With a bus stop every 300 metres, reach the main tourist spots using the Surfside buses. These run 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you'll never find yourself stranded. For getting to Stradbroke Island, hop onboard the Gold Coast ferry or take a water taxi to reach waterside venues day or night without the hassle of traffic.
Taking a scenic drive is the best way to explore the Gold Coast. There are a number of national and international car rental companies to choose from. If you hire from the local Gold Coast companies, you can drive away for just AUD$23 a day. Hire from the airport or alternatively some companies will drive to you.
Beat the ticket queue and buy a rechargeable touch card, which you can use to 'touch on' and 'touch off' when travelling. Rather than buying tickets separately, the fare is deducted from your card each time. Faster and better value for money if taking the bus or train.
Hiring a scooter is one of the most popular ways to travel around the Gold Coast and can be hired on an hourly, daily or weekly basis in Surfers Paradise. Extremely cheap on petrol, scooters will only cost around AUD$3 to run per day. Great for soaking up the Queensland sun, feel the wind in your hair as you explore the best sights in the region.
It's with good reason that Queensland is called the Sunshine State with the Gold Coast receiving 250-300 days of sunshine per year. The coast is warmest October to April with temperatures averaging 30 degrees. Summer nights are very hot and humid so air conditioning is a must. Winter is equally a great time to visit for blue skies and lower humidity.
During your visit to the Gold Coast's sun-soaked beaches, be aware of the strong rips and currents that can drag you out to sea. Always swim between the flags and if you feel yourself drifting, raise your hand rather than fight it as one of the many patrolling lifeguards will quickly come to your assistance.
If there is ever a good time to avoid the Gold Coast it's during Schoolies Week. From mid-November through to the first week of December, thousands of school leavers come together for the ultimate school's out party. Accommodation is usually booked out and Surfers Paradise is packed with teens. Fun if you're under twenty, but if relaxation is what you're after move further up the coast.
Generally it is a good idea to pack lightweight clothing for the Gold Coast climate. If you plan on bushwalking don't forget hiking boots – in this instance, thongs may not seem so handy! To fight off the fierce sun, stock up on sun cream, a wide brimmed hat and sunnies. Summer nights may also see a few storms so take an umbrella just in case.
The Gold Coast Airport is based in Coolangatta (OOL) with over 45 daily flights from Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar. Alternatively Brisbane Airport is approximately 55 miles away, just over an hour's drive from Surfers Paradise.
The Gold Coast has some of the best marinas in Australia so it is little wonder than many visitors choose to arrive by boat. There are a large number of companies that offer ferry services however these do not cover long distances.
From Auckland: Freedom Air flies once a day direct. Flights take approximately three to four hours.
From Hamilton: Fly with Virgin Australia and Freedom Air direct in over three hours.
From Dunedin: Direct flights take just over three hours.
From Palmerston North: Flights take just over three hours.
From Christchurch: Direct flights take around three hours.
The Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle will meet your flight, providing a door-to-door service for AUD $19 per adult one-way and $35 return. Family bookings are also available for $47 and $84. Cheaper than catching a taxi and less hassle, you can also upgrade to a Freedom Pass which allows you to visit some of the Gold Coast's best attractions.
From Brisbane Airport, catch the public train to the Gold Coast, usually taking about 90 minutes. Trains run every half hour during busy periods or otherwise every hour. Be aware that this is not a 24-hour service so will not be suited to all flight arrivals. A door-to-door service can also be arranged in advance at extra cost.
From the domestic arrivals terminal at Coolangatta, a number of buses will take you to and around the centre. Catch the 702 to Surfers Paradise and the 761 or 768 to various other destinations. With regular services, this is an inexpensive way to travel at just over $4, compared with booking a shuttle transfer.
Beat the traffic jams and heavy lifting of luggage by catching a helicopter instead! Helitours offer airport transfers from Brisbane to the Gold Coast for up to six passengers for the ultimate luxury transfer. At AUD$980 for three people and $1720 for six, it may be the shortest and most expensive flight you catch!
For a personal experience you can enjoy together, a wine tour will take you to the most famous wineries in the Southeast. With vineyards in and around Mt Nathan, Tamborine Mountain and Canungra, the Gold Coast Hinterland is one of Queensland's fastest growing wine regions. Take a day to enjoy lunch in an intimate group, against a serene and beautiful backdrop.
For an activity the whole family will enjoy, the Gold Coast has a range of theme parks to suit every taste. Experience the Big 7 Thrill Rides at Dreamworld for adventure and heart pumping screams or make a splash at Wet 'n' Wild Water World with rapids, pools and slides. If you plan on visiting a few, a super pass at $130 is worth considering.
