Gateway to the Gold Coast

Stand on the beach at Surfers Paradise and it’s easy to see how this seaside resort got its name. The heart of the Gold Coast is just one of a series of beaches that stretch for an unbroken 52km, backed by beach houses, hotels and high-rise apartments.

Less than an hour’s drive south of the Queensland capital Brisbane, this ‘glitter strip’ has been Australia’s favourite holiday playground since the 1950s, renowned for its tanned lifeguards and bikini-clad ‘meter maids’ who once put coins in parking meters so visitors didn’t get fined for staying at the beach too long (there are no longer meters; these days they simply pose for photos). Come for the epic surf breaks and endless ribbon of sand.

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Top things to do in Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is the most iconic beach on the Gold Coast and it’s come a long way since the 1925, when the famous Surfers Paradise hotel was built here alongside the few simple beach shacks. As you’d expect, the white sand is the number one attraction and thankfully you don’t have to go far to find a quiet spot away from the crowds.

Dotted by yellow lifeguard towers that hug the dunes and red-and-yellow flags that signal safe areas to swim, there are no fewer than 39 Gold Coast patrolled beaches to choose from. Whatever time of day you arrive, there’s never a need to worry about finding space for your towel because the beach is vast – the Surfers Paradise strip alone covers 2km.

For panoramic vistas from Brisbane to Byron Bay, whiz up to 230m to the Skypoint Observation Deck, atop residential building Q1. If that’s not high enough, you can tackle the Skypoint Climb up to the crow’s nest on the outside of the building: at 270m it’s Australia’s highest external building climb. The view will also reveal the Gold Coast hinterland – the ‘green behind the gold’ – a lush area of rainforests and mountains. The Nerang River winds through Surfers Paradise behind the beaches and, if you want to see another side to the strip, the 9km walk past waterfront mansions and local jet-skiers, is lovely.

HOTA (Home of The Arts) is the Gold Coast’s cultural hub, encompassing the Arts Theatre, two cinemas, a sculpture walk and the Gold Coast City Gallery which has a collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. There are also 40 golf courses along the Gold Coast for those who want to tee off; dinner cruises on the Nerang River; and plenty of outdoor activities for adventure thrill seekers, from bungee jumping to para-sailing.

Almost without exception, families make a beeline for the Gold Coast’s theme parks. The closest to Surfers Paradise is Sea World, home to dolphins, seals, polar bears and other aquatic life. The other three parks are about 40-minutes drive north. Warner Bros Movie World is ‘Hollywood on the Gold Coast’ with adrenaline-pumping rides, stunts and shows; Wet ‘N’ Wild Water Park is known for its extreme waterslides; and Dreamworld has sheep-shearing and crocodile feeding shows and its own water park, WhiteWater World.

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