The biggest playground: what to do on your Gold Coast family holiday
The Gold Coast is the perfect place to create special family memories. It’s no wonder why, with world-class beaches, ancient rainforests, delicious treats and plenty of thrills to boot. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first Gold Coast family holiday or visit number 20 – we’ve rounded up both quintessential and brand-new experiences for the kids and the kids-at-heart.
If you’re a GC-pro and ticked this list off already, head on over to this post for some more kid-friendly ideas after dark.
1. Mount Tamborine
The green behind the gold, a family drive to this mountain village is a lush, shady breather from the coast. Take your pick of hinterland hikes from the all-abilities-access Cedar Creek Falls track, to the more advanced Witches Falls and Sandy Creek circuits.
If you’re looking for more bustle, explore the village where you’ll find quirky antiques, artwork, cafes and boutiques, and plenty of local personalities up for a friendly chat. For an out-of-this-world experience, take the Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Tour through purpose-built caves that are home to thousands of spectacular glow-worms.
Top tip: the kids will love a sweet treat and an iced chocolate from the Polish Place. And for the adults? The Polish Beer menu is hard to resist.
2. Burleigh Heads National Park
Ahhh, beautiful Burleigh Heads National Park. This lush green outcrop on the Gold Coast is perfect for doing a lot or very little. Set up a picnic blanket on the hill to watch the surfers ride waves against a magical sunset, or embark on one of the two easy walks over or around the mountain to Tallebudgera Creek.
3. Tallebudgera Creek
This is the quintessential calm water spot on the Gold Coast. Although Tallebudgera Creek feeds out to the Coral Sea, the clear blue water of the creek is gentle and inviting – perfect for small children to splash around safely.
With a small beach and lots of shade, you can swim, SUP, kayak and picnic in this little paradise. Access from the Palm Beach side of the creek is patrolled by lifeguards, or you can head back to the Burleigh Heads National Park side and find a spot on the southern side.
4. Natural Bridge at Springbrook + glow worms
Just a few hours inland from the shoreline, Springbrook National Park is home to one of the most ethereal natural wonders in Queensland.
Surprise your mini waterfall-chasers at dusk with Natural Bridge, a small waterfall that plunges into a glow-worm cave.
It’s not suitable for prams, but the trail is easy enough that most two- and three-year-olds would be able to manage.
5. Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens
The Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens in Benowa is a playful wonderland for all nature and garden lovers.
Stop and smell the roses in the – you guessed it – rose garden, then let the kids go wild touching the plants in the sensory garden. There’s even a butterfly garden, a playground and an off-leash area for the four-legged members of the family.
6. Beach day
Gold Coast beach days are what dreams are made of, and with around 70 kilometres of jaw-dropping coastline dotted with family-friendly areas, there’s a guaranteed spot in the sand for your troop.
Grab your beach towels, sunscreen, throw your water bottles in a bag and head to any one of the gorgeous beaches on the GC.
7. Currumbin rock pools
Keen to get away from the salty seas, but still want a spot to cool off and let the kids splash around? Take a break from the sand and make your way to the Currumbin Rock Pools.
What use to be a locals’ secret is now a buzzing hinterland waterhole, so bring a picnic, a game or two and your swimmers for a refreshing water day with a difference.
8. Broadwater Parklands
Kids need to burn off some steam? Herd them towards the Broadwater Parklands. The “free Disney World” of the Gold Coast, they’ll love the multiple playgrounds (one being the fun-filled Rockpools, a sculptural water haven complete with fountains and vibrant marine-themed equipment), public pool, a calm-water beach and the pièce de résistance… a jumping bouncy pillow.
9. BBQ lunch
There are countless places to BBQ on the Gold Coast, but one of our favourites is Budds Beach. Big kudos for ticking off all the family boxes and then some, including calm water for the kids to swim, toilets, a café across the street, and a playground.
10. O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk
Give the kids a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest on the picture-perfect O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk in Lamington National Park.
Suspended 15 metres above the ground in the rainforest canopy, the 180 metres of boardwalk will make them feel like lost-world explorers. The cherry on top? It’s free.
11. Theme parks
Did you really have a Gold Coast family holiday if you didn’t have at least one day at a theme park? If you have adrenaline-seekers (of any age) in your family, then heading to the thrill-seeker capital of Australia is a must.
The Gold Coast is home to not one, not two, but five large-scale theme parks and they have all the excitement you would expect: grand shows, roller coasters, fairy floss and furry, friendly animals. The most complicated part is choosing which one to visit first.
12. Meet the Wildlife
With a history of Australian wildlife preservation reaching back over half a century, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary could be the best place on the Gold Coast for cute and cuddly animal encounters.
The animal sanctuary welcomes visitors year-round and even hosts eco-ranger programs for kids during the Queensland school holidays.
After meeting some of Australia’s cutest critters, take the kids’ sense of adventure to the skies and tackle Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s Treetop Challenge. Harness up and explore the rainforest across 80 different adventure courses and ziplines.
Kids fascinated by the natural world will love a visit to David Fleay Wildlife Park. Established in 1952 and often described as the “father of wildlife conservation”, David was the first person to successfully breed platypuses in captivity.
13. Learn to surf
As they say, when in Rome.
The Gold Coast is known for its legendary surf breaks, so treat the kids to a lesson from the pros who call these waves home. Operators such as Get Wet Surf School provide beginner lessons that will have your little grommets standing in no time.
14. Jellurgal Aboriginal Culture Centre
Take a trip to the Dreamtime courtesy of the Gold Coast’s Yugambeh people, as they tell tales of Jellurgal (Burleigh Mountain) and its origin.
Tours take you through picturesque Burleigh Heads National Park, where the family can learn about the cultural history of the Gold Coast. Afterwards, enjoy some bush tucker and tea at the café, stop by the library or visit the in-house art workshop.
15. iFLY Indoor Skydiving
Up the adrenaline and take to the (simulated) skies at iFly Indoor Skydiving in Surfers Paradise. Fun for the whole family, learn how to spin, flip and soar at 14,000 ft in the 360-degree, state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnels.
15. Sea World Whale Watch Cruises
From June to October every year, the Gold Coast transforms into the whale highway as thousands of these graceful giants migrate from the Antarctic waters to northern Queensland to give birth before returning south.
The 2.5 hour tours depart four times per day and they have a 100% sighting guarantee between June and October.
16. Carrara Markets
Known to be Queensland’s largest, permanent marketplace covering 10 acres with over 500 stalls, the Carrara Markets has been entertaining shoppers for over 30 years.
Face painting, pony rides, buskers and treats will keep the littlies busy while you sneak in a coffee and chat to local makers.
17. Putt Putt Mermaid Beach
Putt your way out of the jungle, find a tropical oasis and survive the Fun Run across 18-holes of hits and giggles at the centrally-located Putt Putt Mermaid Beach.
The putting is only the beginning, with arcade games, BBQ areas available and Mermaid Beach only a short stroll away.