A weekend away or short break on the Gold Coast is all about fun in the sun — but deciding on a place to stay can be a little daunting if you’ve never spent much time here. The coast’s famous white-sand beaches stretch 40 kilometres from The Spit, north of Main Beach, to Coolangatta near the border with New South Wales, and there’s just so much to see and do in between.
Spend a few days exploring the unique flavours and attractions of each glorious region below. It only takes a few minutes to drive between them, so you can either choose one luxe base camp or accommodation-hop your way around.
Just minutes from the hedonistic nightlife of Surfers Paradise, Main Beach is a little more relaxed than its southern neighbours, but every bit as impressive. Get acquainted with those sparkling ocean views over a glass of the best at the Southport Surf Club (est. 1924), then hire a bike or scooter for a ride along Federation Walk, all the way to the Seaway on the Spit. This is a vast area of public parkland where you can swim at the beach, fish off the jetty, take SUP lessons, or throw down a towel and watch surfers shred those South Straddie breaks. After a morning of sunshine and waves, stop by Fisherman’s Co-op just down the road for a fresh-from-the-trawler seafood lunch.
Ready to dial up the thrills? Main Beach is positioned on the doorstep of the state’s best marine playground — the incredible Broadwater. Tandem parasailing is just one sky-high option to consider here, or perhaps a jet ski safari to the northern tip of South Stradbroke Island? For the full adrenaline-smashing experience, see the jet boat/parasail/jet ski safari package from Paradise Jet Boating. And if you like your nautical adventures a little more luxe, try a private yacht charter through the scenic waterways.
For a more land-loving option, indulge with some retail therapy at boutique shopping destination Marina Mirage. Or sharpen your skills and share a few laughs with an Italian Cooking Class from the experts at Salt Meats Cheese in nearby Surfers Paradise. Just make sure you’re back in time for a sundowner at the Southport Yacht Club. Overlooking the 300-berth marina, where million-dollar boats jostle for position, this is a top spot to watch the sunset over the Gold Coast hinterland.
With world-class shopping at Pacific Fair, five-star stay and play options at The Star Gold Coast, and an established cafe and restaurant culture, Broadbeach really is the heart of the GC. There’s sophistication here you won’t find elsewhere on the coast, plus plenty of easy-breezy holiday delights.
Pull up a seat and join the locals for a coldie at the award-winning Kurrawa Surf Club (think 270-degree Pacific Ocean views), chill out with live music and an Aperol Spritz at The Star’s Live on the Lawn or head just down the road to Miami where you’ll find a different world at Miami Marketta, a converted warehouse turned dining playground. Dip into their thrice-weekly laneway experience with food vendors serving up global flavours to a soundtrack of awesome live music.
Fun, feisty, and as colourful as an 80s disco, Maggie Choo is perfect for a neon-lit night out in Broadbeach. The kick-ass cocktails go down easy, and the street food-inspired Asian fusion menu is as enticing as the good vibrations bouncing off the walls.
Burleigh is absolutely buzzing right now – you simply have to make this cool little beachside enclave a non-negotiable on any Gold Coast itinerary! What was once a sleepy retirement town is now the young gun of the coastal strip, with its epic views (up the coast to Surfers Paradise), vibing village feel, and a must-see dining/café scene.
As for dining in Burleigh, you are (literally!) spoilt for choice! So. Many. Choices. Nab a front-row seat (we’re talking salt spray) to the famous Burleigh breaks at Rick Shores restaurant or Burleigh Pavilion. Centre your energies around James Street and Justin Lane, a hub of boutiques, bars, and restaurants that pumps day and night. Or be transported across the world to the white walls and blue doors of the tavernas of the Greek Islands at Maman Bar & Kitchen where share-style platters of Mediterranean-inspired food await your feasting.
Partial to a pint? Some of the country’s best craft brews can be sampled on a Hop On Brewery Tour with local heroes Lost Palms, Burleigh Brewing Co., and Currumbin’s Balter on the ticket.
