Gold Coast is a beautiful coastal city in the southeastern corner of Queensland. It is only a 1-hour drive south of its capital city, Brisbane. With its long stretch of soft sandy beaches and world-class hospitality, Gold Coast has been a premier holiday destination for Australians and international visitors for decades.
In addition to the beautiful sun and beaches, Gold Coast offers incredible national parks, fascinating theme parks, buzzing shopping strips, quirky cafes, and vibrant nightlife. Gold Coast is also home to the annual schoolies festival, usually around the latter half of November and the early half of December.
To get a taste of the laid-back lifestyle and stunning landscape of the Gold Coast, you will need at least two days to visit the Gold Coast. Two days on the Gold Coast will allow you to explore and relax at Gold Coast’s iconic beaches and still have time to check out its incredible national parks. You can even check out its various theme parks if interested.
With a vast number of attractions and activities on the Gold Coast, it can be hard to decide what to do & where to go, when visiting the Gold Coast for the first time. To help plan your trip, I have put together this detailed 2-Day Itinerary for visiting the Gold Coast. I hope it’s helpful to you.
Day 1: Surfers Paradise & The Spit
Surfers Paradise is the most well-known neighbourhood on the Gold Coast. It is famous for its expansive surfing beaches, laid-back al fresco dining, vibrant shopping arcades, lively nightlife, and those shining skyscrapers along the beachfront.
As the heart of the Gold Coast and home to many iconic Gold Coast landmarks, Surfers Paradise is undoubtedly the best place to start your Gold Coast visit.
Surfers Paradise Beach
Surfers Paradise Beach is a long stretch of soft sandy beach centrally located in the heart of Gold Coast. Multiple patrolled sections can be found along Surfers Paradise Beach, making it an ideal spot for swimming and surfing.
A well-maintained walkway is built along the beachfront of Surfers Paradise Beach for visitors to admire the stunning Gold Coast coastline while taking a relaxing stroll. As the most visited beach on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise Beach is also equipped with various resting benches, restrooms, and shower facilities. A range of cafes, restaurants, and shops can be found along its beachfront and nearby boulevard.
Surfers Paradise Beach is also home to the buzzing Surfers Paradise Beachfront Market, held from 4 pm to 9 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. It is conveniently located near the Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club. With over 100 stalls and a vibrant vibe, the Surfers Paradise Market makes an excellent spot to grab a bite and find a unique gift to bring home.
For those who love water sports, various water activities can be found along the beautiful Surfers Paradise Beach.
As one of Australia’s most iconic surf beaches, surfing is a must-do when visiting the Gold Coast. Even if you are new to surfing, you can still hit the waves straight after joining a short Beginner Friendly Surf Lesson at the iconic Surfers Paradise Beach.
At Surfers Paradise Beach, you can also join a thrilling Jet Boat Ride or Jet Ski Tour, feeling like a hero with a Fly Boarding Session, or enjoy a peaceful sunset with an enchanting Sunset Kayak Tour.
Along the side streets of Surfers Paradise Beach, you can find various interesting activities and attractions to make your Gold Coast visit even more memorable. Depending on your preference, some popular spots you may wish to check out at Surfers Paradise include Holoverse Dinosaur World, Riplely’s Believe It or Not Museum, and the Infinity Attraction. These are especially popular among families with kids.
After visiting the beachfront area of Surfers Paradise, you can also enjoy a bit of retail therapy along Surfers Paradise Boulevard. In addition to a plethora of fashion boutiques and gift shops, you can find a diverse range of restaurants and cafes along this beautiful shopping street.
Skypoint Observation Deck
After checking out the famed Surfers Paradise, make sure you check out another Gold Coast landmark, Sky Point Observation Deck.
Located on the 77th floor of Australia’s tallest building, Skypoint Observation Deck provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Gold Coast and its lush green hinterland. Opening until 9 pm daily, you can visit Skypoint Observation Deck in the morning, during the day, around sunset, or at night for a different feel of this gorgeous coastal city.
Entry ticket to Skypoint Observation Deck is AUD 31 per adult at the time of writing. Discounted tickets are available for kids and families.
Dining options are available at the bistro within the Skypoint for visitors to relax with a meal and drink while appreciating an unparalleled coastal view of the Gold Coast.
If you are into an even more thrilling experience, you may also join a SkyPoint Climb to the top of Q1 Tower for an unobstructed view of the Gold Coast from 270 metres above the ground.
Tips: Choose a clear day to visit the Skypoint Observation Deck for the best possible view of the Gold Coast and beyond.
After checking out all the highlights of Surfers Paradise, you will now head north towards The Spit to escape from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise.
Along your drive to The Spit, you will drive by the famous Peters Fish Market & make sure you drop by for an early dinner or late lunch.
Peters Fish Market
Peters Fish Market is a popular indoor seafood market where you can purchase fresh seafood to either cook in-store or at home.
For many visitors, the most sought-after option is to have their choice of seafood cooked in-store before enjoying it with some tasty thick-cut chips and condiments. I suggest getting some fish and chips of your choice & top it up with a few succulent calamari rings. It will not disappoint.
