21 things to do in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast
Surfers Paradise – two words that instantly conjure images of shimmering skyscrapers dotting a coastline that closely resembles heaven, fun nights out and, of course, that iconic arched sign that’s played many a photo backdrop.
But Surfers (as it’s affectionately known) is much more than its beachfront bliss and nights on the town. It’s the beating heart of an ever-evolving city, home to quirky foodie haunts, culture and art, natural encounters and adrenalin-fuelled experiences.
Here are 21 new and relatively unknown things to do in Surfers Paradise for your next visit to the Gold Coast.
1. ISLAND HOME: THE ISLAND GOLD COAST
What was once the home of wild pyjama parties in the 1960s, The Island (formerly The Islander Resort) has been tapped by the coastal glam wand, reimagined and redesigned into a chic boutique hotel. We’re talking Scandi-style room décor, wicker pendant lights, greenery galore and blonde timber furnishings.
Their impressive open-air rooftop space is ideal for a long lunch or evening drink under the fairy lights. Psst: It’s also the best place to mingle with locals on a Friday and Saturday night or Sunday afternoon.
2. SIP AND FLICK: BRUSH AND BARREL
Brush up on your painting skills as you ‘wine’ down with a glass of your favourite drop. At Brush and Barrel, you can get your *cue French accent* artiste on with BYO wine.
Beginner classes are held most evenings, but check their website for dates and to book your seat. Each class has a different muse like a tropical sunset, a starry night over Brisbane’s Story Bridge, or a surfer gliding along a glassy local wave – the perfect souvenir, right?
3. CUDDLE A KITTY: CRAZY CAT CAFE
Crazy Cat Café is exactly what you’d expect – 12 felines hanging out in the Cat Lounge awaiting your affection. From Ragdolls to Norwegian Forest Cats, there’s a variety of purr-fect pals to pet while you sip your latte.
Outside #kittyheaven you can dine alfresco on the terrace with food available from their on-site café.
4. CHECK THE LOCAL DIGS: THE 4217
Pasta served in a flaming cheese wheel, coffee in an ice-cream come, a Nutella-loving dessert bar and handcrafted gourmet burgers… have you grabbed your wallet and started throwing money at the screen yet? Enter The 4217 – an urban village home to eclectic (and aesthetically-pleasing) providores.
One of the best spots for a caffeine fix is Paradox Coffee Roasters. Their Head Roaster creates their signature blends in their Paradox Lab, hosting classes and workshops to teach the average Joe the art of making the perfect coffee.
But more about this cheese wheel pasta I hear you cry! Well, it’s Caserecci pasta cooked in a four-cheese sauce, inside a huge semi-hollowed wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano *picks jaw up off floor*. Try this cacio e pepe (that’s Italian for pepper and pasta) atSalt Meats Cheese every Wednesday night, but be sure to book ahead!
For your carb-loading fix, Brooklyn Depot is home to epic burgers like the Wisenheimer (slow cooked pork belly, classic green apple slaw and truffle mayo). While Tella Balls Dessert Bar is renowned for their namesake treat – a brioche donut ball with a variety of flavoured fillings – and also their Tellabab. Yep, this is a jam-packed dessert kebab with Nutella and fruit inside a doughnut pita.
5. GET SOME FRESH AIR: Q1’S SKYPOINT CLIMB
Reaching the top of a building and standing 270 metres above sea level doesn’t seem like an easy feat. Though the reward of sweeping views of the Gold Coast’s coastline is well worth trekking up the 298 stairs of the Q1 Tower’s SkyPoint Climb.
It’ll only take you around 90 minutes to complete and can be conquered in the sunshine and now also at night on Fridays and Saturdays.
6. LEARN TO FLY: IFLY GOLD COAST
Always wanted to go skydiving but aren’t keen to force yourself out the side of a plane? You’re not alone! Surfers’ answer to freefalling 15,000ft is iFly Gold Coast – an indoor skydive centre where you can get all the thrills without the chills.
Achieve lift-off inside a five-metre-wide glass chamber which is powered by a giant vertical wind tunnel. Simply lean into the wind and let yourself take flight. Superhero mode: ACTIVATED.
7. HAVE A SUNDOWNER BY THE SEA
Cotton candy skies are on the menu most nights on the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise isn’t short of restaurants with stellar settings to soak up the horizon. If fresh, local seafood is your flavour, book a table at Seaduction Restaurant or Seascape Restaurant and Bar – both located below Peppers Soul hotel.
