Did you even visit Queensland if you didn’t have a sand-between-your-toes’ moment on the world-famous Gold Coast?
It didn’t get the title of ‘Australia’s tourist capital’ by chance - over five million visitors, both domestic and international, visited in 2019 alone.
With 70 kilometres of golden sand to choose from, stretching from the southern end at Rainbow Bay to South Stradbroke Island in the north, discover how to make the most of this coastal destination with this guide.
In as little as one hour’s drive from Brisbane Airport (85 kilometres), you can be watching the waves crash before you at Southport’s Main Beach.
However, if you plan to pin drop your first location further south along the coast, allow up to two hours.
Get on the road early, because brunchin’ is in Gold Coasters DNA.
Pin drop your location to BamBam Bakehouse, a Gold Coast institution fit for Hollywood celebs and MasterChef royalty, with Margot Robbie recently hosting her hen’s party here and Matt Preston a loyal customer.
Serving French-style pastries with a twist, think double-baked snickers croissant and cinnamon cruffin, along with regular brunch favourites like French toast, shakshuka and sweetcorn fritters, this hotspot is known to regularly sell out of their flaky favourites – so grab a table early.
For lunch served with a soundtrack of rolling surf breaks metres from your table, book Rick Shores at Burleigh Beach.
This award-winning restaurant is one of the few places you can step straight off the sand into the restaurant (although we recommend freshening up first).
Book early and secure a seat with uninterrupted views (read: a table next to the bi-fold windows) and make your Instagram followers double-tap with envy as you tuck into Rick’s famous bug roll or kingfish sashimi.
With a coastline home to 15 beaches and 39 patrolled locations, the hardest part is choosing where to roll out your beach towel.
For a family-friendly location, put up the beach umbrella at Tallebudgera Beach. With two patrolled beaches – one surf side and one within the inlet (minus the crashing waves) – it’s the perfect spot for small children building their beach confidence.
When it’s time for a break from the sun, bribe the kids with promise of native birds, koalas and lizard sightings along the Rainforest Track at the Burleigh Head National Park – less than one kilometre from the inlet.
If you prefer to play tourist for a day, slip, slop and slap at Surfers Paradise. Located roughly halfway along the stretch of coastline, Surfers (as known by the locals) has long been regarded as the ‘Glitter Strip’ of the Gold Coast, with Cavill Mall’s bars and restaurants only a short flip-flop away.
Looking to swim where the locals do? Park your car at Burleigh Beach. With a patrolled beach, foreshore park, headland and dining precinct all within an umbrella’s reach, Burleigh is the perfect one-stop beach shop.
Be sun smart and swap sun therapy for retail therapy when the rays are strongest, heading to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.
Seek shade at Australia’s fifth largest retail shopping centre - with over 150,000-metre-square of retail space – all found less than one kilometre from the golden shores at Broadbeach.
If you’ve planned your trip over the weekend, head to one of the Gold Coast markets. Spread over four hectares, Carrara Markets holds the title as Australia’s largest permanent marketplace, with over 400 stalls – from plants and homewares to fashion and accessories.
Nothing caps off a day of sun, surf and sand better than soaking up the last rays of the day like a strict observation of cocktail hour.
With over 250 skyscrapers filling the Gold Coast skyline, take advantage of an elevated position for your sundowners and seek out a rooftop bar.
For a local hotspot that oozes coastal-vibes head to Justin Lane’s rooftop bar, one block from Burleigh Beach. Grab a margherita pizza, order a house Negroni and fill your Instagram with #sunset photos.
Swap coastal views for million-dollar views with a sundowner at Glass Bar and Restaurant at Marina Mirage. Sink into a seat on the balcony, order a glass of bubbles and watch the falling sun bounce off the windows of superyachts, super-maxis and catamarans.
Prefer a low-key location to unwind with a bevvy? The Gold Coast is home to 12 Surf Life Saving Clubs, holding prime position on the sand’s edge. Stop by Southport Surf Club and enjoy a cold lager along Main Beach before returning to BNE.
For a true Gold Coast experience, test your balance with a morning surf lesson.
Do as the locals do and hit the sand early with a two-hour surfing lesson with the experts at Get Wet Surf School.
For the closest commute from Brisbane Airport to your lesson, don your wetsuit at The Spit. Not only is this beach more protected than other Gold Coast beaches, it’s also one of the best places to catch a coastal sunrise.
To experience the waters of the Gold Coast one glass at a time, jump onboard with Hop on Brewery Tours.
Enjoy a VIP experience with their Quickie on the Coast as you tour two breweries – learning the basics of the brewing process while sampling Australia’s most-loved craft beer (as voted by GABS for the past three years) at Balter Brewery Company.
Where to collect your hire car at BNE
Whether you’re touching down at the Domestic or International Terminal, all the big names in car hire have representatives in the Arrivals Hall or Baggage Claim area to get keys in your hand, luggage in the trunk and on your way to your scenic road journey in no time.
Explore the car hire options at Brisbane Airport.