Multiple tables and benches are available right in front of Peters Fish Market to enjoy its freshly cooked seafood. However, there are a lot of birds in the area, which can be challenging for some people.
Free designated customer parking is available at Peters Fish Market. But it can be fairly full during busy hours as the store is quite popular among locals and visitors alike.
Federation Walk Coastal Reserve
Just across the road from Peters Fish Market, you will find the southern end of Federation Walk Coastal Reserve.
Federation Walk Coastal Reserve is a stretch of 70 hectares of vegetation along the 3-kilometre shoreline between Philip Park and The Spit. In addition to being an excellent spot for a leisure coastal stroll, Federation Walk Coastal Reserve is also home to one of the few remaining established dune systems on the Gold Coast.
Ample parking and public toilets are available on either end of the Federation Walk Coastal Reserve. During your walk along the Federation Walk, you can also find multiple beach access tracks to enjoy the water and sand.
Depending on fitness level, a one-way walk between the southern and northern ends of Federation Walk Coastal Reserve should take just under 1 hour at a leisurely pace.
The Spit is located at the northern tip of Gold Coast’s long stretch of golden shoreline. It offers a soft squeaky sandy beach, an impressive breakwater, and picturesque jetty, and a great selection of water activities.
With a short walk to the tip of the breakwater at The Spit, you will find an interesting lighthouse and a magnificent view of the wild Pacific Ocean. From the breakwater, you also can overlook the beautiful coastline and skyscrapers of Gold Coast on the south & the lush green South Stradbroke Island on the north.
At the base of the breakwater, you will find a dog-friendly beach wedged between the breakwater and the jetty. It is an excellent option for people travelling with their beloved pooch.
On the other end of the jetty, you can find a patrolled beach, which is great for swimming and surfing. Being less populated than the beaches around Surfers Paradise, I found The Spit Beach much more enjoyable.
Nightlife in Surfers Paradise
Late-night partying in the Surfers Paradise is another popular activity when visiting the Gold Coast. Even if you are not interested in late-night parties, you should still visit Surfers Paradise after dark to check out what everyone is raving about.
Day 2: Burleigh Heads & Beyond
After spending the first day in Surfers Paradise and The Spit, you will now enjoy the second day of this Gold Coast trip in the more laid-back southern suburbs of the Gold Coast.
Burleigh Heads is a gorgeous beachside area, 20 minutes drive south of Surfers Paradise. Compared to Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads is more laid-back, with fewer high risers and more greeneries. It is a great place to chill out and be close to nature while still having the convenience of being close to Surfers Paradise.
Burleigh Head National Park
Burleigh Head National Park is located on a lush green coastal headland in Burleigh Heads. With tranquil rainforests and breathtaking coastal views, a stroll around Burleigh Head National Park is a great way to start the day.
Multiple hiking options are available at Burleigh Head National Park.
You can follow the Oceanview Track along the clifftop of Burleigh Headland to admire the wild ocean and the awe-inspiring coastline. This track connects the southern and northern entrances of Burleigh Head National Park & is about 1.2 kilometres one way. It will take about 30 minutes for this one-way walk & you can head back via the same track or the rainforest circuit.
The Rainforest Circuit is a peaceful walk through a thriving rainforest. It also passes by the Tumgun Lookout, which provides a striking view of the turquoise Tallebudgera Creek, the pristine Tallebudgera Beach, and the distant Palm Beach. It is one of my favourite lookouts on the Gold Coast!
If you are only checking out the Tumgun Lookout, it only takes about 10 minutes to reach Tumgun Lookout from the northern entrance of Burleigh Head National Park. If you plan on taking the entire Rainforest Circuit, you’ll be looking at spending around 45 minutes on the Rainforest Circuit (depending on your fitness level).
Free short-term parking is available around Burleigh Head National Park, but they can be in high demand on weekends and school holidays. Alternatively, you can find metre parking at nearby beaches.
After your morning hike around Burleigh Head National Park, take a break and recharge at Burleigh Beach before continuing the day.
Wedged between the headlands of Mick Schamburg Park and Burleigh Head National Park, Burleigh Beach is a beautiful dog-friendly beach with a vibrant foreshore area towards its southern end. It is an excellent spot to relax and enjoy lunch with a beachfront view.
BBQ facilities, public toilets, showers, and kids’ playgrounds are available along Burleigh Beach to cater for all needs.
Being a patrolled beach, the calmer water at Burleigh Beach is also perfect for swimming and surfing.
North Burleigh Lookout
Towards the northern end of Burleigh Beach, you will find Mick Schamburg Park, where Gold Coast’s long stretch of sandy beach is broken by a rocky headland. On top of this headland, you can find another breathtaking lookout, North Burleigh Lookout.
From Burleigh Beach end, the hike from the bottom of the headland to North Burleigh Lookout is steep but relatively short. It will take only a few minutes before you reach the lookout.
From North Burleigh Lookout, you can obtain an impressive view of Miami Beach with the imposing Gold Coast skyline on the north & the stunning Burleigh Beach with the lush green Burleigh Head National Park on the south.
