Everyone has heard of the famous Surfers Paradise Beach and everyone loves to holiday on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. If you love sunshine, miles and miles of squeaky white sand surf beaches, an amazing range of cafes, bars, and nightclubs, great shopping, and exciting theme parks, you’ll love the Gold Coast.
But wait! That’s not all!
Within an hour or twos drive from the Gold Coast is a whole set of totally different experiences that are not to be missed. We asked the local travel experts and travel bloggers for their tips on must-see places on a day trip from the Gold Coast. Here are their recommendations.
In this post:
NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
North Stradbroke Island is easily accessible from the Gold Coast and surrounds and makes for a great day trip.
There is no bridge access to North Stradbroke Island, so all transport to and from the island is either by vehicle or passenger ferries. It’s less than an hour drive from the northern Gold Coast to Cleveland, the departure point for the ferries. On arrival at Dunwich on the island, the sealed roads are suitable for the family car.
The island offers something for just about everyone.
There are three townships on the island – Dunwich, Amity Point, and Point Lookout.
When you arrive at Dunwich, stop for a while and enjoy these great attractions.
Quandamooka Aboriginal Art Gallery – holds art works created by the traditional owners of the island.
Staddie Island Bakery – try a coffee and homemade pie while taking in the vista of southern Moreton Bay.
Little Ship Club – looking for a great lunch in a beautiful open-air setting? Then try The Black Pearl Steak and Seafood Restaurant.
Then head over to Point Lookout, which is the jewel in the crown of the island.
Cylinder Beach – this is a fully weather protected beach and is great for all the family. Blue water, small waves most of the time, and pure white sand. Don’t forget to grab a coffee at the beachside coffee shack.
Gorge Walk – this boardwalk takes you along the entire headland with panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean. Spot Green Turtles in the North Gorge, see dolphins and migrating whales swimming by.
Dining Experiences – here you’re spoilt for choice! Blue Room Café, Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, Whale’s Way Restaurant to name a few.
On your return to Dunwich, swing by Amity Point to sample these.
Seashells at Amity Café – this licensed venue is worth a visit, not only for the menu but the amazing décor.
Flinders Beach – if you’re into 4WD experiences, then try the drive along this pristine beach.
Amazing Sunsets – there are not many places along the east coast of Australia where the sun sets over the water. If you’re there later in the day, Amity Point is one of those rare places.
If you’ve got some time to spare, then drive over to Lake Bumiera for a refreshing dip in this magnificent sheltered freshwater lake before heading back to the mainland.
North Stradbroke Island is a ‘must-do’ when it comes to the best day trips from the Gold Coast.
If you’re looking for a great day trip from the Gold Coast, why not head to one of its famous theme parks? While there are various parks to choose from, Dreamworld is a great park for all ages, as well as having a bit of everything including great shows, rides, animals, and a water park.
To make the most of your day, aim to arrive around 15 minutes prior to opening time and buy your tickets in advance to save both time and money. Once you get inside the park, check the times of the various shows you’d like to see and plan your day around this. I highly recommend that you don’t miss the tiger show at Tiger Island and even the sheep shearing show is well worth it too.
If you’re visiting with young children, no doubt you’ll spend a bit of time at ABC Kids World and Wiggles World where there are some great kiddy shows. There is also a great Madagascar show for the kids in the DreamWorks Experience zone.
For those that love the thrill-seeking ride – you’re in for a real treat! There are some amazing adrenaline-pumping rides at Dreamworld. Some of the best include the Tower of Terror (my absolute favorite!), the Giant Drop and the Buzz Saw.
I’d also recommend you leave time to explore the Corroboree zone where you can have some close encounters with a range of native animal wildlife as well as learn about Australian indigenous culture.
Dreamworld is located around a 25-minute drive from the heart of Surfers Paradise and is best reached by car. However, if you don’t have a car, there are a range of buses which provide private transfers and it is also possible to take public transport too.
By Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels
Be the first people in Australia to watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Warning or take a day hike to the summit.
Paulette Reid, a Gold Coast local and passionate traveler, recommends Mount Warning as a must-do day trip.
Mount Warning is a very distinctive mountain that can be seen for miles around the New South Wales and Queensland borders. It is about an hours drive from the Gold Coast and is a popular spot for watching the sunrise. It is about a two to three hour walk to the summit for people with a reasonable level of fitness. The super fit say it can be done in an hour!
