3 amazing days in Australia’s Gold Coast

Australia's Gold Coast is a surfing destination but even if you don't surf, there is so much to do here for families, adventure seekers and beach lovers, like me! From a rainforest hinterland to theme parks, nightlife, street markets, wildlife sanctuaries and some truly unique experiences such as hang-gliding and glowworm caves, there's something for everyone.

What immediately catches your attention in Australia's Gold Coast is the skyline - tall skyscrapers looming against the golden sand beaches, enormous waves, and a boundless ocean. You're highly unlikely to encounter an overcast day here and the extensive coastline is dotted with surfing breaks, glorious warm waters and immense opportunities to capture the perfect sunset.

My Australia trip started in Melbourne and lasted for about 3 weeks and this meant, letting go of a lot of things that I would have liked to do if I had more time. I spent 2 days in the Gold Coast but I could have easily spent a couple more. I'm very much a theme park enthusiast, but having been to several across the world (and also, because I was travelling with my senior parents), I decided to focus on other unique and uncommon activities while here. I have, however, in my post mentioned those things which I had to skip but wish I could have included in my trip.

Australia's Gold Coast

Australia's Gold Coast wasn't as exciting as visiting Cairns and Great Barrier Reef, or even the Whitsunday Islands but it was a close third in my list, especially because I fell in love with Byron Bay. I drove here from Brisbane, via Tamborine Mountain but if you're already in Gold Coast, then I suggest you start your trip with a visit to the Tamborine Mountain early in the morning. To make the most of your trip, renting a car would be a great idea!

Click here to rent a car in Australia's Gold Coast.


Day 1: Tamborine Mountain & Gold Coast

Although there are other options such as Springbrook National Park & Lamington National Park, I chose Mt Tamborine because of the diversity of experiences available here. Hardly a 40-min drive away from Surfer's Paradise in Australia's Gold Coast, Tamborine Mountain is a lush rainforest with rock pools, canopy walks, hiking trails, adventure parks, and even wineries. You can easily spend a day here so the earlier you start, the better it is!

Cedar Creek Falls

Australia's Gold Coast
Cedar Creek Falls

Australia's Gold Coast
Cedar Creek Falls: Rock Pools
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A fairly narrow road that branches off from the Tamborine Mountain road will bring you to the Cedar Creek Falls. Be prepared for a walk down to these falls from the car parking lot. If you're not keen on going all the way down to the falls, you can walk to the lookout point (500m) and return. However, on a bright and warm day, you will surely want to carry your swimwear, sunblock and sunglasses to be able to jump into the cool waters of the rock pools formed below the waterfalls. The track ahead of the viewpoint is likely to be slippery so its best to wear comfortable and rugged footwear. A series of cascades and pools which are frequented by the locals can be found once at the bottom of the walking path. A dip in these shallow pools is well worth your while!

Tree-top Challenge at Thunderbird Park

Australia's Gold Coast
Thunderbird Park, Mt Tambourine

I went here specifically for the Canyon Flyer Tour, considered to be Australia's highest and fastest zip line attraction. While it sounded like the most exciting experience at the park, there were, of course, other activities for the lesser adventurous people. The Canyon Flyer Tour takes you to 7 highly exciting zip lines, soaring you over the lush rainforest and Cedar Creek gorge below. The groups are usually small and the session timings are fixed, so it's best to find out the availability and the timings before planning your visit. The tour lasts for about 3 hours and costs $120.

If you're looking for something slightly less in the adrenaline department but exciting, nonetheless, you can visit the Treetop Adventure park that has Tarzan swings, flying fox swings, easier zip lines and other rope courses, suitable for the younger people too. Whichever you plan to do, keep about 3-4 hours for this experience. If you're interested in any of the activities, you can simply enjoy some quiet time by the creek or in the cafeteria.

