Your 3-day Insta-worthy Gold Coast itinerary
When you think of the Gold Coast it’s hard to look past the 57 km of photogenic beaches, surfer-welcoming breaks and soft, golden sand that lines the south-east coastline. But like a great vino, it really does get better with age.
There is an essence to the Gold Coast that can’t be captured through Instagram (not even in a live story). The beaches are just the beginning of what’s to love about this special part of Queensland.
You could spend days in just one neighbourhood, but for an action-packed three-day adventure towards the northern end of the Gold Coast, we provide you with this epic itinerary below.
Day 1 – Beachin’, shopping and street food mania
AM: Surf school
Time to hit the water.
If you’re holidaying on the Gold Coast it would almost be considered rude not to at least attempt to ride a wave on the beaches where Mick Fanning taught himself to surf. Am I right?
The Gold Coast is home to some of the hottest (and most picturesque) surfing tournaments in the country and attracts world champion surfers to the Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro on the reg.
No time to stand on the sand and admire the waves. You, my friend, are getting amongst the fresh water and salty sea air with a surf lesson.
The family-owned Get Wet Surf School offers group or private lessons at Main Beach. Lessons run for two hours and operate in the mornings and afternoons as well as more regularly in peak season. The best part? They guarantee to have you standing on your first lesson and even take a brag-worthy photo to prove it. Oh yeah.
AM: Fuel up at Local & Co Espresso Bar
The Gold Coast is known for many great things, and the taste-bud-tickling selection of fresh and delicious dining options is definitely one of them. Reward yourself. Surfing is hard, and you’ve just nailed it, so refuel at Local & Co Espresso in Main Beach.
Acai-fy yourself with the fruity goodness of an acai bowl or if you’re after something heartier, try the big breaky burger or eggs benedict. If you can snag a seat outside it’s a great place to people watch and soak up the sunshine.
Take your caffeinated cup of Social Espresso coffee to go, and wander down the road to the Southport Spit (known locally as The Spit) where you can get your taste of Gold Coast luxe.
Stroll the promenade and marvel at the finest super yachts moored at the Marina or opt for a luxury spot of shopping with the designer stores at Marina Mirage.
Pay Max Brenner’s chocolate shop a visit (a.k.a Australia’s very own Willy Wonka). If you ask me, there is ALWAYS room for dessert, but if you are still nursing a full belly from brunch, pick up a sweet little something to go.
PM: Head to Harbour Town
If shopping at Marina Mirage doesn’t float your boat, Australia’s largest outlet shopping centre is only 15 minutes from Surfers Paradise. Full price is so last season, and there’s no better place to bag a bargain on the Gold Coast than Harbour Town.
With prices this cheap, you’re pretty much saving money, and if this is your first visit to Harbour Town, stop by the Harbour Town Tourism Lounge for a free tourist discount card. After an afternoon here you’ll leave feeling schmick, with an Instagram-worthy wardrobe for the rest of the trip. #winning
PM: Nosh and Nutella at NightQuarter
Who doesn’t love a festival? NightQuarter in Helensvale brings you the festival vibe every weekend with colourful market stalls, exotic street food and live music all rolled into one awesome shipping container playground.
NightQuarter combines all the things we love about the Gold Coast; culture, food, art, fashion, music and local talent of every kind.
Local tip: The Nutella Ice-Cream Cookie Sandwich from Sweet Bliss Donuts is the bee’s knees of the Gold Coast dessert scene. Not only does it combine the three best dessert ingredients in the world; Nutella, ice-cream and cookies, but it’s packaged up in one uber photogenic concoction that will unite sweet tooths around the world.
Day 2 – Theme parks and nature walks
AM: Get high with a Sea World helicopter flight
If you think the Gold Coast is beautiful by land, wait until you see it by air! Sea World Helicopters is located only five minutes from Surfers and there are five scenic flight routes for you to choose from.
If your money tree isn’t sprouting dollar bills this season, you can opt for a five-minute round trip from Southport Seaway to the southern tip of Stradbroke Island for less than $70. Although, if you do have the cash to spend, you can’t beat the 30-minutete joy flight to Tweed Heads and back up the coastline through the Gold Coast Hinterland to Sea World.
Sea World Helicopters has its own side entrance next to the theme park so you don’t require an entry pass. Although if you do have the time, spend the morning getting acquainted with the friendly marine life and enjoying the theme park’s thrill rides.
PM: Chill like a local in Burleigh Heads
The vibe of Burleigh Heads is like nowhere else on the coast. An arvo beer on Burleigh Hill will have you feeling relaxed faster than you can say “pass me a Corona”.
Before you picnic on the hill with an epic fish and chips smorgasbord and watch the sun set over the coast, activate your ‘adventure mode’ and make use of the national park right on the beachfront.
Burleigh Headland National Park has five walking tracks of different lengths and fitness levels but if you’re after a relatively easy scenic route, take the Oceanview Walk. Lined with rainforest and rocky headland, make the short trek to Echo Beach. If you’re here during winter or spring, you may be lucky enough to spot humpback whales migrating north from Antarctica from June through to November.
If you take the Oceanview walk towards Echo Beach, try the Rainforest Circuit on the return trip. And when you return to Burleigh Hill, do enjoy that beer. You’ve earned it.
Day 3 – The green behind the gold
AM: Mount Tamborine
You already know the Gold Coast is famous for its golden beaches and theme park fun, but there’s a road less travelled that will lead you west towards tranquillity and adventure. Cue Mount Tamborine and Lamington National Park.
You could spend days exploring this lush rainforest terrain, but the best way to see it in a day is on four wheels with Eco Safaris Queensland. There’s no shortage of Instagrammable moments on this action-packed adventure so bring your best selfie game.
Microbrewery or coffee plantation? Winery or rainforest walk? Eco Safaris provide a suggested itinerary, but you have the option to pick and choose the activities you want.
Your 4wd chariot awaits as you start your day at Mount Tamborine. Mother Nature has gifted the Gold Coast Hinterland with spectacular views, stunning waterfalls and nature walks so turn on your Fitbit and start stepping. What better way to start the day than on one of Tamborine Mountain’s 12 walking tracks? Before you panic, none are longer than 3km (you’re welcome).
Local tip: Try the Curtis Falls Circuit. You’ll get your waterfall and wildlife fix and it takes only about 30 minutes to complete the return trip.
PM: Explore Lamington National Park
Eco Safaris will then take you to Lamington National Park which makes up part of the Gondwana Rainforests. Time to tick a World Heritage-listed rainforest off your bucket list!
Lamington National Park provides an abundance of spectacular walking trails to immerse yourself in the rainforest but if you make your way to O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walkway you can take your nature walk to new heights. This 180-metre walk is made up of nine suspension bridges, 15 metres above ground and leads you to two observation decks above the walkway 30 metres above the ground. Hello, view!
Grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine at Canungra Valley Vineyards as the sun goes down. You have a designated driver, after all, so make the most of it!