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Gold Coast: For Families by Day and Partiers by Night

There are two sides to the Gold Coast. On one hand, you get all-night parties, hot bodies and high energy entertainment; on the other, you have a number of family-friendly activities and three of Australia’s largest theme parks. The holiday hotspot’s largest city, Surfers Paradise, is Australia’s Miami, where travellers can rent high rise condos that meet the shoreline, watch surf competitions draw international crowds and get some retail therapy at high street to high end outlets. The Gold Coast, only 80km from Brisbane, is highly appealing to schoolies who descend upon Surfers in flocks, but if you avoid the end of term, you won’t have to fight the crowds of 18-year-olds and can enjoy some (relative) peace and quiet.

Beach and Surf

With a name like Surfers Paradise, it isn’t hard to imagine that much of Gold Coast life revolves around riding the waves. You can see surfers in wetsuits run into the water and jump on boards all throughout the year. With several surf schools lining the beach, it is quite easy for beginners to pick up the sport while they visit. You could even take lessons by world surf champion Cheyne Horan who set up his own surf academy in Surfers Paradise. If you prefer to sit back and watch, the Gold Coast hosts two international surfing competitions each year: the Roxy and Quicksilver Professional Championships.

Maybe surfing isn’t your thing but you still want to get in the warm waters. The Beach at Surfers Paradise is a prime spot for people watching and going for a swim. Across the street, you’ll find plenty of malls and casual restaurants where you can sit down and take a break when necessary. If you’d like to escape the hustle and bustle of Surfers, the quieter, upscale community of Broadbeach is only 4km away. For some extra exercise, you can walk along the beach the whole way.

Food and Drink

A plethora of dining options are available on the Gold Coast, from popular restaurant chains to small, family-run cafes. Surfers’ open air mall across from the beach has several affordable eateries providing 180 degree water views. Otherwise, head to Broadbeach for quaint cafes. When it comes to drinking, there is a bar or club for every type of partier. The Gold Coast Casino straddles both food and drinks, while each club in town has its niche clientele. There are nightclubs that have been around for 30 years and who truly are Gold Coast establishments, like Cocktails and Dreams, clubs with a Vegas-inspired theme like Sin City and ever-changing “it” venues where people go to see and be seen.

Shopping on the Gold Coast

On the Gold Coast, you can shop for anything from surf wear to street wear. Cavill Mall in Surfers Paradise, set opposite the Esplanade, is an outdoor shopping centre with surf-inspired fashion boutiques and national retailers displaying the latest trends. For more upmarket shopping, head to the towns of Main Beach or Broad Beach. Main Beach is home to the Marina Mirage shopping complex, where you can visit over 80 designer boutiques and dine right by the ocean at award winning restaurants. The scene is much the same along Broadbeach’s Oracle Boulevard.

Gold Coast for Families

The Gold Coast is famous for fun, as goes the slogan, and that includes family fun. While on the Gold Coast with the kids, be sure to spend an afternoon at Ripley’s Believe it or not at Cavill Mall. This funky museum features everything strange and unusual and is appropriate for kids of all ages. Meanwhile, wildlife enthusiasts can go on whale watching cruises that depart from Surfers. Whale watching season runs from July to November each year.

Finally, thrill seekers can spend their days exploring the Gold Coast’s theme parks which include Sea World for water-based activities, Warner Bros Movie World for a glimpse into your favourite films and Dream World, home to the Big 6 Thrill Rides. Not for the fainthearted, you can freefall from a 38-story structure or be spun around at 75km per hour. Travellers looking to visit more than one theme park can choose from several pass options to stretch their dollar.

Visiting the Gold Coast

Benefiting from warm weather even in the heart of winter, the Gold Coast welcomes visitors year-round as there is no cold season to stop activities. However, this part of Queensland can be affected by cyclones from November to April, so adhere to weather warnings before you travel. Getting to the Gold Coast is straightforward, by plane, car or train. Coolangatta Airport is only 28km from Surfers Paradise, whereas a train with direct service to the Gold Coast stops in the hinterland; from there a bus will take you to the oceanfront.

For more travel information on the Gold Coast, read our guide on Things to do on the Gold Coast.