One of the big things that drew us to Brisbane was the fact that there is so much to do nearby and we knew we’d never get bored. Queensland’s Gold Coast is around an hour and a half south of the city and there are so many fun things to do on the Gold Coast, not to mention different types of landscape to explore so whether you want sand, rainforest, mountains or countryside, you can find it here.
It’s within easy reach for day trips, weekend breaks or longer family holidays – there are Gold Coast itineraries to fit any timescale so whether you’re looking for a long, lazy Gold Coast family holiday with kids, you’re searching for a fast-paced 48-hour Gold Coast itinerary or you’re looking for a romantic retreat or weekend with your friends, there are plenty of Gold Coast accommodation options and attractions to suit your needs.
The Gold Coast theme parks are a major pull for families, along with the incredible Gold Coast weather, surf beaches, play parks, shops and nightlife. And although there are a lot of bright lights and big city skyscrapers, you don’t need to travel far to get to the lush green hinterland. I think it’s a pretty special part of the world and feel very lucky to live nearby!
This post contains affiliate links. Some of these businesses hosted or discounted my visit while I was researching articles for the magazine that I write for.
Gold Coast weather
The Gold Coast weather is amazing – it is temperate all year round. The region boasts 245 days of sunshine a year, and during summer temperatures get up to around 28 degrees. Even in winter, the temperature is more like 11 – 21 degrees, meaning you can get away with shorts and thongs (flip flops) most the year round. It feels much cooler in the hinterland though, so it’s always worth taking layers if you’re staying at Tamborine Mountain or Lamington National Park. If you’re heading in the hinterland in autumn/winter time, definitely take jackets and fleeces!
Fun things to do on the Gold Coast with kids
Here are my top picks for what to do on the Gold Coast and the best Gold Coast attractions for families.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a heritage-listed zoological park set in 27 hectares of stunning Gold Coast rainforest.
Experience the lorikeet feeding, hug a koala and hand feed the kangaroos as you wander around. My kids loved the Lost Valley where you go on a journey through the ancient supercontinent, Gondwana, and get up close with lots of unique flora and fauna not to mention some awesome dinosaurs!
Plan on spending a full day here when you come and come armed with water, sunscreen and hats. Parking is across the road at a paying car park and parking is free for National Trust of Australia members. The park opens 8am – 5pm daily.
Day tickets are usually: adults $49.95, children 4 – 14 years $39.95, family (2d, 2c) $149.95, family (2a, 3c) $172.00 but right now at the time of writing there are special offers on with Experience Oz. Check out the latest special offer rates here.
Across the road from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is Superbee Honeyworld (you park in the same car park as you do for Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary too).
This fascinating little attraction is well worth a visit. There is a honey-themed shop where you can try so many different types of honey and buy lots of honey and bee-related produce but you really need to go on the short bee tour to get the best out of the attraction. An experienced bee keeper will show you around their hives and tell you all about bees and how they make honey. The bee keeper running our tour was so passionate about the subject – it really got us all excited about the subject.
As it’s only a short tour, you can combine it with your day at the wildlife sanctuary easily. This tour was one of our top highlights from our last stay. Entry to the shop is free. Entry to the bee keeping show is adults $12.50, children 3 – 13 years $10, family (2a, 2c) $40. Shows begin at 10am. Last show runs at 4pm.
Gold Coast theme parks
The Gold Coast is best known for its theme parks: Sea World (perfect for marine loving kids), Dreamworld and White Water World (for the adrenaline junkies), Warner Bros. Movie World (where fast-paced rides meet movie star attractions), Wet’n’Wild (for huge pools and slides) and the more sedate Paradise Country (to give you a flavour of an authentic Aussie farm).
You can usually buy passes that incorporate multiple attractions for special offers – whether this is annual passes or passes that cover a block of time (1 day, 3 days or 7 days) which is great if you’re visiting on holiday and want to go back to places more than once during your stay.
If you don’t have a car, you can get a transfer to the Gold Coast theme park from your hotel here.
Infinity is a fun Gold Coast attraction for families offering a futuristic, maze-like virtual world that creates a multi-sensory experience. Suitable for kids over eight, this is a great wet weather or indoor option to avoid the summer heat if you’re looking for things to do in Surfers Paradise. This is the first attraction of its kind in the world, so don’t miss it!
Whale watching cruise
The whale watching season runs from May – November. I haven’t been from the Gold Coast before but I love that you can go from Sea World and be out with the whales after just a 20 minute cruise (all of the cruises I’ve done have taken quite a long time to get out to the whales). You can choose a morning or afternoon trip to suit.