If viewing the sunrise from the summit is your goal, you need to be well prepared with your departure timing, head torches, food and drink, and suitable layers of clothing
Mount Warning is also a great day hike. Take the road through Tumbulgum (great for a stroll around and a coffee stop) out past Murwillumbah through Uki and stroll around the village there too if you have time. At 64 Mount Warning Road in Uki is the popular Mavis’s Kitchen. This is a restaurant set up in an old Queenslander. Have a seat on the veranda or the garden and enjoy organically grown food, much of which is sourced from their own garden.
Keep an eye out for the Mount Warning signs. About ten minutes past Uki you will turn right at the turn off to Mount Warning and clatter your way across the old bridge. A further five minutes will bring you to the car park. There is a toilet block here.
The first part of the hike involves about 100 gruelling steps. The trail is like a switchback and is a shady hike through the World Heritage listed rainforest. There is a viewing platform half way up. Take it at your own pace. The final part of the hike is by chain on a rock face!
The magnificent views from the summit are well worth the walk. They stretch out to Byron Bay and right down the coast. Take it easy on the hike back down the mountain. It’s hard on the knees and some say hiking poles are a good aid, especially coming back down. The best time to do the hike is probably during the Gold Coast winter- May to September- when the weather is cooler and the skies clearer without the summer heat haze. Allow five to six hours for the return trip.
It’s definitely a must do day trip from the Gold Coast.
Check out Paulette’s review about the amazing Antarctica
SOUTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
An island full of interesting trails, local wildlife, great beaches and a popular café and bar with the boaties and locals called Tipplers.
Amy and her husband are world cruisers and travel bloggers. They set sail from France in 2014 and have been sailing and traveling ever since. One of the highlights of their time in Australia was at Stradbroke Island.
South Stradbroke Island is just a short boat trip away from Gold Coast and Brisbane. This 1800-hectare park is full of trails and local wildlife, plus scenic beach views. Getting there is easy if you have access to a boat, otherwise, take the ferry or water taxi. The ferry is available out of Mariner’s Cove at Main Beach and takes less than an hour, with a cost of $38 AUD.
An island full of interesting trails, local wildlife, great beaches and a popular café and bar with the boaties and locals called Tipplers
Couran Cove is the base for the ferry, and also provides a cafe. Once you are there, take a hike on one of the many bushwalking trails, and enjoy one of the area’s most serene and beautiful beaches. For lunch, Tippler’s, just a 35-minute walk away from Couran Cove Resort, is a fun, casual favorite for the boating crowd.
Wallabies and kangaroos are commonly sighted on the island, and during the right season, whales can be viewed along the coast. Though harder to spot, koalas and echidnas also live on South Stradbroke Island.
If you are looking to stay longer, the resort has high-end rooms available for an overnight stay, or you can camp at one of the few campsites around the island.
Check out Amy’s website to read about their circumnavigation of the world.
THE TWEED COAST
Kilometres of unspoilt coastline, pristine beaches, quiet estuaries, and charming seaside villages.
Kathy Marris is a travel and lifestyle blogger, an ex Gold Coast local and now resides just over the border with New South Wales in KIngscliff. She recommends the Tweed Coast for an interesting day out.
The Tweed Coast is a comfortable day drive from the Gold Coast just across the New South Wales/Queensland border in Australia. Here you will discover 37 kilometers of unspoiled coastline, pristine beaches, quiet estuaries, and charming seaside villages. I like it so much that I recently relocated here earlier this year!
Take the Tweed Coast Road exit off the Pacific Highway south of Tweed Heads and take your time stopping by at each and every village along the long stretch of coastline. Make sure you take advantage of the fruit and vegetable farm gate stalls along the drive.
First stop has to be my own little patch of paradise at Kingscliff. This seaside village has actually multiplied during the past few years with the addition of Salt Village and Casuarina Beach to the south. However Kingscliff still retains its charm with a compact little town centre, two caravan parks, plenty of restaurants and cafes, a great pub and pristine beaches and a creek that you can almost have to yourself during the off peak season.
Hastings Point is the next little village that boasts another estuarine creek that is ideal for paddling a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard or throwing a line in. It’s very popular with young families due to the safe calm waters in the creek.
Further on you will come to Pottsville, one of the larger villages, with great amenities. The caravan park takes pride of place being located on Mooball Creek and Pottsville Beach, giving holidaymakers the best of both worlds.
At the end of the Tweed Coast Road is a relatively unknown village called Wooyung. If you’re looking for a quiet holiday then this would be the perfect spot to camp. It’s renowned for great surfing and fishing.
Only a hop, step and a jump is the village of Cabarita Beach, another wonderful little holiday spot. The highlight here is the headland that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, where there are protected beaches- perfect for surfing or swimming, and whale watching during the season – June to October.paragraph.
