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Things to Do in Gold Coast

If your Aussie travel fantasies consist of sun-soaked beaches, bronzed surfers, and sunset cocktails, the Gold Coast should top your to-do list. Queensland’s most famous holiday destination is blessed with more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) of pristine sands, year-round sunshine, and world-class surf. Surfers Paradise is a haven for backpackers and renowned for its nonstop nightlife, while the elegant coastal resorts of Broadbeach, Main Beach, and Miami offer fine dining, romantic canal cruises, and the coast’s biggest shopping mall. Those with kids in tow will find theme parks—including Sea World, WhiteWater World, and Movie World—right on their doorstep, while animal lovers can spy koalas at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Of course, the number-one draw to the Gold Coast is its beaches, and there are endless options for water sports, kayaking, jet skiing, scuba diving, and whale-watching tours, as well as adrenaline-fueled activities such as skydiving or hot-air ballooning. For a change of scenery, Byron Bay, North Stradbroke Island, and the Sunshine Coast are all close enough for a single-day tour. If the sun and surf get to be too much, Brisbane—just an hour away—has shady parks, edgy art museums, and riverfront restaurants. Alternatively, escape the beach altogether to explore the famous Village Markets in Burleigh Heads; or head into the hinterlands, where Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, Burleigh Heads National Park, and Tamborine Mountain offer ample opportunities for guided hikes, cycling excursions, rain-forest walks, and glow-worm tours.
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Tamborine National Park
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Located in the Gold Coast Hinterlands, Tamborine National Park is known for its natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and breathtaking views over the Gold Coast and the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Scenic Rim to the west. Queensland’s first national park, Tamborine is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

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Springbrook National Park
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Part of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Gondwana Rainforests, the startling landscapes of Springbrook National Park are among the many highlights of Queensland’s Gold Coast Hinterlands. Carved out by an ancient volcano, the rugged plateau is now a natural wonderland of forested gorges, jagged cliffs, and cascading waterfalls.

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Sea World Gold Coast
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One of Australia’s biggest marine parks, Sea World Gold Coast is home to dolphins, rays, sharks, polar bears, and seals. The family attraction has thrilling rides, educational exhibits, and daily live shows, and it’s also involved in marine life rescue and rehabilitation efforts along the Gold Coast.

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Glow Worm Caves Tamborine Mountain
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Located on the grounds of the Cedar Creek Estate Winery on Mt. Tamborine, the Glow Worm Caves Tamborine Mountain are one of the best spots on the Gold Coast to view glowworms. See thousands of these creatures during the daytime in a darkened, controlled environment designed to mimic their natural habitat.

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Dracula's Cabaret Gold Coast
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Arguably Queensland’s most popular dinner shower, Dracula’s Cabaret on the bustling Gold Coast is an evening of sexy, scary, and spectacular burlesque theater and comedy. The adventure begins the moment you enter the soaring, Gothic style castle, where gargoyles peer down from six stories up and fruit bats circle overhead. Ride the ghost train into the theater and prepare for a scare at each turn, before perusing a menu of ghoulish cocktails and settling in for the show. The entertaining wait staff, or “Draculettes,” keep the humor flowing throughout dinner, and set the stage for a wild evening of scary and sexual comedy. Aside from the vaudeville cabaret and intricate, detailed costumes, the visual effects are out of this world and are accompanied by live, fast-paced music that will have you on the edge of your seat. Add in death-defying aerial performers and mind-bending optical illusions, and Dracula’s Cabaret is an unforgettable evening of fun on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

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Marina Mirage
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With big-name designers, gourmet restaurants and a dramatic waterfront location, just moments from the dazzling Palazzo Versace hotel, the Marina Mirage is the Gold Coast’s most glamorous shopping complex. Extensively redeveloped in 2008, the luxurious mall is home to more than 80 boutiques, from high street favorites like French Connection and United Colors of Benetton, to designers like Guess, Calvin Klein, Hermes and Tommy Hilfiger.

As well as the clothing, accessories and jewelry boutiques, there’s a range of fine dining options overlooking the waterfront, including award-winning restaurants and cafés like Omeros Bros, Vanitas and the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. That’s not all – there’s also a day spa and beauty salon, a farmer’s market held twice a month and a scenic waterfront promenade from which to view the marina’s glitzy yachts and cruise ships.

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Best Of All Lookout
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True to its name, Best Of All Lookout has the best view in Springbrook National Park. Here, in this subtropical rainforest an hour from the Gold Coast, visitors will find an Antarctic Beech forest left over from the days of Gondwanaland, which in collection with the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage area for its unique geology and ecology. At Best Of All Lookout, visitors will peer out towards the peak of Mt Warning, which is famously known as Australia’s first place to greet the rising sun. From the viewing platform at Best Of All Lookout, the sandy coastline of Coolangatta can often be seen on clear days, as can the valleys of New South Wales that stretch all the way out towards the coast. Even though the hike to the lookout is short, keep an eye out for local wildlife like wallabies and curious padmelons, and since leeches and ticks are common in the area, be sure to wear long sleeves, pants, and boots to ward off the bush.

