The Gold Coast is the biggest tourism hub of Queensland with over 10 million visitors each year. Unfortunately, like other high tourist areas, a trip to the Gold Coast will likely cost you a pretty penny. While it may cost you a bit to get and stay there, the good news is that there are many cheap things to do on the Gold Coast that will help reduce the cost of your holiday to this wonderful place.
Expect to find natural bushland to explore, waterfalls, endless beaches for swimming, and a great selection of activities. Read on to learn about all the great things to do on the Gold Coast that will help you have a holiday on a budget.
About the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has a population of over 500,000 people and is home to the biggest theme parks in Australia and world-renowned surfing beaches. It’s only a short day trip from the capital, Brisbane, in the South-Eastern corner of Queensland. The beach stretches over 50 kilometers and is lined with Skyscrapers from Main Beach to Coolangatta on the New South Wales Border.
With tourism booming in the 1980s, the Gold Coast eventually became the sixth-largest, non-capital city in the whole of Australia. People were flocking to the suburb of Surfers Paradise, which is known for being one of the best beaches in the world. Today, the entire area has been built up with accommodations, eateries, and activities to entertain any kind of traveler.
The Gold Coast has a subtropical climate with average warm winters and scorching hot summers. Consequently, the seasons are reversed to the northern hemisphere, with summertime from December to February and winter from June to August.
Transport Around the Gold Coast
Exploring the things to do on the Gold Coast is convenient with the public transport system. However, having your own vehicle or hiring a car will make it easier and open up more options. The Hinterland or National Parks have limited public transport, and purchasing day trips from the city might be your only option. In and around the city you’ll have access to buses, trains, trams, Uber, and taxis to help you get around to all the popular locations.
Things to Do on the Gold Coast
Saving your pennies for another day will be easy when looking for cheap things to do on the Gold Coast. Check out the selection below and start planning your trip today.
Find Waterfalls and Glow Worms
Venture inland to the Springbrook National Park and visit a beautiful waterfall called the Natural Bridge. The area covers 6,000 hectares of natural bushland and more importantly, is a UNESCO site. This particular walking trail is an easy one-kilometer track and is well-formed with only a few stairs. The Natural Bridge waterfall can be viewed from above disappearing into a cave, as well as below into the waterhole.
If you’re lucky enough to visit at night, then this is a free way to check out the glow worms in their natural environment. These are small flies or beetles at their juvenile stage of life, transitioning into adulthood. At this stage, the beetle’s bottoms will glow a small blue light to attract other bugs to their sticky web-like strings. This is an amazing experience to capture for free and is available from December to March each year.
Swim at Surfers Paradise Beach
Enjoy over two kilometers of clean, golden sands with the surf constantly rolling in. This beach is known worldwide and is a bucket list item for any holidaymaker on the Gold Coast. This is tourist central, and you will find people visiting or passing through 24 hours a day. It’s a popular spot for watching the sunrise over the ocean, or the sunsets behind the high-rise buildings. Lifeguards patrol in different places along the beaches, so you can feel safer when swimming between the flagged areas.
Surfing at Currumbin Beach
If you’re into surfing or want to learn to surf, then the Gold Coast is a great place to do it. There are several different locations where you can give it a go, but you will find the locals hanging around at Currumbin Beach. Here you’ll find a rocky point, easy access into the surf-prone waters, and a beautiful view down the coastline. Need help learning, then the Surf Easy Surf School is right there to help you try it out for the first time. Not only that, but the low-key waters from Currumbin Creek join here and provide a brilliant spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming for the younger generation. Finally, if you travel further along Currumbin Creek, you will end up at some rock pools and a small waterfall for swimming.
Get the Best Views at the Q1 Observation Deck
Get the best views on the Gold Coast at the eleventh tallest building in the world – the Q1 Observation Deck. You won’t want to miss this one with 360-degree views standing 230 meters above the ground. There is a charge of $27 per adult for this activity, but discounts or concessions are available for families and children. There is no time limit on entry, and you can use binoculars to look over the different areas on the Gold Coast skyline. There is even a café for that quick coffee break. You can also enjoy a meal right next to the glass windows or splurge on some cocktails at sunset. For those adrenaline junkies and an extra charge, you have the Skypoint Climb, which has you stepping outside and walking around the top of the building.
Rainbow Lorikeet Feeding at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Rainbow Lorikeet is native to Australia and part of the parrot species. They like living in rainforest areas, coastal bush, and woodlands and are common in the Gold Coast suburb of Currumbin. At 8 am and 4 pm daily, you can enjoy watching the Rainbow Lorikeets gather for a feeding frenzy that is free to watch or a gold coin donation to feed.
This activity is run by the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which contains worldwide animals, interactive open cages, and local Australian animals to see seven days a week. There is a charge to enter the park, but well worth it to set aside a day for the whole family to enjoy.