Check out Kathy’s website and more information about the Tweed Coast Drive
NATURAL BRIDGE, SPRINGBROOK NATIONAL PARK
Wild rainforest and a waterfall plunging into a cave. At night- glow worms and bats!
Eloise Is the travel blogger of ‘My Favourite Escapes’ and one of her favourite escapes is ‘Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park’ for a total contrast to the Gold Coast scene
The most popular short walk in Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge, is only 45 minutes away from the Gold Coast. It’s a total change of scenery. You leave the beach, the surfers and skyscrapers behind to explore a wild rainforest. It’s remote so you’ll need your own vehicle to drive there or join a tour.
The path to reach the photogenic waterfall has been made as easy as possible. There are still some steps and small climbs, so it usually takes around 40 minutes to complete the 1.5-kilometer circuit.
Although the main reason to visit is to watch the waterfall plunge in the cave, the rest of the walk is pleasant. You’ll want to stop even if you aren’t tired. It’s also a special place to visit at night as Springbrook Natural Bridge cave is home to a colony of glow worms and small bats.
Check out Eloise’s other favourite escapes
A park full of iconic Australian animals and birds and much more!
Sue Williams is another local Gold Coaster travel enthusiast, who has recently had family visiting from the UK, so became an expert on day trips from the coast. She is a great enthusiast for Currumbin Sanctuary.
This is a great family day out with a park full of iconic Australian animals and birds, as well as lots of other animals. I love going with or without family. It is situated at the Southern end of the Gold Coast just off the Gold Coast Highway in Currumbin and is easy to access by the public buses. You might even see the Currumbin Sanctuary from the air just as you are coming to land, as you fly into the Gold Coast.
Compared to other theme parks on the coast, it is reasonably priced, with a standard adult price of $49.95, but if you look online you may find a bargain, especially outside of school holidays. There are family tickets too, which offer a good saving. Prices for this ticket will differ depending on the time of the year.
There is a schedule of feeding times starting with feeding the lorikeets at 8.00 am. They fly in on mass to be fed milk protein and honey and sit on your head and arms and it is a wonderfully colourful and very noisy display. This is a very popular free event and takes place in the morning and again in the afternoon.
There are two bird shows and these are not to be missed, as they have trained so many varieties of birds from birds of prey to pelicans and even a chicken. They are very informative and great fun.
A new addition is the Lost Valley rainforest precinct with exotic new arrivals. It shows you how millions of years ago there was a supercontinent of Gondwana and how it split over time. It leads you on a voyage showing different species from the various continents before the split,
There are many other things to do throughout the rest of the park. You can have your photo taken with a Koala or a snake, feed the Kangaroos and visit the wallabies. You can also watch a crocodile being fed, alongside alligators, birds, dingos, reptiles.
At the end of the day, there is an Aboriginal Dance Show. There is also an open train which gives a pleasant and picturesque ride around the park.
It is really somewhere to go at all times of the year but be aware that it will be very busy in the school holidays.
Check out Sue‘s review of Washington DC
Scenic rim trail
If you are ready to ditch the city for a weekend and get your legs moving, the Scenic Rim region is the perfect destination for a Gold Coast day trip. Located just an hour south of Brisbane, Scenic Rim is known for great hiking, great produce and is one of the best regions for outdoor lovers on the East Coast of Australia. The rugged landscape incorporates the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest and mountains like the Great Dividing Range, the Border Range, and Tamborine Mountains.
Most people come to explore the region on foot via the Scenic Rim Trail. It is Queensland’s only Great Walk of Australia and covers about 50 kilometers in length. However, most locals opt to explore short sections of the trail on a Gold Coast day trip. While avid hikers set out on their 5-day trek carrying all of their equipment and provisions with them.
All that walking is sure to work up an appetite so cap your Scenic Rim day trip off with a visit to one of the region’s locally owned breweries, wineries, or restaurants. Most of which have a strong focus on seasonal, local products.
If you are planning your day trip between June and July don’t miss Scenic Rim’s Eat Local Week. This 10-day festival has everything from local artisan goods, to cooking classes, and kids activities. Foodies and sustainable travelers alike will love this popup festival.
Contributed by sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.
Beautiful beaches and chilled atmosphere!
Lexi Forrest is a travel blogger whose specialty is helping people plan their trips to Australia and her choice is Byron Bay for a great day trip from the Gold Coast. Such a wide range of things to do and places to go!