For breathtaking views of the sun rising over the Gold Coast Hinterland, a hot air balloon ride is an exhilarating experience. Nothing beats the sense of calm as you float silently over the majestic landscape. With a champagne breakfast at O'Reilly's Grand Homestead and Vineyard, this is one of the best experiences on the Gold Coast for AUD $250.
For an intimate encounter with a humpback whale, the Gold Coast boasts a 100% daily sightings record. The Whales in Paradise tour offers daily trips from Surfers Paradise, down the Nerang River to 'The Humpback Whale Highway'. With sightings of bottlenose dolphins, giant loggerhead turtles and killer whales as a bonus, make sure you bring your camera.
Located on the 26th floor of the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise, Four Winds is Queensland's only revolving restaurant with wraparound views. For seafood and international cuisine, the food here is may not be the best on the Gold Coast but for the stunning views alone, it is worth the trip. All you can see and all you can eat!
The Gold Coast's best steak restaurant for four years running, Moo Moo specialises in premium export quality beef. Boasting Wagyu beef born and bred on Queensland's Darling Downs, this is carved at the table and served with a trio of the chef's sauces. Try Moo Moo for a stylish setting and steaks that ooze sex appeal.
Chic style and alfresco dining without the unpleasant crowds, Lolas is a family-run restaurant pairing modern Australian cuisine with a laidback atmosphere. Great salads for keeping the beach bod in shape, however, even better are the homemade desserts (sigh). Stop by for a chilled out lunch on your way back from the beach.
Set in a luxurious rainforest resort over 54 acres, for a secluded dining experience and dishes created with artistic flair, Songbirds is the perfect escape. Away from the bustle of Surfers Paradise and shopping arcades, this is well worth the drive to the Hinterland if you fancy a change of scenery. Dine alfresco with the kookaburras and parrots.
Jupiters Casino is open 24 hours and is one of the liveliest spots in the city. With 100 gaming tables and an abundance of slot machines, whether you're a pro at poker or not, everyone can try their luck. A fun night for couples or friends who fancy their chances.
One of the Gold Coast's newest and best nightclubs, Ruby Tramp plays funky house and electronic music. Discreet and seductive, Ruby Tramp lures an exclusive and trendy older crowd. The club fills up from around 11pm where entry goes up from $5 to $10, surprisingly easy on the purse strings. Be aware that entry can be very selective so dress to impress!
Large enough to hold around 1,500 clubbers, Platinum offers house music and interstate and international guest DJs. Party into the morning all the way till 5am. If you want to avoid long queues, make sure you get there before 10pm. Head here on a Saturday if you're looking for a big night out.
Sundays at 'Fisho's' is the second biggest night of the weekend, when it gets packed from as early as 6pm. With a great view of the Marina Mirage, enjoy a cold beer during the day or night with live music every Friday and Saturday. A great spot for chilling out, an afternoon can easily run into the night.
No trip to the Gold Coast would be complete without surfing the waves (or at least attempting to). Either privately or in a group, learn to surf in beginner friendly waves at The Spit, 10 minutes from Surfers Paradise. Experience the thrill of standing up for the first time, whatever your age. A group lesson will set you back $50 for two hours or alternatively build on your skills with a package of up to 10 hours for $190.
To get the most out of a day in the Gold Coast, hire a car and do a day's round trip from Surfers Paradise. Starting at 9am, head north on the Gold Coast Highway, stopping at Sanctuary Cove, Tamborine Village, Nerang and Springbrook Village. Pass through the beautiful Numinbah Valley to Natural Arch before heading to Murwillumbah and Coolangatta. With plenty of bushwalks and places to grab a bite to eat, prepare for a jam-packed day with endless views.
With waterways over 10 times longer than those in Venice (and without the whiff), whether you are looking for romance in a gondola, tall ship sailing or a chance to feed the dolphins, the Gold Coast offers a range of trips to suit every mood. Spend a day on a square-rigger tall ship with morning and afternoon tea plus Aussie BBQ on a private island for $129.
If you fancy a day of shopping and relaxation, head to Carrara Market on the weekend to find a bargain among the 500 stalls. Alternatively travel to any of the Gold Coast's shopping malls, some of the biggest in the Southern hemisphere. Finish the day at Sky Point Observation Deck for an unrivalled panoramic view of the city with sights from the surf to hinterland and beyond. Some 230 metres above ground, this is the perfect way to end your trip on a high.
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