Australia's Gold Coast
Treetop Challenge and Thunderbird Park, Mt Tambourine

Australia's Gold Coast
Canyon Flyer

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

If you're not really an adventurous person and would rather skip the Treetop challenge and Thunderbird Park, there is yet another way to enjoy the view of the thick forests from the top. This canopy walk is about 1.5 kilometres on a stable platform, that takes you amidst the flora and fauna of the Australian rainforests, providing ample insights into the trees, insects, birds and animals that can be found in the area. A leisurely 45-minute walk takes you past waterfalls, creeks and gorgeous greenery. The experience costs only $20.

Glowworm Caves

Glowworms are typically found only in Australia and New Zealand, so although these caves in the Tamborine Mountain are artificially created and are no match to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in NZ, it's a rare experience nevertheless. Due to the ever-increasing temperatures in Australia over the last few years, these caves were purpose-built to provide a controlled environment for the glow worms to survive. The entrance to these caves is through the Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery. The tours depart every hour (you can utilize the waiting time in trying out some wine at the cellar or the restaurant on site), and the knowledgeable, as well as passionate guides, explain the significance the mode of the life of these glow worms. The alluring blue glow of the worms is a way of hunting for prey and when thousands of these worms are gathered in one dark cave, it forms a sea of starry lights. One needs to get accustomed to the darkness inside the caves; no photography is allowed. The tour itself lasts for about 30-45 min.

Australia's Gold Coast
Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery

Back to Australia's Gold Coast

In the afternoon, head back to Gold Coast. If you manage to get here before sunset, head to Sky Point Observation Deck, located on the 77th floor of Q1 near Surfer's Paradise, one of the tallest buildings in Australia. You can enjoy panoramic views of the Gold Coast's skyline and coastline. If you're an adventure enthusiast, you can also attempt the Sky Point Climb which starts from the 77th-floor observation deck and is one of Australia's highest external building walks. Harnessed and ready to climb 298 stairs to the building's summit, this activity reminded me of the edge walk in Toronto's CN Tower, except that this one actually requires for you to climb higher than you already are and the only way down is via those stairs. A handrail and harness definitely make the climb easier and safer and the views are absolutely worth it. Needless to say, this experience is NOT meant for the faint-hearted, especially if you're acrophobic!

Australia's Gold Coast
Sky Point Climb

Sunset at Surfers Paradise Beach

Perhaps one of the most golden sunsets I've seen was at Australia's Gold Coast. Not only is Surfer's Paradise Beach the best for surfing enthusiasts but it is also the most lively with an esplanade with walkers, cyclists and skateboards, and offers the best views of the ocean possible. Several restaurants are located across the road from the beach and one of my favourites was a Mexican restaurant called Gringo Loco Cantina. 

Australia's Gold Coast
Sunset at Surfer's Paradise Beach

Australia's Gold Coast

Beachfront Night Market

We were fortunate to be in Australia's Gold Coast on a Wednesday night because these amazing beachfront night markets are held on Surfers Paradise only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights (4 to 9 pm). A very lively atmosphere with entertainment, music and stalls selling local arts, souvenirs, foodstuff, fashion, jewellery and homewares, I was impressed with the designs and collection available here. I am totally a street market person and a sucker for good deals, fashionable clothes, unique and authentic food items and handicrafts.

Australia's Gold Coast
Night beachfront market, Surfers Paradise

Australia's Gold Coast
Dining at Surfers Paradise

Suggested budget hotel stay near Surfers Paradise Beach: Mantra on View Hotel.


Day 2: Coolangatta and Byron Bay

Slightly more laid-back and pristine than Gold Coast's Surfers Paradise is Coolangatta, which is located about 30 minutes away by road and on the way to Byron Bay. It is also the border between Queensland and New South Wales and the intriguing part is, that within a span of seconds, you switch from one time zone to another (New South Wales is an hour behind), in the summer month (Oct-Apr). Some popular beaches/ viewing platforms here include Kirra beach, Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks and Point Danger.

Another 50-min drive ahead of Coolangatta is one of the most beautiful coastal cities I've seen in a while - Byron Bay. Yet another surfing paradise, I loved this place because of the crystal clear blue waters which were a feast for the eyes. On a warm sunny day, the waters are perfect for kayaking or swimming or even better, hang-gliding!