An epic sunset spot (and Insta-worthy backdrop) is Cocoon Lounge Bar and Dining. Lounge under a cabana on the deck with a few share plates and cocktails, while gentle house music sets the tone. For something more low key, try Sandbar along the Esplanade, where meals are served with a side of sea breeze and ocean glimpses.
8. ENJOY SOME TUNES, TUCKER & A TIPPLE: THE AVENUE AND STEAMPUNK
If you know anything about Surfers Paradise, you’ll know that The Avenue is an institution. Open in Orchid Avenue since 1984, it’s a venue synonymous with boisterous live music acts and hearty pub grub.
In 2016, The Avenue locked up the old digs and moved across the road to a new and more modern venue, which has a back room dedicated to live acts, a tea room, and a VIP penthouse suite. Late-night bites are available until 2am, like woodfired pizza and yakitori grill dishes.
Newer to the scene is Steampunk, a 300-seat restaurant and cocktail bar draped in 19th century British Victorian subculture of science fantasy. Let me set the scene: copper furnishings, exposed gas pipes, metal trinkets, heavy machinery and leather studded chesterfield lounges. Share plates and wood-fired pizzas are on the menu, as well as $10 espresso martinis every. single. day!
9. GO NIGHT SHOPPING: SURFERS PARADISE BEACHFRONT MARKETS
The Foreshore comes alive every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night with the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets – over 120 stalls selling everything from handcrafted leather bags to random toys and knick-knacks.
From 4pm ‘til 9pm, lap up the sea breeze and stroll through the line-up, admiring bespoke artworks, clothing and handcrafted jewellery.
10. CHEERS TO GOOD TIMES: HOUSE OF BREWS
Raise a glass because a good beer isn’t hard to find in Surfers Paradise… not when there are 30 varieties on tap! Yep, House of Brews is a beer connoisseur’s dream.
They dish up American-style eats like wings, a decadent pulled pork and slaw burger and cheesy nacho fries. Oh, and did we mention the cocktails? Order a round of Above the Clouds’ served with a chunk of fluffy fairy floss and a side of dry ice for extra sky-high effect.
11. BAG A VINTAGE GEM: ARKIVE VINTAGE
East London called – they want their style back. Nestled in Surfers’ Central Arcade, Arkive Vintage is filled with authentic antique fashion and accessories dating from the 1930’s to the 1990’s.
Their stock is sourced from quality suppliers in the UK, Europe and USA, with a focus on reducing the consumption of fast fashion and fashion waste.
Whether you’re wanting a new cossie for the beach or a new getup to hit the town, there’s a recycled gem ready to be plucked from the shelves.
12. RELAX TO THE MAX: SPAQ AT QT HOTEL
What’s a holiday without someone else pampering you #AmIRight?
The vibrant spaQ at QT Hotel reimagines the average day spa fit-out with their 50’s-inspired décor. Robe up and lounge in a bold green armchair before a ‘head-to-heel’ treatment. We love the Pure Gold signature experience, complete with a warm oil massage, custom facial and mini mani-pedi.
PS. Here are 6 more Gold Coast day spas for even more pampering.
13. BECOME CULTURED: HOME OF THE ARTS
ICYMI, the Gold Coast’s cultural and entertainment scene is booming. At the forefront is the newly-launched Home of the Arts (HOTA) precinct, formerly known as The Arts Centre Gold Coast.
With this new name comes a new $37 million outdoor amphitheatre on the banks of Evandale Lake. This spot will host national and international artists at live events, welcoming up to 5000 spectators on the lawn.
On the bill for 2018 are names like Tim Minchin, Neil Finn with an orchestra and Laurie Anderson as the first in-residence artist. The new outdoor venue is part of Stage 1 of the 17-hectare Gold Coast Cultural Precinct development, so watch this space!
14. HEAD UP, UP AND AWAY: GOLD COAST HOT AIR BALLOON
There’s no doubt the Gold Coast skyline is pretty spectacular. It’s even better at dawn when sunlight begins to spill over Tamborine Mountain and spread through the Lamington National Park, only to beam off Surfers’ towers and shimmer across the ocean.