Aside from the addictive sip/sup/surf scene, Burleigh is, quite simply, beautiful. You’ll soon see why the locals love to unpack a sunset picnic on Burleigh Hill, ramble through the national park from Burleigh Headland to the lagoon-like waters of Tallebudgera Creek. It’s also only a short drive into the lush hinterland to find the Currumbin Rock Pools from here, where you can spend a blissful day with picnics and swimming in calm lagoons.
And while you’re scoping out the southern Gold Coast, don’t miss Palm Beach. Once a place you drove through on the way to Coolangatta or Byron, Palmy is coming in hot as the next coastal cool kid. Ultra-stylish apartment blocks are popping up and new restaurants are firing up. Discover new dining go-to The Collective or relax with a cocktail at Las Palmas, a stylish bar/restaurant with a South American flavour.
Tamborine Mountain & Gold Coast Hinterland
Had your fill of salty kisses? Say goodbye to the beach and round out your Gold Coast short stay itinerary by exploring the green behind the gold: Tamborine Mountain and the Gold Coast Hinterland. This lush haven of ancient forests, hidden waterfalls, and majestic valley vistas is around half an hour from the waves — and home to the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest of Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park.
As well as a charming, artsy township, Tamborine Mountain is home to a growing number of boutique wineries. Sample the cream of the crop with Pineapple Tours, stopping for a sip at Cedar Creek Estate, Witches Falls Winery, Hampton Estate Winery, and more. Or swap wines for vines at Thunderbird Park and its dizzying Treetop Challenge course of high ropes, Tarzan swings, and flying foxes.
The natural beauty is mind-blowing here. In Springbrook, you can follow a trail to the irresistibly named Best of All Lookout or take a heavenly dip in the pools of Twin Falls or the Warringa Pool near Purling Brook Falls. And if you’re still chasing waterfalls, seek out Lamington’s glorious Elabana Falls and Picnic Rock Trail.
And you can’t go past a sunrise balloon ride with Hot Air Balloons for a bird’s eye view over the Gold Coast Hinterland! That moment when you rise from the earth, just as the sun is peeking over the horizon, is as breathtaking as it sounds. Sure, it calls for an early start, but you do get to enjoy a Champagne breakfast at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard afterwards.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast
While the GC is home to several stand-out resorts, we love the idea of a self-catered apartment to feel more like a local for your short break Gold Coast stay. At the northern end of the coast, you’ll find Xanadu Main Beach Resort offers easy access to the Broadwater and Marina Mirage, spacious rooms, and excellent facilities (their ocean views are superb!).
Closer to Broadbeach’s action and great restaurants, there’s Vue Broadbeach with its luxe apartments that are stylish and spacious, with dazzling sea views and first-class amenities. Opened in 2020, the elegantly designed and furnished one, two and three-bedroom apartments at Vue offer expansive ocean views from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and large balconies. The ocean is only 120 metres away so you can almost feel the salt spray on your face! When you can tear yourself away from the surf you can jump into the pool, enjoy a sauna, get fit in the yoga area or whip up a feast with the in-house teppanyaki BBQ facilities. Everything you need for a great holiday such as dozens of restaurants, surf clubs, and shopping is right on your doorstep (plus, you’re just steps from the beach and the tram stop!).
In Burleigh Heads, Gemini Court Holiday Apartments offers sweeping views of the coastline, with the local dining scene and eclectic boutiques just a short stroll away. Their apartments are gigantic!
In the Gold Coast Hinterland, you’ll find a trove of charming retreats, chalets, and boutique accommodation, like the secluded chalets of Springbrook’s The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat and the private cabins and cottages of Springbrook Lyrebird Retreat. Just a stone’s throw over the border, the stylish forest hideaways of Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat are also outstanding for those wanting to extend their Gold Coast short stay itinerary into the Northern Rivers region of nearby New South Wales.
Words: Rhonda Bannister | Images: Destination Gold Coast