Gold Coast Travel Guide: Australia’s Sunshine Destination

Backpacking the Gold Coast will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the first place that I travelled to when I went backpacking Australia on my working holiday visa.

Yes, I realise I am probably the only person that has started off their Australian adventure here, but when researching the country, it best fitted my idea of what Australia would be.

Gold beaches, sunny weather, turquoise ocean. Well, it wasn’t like that the first day, as there was a bad storm, but it was certainly true after that!

There are plenty of things to do on the Gold Coast, and there are a number of opportunities of jobs for backpackers as well. The Gold Coast is definitely somewhere you should visit on a backpacking itinerary of Australia!

Gold Coast Travel Guide

General info

The Gold Coast is located in Queensland, just above the border with New South Wales. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Australia, with many Australians heading there from all parts of the country, to relax and enjoy the almost year round sunshine!

The city is the sixth most populated in Australia, and only second behind Brisbane in Queensland. Before the tourist boom, the Gold Coast was actually known as South Coast (simply because it was south of Brisbane!). However, inflated prices for real estate among other things, led to it being christened the ‘Gold’ Coast, and the name stuck!

The Gold Coast has a subtropical climate, which means that their weather is great year round, and winters rarely dip below 20 degrees. Like everywhere else in Australia, it can get very hot, so i would advise you pack sunscreen and a hat, otherwise you will suffer my fate and end up looking a peeling red lobster for a few days!


Beach on the Gold Coast

Getting to the Gold Coast

As one of the major tourists spots in the country, there are many flights to the Gold Coast. The airport is served by all domestic airlines, including Jetstar, Virgin and Tiger among others. The airport also serves international, but the majority of the flights are from New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Thanks to the Greyhound bus service, almost all of Australia is easily accessible by bus, so if you are already on the East Coast, then getting to the Gold Coast, is easy via Greyhound. Just book your tickets, hop on the bus, and you’re on your way!

If you are passing through the Gold Coast on an Australian road trip, then getting there is easy, just follow the main motorway and you can’t go wrong! The Gold Coast is a good stopover point for a few days if you travelling up or down the East Coast of Australia. What better place to relax for a few days before heading on!?

Getting around the Gold Coast is relatively straightforward, as it is not the biggest place, most places can be reached by walking. However, if you want to venture further afield, then you can hop on the G:Link tram service, which opened in 2014. This operates from Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South. If you want to venture further than that, then the bus is your best bet!

Why you should visit the Gold Coast

When I finally summed up the courage to get my Australian working holiday visa, I began to research which place I would fly into first.

Most normal people, decide upon one of the big cities, such as Melbourne or Sydney! Well, I am not most normal people and for one reason or another, I decided I was going to fly into the Gold Coast first!

The Gold Coast was what I envisioned Australia to be like and high on my list of reasons to visit the country. Blue skies, golden sand and great weather, this wasn’t exactly the case when I got off the plane, and it was pouring with rain, but at least it was hot! Thankfully, the weather improved and the Gold Coast did live up to my expectations!

One thing I should probably mention is that even though I really enjoyed my time in the Gold Coast, I wouldn’t stay there for too long. I stayed for two weeks when I first arrived, and without a job, it was definitely too long.

I had exhausted everything that there was to do. I’d advise travelling around Queensland afterwards! It was something of a relief when I eventually decided to go travelling in Brisbane!

Unless you get a job, I would stay for 3-5 days, you can see everything in that time, and get your fill of sunshine. I would recommend this if you are strapped for time, as there are some great places on the East Coast, such as Brisbane, Hervey Bay and Cairns, which you should definitely visit during your Australian itinerary.

That’s not to say the Gold Coast is bad, it certainly isn’t, just that once you seen and done everything, the itch to travel returns with aplomb! There are certainly plenty of things to do in the Gold Coast, with numerous national parks close by, and three amusement parks for the adrenaline junkies among you.