Australia's Gold Coast
The Pass, Byron Bay

Although Byron Beach and Wategos Beach are the two most popular beaches to visit in the area, if you're looking to stay away from the crowds, Tallow Beach is completely untouched! However, you're also highly unlikely to find any restaurants or bars in this area; it is a long, untouched stretch of pure golden sand and blue waters, where it is not hard to spot dolphins and manta rays. For some of the best vantage point views, head to Fisherman's Lookout, where an elevated platform offers some breathtaking vistas of the ocean. Grab a quick bite at The Pass Cafe while you're here.

Australia's Gold Coast
Fisherman's Lookout, Byron Bay

Australia's Gold Coast
Tallow Beach Lookout Point, Byron Bay

Another popular point to head to is the Cape Byron Lighthouse which offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse stands at the tip of Cape Byron and an easy 4-km walking track is a great way to enjoy the scenic place. But the one activity I highly recommend, especially for adventure enthusiasts, is hang-gliding!

Australia's Gold Coast
Cape Byron Lighthouse

Hang-gliding in Byron Bay

Although I found the activity slightly pricey, there's no feeling like soaring in the skies and enjoying (literally) a bird's eye view of such a beautiful destination. Of course, the activity is highly dependent on the weather conditions so it's best to check before planning the trip if it is taking place on that day or not. I flew with Peter Aitken, a chief flying instructor at Lennox Head (you can book your experience here) and the flight lasted for about 30 minutes during which he taught me how to manoeuvre the hang glider, we saw some dolphins in the sea below and talked about how amazing it is they have the freedom to fly so high in the skies, at the mercy of the winds, without any motor or engine.


Day 3: Warner Bros Movie World Theme Park or Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Unfortunately, my trip was only for two days so I could not fit in either of these options into m itinerary. I prioritized visiting Byron Bay, Mt Tamborine & Surfers Paradise in the limited amount of time on hand. Also, since I had already got my kangaroo and koala fix in Cairns, I was not disappointed about skipping Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. If you have not made it to the many parks in Australia, you might want to head here, the park is hardly about 30 minutes away from Surfers Paradise.

Also, visiting a theme park in Gold Coast is one of the top things to do; 'Goldie' (as Australia's Gold Coast is lovingly called) is a theme park enthusiast's paradise, with several options available such as Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World & Dreamworld. Several multi-park access options are also available which you can read about here.

70 thoughts on “3 amazing days in Australia’s Gold Coast”

  1. I haven’t been to the Gold Coast for so long. It must have changed so much since I was there. I remember having a great time in Byron Bay too. Thanks for reminding me of a fantastic part of Australia.

  2. When I read day 1 I was thinking that it sounded like the perfect day, then I read day 2! They’re both so different and equally beautiful. I can see why you’d have liked to spend more time in the area.

  3. On the way to New Zealand we wanted to spend several days in Australia as well. But then we found out it was not so easy, even to stay in Sydney, it takes time as well. The Golden Coast is such a nice place that I would place it on my itinerary. We plan to visit the country within a year and hopefully to spend three wekks in the country….Golden Coast is a must now!

  4. The Golden Coast has long been on my bucket list! Byron Bay really caught my attention. You took gorgeous photos! Paradise Beach reminds me of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. It all looks lovely! Keeping this for future reference. 🙂

    1. I guess you compare it with Waikiki Beach because of the surfers and the proximity of the tall city buildings to the beach. I see the similarity too 😉

  5. Your photos make me want to go back to Australia! Byron Bay is stunning, I’m so sad to have missed it on my recent trip. Cedar Creek Falls sounds like a great place to cool off after a long hike. I’m adding these to my list for next time!

  6. I wish I’d known about the zipline opportunity on the Gold Coast — looks really fun! I love ziplining and a super fast canopy tour is the most fun! I’m glad you also fell in love with Byron Bay. It was one of my favorite places in Australia, up there with Whitsundays! The view from the lighthouse is unbeatable!

