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Things to Do in Gold Coast

If your Aussie travel fantasies consist of sun-soaked beaches, bronzed surfers, and sunset cocktails, the Gold Coast should top your to-do list. Queensland’s most famous holiday destination is blessed with more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) of pristine sands, year-round sunshine, and world-class surf. Surfers Paradise is a haven for backpackers and renowned for its nonstop nightlife, while the elegant coastal resorts of Broadbeach, Main Beach, and Miami offer fine dining, romantic canal cruises, and the coast’s biggest shopping mall. Those with kids in tow will find theme parks—including Sea World, WhiteWater World, and Movie World—right on their doorstep, while animal lovers can spy koalas at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Of course, the number-one draw to the Gold Coast is its beaches, and there are endless options for water sports, kayaking, jet skiing, scuba diving, and whale-watching tours, as well as adrenaline-fueled activities such as skydiving or hot-air ballooning. For a change of scenery, Byron Bay, North Stradbroke Island, and the Sunshine Coast are all close enough for a single-day tour. If the sun and surf get to be too much, Brisbane—just an hour away—has shady parks, edgy art museums, and riverfront restaurants. Alternatively, escape the beach altogether to explore the famous Village Markets in Burleigh Heads; or head into the hinterlands, where Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, Burleigh Heads National Park, and Tamborine Mountain offer ample opportunities for guided hikes, cycling excursions, rain-forest walks, and glow-worm tours.
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Tamborine National Park
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Visit Queensland’s first national park on Mount Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland region, to enjoy the natural wonders of eucalypt forests, palm groves, prehistoric volcanic rock outcrops and lush subtropical waterfalls.

Mount Tamborine National Park originated with the protection of the Witches Falls and has since expanded across the Tamborine plateau and surrounding foothills. Popular national park activities include walking the many mapped and marked bush trails, spotting Australian brush-turkeys and listening for the call of the threatened Albert’s lyrebird.

Once you’ve explored the natural wilderness of Mount Tambourine National Park, be sure to indulge in the boutique beers, local wines and specialty crafts from the Tambourine Mountain township, which is known as a luxury getaway destination and hang gliding hotspot.

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Southport
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Slightly north of the internationally popular party destination, Surfers Paradise, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Southport offers coastal relaxation with water and city skyline views.

Queensland’s famous marine theme park, Sea World, is the main attraction of Southport, offering live shows and up-close encounters with seals, dolphins, penguins and polar bears, among other marine life and theme park rides. Parkland spans along the calm sea inlet at Southport, making it a perfect place for families with young children, boating and fishing enthusiasts and those wanting to try some water sports. Take a picnic blanket, indulge in some fish and chips from the parkland foreshore and enjoy the crystal blue water views. Southport’s Australia Fair shopping centre at the heart of the town’s retail and dining hub, and a short stroll from the coastal parklands. An Event Cinema is located in the Australia Fair complex.

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Marina Mirage
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With big-name designers, gourmet restaurants and a dramatic waterfront location, just moments from the dazzling Palazzo Versace hotel, the Marina Mirage is the Gold Coast’s most glamorous shopping complex. Extensively redeveloped in 2008, the luxurious mall is home to more than 80 boutiques, from high street favorites like French Connection and United Colors of Benetton, to designers like Guess, Calvin Klein, Hermes and Tommy Hilfiger.

As well as the clothing, accessories and jewelry boutiques, there’s a range of fine dining options overlooking the waterfront, including award-winning restaurants and cafés like Omeros Bros, Vanitas and the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. That’s not all – there’s also a day spa and beauty salon, a farmer’s market held twice a month and a scenic waterfront promenade from which to view the marina’s glitzy yachts and cruise ships.

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Broadbeach
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Along with Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta, the suburb of Broadbeach is one of the premier destinations on Australia’s Gold Coast. Like the aforementioned spots (Surfers Paradise being the exception), Broadbeach has a relatively small native population of less than 4,000 people. What sets the suburb apart is the system of canal waterways and Lake Intrepid that are linked to the Nerang River. The Venice of the Gold Coast is serviced by water-going vessels, obviously, and regular bus service and taxis; but it also boasts a privately operated monorail system that connects the Oasis Shopping Centre with Conrad Jupiters Casino. It is also a cut above much of the region when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian access.

Beginning in 2002, the Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival has been a major tourist draw for the musically inclined and often features a wide array of locally and internationally recognized performers and groups.