Resting benches are available on the lookout, so you can take the time to absorb these incredible views.
After checking out the views at North Burleigh Lookout, make sure you take the colourful Miami Rainbow Stairs on the northern end of this headland to check out Miami Beach.
Tips: Miami Rainbow Stairs is very cute and photogenic. It is worthwhile checking out even if you are not into visiting another beach.
Miami Marketta is a vibrant night market near Miami Beach. It offers a great range of street food with live music from 5 to 10 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
It is one of the best places to spend the evening when visiting the Gold Coast, so make sure you check it out too!
Depending on how you prefer to spend the second day of your Gold Coast visit. You can spend the afternoon relaxing at Burleigh Beach/ Miami Beach or check out one of these additional attractions if you still have a lot of energy to burn.
Additional Attractions to Visit on the Gold Coast
Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens
Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens features a diverse collection of gorgeous gardens and tranquil waterways.
Ample parking is available within the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens. You can also find a small cafe, BBQ facilities, playgrounds, and public toilets, making it an ideal spot to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Part of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens is dog-friendly (leash required), making it an excellent place for people travelling with their beloved pooch.
Cost (at time of writing): Free
Gold Coast is also famous for its theme parks, so why not check out one of the theme parks on the Gold Coast when visiting?
As Australia’s largest theme park, Dreamworld is my top choice for theme parks when visiting the Gold Coast.
Within Dreamworld, you can find thrilling rides, such as Giant Drop, Tower of Terror, The Claw, and Buzz Saw, to keep you entertained for the entire day. You can also find interesting characters from Dreamworld films and interact with various native Australian animals in its wildlife park.
Cost (at time of writing): AUD 119 per adult for a 1-Day ticket when purchased online (or AUD 129 at the gate). Discounted tickets are available for children. 2-Day & 3-Day passes are also available.
Warner Bros Movie World
Warner Bros Movie World is another popular theme park on the Gold Coast. Like Dreamworld, you can find many thrilling rides in Movie World. However, most of these rides are set in different Warners Bros themes, such as Superman. So it is more of a personal preference regarding which of these two theme parks you may wish to visit.
Cost (at time of writing): AUD 119 per adult for a 1-Day Pass when purchased online (or AUD 129 at the gate). Discounted tickets are available for children and pensioners.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
For wildlife lovers, why not check out Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for some unique Australian wildlife, such as kangaroos, koalas, emus, and dingos? You can also hand-feed the kangaroos and cuddle a koala when visiting. Lorikeet feedings are available as well.
Cost (at time of writing): AUD 54.95 per adult & cheaper tickets are available for children.
Coolangatta is a suburb located at the southernmost corner of the Gold Coast.
Compared to the overcrowded beaches around Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta offers various stunning yet uncrowded surfing beaches with lifeguards on duty. They all make great destinations for spending a lazy afternoon.
Whale Watching Cruise
If you are visiting Gold Coast between late May and mid-October, why not join a whale-watching cruise to admire the impressive humpback whales on their annual migration?
A few different companies are running regular whale-watching cruises on the Gold Coast. Their costs are very similar, but you can compare their tour operating dates and times to find one that suits you better. A couple of options you may wish to check out are:
Where to Stay on the Gold Coast
As one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, Gold Coast offers a good selection of holiday accommodations for different needs. Most of these accommodations are clustered around four areas: Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, and Coolangatta.
Surfers Paradise is the party hub of the Gold Coast and where all the actions are. You will want to be based here to fully experience Gold Coast’s nightlife. Centrally located with shops, restaurants, and public transport, Surfers Paradise is also a convenient spot to base yourself, especially when you don’t have a car.
- If Surfers Paradise is where you are after, why not check out Q1 Resort & Spa to stay at the iconic Q1 Tower – Australia’s tallest building?
Broadbeach is only a short drive south of Surfers Paradise. It offers a good range of resort hotels and reasonably priced apartments in a much quieter suburb compared to Surfers Paradise. For convenience, direct tram and bus services are available to connect Broadbeach with the buzzing Surfers Paradise.
- Check out either Peppers Broadbeach Resort or Meriton Suites Broadbeach for a world-class stay in the heart of Broadbeach at a reasonable price.
Burleigh Heads is about a 20-minute drive south of Surfers Paradise. It offers a more laid-back beachside vibe than Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach. That said, you can still easily find good eateries and shops around Burleigh Heads, making it a superb location for a weekend getaway.
- The Beach Shack on the Esplanade at Burleigh Heads has the entire beachfront apartment all to yourself, with convenient access to beaches, parks, shops, and restaurants.
Coolangatta is the southernmost suburb on the Gold Coast. Hence, a lot less crowded than the rest of the Gold Coast. It is an ideal place to stay when you just want to chill and relax. To make it even better, accommodations around Coolangatta are also more reasonably priced than in the previous three areas.
- La Costa Beachside Motel – a boutique motel in Coolangatta – close to the beach, right near Gold Coast Airport, includes free parking, in superb condition, and has a very competitive price point.