  7. Wow – hand gliding in Byron Bay – just incredible! I visited Byron many years ago, so I bet it has changed a lot. I would love to visit Cedar Creek falls for a swim, and then maybe a cheeky visit to the winery too 😉

  8. Great trip we visited the Gold Coast on our first visit in 1994 but didn’t make it to Tamborine Mountain, will have to do so on our next trip. So many cool activities. The zipline and caves sound like a fun way to spend the day.

  9. I love that Tamborine Mountain seems a lot more quieter than some of the other areas, it seemed like a good spot to pick, especially having a dip in Cedar Creek Falls, it would be hard to leave the water once I got in!

  10. Great post about the Gold Coast! I didn’t get to visit that part of Australia when I visited 2 years ago but I heard wonderful things. Thanks for sharing

  11. I have heard great things about Australia, especially about the beaches there, If I could surf this would be the place to go to catch some good waves! xo – Kam

  12. Thanks to your post I have just put the Canyon Flyer Tour on my ‘things to do in Australia’ list. The highest and fastest zip line attraction in Australia sounds too good to be missed!

  13. My partner is from Australia and he’s been encouraging me to visit his country (especially this part) very soon. And I guess I would agree now about how wonderful it is. Saving your blog for my reference.

  14. Such a nice place to relax and unwind! Definitely stunning looking just at your photos especially the adventures one you experience. Would love to visit the country and explore gold coast.

  15. We had a short visit to Australia and I can’t wait to go back. It certainly looks like the Gold Coast is worth exploring. But I might want more than 3 days! I love starting a visit with a high point panoramic view so am glad to know I can head to the Sky Point Observation Deck. I would be up to climb the outdoor stairs. Mt Tamborine seems to have something for everyone. I would love to do the zipline but would also want to enjoy the water under the falls. But I might have to go 2 days if I wanted to try the winery too. And I can see why you would want to finish a day with a sunset at Surfers Paradise Beach after spending the day at one of the great beaches. Definitely need to get the Gold Coast on my planning board!

  16. Australia is high on my bucket list and reading this makes me want to visit so bad. The clear waters in Byron Bay are so inviting. No wonder you fell in love with the area. I hope to visit Australia and the gold coast region soon.

  17. I’m seriously dying to go to Australia! Aside from Antarctica, it’s the only continent I haven’t been to. Just need to explore this amazing country already!

  18. I appreciate posts like this because when I think of visiting Australia I get overwhelmed – it is so big and there are so many choices! I think you have to narrow it down to a few things and the gold coast looks like a great place to spend several days.

  19. Oh! Cedar Creek Falls looks amazing! I think I could spend all day there! We don’t have natural waterfalls in Florida so I’m obsessed with them.

    1. Waterfalls are pretty amazing, I agree. We don’t have any where I live either (Dubai) so I love chasing waterfalls when I travel!

  20. wow. that sky point climb looks CRAZY. I don’t know if i could manage to look down but what a view in your photo!! I do like the idea of the tree zip line challenge.

  21. Australia is def on the bucket list, and your photos are GORGEOUS, drool worthy. I absolutely am committed to go to some of these fab spots in the coming few years!

  22. Gold Coast is one of the most popular attraction of Australia and I missed it though living in Melbourne. The views from Tallow Beach Lookout Point, Byron Bay is splendid. Canyon Flyer looks adventurous.

  23. This is an adventurous itinerary, Medha. Tamborine rainforest looks thrilling. And also Paradise Surfers Beach looks pristine. Plus you did handgliding? How cool is that! Your itineraries are always so perfect. As usual, I love this one too.

  24. The Gold Coast is absolutely beautiful!! I’ve yet to travel to Australia (24 hours on a plane is a struggle for me!) but it’s somewhere I’d love to visit. I wish I was adventurous like you and not scared of heights to try the hand gliding in Byron Bay, I bet the views are incredible. The colours at Surfers Paradise Beach are dreamy, and make me long to be at the beach again!