Byron Bay is a great place to visit on a day trip from the Gold Coast because of the beautiful beaches and chilled atmosphere. Some cool things to do while in Byron Bay include visiting the Byron Bay lighthouse on the eastern most part of the Australian mainland with it’s really stunning views, explore the nine outstanding surf beaches and go surfing, and shop at the local markets. You find an abundance of vegan and organic restaurants, with a focus on quality food.
As well as amazing surf and scenic walks you could visit the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary and wander along the boardwalk through the wetland, or take a look around the Tea Tree Lakes with their black looking water.
Tip! Byron Bay is particularly popular among surfers and people who enjoy a laidback lifestyle. If you’re interested in learning to surf while in Byron try to book lessons with one of the surf shops a couple of days before you arrive.
Best time to visit Byron Bay: Byron Bay is beautiful to visit at any time of the year.
How to get there: Getting to Byron Bay from the Gold Coast is relatively easy. You can catch a shuttle, such as Byron Bay Express for $55 return or you can drive which will take roughly an hour and a half. Alternatively, you could search for an organised day tour.
Check out more about a visit to Australia on Lexi’s website.
A scenic town on the north coast of NSW, Yamba is fast becoming the new Byron Bay. With incredible beaches and a laid-back vibe, it will remind you of the Gold Coast before it became so busy.
If you’re a keen surfer, Angourie, which is a national surfing reserve just to the south of Yamba is the spot for you for world-famous surf breaks and pristine beaches. With one of the best right-hand point breaks in the country, surfers will find it hard to resist taking a day trip to Angourie Point.
But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy a day trip. Other things to do in Yamba include hiking in the national park, kayaking, swimming and fishing.
You can fish from the beaches, in the estuaries or standing on the rocks. A great way to experience the Yamba fishing lifestyle is to hire a boat of a fishing kayak. Don’t miss walking along the breakwall and exploring the Yamba lighthouse.
A great time of year to visit Yamba is during whale watching season when you can watch the humpback whales swim past on their way back down to Antarctica. Another relaxing activity in Yamba is to go on a Clarence River cruise.
Yamba is less than a three-hour drive from the Gold Coast, so start early in the morning to make the most out of your day trip.
By Christina from Travel2next.com
Brisbane “the River City” on the banks of the Brisbane River is vibrant, beautiful, and surprising. A day trip to Brisbane from the Gold Coast is sure to leave you satisfied and wanting to return as this city has more things to do and places to go than you can do in one day.
On your day trip to Brisbane, take advantage of a sunny day by visiting any of the city’s parklands and gardens. Swim at South Bank Parklands manmade Street Beach, stroll through the City Botanical Gardens exploring the variety of gardens or visit the Roma Street Parklands for a picnic lunch.
If art, culture, science, and history interest you, check out the South Bank cultural precinct- home of the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, Art Gallery and Modern Art Gallery, Performing Art Centre and State Library. Another option is to join a free walking tour of the city’s historic sites and points of interest; one of many free things to do in Brisbane.
Get back to nature by taking a walk along the river bank to the cliffs of Kangaroo Point, where you can challenge yourself to climb the 107 steps up the cliffside. Alternatively, take the 20-minute trip out of the city center to Mount Coot-Tha where you can walk bush trails. Kangaroo Point cliffs and Mount Coot-Tha also have lookouts with views of the city.
The Brisbane Eye and the Old Town Hall Clock Tower offer uninterrupted panoramic views. For river views take a trip on the free City Hopper ferry.
Brisbane loves events and festivals. Our favorites are the Brisbane Festival and the Enchanted Garden. The Brisbane Festival is an art and cultural festival and the highlight is the festival’s finale – “River Fire”- a spectacular fireworks display. The Enchanted Garden is an extravagant Christmas light display in the Roma Street Parklands that is nothing less than magical.
Brisbane also caters for those of you who love to shop and dine out. Shop at the open-air Queen Street Mall. Eat and drink on the river bank at Eagle Street Pier.
Whatever you do, Brisbane is only one hour from the Gold Coast and the perfect destination for a day trip.
By Emma Kelly from Our Wayfaring Life
CURRUMBIN ROCK POOLS
Caitlin Boylan is the person behind the travel blog -‘The Country Jumper.’ If you’re feeling a bit hot and want a cool dip away from the surf she says to head to the Currumbin rock pools
The Currumbin Rock Pools are a not-so-secret freshwater swimming spot just a 20 minutes’ drive from the glimmering sea of the Gold Coast.
The drive takes you through Currumbin Valley and is worth doing in and of itself. You’re headed inland, into the mountains, and the water in Currumbin cools off accordingly. So be prepared for a refreshingly cool dip. There are plenty of rocks to jump from, and the water is deep enough in spots for that to be a safe thing to do. There are also shallower pools to paddle about and chill out in.