I’ve never actually been to the Outback Spectacular but it’s on my must-do list as I’ve heard such amazing things about it from friends. This Australian Outback spectacular includes dinner and a show blending theatre, horse riding, stunts, special effects, music and drama to create an entertainment spectacle. Enjoy a three course Aussie BBQ dinner, drinks and a famous Outback Stockman’s hat.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Whether you are looking to visit for a day or stay longer, O’Reilly’s has plenty of natural attractions to entertain the kids and the scenery is just breathtaking.
Most activities at the resort can be done as part of a day trip. During our weekend stay we enjoyed the 4WD Best of O’Reilly’s Tour (adults $25, children $10, times and days varies), the Wildlife Encounter (adults $15, children $8, family $40. Runs 10am – 10.30am daily), the Bird of Prey Show (adults $17.50, children $10, family $48. Runs 1pm – 1.45pm daily), and, if you’re looking for things to do on the Gold Coast at night – the Glow Worm Tour is a fun family activitiy if your little ones can stay up late enough and take a short rainforest walk in the dark with torches (adults $30, children $15. Runs at 8pm daily although this is only available to overnight guests at the moment due to nighttime road works). Read my full post about O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat at Lamington National Park here.
Personally, I think O’Reilly’s is best enjoyed by staying over for two or three nights as there is so much to do but a day trip is great if you’re very short on time.
Tropical Fruit World
Technically not a Gold Coast attraction as it is across the border in NSW, but it’s within easy reach for a day trip (just don’t forget you will be crossing a timezone and six months of the year it is an hour ahead of Queensland). It is a fun family attraction with lots of tropical fruit, a tractor ride, parks, a train and a boat ride! You can read more about our visit in this post about Byron Bay.
Gold Coast Beaches
There are so many beaches to choose on the Gold Coast – the only problem will be choosing your favourite! We love Coolangatta for its long dazzling-white stretch of sand and rolling waves for using our body boards. The surf club offers up great food too (as do all of the clubs along the coast there). There are so many beaches to explore including Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise, Main Beach – you really will be spoilt for choice.
Tallebudgera Creek, Palm Beach and Currumbin are my favourite beaches for kids as they all offer calm water. Palm Beach and Currumbin also have a surf side for families that might want the best of both worlds.
Swimming holes and waterfalls
The Gold Coast has lots of swimming holes, rock pools and waterfalls to explore. Tamborine Mountain has a number of options including Cedar Creek Falls and Curtis Falls. Currumbin Rock Pools (pictured below) is a magical experience where kids can clamber over rocks and paddle in the cool water. Check out Destination Gold Coast’s recommended options here.
Where to eat on the Gold Coast
I have a bit of a thing for the Hard Rock Cafe – I’ve been visiting them for many years all around the world. Whenever I find out there is one nearby I always have to go for dinner there and it’s a tradition that I buy a t-shirt. So far I’ve visited the ones in London, Paris, LA and Fiji. So when I realised there was one on the Gold Coast, that was dinner sorted! Check out the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise here.
How to get around the Gold Coast
Driving is the easiest way to get around, but if you are mostly being based in your hotel and taking day trips then you can book a transfer through Con-X-ions from the airport.
Check out prices for airport transfers from Brisbane here.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast
We often visit the Gold Coast on day trips, but earlier this year we stayed over while I was working on a magazine travel article. We were hosted in two ultra smart rooms next door to one another at Vibe Hotel Gold Coast. The hotel is in a prime waterfront position overlooking the Nerang River and in walking distance of everything you need. Upon arrival, we were really wowed by the incredible reception area – it was huge with grand high ceilings, so many sofas and amazing brickwork pillars. Inside the rooms, the modern, luxurious decor continued. We had two rooms as there were five of us but a family of four could share one room using the sofa bed). I loved that there was cooking facilities in the room and a fridge.
The view from the balcony was amazing – especially at night. And the pool area was fabulous right on the waterfront. There was some grass for the kids to run around on too while we enjoyed an evening cocktail.
When you’re deciding where to stay think about whether parking is included or extra, whether there are cooking facilities in your accommodation and how close to activities it is. You don’t want to spend most of your holiday driving around. Hotel Vibe Gold Coast was right in the heart of the action and it meant we could go out for a walk at nights and be at a restaurant in a few minutes (handy for when your kids are tired on the walk home).
The perfect Gold Coast family holiday
Even though we’ve visited the Gold Coast many times since we moved to Australia, there is still so much still to explore on the Gold Coast. You certainly won’t be short of things to do when you visit the Gold Coast with kids!