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Springbrook National Park
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Springbrook National Park is the lush, water-trickled remains of a prehistoric volcano. An explosion some 20 million years ago is what made this impressive plateau that looms over the Gold Coast skyline. All that rock is just perfect for hanging a heap of cool temperate rainforest vegetation - strangler figs, trailing vines, palms. It also makes the perfect launching place for countless waterfalls and cascades, and it's this that the park is famous for. Hike to one of the many vantage points for stunner views across to Mount Warning, the most spectacular of the volcano's remnants. Choose Best of All lookout if you'd like to see the stand of ancient Antarctic beech trees on the way up. Other highlights include Natural Bridge, a naturally formed rock bridge and cave with a waterfall flowing through it; Egg Rock; the park's colony of glow worms; and the chance to hear the virtuoso performance of the shy Albert's Lyrebird.
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Best Of All Lookout
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True to its name, Best Of All Lookout has the best view in Springbrook National Park. Here, in this subtropical rainforest an hour from the Gold Coast, visitors will find an Antarctic Beech forest left over from the days of Gondwanaland, which in collection with the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage area for its unique geology and ecology. At Best Of All Lookout, visitors will peer out towards the peak of Mt Warning, which is famously known as Australia’s first place to greet the rising sun. From the viewing platform at Best Of All Lookout, the sandy coastline of Coolangatta can often be seen on clear days, as can the valleys of New South Wales that stretch all the way out towards the coast. Even though the hike to the lookout is short, keep an eye out for local wildlife like wallabies and curious padmelons, and since leeches and ticks are common in the area, be sure to wear long sleeves, pants, and boots to ward off the bush.

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Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
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There are many critters nestling in the rainforest setting of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, but the prettiest - and loudest - are the flocks of rainbow lorikeets that cluster round visitors for twice-daily feeds. If you've never seen these birds before, you're in for a treat - they're a photogenic patchwork of emerald green, sapphire blue and sunset orange. They're not shy, and will perch on your head or arms to eat. The rainbow lorikeets were the ones that started it all - Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was begun by a beekeeper and gardener who started feeding the lorikeets to keep them off his crops - but there are now hundreds of native animals in the sanctuary, including kangaroos, koalas, wombats and crocodiles. You can tour the sanctuary with a guide on Segways, take on the Tarzan ropes and Flying Fox of the Green Challenge, feed and cuddle animals and go behind the scenes to visit nurseries and hospitals.
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Lamington National Park
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One of Queensland, Australia’s absolute gems, Lamington National Park exemplifies what it means to explore Australia’s markedly majestic natural life. Full of waterfalls, hiking tracks, rainforests and expansive plant- animal-life, it is no wonder that Lamington is considered one of this continent’s premiere destinations.

Covering over 20,500 hectares, Lamington has a diverse flora life, housing majestic plants that are not found anywhere else in the world and has tree-roots that have been in existence for more than 5,000 years. You can also find a similarly significant and overwhelming bird-life--it's full of king parrots, cockatoos, pale-headed rosella’s, sooty owls, red-browed treecreepers, just to list a few. Also be on the lookout for exotic reptiles, frogs and mammals.

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More Things to Do in Gold Coast

O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk

O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk

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Rainforests are some of the world’s most fascinating ecosystems, yet humans usually only experience them from the ground. O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk provides a new point of view, allowing visitors to experience the world of the rainforest from inside the canopy.

O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk is a 590-foot (180-meter) walkway through the rainforest of the Gold Coast hinterland that consists of nine suspension bridges and two observation decks. Sitting right next to the incredible landscape of Lamington National Park, O’Reilly’s gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest with its walkway that sits 50 feet (15 meters) off the ground. The highest sections soar an even higher 110 feet above the forest floor. Visitors to the walkway stroll among trees entwined with vines and covered in flowers and fruit. Ferns and orchids cling to the upper reaches of the trees, and the bird life is plentiful.

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SkyPoint Observation Deck

SkyPoint Observation Deck

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You won’t have to sign a lease to experience the incredible 360-degree views from atop one of the world’s tallest residential towers. Visitors to the SkyPoint Observation Deck, a glass-encased wonder located on the 77th and 78th floors of the iconic Q1 building, can look out some 230 feet above sea level at the scenic Surfers Paradise. These epics views are some of the most memorable in the city, but travelers agree, a trip to this architectural destination is not for the faint of heart—or anyone afraid of heights.

A high-speed elevator zips visitors to the top of the SkyPoint Observation Deck, where clear glass walls make for perfect viewing on cloudless days. Whether it’s catching the bright pink sun dipping down to the horizon or witnessing the twinkling city lights flickering on after dark, views from the deck prove picture perfect any time of day.

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Glow Worm Caves Tamborine Mountain

Glow Worm Caves Tamborine Mountain

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Since opening its doors in 2004, the man-made Glow Worm Caves at the Cedar Creek wine estate have fast become one of the best places on the Gold Coast to view glow-worms in their natural habitat. Tucked away in the heart of the Tamborine Mountain, the carefully controlled environment within the caves is designed to mimic the rainforest wet caves favored by glow-worms, and thousands of them can be seen glittering in the darkness.

After following the boardwalk through the rainforest to the cave entrance, visitors can venture underground to explore two caves, including a presentation cave, where an audio-visual display reveals the secrets of the cave’s construction, environmental maintenance and glow-worm population.