There’s parking along the road which is free but can fill up. There is no entrance to the pools so it’s a great free day, or half-day, out. The rock pools are a super pool spot for families, so they are quite busy during the summer holidays and weekends. If you’re looking to avoid big crowds go when the kids are in school.
Check out Caitlin’s Travel Blog- ‘The CountryJumper’
The Bangalow Market, considered one of the biggest & best markets in Australia, has taken place on the 4th Sunday of every month for over 30 years.
Let me tell you all about our experience of the big day out from the Gold Coast to go to the Bangalow Market
We had heard all about the famous Bangalow Market that takes place in the rural historic village of Bangalow, on the fourth Sunday of every month with over 300 very interesting and diverse stalls, live entertainment, and great food in very picturesque grounds with huge camphor laurel and fig trees. It sounded great, so off we went along the Highway to the Byron Bay turn off, then up the main street and looked for the market. And we looked and looked!
It’s only a 45-minute drive from the Gold Coast and the date was 31st March so, without doing the math, we assumed that it was the 4th Sunday of the month! WRONG! 31st March is the 5th Sunday of the month. No market! We bumped into another couple wandering around lost who had made the same mistake that we had.
Never mind! It is a quaint historic little town with lots of good cafes and we had a great Sunday lunch! There was a huge second-hand clothing market in a big hall and we had a quick look around, but there were so many clothes it was actually a bit overwhelming.
We took the Byron Bay route back to the Gold Coast and had a wander along the beach. Not quite the day we had planned but very pleasant nonetheless. We’ll have to wait now to hear from you, about your day trip to the Bangalow Market!
NOOSA- Sunshine Coast
If you are willing to go a bit further, Noosa can be a great day trip from the Gold Coast.
Noosa is located about two and a half hours away from the Gold Coast, up north.
There are many things you can do in Noosa, especially if you like walking and water activities.
First, you can head to Hastings Street. You will find many shops and cafes there, perfect to get breakfast. If you wish to book a surfing class, that would be the best place to do so. You can then walk towards the beach and enjoy the sunshine there.
In the afternoon, you can visit Noosa National Park. There are a few walking trails in the park but the best one is the coastal path. It will take you from Noosa Heads to the Fairy pools. It is truly one of the most beautiful places in Australia! The walk is 7km long (return) and you will need a couple of hours to complete it.
If you are a foodie and shopper, you will love Noosa. There are always a few markets on! On Sundays, Noosa Farmer Market is open. It’s a great place to grab food for a picnic! Another good option is going to Eumundi Market (on Saturdays). This one is a bit different as it’s more about local products and clothes but it’s very good fun. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the biggest markets on the coast!
Noosa is an amazing place to go if you are looking for a peaceful atmosphere and beautiful landscapes! Although it will take a bit longer to get there from the Gold Coast, it’s well worth a visit.
By Pauline from BeeLoved City
TAMBOURINE NATIONAL PARK
Tamborine National Park is a beautiful area located only a 45-minute drive from the Gold Coast and a must-visit on any Australia East Coast road trip.
The park is situated on Tamborine Mountain, a 550-meters high plateau. The higher altitude means temperatures are slightly cooler than the surrounding area so it can be a great place to escape the summer heat. Also, being elevated above its surroundings, there are stunning views to be enjoyed all throughout the park.
The park is actually made up of 14 sections, each with their own activities and adventures. The most popular parts of the park are the Witches Falls, Cedar Creek, The Knoll, MacDonald Park, and Palm Grove.
At the Witches Falls, there is a lovely 3-kilometer hiking trail through the forest called the Witches Falls Circuit. Along the way, you can see all sorts of tropical plants, huge trees and hear many birds singing their songs. The waterfalls are gorgeous, though it depends on the season how much water is flowing down.
My favorite part of the park was Cedar Creek, where a beautiful cascading waterfall empties into a natural swimming pool. It’s a great spot to spend a couple of hours! Please note this is a popular place to swim and parking is limited. I’d avoid visiting during the weekend when it can get really crowded.
Another highlight of the park is the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. This 1.5 km walk through the treetops is a great family activity, kids will love walking through the canopy and parents will enjoy the views.
By Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
THANKS AGAIN TO ALL OUR CONTRIBUTORS WHO HAVE GENEROUSLY SHARED THEIR EXPERIENCES AND TRAVEL TIPS WITH US!
And while you’re in the area why not check out a great weekend escape just down the road at –