Paddle Boarding at Tallebudgera Creek
Expect to see one of the Gold Coast’s most pristine creeks for swimming or paddleboarding fun. The Tallebudgera Creek is very popular for the locals and the tourists who manage to find out about it. Pack a lunch, park yourself under a tree and enjoy a few hours here with your family or friends. There is plenty of seating, barbeque areas, beautiful white sand to enjoy, and the area is dog friendly. It’s got some amazing calm waters that are perfect for paddleboarding or swimming for the kids. The main strip is also patrolled with lifeguards, which are on duty from 9 to 5 each day.
Catch a Local Event
There are things to do on the Gold Coast year-round, so if you’re planning a trip you need to check out the Gold Coast calendar to see what events are happening during your visit. The events include things for couples, families, sports enthusiasts, and plenty of activities for the kids. One event you might want to see is the Sand Safari Festival, held around March each year. The esplanade of Surfers Paradise is transformed into various art depictions made completely out of beach sand. Artists will spend hours creating their masterpiece, which is held on display for a week and judged at the end. The detail and work that goes into one of these sculptures is amazing and you can take photos with many of them. Make sure you check it out!
Pick up a Bargain at any of the Gold Coast Markets
Are you looking for some cheap shopping, trying different food vendors, or picking up some local souvenirs? There are several different Gold Coast markets to visit depending on your location. The Carrara markets are the biggest and most popular and are open all day Saturday and Sunday. The Surfers Paradise beachside markets are held only at night on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Lastly, the Burleigh markets are open on Saturday mornings with lots of local fruit and vegetables and a variety of food stalls. There are a few other markets open on the Gold Coast as well. Spend a few hours browsing the items for sales, grab a coffee or some of the freshly cooked food.
Whale Watching from the Headlands
From May to November migrating humpback whales pass by the Gold Coast Area. While you can take a day tour and see these magnificent animals up close, you could also try your luck and see them for free from lookout points. There are various high locations and headlands around the Gold Coast that allow you to watch the waters for whales. Some of the best include Point Danger at Coolangatta, Kirra Hill at Kirra, Tumgun Lookout/Burleigh point at Burleigh Heads, and Miami Hill at Miami. Pack snacks and a blanket to sit on, and take your binoculars or a good zoom camera to capture the moment. You can see whales any time of day or night, so good luck!
If anything, these are still great lookout points that you can enjoy for free, so make the most of your day and take advantage of the views.
Hiking the National Parks
There are about 10 different National Parks located within 2 hours of the Gold Coast and seeing these natural wonders are great cheap activities. Two of the closest and more popular are the Lamington National park and Springbrook National Park. All of the parks have several different walking paths and hiking trails available to explore the hinterland and rainforest. Challenge yourself with the longer hikes or increased elevations like the Warrie Circuit or Toolona Creek Circuit. Alternatively, you have easy or shorter hikes for Purling Brook Falls, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Walk, or the Cougal Cascades. In fact, the O’Reilly’s Rainforest walk will have you exploring the treetops suspended above the ground.
Watch the Sunrise Over the Horizon
With the Gold Coast located on the east side of Australia, the sun will rise every morning over the water. With 50 kilometers of beach to walk along, this also means you can find the perfect spot on your own to watch it. First light happens 30 minutes before sunrise, so plan for an early start and get to the beach before it starts to shine through. This is a peaceful time on the beach and especially romantic for sharing with that special someone. With an early start, you’re sure to find somewhere on the sand by yourself or from the grassed boardwalk areas. Make sure you allocate at least one day to enjoy this blissful, memorable moment of your Gold Coast holiday.
Visit any of the Gold Coast Theme Parks
No visit to the Gold Coast would be complete without a visit to a theme park. Theme parks include Wet n Wild & White-Water World, Movieworld, Sea World, and Dreamworld. While these parks can be expensive for a day, there are a few tricks to bring the cost down. You will find discounts for a 3-day visit or choose passes that include a few parks. Consequently, SeaWorld, Wet N Wild, and Movieworld are all owned by the same company, and passes will allow you to visit all three. Dreamworld and White-Water World are the alternative pass and located conveniently next to each other so you could possibly visit on the same day.
Enjoy the extreme rollercoaster, rides, see the different animals, or pay extra for up-close interactions. Or get the swimmers on for some thrills on several fantastic waterslides. What more could you want in a day’s amusement, and if you’re taking the kids, they are never going to want to leave!
A trip to the touristy Gold Coast of Australia can set you back substantially, but the good news is that there are also many free or cheap activities to help keep your overall costs down.
Check out some, or all, of these cheap things to do on the Gold Coast of Australia and allocate your travel budget toward getting and staying there.