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Lamington National Park
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Part of Australia’s Gondwana Rainforests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lamington National Park is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Covering 77 square miles (200 square kilometers), it’s known for its rich biodiversity, ancient trees, over 500 waterfalls, and more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of hiking trails.

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Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
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Set minutes from the Gold Coast beaches, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places in Queensland to see native Australian animals. Founded in 1947, the sanctuary encompasses 27 hectares (66 acres) of rain forest; its resident fauna includes kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and rainbow lorikeets.

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Tamborine Mountain Distillery
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While it may be located back in the hills of the rugged Gold Coast hinterland, Tamborine Mountain Distillery is a place that despite its size and location competes with some of the world’s largest and most well known distilleries. In 2014 alone, this small pot distillery garnered 300 awards for their brand of spirits and liqueurs, from vodka and schnapps to brandy, gin, and fruity eaux de vie. Proud of their small batch, small scale vibe, the distillery has purposely kept their driveway too narrow for large-scale buses, choosing instead to focus on small, person-to-person visits. While visiting the distillery to sample the products, hear how this family moved from Tasmania and began to run their own fruit farm, eventually fermenting and distilling the fruit their family of four couldn’t eat. Now, after 20 plus years of taking fruit and turning it into spirits, the distillery produces nearly every flavor of liquor imaginable. Try a refreshing limoncello or one of the flavored vodkas, or go all in with a shot of absinthe before sampling the toffee liqueur. If you find a particular style you like, the gift shop sells everything from bottles to shot glasses and visitor souvenirs, and cocktail enthusiasts will be blown away by this small pot still in the hills.

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More Things to Do in Gold Coast

Broadbeach

Broadbeach

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Just south of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, or Broadie as it’s known to locals, offers all the appeal of its more famous neighbor—a great stretch of beach, surf-worthy waves, and extensive dining, shopping, and entertainment options—but in a more manageable size and with fewer crowds.

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SkyPoint Observation Deck

SkyPoint Observation Deck

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Located in the Q1 building in Surfers Paradise, Skypoint Observation Deck is Australia’s only beachside observation deck. Take in expansive views of the Gold Coast coastline, the Gold Coast Hinterlands, and the Pacific Ocean from Australia’s tallest building. For added excitement, try the external Skypoint Climb at the top of the building.

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WhiteWater World

WhiteWater World

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As Australia’s biggest waterpark, WhiteWater World boasts more than 140 rides, slides, and attractions. Highlights include the Cave of Waves wave pool; the Pipeline Plunge splash zone; The Rip family raft ride; and The Wedgie, a 5-story power slide that runs along a translucent pipe and barrel.

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Southport

Southport

Just north of Surfers Paradise, Southport is a bustling business, entertainment, and luxury residential hub overlooking the Broadwater and the Pacific Ocean. A fashionable seaside resort destination with plenty of activities for the whole family, Southport also offers easy access to popular theme parks like Sea World and Dreamworld.

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Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Heads

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Located between Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads is known for its beautiful clean beaches lined by scenic parkland, as well as its world-renowned surf. Laid-back and relaxed, yet full of hip and trendy dining and shopping options, idyllic Burleigh Heads has plenty to offer visitors.

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Coolangatta

Coolangatta

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At the southern end of the Gold Coast, Coolangatta is known for its rolling surf and long sandy beaches, complete with plentiful boardwalks and lookouts, all with a laid-back small-town beach vibe. With an abundance of cafés, restaurants, and bars, as well as accommodations to suit every budget, there’s something for everyone here.

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O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk

O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk

The first of its kind in Australia, O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk allows you to experience the rain forest canopy. Located next to Lamington National Park, the 590-foot-long (180-meter-long) walkway, much of which stands at 52 feet (16 meters), features nine suspension bridges and two observation decks for spectacular views.

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Warner Bros. Movie World

Warner Bros. Movie World

From movie-themed thrill rides and 4D movie experiences to spectacular stunt shows and star-studded parades featuring everyone from Shrek to Scooby-Doo, Warner Bros. Movie World is one of Australia’s coolest theme parks. The site lives up to its promise of bringing Hollywood to the Gold Coast.

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Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast

Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast

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It's truly wet and awesomely wild at the Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast water theme park!The star attraction is the Kamikaze jet spray water slide, with its sheer drop and over-the-top speeds. The Tornado slide blasts visitors from a tunnel into a wet and wild storm. Travelers can also enter the Blackhole's dark, enclosed tunnels to go spiraling through the heart of darkness until the final splashdown.

For the longest slides, wind your way around Mach 5's high-energy open-air flumes. To ride waves, get the adrenaline ride of your life aboard Surfrider's giant surfboard.

For more sedate watery activities, the water park also has Calypso Beach, a giant wave pool, hot springs, river rapids and fun for little ones at Buccaneer Bay.

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Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

Take to the trees of Queensland, Australia, in a thrilling eco-walk. Set among 30 acres (12 hectares) of private rain forest next to Cedar Creek on Mt. Tamborine, the 0.9-mile (1.5-kilometer) Skywalk features forest-floor trails, high-tech elevated steel walkways, and a cantilever bridge 98 feet (30 meters) above the rain forest floor.

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