. Travelers have the opportunity to explore a wide range of landscapes here, from dense rainforest to miles upon miles of pristine beaches.
On the Gold Coast, modern entertainment and a laid-back beach vibe coexist with rich aboriginal culture. You can effortlessly jump from the city to hiking in the UNESCO-recognized Gondwana Rainforest, taking in an abundance of native wildlife.
Few other travel destinations are as diverse as this part of Queensland, and there’s an abundance of nature-based adventures to be found there. Here’s our guide to the Top 10 Things to Do on Australia’s Gold Coast…
Hike Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk
An exciting eco-adventure which showcases the pristine beauty of the lush rainforest, the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is a thrilling way to explore the rainforest canopies of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
The setting is a magical 20 acres of privately-owned rainforest beside the crystal clear rock-pools of Cedar Creek on Mt Tamborine. Your adventure starts at the Eco Center, where you can tour an impressive range of displays on Australian rainforest flora and fauna.
The experience combines 1.5 km of forest floor trails, 300 metres of high-tech steel bridges, and a 40-meter cantilever bridge that soars a breathtaking 30 metres above the creek and rainforest below. Plan for the walk to take 45 minutes when going at a leisurely pace, pausing to stop at the main points of interest along the way.
Spend Time at a Beautiful Beach
The Gold Coast is most famous for its iconic beaches. And with 57 kilometers of Pacific coastline, you’re absolutely spoiled for choices here. The sun shines here 300 days a year, s0 you can’t visit the Gold Coast without including a trip to one of these hotspots:
Burleigh Heads Beach is known as one of the best in the area, offering a getaway from the main tourist strip. Local surfers come here for the great waves, and tourists for the beautiful scenery. It’s a great family beach with fantastic facilities including lifeguards, coffee shops and parking.
Coolangatta Beach is another stunning white sand beach where locals come to escape the madness of the main Gold Coast Strip. It’s not crowded, and the waves are less fierce.
Surfers Paradise Beach is right in the center of the city, and known for its beautiful golden sand. It’s probably one of Australia’s most frequently photographed beaches.
Throw a Snag on the Barbie
The great Aussie Barbeque is world famous. As far as cultural experiences go, nothing says “Australia” like sizzling a snag (sausage) on a barbie.
This is a national activity performed on a scale which rivals any other country on earth. And with miles of open space and a blessed climate, you’ll want to join the locals in making use of the Gold Coast’s free outdoor BBQ facilities.
The best outdoor BBQs on the Gold Coast can be found at Budds Beach, Burleigh Heads, and Currumbin Valley rock pools. Visit a local market for some steak, prawns (never ever call them shrimp!) or vegetable kebabs, and enjoy prime views of the beach while grilling.
Explore Springbrook National Park
In a true Jurassic Park setting, Springbrook National Park is an ecosystem of lush subtropical rainforests and open eucalyptus forests which protect a diverse range of flora and fauna.
It’s the second largest national park in the Gold Coast hinterland, and split into four sections. There are nine walking tracks which provide access to a world of vines, strangler figs, mushrooms. There are also worms that glow in the dark and spectacular cascades, waterfalls and gorges.
In 1994 the park became part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Wildlife you may encounter includes Lace Monitors, Carpet Pythons, Frogs, Crayfish and Black Skinks, as well as more than 100 species of birds.
See the Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Caves
Glow Worms require a very specific environment to survive, and are dependent on wet caves and rainforests for a permanently moist habitat. But Australia’s rainforest habitat is shrinking due to climate change and human impact. So a spectacular series of caves was created at Cedar Creek Estate to allow local Glow Worm colonies to thrive.
The Tamborine Glow Worm Caves experience is an underground journey consisting of two large chambers interlinked by tunnels. The first chamber is a presentation cave, from which your tour will lead you through magical Glow Worm Alley, which is filled with thousands of glowing worms!
The caves have been fitted with equipment to provide the perfect environment for the Glow Worm colony all year round. So sightings are 100% guaranteed!
Talk to Animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the Gold Coast’s most popular attractions. It’s dedicated to conserving Australia’s indigenous, natural and historic heritage and culture.
Highlights of the sanctuary include encounters with Australian wildlife in natural bushland and rainforest settings. You can feed a kangaroo, see Australiana sheep shearing and get up close to some of Australia’s most beautiful bird species.
Those interested in animal care and welfare can stop by the onsite Wildlife Hospital. You can watch as they perform ultrasounds, X-rays and endoscopes live on a flat screen TV. You can get a surgeon’s eye view via a camera mounted right in the heat of the action!
View the Cuties of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
The world’s first and largest Koala Sanctuary, Lone Pine has over 85 years of experience encouraging guests to connect with wildlife through specially crafted close encounters.
There are 100 species of Australian wildlife here to interact with, with numerous hands-on experiences and presentations. You can cuddle a Koala, hold a raptor or snake, and enjoy a real Australian outback farm experience at the daily Sheepdog Show.
That said, the Koala forest is the main attraction here. You’ll meet dedicated wildlife keepers, enjoy up-close animal encounters, and support wildlife research/education and koala food plantations.
Go Au Naturel in David Fleay Wildlife Park
Located on Tallegbudgera Creek near Burleigh Head, David Fleay is a wildlife park with a philosophical difference. They believe wildlife should be kept in conditions as close to their natural environment as possible. So the park consists of enclosures where you can view Australia’s native wildlife from the safety of boardwalks and nocturnal houses.
As you stroll through the natural habitats, you’ll meet Koalas, Emus, Crocodiles, Dingos, Bilbies and Kangaroos, as well as Wally, their resident Platypus.
There are daily ranger talks and wildlife shows, and the park offers a unique opportunity to see many different threatened native species in one location.
Wander the Gold Coast Hinterland
The Gold Coast Hinterland is a backyard like no other. Avid photographers will find that there is #nofilter required here. The Hinterland is home to multiple national parks and World Heritage- listed rainforest trails. With so many bushwalks to choose from, you’ll never get bored.
Highlights include the beautiful waterfalls and valleys of Lamington National Park, the stunning Queen Mary Falls Circuit in Main Range National Park, and the rugged mountain peaks of Mount Barney National Park. If you don’t want to venture far from the coastline, Burleigh Head National Park offers epic ocean views and rainforest circuits. There’s also a chance of sighting whales as you make your way around the rocky headland.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous than a bushwalk, there are opportunities for horseback riding and zip lining here, too.
Soak in Scenery on North Stradbroke Island
Affectionately known as “Straddie” to locals, North Stradbroke Island is home to some of the most spectacular scenery eastern Australia has to offer.
The island is home to some of the continent’s largest populations of Kangaroos and Koalas. It’s also famous for its scenic headlands, freshwater lakes, rolling surf and endless white sandy beaches.
There are three small townships on the island, each offering a relaxed village atmosphere. Point Lookout is arguably the best land-based whale watching site in the world. -Megan Jerrard
BIO: Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist, and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. With a mission to inspire others to embark on their own adventure, Megan and husband Mike believe that travel has the potential to inspire change in people, and in turn inspire change in the world.