20 (almost) free things to do on the Gold Coast
Think you need to spend big to have a good time? Think again. There are so many (almost) free things to do on the Gold Coast that the only thing you’ll be spending big on is experiences.
From the north to the south, here’s how to experience this Queensland icon with little to no budget.
1. MAKE THE MOST OF THE COAST
If you visit the Gold Coast and don’t set foot on any part of the 70 kilometres of coastline, then you’re seriously missing out.
So, take your surfboard, put up a beach umbrella and wave hello to the beaches that hold a special place in every local and visitor’s heart.
Is it free? Yes, but make sure you bring extra cash for lunch.
2. GET BACK TO NATURE
Here, there’s so much to uncover and explore.
From awe-inspiring national parks (in the middle of the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests) you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Take your pick at the Natural Bridge rock formation in Springbrook National Park, the and waterfalls of Lamington National Park’s Green Mountains or the rugged mountain peaks of Mount Barney National Park.
Don’t want to venture too far from the coastline? Head to Burleigh Head National Park for views with its ocean and rainforest circuits of the rocky headland.
Is it free? Yes.
3. SAY CHEERS
Drink in the Gold Coast’s thriving craft beer culture one brewery at a time.
Our picks? Balter Brewing in Currumbin, Lost Palms Brewing Co. in Miami or Sandbar in Surfers Paradise.
But to find out exactly where to go, follow our guide here.
IS IT A FREE THING TO DO ON THE GOLD COAST? No, but a beer (or two) will set you back approximately $15.
4. DINNER WITH A SHOW
Your Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights have stepped up a notch.
Head to Miami Marketta from 4pm for delicious street food and to watch the sunset.
From tapas to gelato and French crepes, you’ll smell an array of cuisines as you enter this foodie haven. With live music setting the vibe, this is the perfect place to spend a late night.
Is it free? No, however, it depends on how hungry you are.
5. MEET SOME LOCALS
Meet Wally the platypus, say hello to a bilby and get up close and personal with a friendly lizard at the David Fleay Wildlife Park.
You almost feel like you’re out in the wild yourself when you stroll through the natural habitats of this wildlife park with a difference. Their philosophy, pioneered by the man himself, is that animals should be kept in similar conditions to their natural environment, so take your time spotting Queensland’s native animals as they roam around loving life in their naturalistic enclosures.
Is it free? Adult admission will only set you back approximately $21.50
6. CATCH A BARREL OF KNOWLEDGE
If ‘sun, sand and surf’ is your life’s motto, then you can’t go past a trip to Queensland’s only surfing museum, Surf World.
Take a peek at Australia’s largest collection of surfboards and learn about the evolution of design and technology from the early 1930s to today. There’s also amazing photography depicting early surf scenes and the changing beach culture, as well as surfing memorabilia and artworks on show.
Is it free? Entry is only $10 for adults. Oh and there’s also free parking.
7. HIT THE MARK(ET)
Why go shopping inside a mall when you can peruse the racks at the beach or in a park?
Whether you’re hunting for a bargain, a yummy treat, or you’re just happy to get out of the house and have a browse, the Gold Coast has creative local knick-knacks and fresh produce by the basket-full at their many (and we mean many) markets.
Is it free? Free entry but you’ll want to splurge on the vintage treasure or acai bowl.
8. TAKE A BIKE
Why not hire a bike and explore the beachside on two wheels? Or, if you’re more of an avid rider, escape to the hinterland and test your endurance on the cycling trails through the ancient Gondwana Rainforest.
Is it free? Yes if you’re got your own set of wheels. Or, you can hire a bike for just $25 for half a day.
9. SOAK IN A NATURAL SPA
Get that pampered feeling without the big bill when you head to the Currumbin Rock Pools for a dip.
Set in the lush Currumbin Valley, the drive to this natural spa is relaxing in itself, passing by beautiful farms, gardens, cottages and local fruit stalls.
Is it free? Yes except travel.
10. LIGHTS, CINEMA, ACTION
Catch the latest drama or nail-biting thriller at the Nerang Cineplex. With tickets as cheap as chips, you will never have to choose between popcorn, Skittles or a choc top again because you can binge on the lot without it costing you an arm and a leg.
Is it free? Budget Tuesdays are where it’s at with adults prices at $6.50 during the week and $8.50 on weekends.
11. BE OUR PLUS ONE
In a place that’s known for entertainment, going to one (or two) of the events while you’re here is a no-brainer.
What to know what’s on? Check out our guide to the best events on the Gold Coast.
Is it free? Depending on the event.
12. GO BARE OR GO HOME
It’s no secret this old-timers’ sport has made a pretty big comeback, with people taking their shoes off all around the state to get in on the action.
So grab your mates, heck, your grandparents too and make your way to the Burleigh Heads Bowls Club on a Sunday afternoon.
Is it free? $5 per person but spare yourself some extra dollars for a couple of drinks. Bookings are essential. Yes, it’s that popular.
13. FEAST IN THE OUTDOORS
Nothing says Australia like a barbeque by the beach. Enjoy your lunch or dinner with stunning views to match at the best outdoor BBQ spots.
More of a cheese and crackers fan? Grab your picnic blanket and pack a basket of goodies, then set yourself up at the beautiful Gold Coast Botanic Gardens or at Point Lookout at Burleigh Head National Park (where you can watch the sun set behind the coastline).
Is it free? As much as you’d like to spend on food.
14. CURB YOUR SWEET TOOTH
If you’ve got a sweet tooth you can’t beat taste-testing a scoop or two of creamy goodness at Gelato Messina in Coolangatta.
With a whopping 40 freshly-churned flavours just waiting to be devoured – five of which are specials and change week to week.
You’ll soon realise why these guys are hailed as the gelato gods of Gold Coast’s southside.
Is it free? One scoop starts at $4.80.
15. FEED A LORIKEET
If you don’t want to pay the admission fee to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, you can flock to the bird feeding for free.
At 8am and 4pm every day, you can feed the wild lorikeets and see these colourful birds up close and personal.
Is it free? Yes.
16. TAKE A SWING
Instead of greener pastures and sand dunes, you’ll find spinning windmills, haunted houses and glow-in-the-dark caves, and encounter mummies, King Kong and a baby dinosaur.
Is it free? With adult passes starting at $15 for one course, you may as well get your money’s worth and lock in three courses for a max. of $23.
18. SAY WASSUP
Hire a SUP (that’s stand-up paddleboard for those not in the know) for 1.5 hours from Currumbin Creek’s Boatshed.
Take it to Tallebudgera Creek and you’re go to go.
Is it free? $20 for 1.5 hours.
18. SPOT A WHALE
Between June to November, the whales migrate from Antarctica to the warm Queensland waters.
You can spot a whale (or two) if you’re lucky for free at the naturally elevated lookouts along the coastline including Greenmount, Kirra Hill or Currumbin Rocks.
Is it free? Yes.
19. GET CULTURED
Heart art? Get cultured and see the latest exhibition at the Gold Coast City Gallery.
Each year they feature over 20 local, national and international exhibitions, so there’s always something new and inspiring to see.
Is it free? Free entry but keep a dollar coin spare for a donation.
20. GO FOR A RUN
The best place to be on the Gold Coast is outdoors.
So bring your best walking (or running) shoes and hit the pavements along the beachfront.
Is it free? Yes.