Hot Air Balloon Gold Coast’s sunrise flights give a new meaning to a bird’s-eye view, where you’ll float down into a lush paddock surrounded by rainforest and take a short drive to O’Reilly’s Grand Homestead and Boutique Vineyard for a champagne breakfast *clink* and time to explore the property at leisure.
Complimentary transfers can be arranged from your Surfers Paradise accommodation.
15. EAT FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD: KNOX DINING AND LORD OF THE FRIES
Knox Dining is Circle on Cavill’s cool little wholesome food nook inspired by Asian flavours.
From early AM, order from the all-day menu with eats like Egg in a Hole with sous vide free range egg, melted swiss cheese, raw broccoli slaw and dukkah spiced half avo. Or go for the more substantial Knox Aburi Bowl topped with 64-degree sous vide egg and caviar.
Share-style dining is the crux of the dinner menu, with dishes like Haloumi & Mint Spring Rolls with mixed berry dipping sauce *drools*, Curry Chicken Bao and Espresso Duck Breast, marinated in their own Toby’s Estate coffee, served on honey-roasted parsnip with yellow pepper and lime jus.
Lord of the Fries, a beloved Melbourne institution, has recently opened in Cavill Ave delighting carnivores and herbivores alike. Their burgers will have you fooled – the patties look like meat though they’re all vegetarian and extra tasty. Paired with a side of sweet potato fries = bliss.
16. GO FOR A SPIN ON THE WATER: JETBOAT EXTREME
Whip around the Broadwater and Gold Coast Seaway in a 650-horsepower jet boat at speeds up to 80kms per hour with Jetboat Extreme.
Don’t expect a leisurely 55-minute cruise – you’ll take power slides, ride along waves and get the tummy turning with 360-degree spins. Keep an eye out for curious dolphins who like to gallivant beside the boat.
17. CRUISE IN STYLE: WYNDHAM CRUISES
A state-of-the-art houseboat is Wyndham Cruises’ answer to a floating restaurant.
We can’t imagine a better way to spend two hours cruising the Gold Coast waterways atop the open-air rooftop, chowing down on a buffet lunch with fresh local prawns straight from the trawler, and a side of craft beer from Burleigh Brewing Co.
Or you can also opt for a three-hour dinner cruise to enjoy the Surfers Paradise skyline in a different light (literally).
18. TRY NOT TO GET OVER-WHALE-MED: WHALES IN PARADISE
From June to November, humpback whales make their way up the Queensland coast and circle back with their newborn calves.
Onboard luxury catamaran, Mahi Mahi, you’ll enjoy unobstructed views of the gentle giants breaching and splashing in the Gold Coast’s waters during a three-hour tour.
Whales in Paradise maintains a 100% daily sighting record and offers a money back guarantee if you don’t spot any whales.
19. HAVE A HAWKER-STYLE EXPERIENCE: 8 STREET
Keep your eyes on Cavill Lane – a new Asian street food precinct will soon be opening its doors.
Named after the luckiest number in Chinese culture, 8 Street will light up the laneway with oriental décor, open kitchens and more than 30 vendors. Prepare your taste buds for flavours from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.
20. MAKE LIKE THE WIGGLES IN A BIG RED CAR TRUCK: FIRE4HIRE
Woop, Woop! The siren sounds as the Fire Truck rolls away from the station and you whip around the GC streets for one hour.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve often wondered what a day in the life of these local heroes would be like (oh, to be a fly on the wall!). Fire4Hire tours let you live out your fantasy and operate a fully functioning fire hose. Just remember, pics or it didn’t happen.
21. HEAD TO A BEACHFRONT EVENT
Those expansive sandy stretches are perfect flop-and-drop territory but are also a natural amphitheatre for world-class events.
The line-up for this year’s Surfers Paradise LIVE festival echoes that notion and from May 3 to 6, music royalty like Jimmy Barnes, Kate Ceberano, and Daryl Braithwaite will grace the stage for a free, all-ages affair.
Time your visit around other iconic annual events such as VIVA Surfers Paradise (13-22 July 2018), the Gold Coast’s answer to the Parkes Elvis Festival, SIPFest (22 April 2018) an outdoor beach cinema showcasing home-grown short films, and SeaFire (2 June 2018) a firework spectacular curated by some of the world’s best pyrotechnicians.
WHICH OF THESE SURFERS PARADISE EXPERIENCES ARE ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
PS. Looking for more ideas? Here are 100 things to do on the Gold Coast.