How to surf the Gold Coast

It’s one of the world’s best surfing locations – ok, it’s the world’s best surfing location.

Where else can compare? Hawaii’s North Shore? The waves there only break for half the year and when they do, they can kill you.

The Gold Coast boasts 57 kilometres of pristine coastline that’s home to some of the world’s most famous surf breaks – like the Superbank that stretches from Snapper Heads to Greenmount at the coast’s southern end (home to the Corona Open Gold Coast) and the infamous Burleigh Point – arguably the world’s best right-hand point break.

But there’s also 500,000-plus locals vying for waves… and that’s not counting visiting surfers.

The best way to surf the Gold Coast is to get a little off the beaten track.

P.S. if you want to learn how to surf and want to avoid being that annoying kook (surfer term for an annoying newbie), here’s how you can find the right surf school for you.

Tips for finding an uncrowded wave

Forget the points, go for a beach break! While there might be 500 guys in the water at the Superbank, chances are just up the road at Tugun you’ll surf perfect waves by yourself.

Because of rapidly shifting sand, perfect beach break waves can be found anywhere on the Gold Coast, and they can change overnight.

For your best chances of snaring some, try driving along Tugun’s Golden Four Drive and checking any side street that takes you to the beach.

Keep heading up to Palm Beach and do the same, and if it’s crowded, paddle 100 metres further up from the crowd. On the Gold Coast, people tend to cluster.

Also try the beach breaks of Broadbeach, they’re remarkably empty or go beyond Main Beach to the Gold Coast Seaway for the emptiest waves of all.

Go further beyond

South Stradbroke Island has some epic beach breaks – spread out over 30 kilometres of empty coastline. Paddle across the seaway and walk to the beach, or if it looks too intimidating (there’s a lot of boats and it’s sharky), you can take a boat across.

Drive to the Southport Spit (past Sea World) and take a water taxi (if there’s a group of you, or wait till they fill it up with other guests) or take a ferry from Runaway Bay Marina every day at 10.30am.

Best apps and websites

The best websites to check all conditions for surf on the coast, which include live surf cams, swell predictions and surf reports, are Coastal Watch and Swellnet. You won’t even have to drive to check the waves.

Download the Hurley Surf and Seabreeze apps – these will give you surf reports and photos at beaches up and down the coast and predicted wind and swell heights from Coolangatta up to the Seaway at Southport.

Best feed after a surf

Cafe 28 Coolangatta Gold Coast | How to surf

Second to the surf-breaks are the Gold Coast surf clubs – where else on earth has so many public clubs spread-eagled on the most expensive real estate? You’re guaranteed reasonably priced burgers and hearty bacon and eggs – the best being the Rainbow Bay Surf Lifesaving Club with its views over the Superbank; the Palm Beach Surf Club, built a few metres from the sand; and the Southport Surf Club.

Grab post-surf brekky from Cafe 28 on the Strand in Coolangatta. For a quick fix, you can’t go past the $10 egg and bacon roll and coffee combo.

For a cheap local’s feed with the best burgers on the southern end of the coast, try JJ’s in Tugun.

The Top 6 Gold Coast surf breaks

Make no mistake, the Gold Coast is a surfer’s paradise and you can always find a break with your name on it. Here are our top picks:

  1. Snapper Rocks – Home of the Corona Open Gold Coast.
  2. Kirra Beach – A Southern Gold Coast favourite.
  3. Currumbin – With a creek mouth along the Palm Beach side and a point with gnarly breaks on the other, Currumbin is a great spot for a weekend surf.
  4. Burleigh Heads – Surf the breaks along Burleigh Heads Beach and chill out with a SUP through Tallebudgera Creek.
  5. Surfers Paradise – The main attraction where you’ll have a great view of the coastal city from your board.
  6. South Stradbroke Island – A local secret that you can paddle across to or access via boat.

When to visit

The best time for a surfari is when the best wave riders on the planet come to the Gold Coast: for the Corona Gold Coast Open (formerly known as the Quiksilver Pro).

From 26 March to 5 April, Coolangatta’s famous breaks will be ground zero for all the action. Find your spot in the sand, witness surfing legends battle it out, and soak up the festival atmosphere that fills the streets, cafes and bars of Coolie during the competition.

This post was originally published in 2013 and updated in March 2019.