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Warner Bros. Movie World

Warner Bros. Movie World

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Hollywood comes to the Gold Coast at Warner Bros. Movie World!

Catch your favorite characters at the Star Parade down Main Street with the Looney Tunes Gang, Scooby-Doo and Shrek. Watch cars collide with the Hollywood Stunt Driver show on a real-life movie set. If you dare, try the thrilling new Batwing Spaceshot ride – the breathtaking drop goes way beyond freefall!

Thrillseekers will also love the Superman Escape, Roadrunner roller-coaster, the huge Wild West Falls adventure and Lethal Weapon: the Ride.

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Coolangatta

Coolangatta

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Situated at the southern end of Australia’s famous Gold Coast, Coolangatta has accommodations and attractions that are affordable for virtually every traveler, from the budget conscious backpackers to high rollers. This prosperous suburb has a shared economy with nearby Tweed Heads, and in some ways, with the rest of the coastal region as well. It repeatedly appears in popular culture worldwide, most recently as the setting for fictitious town in 1994’s Muriel's Wedding.

Until recently, Coolangatta played host to the annual Wintersun Festival, a two-week extravaganza celebrating the 1950s and 1960s with free entertainment and attractions each June. The festival included hot rods, restored and remodeled cars, and throwback, revival bands performing era-appropriate music.

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Sea World Gold Coast

Sea World Gold Coast

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The Gold Coast means theme parks, and one of the most popular is Sea World. The emphasis is on educational animal encounters at Sea World, with the interactive fun of dolphin adventures a particular highlight. Watch polar bears in action, go on a seal safari, see performing dolphins, and meet Bert and Ernie at Sesame Street Beach. Sea World isn't just about wildlife, it's also the home of roller-coaster action on Jet Rescue. Ride the Bermuda Triangle, lose your lunch on the Corkscrew Rollercoaster, splash down on the Viking's Revenge, or take to the high seas on the Pirate Ship.
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WhiteWater World

WhiteWater World

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WhiteWater World, on the Gold Coast, is a water paradise with more than 140 slides, rides and watery activities - the best place on the coast for water activities! Test your nerves on The Wedgie, Australia's first drop and loop coil water slide or hit the biggest tubing funnel around in The Green Room. If you're really brave, hit up Night WhiteWater World when the sun goes down to experience some amazing water slides in the dark!

People of all ages will love hanging out and relaxing in the Cave of Waves or learning to surf at the Surf School. And the little ones can play safely in their own water world at Wiggle Bay specifically for children 5 years and under. And if you get hungry, grab some beachfare like ice cream, hot dogs and fish and chips at any of the cafes located around the park.

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Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Heads

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A prosperous suburb on Australia’s famous Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads boasts a population just shy of 8,000 people, making it a cozy destination for travelers seeking rest and relaxation in the region.

The main commercial center in Burleigh Heads is James Street, a village of sorts that is packed with cafes, delis, hairdressers, retailers, chemists, restaurants and charity stores.

The main attraction for many visitors is the main surf break, a welcome opportunity compared to other quality spots that have become overrun with flocks of tourists and adventure-seekers. The Quicksilver Pro and the Breaka Burleigh Pro are two popular local surfing events.

The area known as “The Point” is a favorite of locals and foreigners alike who seek a pleasant place to have picnics, barbecues, recreational cricket matches and to surf.

A bi-monthly event known as “The Village Markets” promotes local emerging designers and artists.

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Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast

Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast

It's truly wet and awesomely wild at this Gold Coast water theme park! The star attraction is the Kamikaze jet spray water slide, with its sheer drop and over-the-top speeds. The Tornado slide blasts you from a tunnel into a wet and wild storm. Or enter the Blackhole's dark, enclosed tunnels to go spiraling through the heart of darkness until the final splashdown.

For the longest slides, wind your way around Mach 5's five high-energy open-air flumes. To ride waves, get the adrenaline ride of your life aboard Surfrider's giant surfboard. For more sedate watery activities, the water park also has Calypso Beach, a giant wave pool, hot springs, river rapids and fun for little ones at Buccaneer Bay.

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Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

The Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk offers a whole new perspective on the forest - from within and above, as if you were a bird or a sugar glider. You'll walk on a delicate steel structure (vertigo sufferers need not apply - this thing sways!) through 12 hectares (30 acres) of the divine Mount Tamborine Rainforest.

What will you see on the way? The walk, which takes about an hour (you can pace yourself), starts off in the middle and upper canopies and descends, via a cantilever lookout, to rock pools and butterfly hotspots and then the rainforest floor.

There's a snug visitors center (the walk starts off here) in the Rainforest Eco Gallery, which will fill you in on the flora and fauna you're about to see. There's also an aquarium with freshwater fish, and the Birdwing Café.

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