    1. Australia is far for pretty much everyone and that’s a real pity! I did brave the long flight though and although I didn’t fall in love with the country, it was worth getting there and exploring it. Hope you make it to the land down under someday, Lisa x

  25. Australia’s Gold Coast looks like a great place to visit. I did make it to Byron Bay when I was in Australia and I loved it. I would love to go back and see more of the region.

  26. I have never heard of hang gliding, it’s interesting. It looks like some worms flying on the sky 😀 I think I would do that, the video looks tempting.

    1. Haha I see why you refer to ‘worms’ 😀 It’s the little sack which we put our feet in, which is the shape of a worm’s tail.

  27. The Gold Coast looks just beautiful. I would love to do a road trip along the coast of Australia some day. I know it’s such a big place, but it seems like it would be worth the effort and long hours.

  28. Looks like the Gold Coast has so much to offer to anyone. Beaches, caves, forests, adventure parks… I think I would need more than 3 days to discover everything you mentioned in this article.

  29. I didn’t know that Gold Coast is so green and beautiful. I have been contemplating to visit this place just for some fun and frolic. Byron Bay looks so picturesque and pretty. Thanks for this wonderful guide.

  30. Australia has been on our bucket list for some time and lately, I started planning our itinerary for a visit to this country. Visiting Cairns, Uluru and Gold Coast has been on my list and I am glad I came across your post as it offers great tips and trip details for a visit to Gold Coast. I would love to experience the Canyon Flyer Tour and sit on those beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast and watch the sunsets. Thanks for the detailed information – it will help me a lot for planning our trip.

  31. Wow great place! i would really like to visit cedar creek falls. Of all the places, I like this the most and shortly i will be there to enjoy this. thanks

  32. Looks like you had a great time and I would love to spend 3 days on the Australian coast this way. Warner Bros World Theme is something I would put on my list for sure.

  33. I’m planning to visit Australia in 2020 and can’t wait to explore the Down Under. I saw about Byron Bay in one of the series on Netflix and loved it! Hang gliding sounds like the ultimate experience of a lifetime!

  34. You had me from the first paragraph when you mentioned glow worms. I’ve heard about the caves before and really want to visit someday so I can see them in person, it sounds so cool. Like most people, I’d love the chance to get to Australia finally, I know it’ll be such an incredible time!

  35. I’ve been reading many blogs about Australia and I am pretty excited. This year is my first Australia trip that will begin in Melbourne for two weeks!
    I will add this beautiful coast to one of my visit.

  36. I have never been to Australia but I want to go and your post has me drooling over everything there is to see. As much as I would love to spend day at Byron Bay, your tip about Tallow Beach sounds even better! Those blue waters look so dreamy.

  37. WOW sounds like you had quite the adventure. From wine tours to hiking to ziplining you did it all! I haven’t been to Australia yet but it seems like there is so much being that it is such a large place. I will def have to keep your reccomndations in mind when I visit

  38. I think we may have a chance to visit Australia due to its proximity and available of direct flights from the Philippines. A childhood friend of mine lives in Queensland, and when he knew I love adventure, he said I should visit the Gold Coast. Looking at your photos and reading your vacation story, he’s right!

    3 days, though, is too short. We’d probably spend a week or two so we could enjoy all those activities.

  39. I haven’t been to Australia in years, and I only went to Sydney and Cairns/Port Douglas, but the Gold Coast has always intrigued me (well, that and the Whitsundays). I’d definitely dig Tallow Beach and Cedar Creek Estate, but I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as a glow worm cave, and that seems interesting too. Thanks!

  40. I lived in Sydney for two years and for some sad reason, never made it out to the Gold Coast 🙁 It looks like such a gorgeous coastline and love all the adventure opportunities!

  41. Wow I love these places, especially Byron Bay looks stunning. Also, hiking to a place which rewards you with such a beautiful destination like Cedar Creek Falls must be amazing. And OMG the hang gliding video is incredible, I really want to try that someday!!

    1. It was an amazing experience! And it’s not scary at all so even if one doesn’t have an appetite for crazy adventurous sports, they can still do this and have fun!

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