It’s not a destination most people would consider friendly on the hip pocket, but if you approach the Gold Coast with the aim to explore its beaches, walk the headlands and generally make like a local and relax, you’ll save yourself a lot of cash. Hiring a rental car when you arrive makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re only visiting for a few days. The Gold Coast stretches for about 40 km and has limited public transport options. You could completely blow your budget on taxis and Ubers if you were staying at, say, Surfers Paradise but wanted to check out Kirra.
Here are a few places to see and things to do on the Gold Coast if you’re looking to save some money.
If you like a little sun, sand and surf, you’ve definitely come to the right place. There are 21 stunning golden beaches stretching from Southport in the north to Snapper Rocks at the south end. How do you choose? Start close to your accommodation, but when you’re ready to explore further here’s where to point your rental car.
One of the most popular and best beaches is Burleigh. It has a number of patrolled areas along its length, there’s a famous break off the headland, you can walk the loop trail through the national park around Burleigh Headland for beautiful views, and there’s a park along the foreshore with barbecues, walking paths and playgrounds, much of it shaded by an avenue of Norfolk pines. If you haven’t brought any sustenance with you, the kiosk at Burleigh Heads Surf Club does a good line of affordable burgers, toasties and fish and chips.
Want to catch a wave? Kirra Beach is the home of surfing on the Gold Coast and part of the World Surf Reserve. There are plenty of surf shops nearby from where you can hire a board, including Kirra Surf.
People forget there are a lot of creeks and estuaries around the Gold Coast, and the beach at Tallebudgera Creek (you might hear locals referring to it as Tally Creek) is a favourite swimming spot. The water is calm and there are plenty of shady patches of lawn where you can spread out a blanket and relax. You can even hire a stand-up paddle board from All Coast Paddle Board Hire.
One of the locals’ favourite after-hours haunts is Miami Marketta, a night market that’s open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 5pm. Imagine street food from right across the world, all brought together under one roof, and you’ll get the picture. There’s seating for 500 people, live entertainment, psychic nights and a vintage market on the third Wednesday of every month.
Combine mini golf and cocktails at Holey Moley in Surfers Paradise. Nine holes costs $18 a person in the evening then you need to bring a few bucks for a burger and beer. Just don’t forget to plan a designated driver.
If you’re into Mexican food, Hail Mary at Burleigh Heads has daily specials after 5pm, including discount tacos on, you guessed it, Tuesday. They sometimes have bottomless gyoza nights, but at any time during the week, you can eat well on a budget at Broadbeach’s Harajuku Gyoza. Then there’s the old favourite, Govinda’s at Burleigh, where a choice of vegetarian curries costs $12.
There are lots of ways to check out the Gold Coast wildlife without spending a small fortune on entry fees. Every day at 8am and 4pm, outside Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, hundreds of rainbow lorikeets arrive to be fed. You can watch them for free or, for a gold coin donation, feed them yourself. If you’re making the most of your rental car and visiting Mount Tamborine, Thunderbird Park also has a free daily bird feeding at 2pm. Again, most visitors are cheeky rainbow lorries, but you might also see cockatoos and other colourful parrots.
Birds of a different kind make their way to the park next to Charis Seafoods in Labrador. Each day at 1.30pm, the pelicans come in to flap and fidget and find a way to get some of the free fish being handed out.
The other wildlife to be found around here is, of course, underwater so be sure to bring your mask, fins and snorkel. Narrowneck Reef was built off the beach between Surfers Paradise and Main Beach to protect it from erosion and is now home to soft coral, thousands of fish, octopus, wobbegong sharks and turtles. At the other end of the Gold Coast is Kirra Reef, a rocky spot where there’s a diverse range of species to see from cuttlefish to stingrays.
There’s always something happening at Surfers Paradise, so go for a walk along the Esplanade as the sun sets then treat yourself to a cold one (don’t forget you’re driving) at the Surfers Paradise Beer Garden, which has been a hot spot since 1925.
Ready to explore the length of the Gold Coast? Hire a rental car when you arrive at Coolangatta Airport.