You’d be forgiven for thinking the Gold Coast is one endless stretch of golden paradise.
You might know of Surfers Paradise or the famous thrill-seeking theme parks, heard about the amazing beaches and great holiday spots. But trust me, take it from a local, there is so much more to our endless beaches, blue-water estuaries, green headlands and forest hinterlands than what you think you know.
As a travel photographer I spend most of my time abroad, working for different tourism bodies around the world. And even though I am an avid mountain lover, I’m a true water-baby at heart – I couldn’t live my life without the ocean on the Gold Coast.
I feel so lucky that in between my travels, I get to return to this idyllic place I get to call home to reset and restore.
You see, on the Gold Coast the skies are blue year round and the ocean sparkles a mesmerizing shade of blue. An abundance of nature and wildlife can be found with the hinterland only a stone through away from our beaches and filled with the most incredible ancient forests and dramatic waterfalls to explore. Warm days and good waves are what the Gold Coast is famous for creating that feeling of a seemingly “endless summer.”
If you’re visiting or just passing through, here are some of my favorite places that’ll make your heart sing too. Enjoy!
Rainbow bay and Greenmount & Snapper Rocks Beach
The Southernmost beaches of Queensland are some of my personal faves.
Rainbow Bay is a protected cove nestled between two rocky outcrops. A famous surf break meets a relaxed, very casual local vibe and popular walking track with world-class views along the beachfront from Kirra to Snapper Rocks. When the tide is right there are natural pools to swim, dive and float in – relaxing while you watch the surfers and dolphins pass by.
These are the perfect locations to watch the sun set and look back on the endless stretch of golden beaches.
This is where the magic happens.
Parking at the base of Burleigh Hill car park, you will find people at any time of day mesmerized but the rolling waves. An abundance of surfers, fitness enthusiasts and picnic goers it is a perfect place to escape the “city”, where it meets the sea.
With views from North Stradbroke Island to South of Coolangatta from the headland, this national park is a beautiful way to immerse yourself in nature.
My favorite way to start the day is to walk through the headland along side the lizards and bush turkeys, stopping at Tumgun Lookout for a world-class view of the Gold Coast’s beaches.
A perfect setting for a family day of fun and it’s a popular spot in Queensland for good reason.
On the other side of Burleigh Hill, enter through the national park and meander for 5-10 minutes until you come out through the bush and find yourself on a small but incredible beach.
There are no waves here, which makes it perfect a day of relaxing, floating in the ocean parade or learning to SUP and with the dolphins – if you’re lucky.
As the sun goes down the view of Surfers Paradise seemingly floats in the distance on the golden water.
A famous place to learn how to surf with the constant right break, or to pull up and watch the last light linger in the sky as it sets over the distant hinterland.
This is a popular place for photographers like me or just for those who walking around the base of Currumbin rock as it rises from the sea.
Who doesn’t love a good old dog beach, with a jetty you can walk along at night and the one of the best spots to learn how to dive on the Gold Coast.
Popular with scuba divers, free divers, fisherman and surfers paddling out to stradie, it’s not hard to see why the Spit is bustling with locals, including the occasional turtle.
From here you can access Wavebreak, South Stradbroke Island, or hire a houseboat and cruise up the river.
Hard to choose just one here, a place I escape too often and thoroughly enjoy taking visitors too as I watch their face light up from the beauty of the Gold Coast’ Hinterland.
Just a 45 minute drive from the beach ,you can be completely immersed in nature, and it feels like you’re in a different country.
Referring to the lush land behind the mountains on the Gold Coast, the Hinterland is an extraordinary place and still a relatively unexplored part of Australia, especially by international travelers.
Springbrook National Park
A highlight and easily accessed place to visit is The Natural Bridge, with glowworms at night and a stunning flowing waterfall – it is one of my most loved places to breathe and enjoy the sounds and comfort nature.
Local tip: When you head down from the car park instead of turning left at the impressive Stranger Fig trees, go right and head over the bridge. You will view the waterfall from the top and descend into the cave to appreciate the beauty below once inside the natural bridge.
As you leave continue along the loop track and on the way up to the right there is a natural “swing.” – for your curious side, give it a go – I can guarantee it will bring a smile to your face.
*Please when entering the cave keep your noise levels down, don’t take flash photos and definitely do not cross over the fence – it is home to glow worms and their environment is fragile. Definitely worth visiting at night it’s a magical world when your eyes adjust.
Nearby there are lookouts offering views of the rolling mountains that carry on in the distance as far as you can see. The hues or purple and blue on dusk here are magnificent for me this is a place I go to when I want to be alone, reminded how small I am.
Here, I feel humbled.
Lamington National Park
Paradise for rainforest bushwalking and sanctuary for bird and animal lovers.
One the Gold Coast’s best-kept secrets are along one the scenic trail of the Box Forest Circuit in Lamington National Park. Elabana Falls is a popular place to cool off by the pools at the base of the waterfall as you eat your packed picnic lunch, surrounded by some of the oldest known trees on the Australian mainland (approximately 1500 years old).
For keen walkers keep going along the trail to find Box Log falls and Darragumai Falls – they are both worth a visit if you have the time (bring plenty of water).
Moran Falls is another personal fave of mine; meandering through the subtropical rainforest you will find yourself on top of the falls staring out to the distant rolling hills of the hinterland. A place to disconnect from a noisy and connected world, and the best place to watch the sun go down in the whole hinterland.
Tamborine Mountain is part of ancient volcanic rim and full of quirky cafes, cottages, great food and local markets. As a teenager I spent a lot of time on “Tambo” at Cedar Creek Falls – a refreshing and charming swim hole.
Here is the ideal spot to let the day float by.
Hang gliders is a fave “lookout” of them all while the Bearded Dragon is perfect on a Sunday afternoon for live entertain and a good vibe.
Some of the best memories I have made as an adult have been at the Currumbin Rockpools with good company.
As you drive out don’t forget to leave your worries behind and pack a picnic lunch for a day of dipping in the refreshing, fresh rockpools.
I hope this has inspired you to get outside, explore more of what this charming destination has in store.
There is so much see and experience on The Gold Coast, a place of such incredibly rich, diverse scenery, amazing and endless natural attractions, refreshing waterholes, rolling hills, sparkling oceans and rejuvenating rainforests.
Every turn there is something unique, for me there really is no place like home – a place with it all. Come and see for yourself, I hope you fall in love with it the way I have.
Have you been to the Gold Coast? Is it on your radar? Have any local spots to share? Spill!