Even if you just fancy relaxing on the beach, there are 70km (42miles) of coastline for you to choose from. You will also be next to some of the best beaches in Australia. The beaches around Burleigh Heads were a particular favourite of mine, with fantastic views of the skyline and the close by national park!

If you are working/living in Brisbane, then the Gold Coast is a fantastic place to visit for a weekend or few days away. It is very easy to reach, only 30 minutes away by train, and you can relax away from the bright lights of Brisbane. The reverse is true as well, if you fancy checking Brisbane out for a few days, then it is easy to hop on the train and back!


Surfer's Paradise

Backpackers jobs in the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast has a lot of work opportunities, especially for backpackers, given the nature of the city. Retail, hospitality and bar work are all readily available if you go out and look for them. There are also jobs available at the numerous amusement parks in the area.

Another popular backpacker job in the Gold Coast is that of promotion. Basically, you stand on the streets and try and encourage passers-by to go on a tour, come into a bar, or whatever service you are offering. I’m of the belief you have to be a certain type of person to do this, as I would find it mind-numbingly boring after about 15 minutes, but if this sounds good to you, then go for it!

Construction jobs for backpackers are not as common as they are in other areas of Australia, at least to my eyes anyway. Maybe I am wrong, but I didn’t come across many opportunities while I was here, nor did I see that much actual construction going on. So if you want a construction job, it maybe better, looking at bigger cities, such as Adelaide, Brisbane or Melbourne!

As always, the best place to look for work is on seek. This is the best website in Australia for finding work and there are hundreds of jobs on there. Alternatively, it may be worth checking out any recruitment agencies in the area, as they may be better placed to find you a job in the area!

Where to stay in the Gold Coast

As one of the popular backpacking spots in Australia, the Gold Coast has plenty of hostels to choose from. As always, I recommend heading to hostelworld to book your hostels and check out which one you fancy staying in. The reviews there can be quite helpful, and it gives you a chance to compare what you get price-wise!

I stayed in the YHA, which although advertised as Surfer’s Paradise, is actually in the suburb of Southport. That means if you want to get to Surfer’s, you are going to have to walk for about 30 minutes or wait around for the shuttle, which operates a few times a day, to take you there.

The hostel itself is ok, it’s not too expensive and the facilities are good, although a bigger kitchen would be great, considering the amount of people that stay there. If you want a more relaxed time on the Gold Coast, this may be the place for you. Otherwise, I would stay closer to Surfer’s, where there is more happening!

Other hostels in the gold coast include Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort, Surf n Sun Beachside Backpackers Resort and Sleeping Inn Backpackers. I’m not sure whether these hostels are good or not, but they are located in Surfer’s, so if this is important, then it may be worth checking these


Gold Coast coastline

Things to do on the Gold Coast

Despite its small size, there are a number of things to do on the Gold Coast. There are a lot of things to do outside of the city as well, such as the Mount Tamborine Skywalk.

However, with that said, once you have done these things, there isn’t much more to do, due to the small size of the city, so I would recommend heading north to Brisbane or south to Byron Bay after a few days!

Amusement parks

The Gold Coast is home to the biggest amusement parks in Australia. There are three in total, Dreamland, Sea World and Warners Bro Movie World. You can get a ticket that allows you to go to all three for around $80-100. If you’ve never been to an amusement park then they are worth checking out, as they are a great way to spend a day if you’re stuck for ideas.

However, if amusement parks are not your thing, then there isn’t much point in going. Sea World is not very popular these days, and for good reason. So if you’re not into amusement parks, then it may be best spending your time relaxing at the beach. Adrenaline junkies will love the parks, so it depends on your own tastes really!

Burleigh Heads

This was one of the best things that I did while backpacking the Gold Coast, mainly because the views from Burleigh Heads are incredible. The only problem is that Burleigh Heads is quite a walk from Surfer’s Paradise and even more of a walk from my hostel in Southport! So, I definitely recommend getting a bus there, as believe me, you will be fucked if you walk there and back!

Despite the distance, it is definitely worth checking out, there are fantastic views of the coast and the skyscrapers look incredible from a distance. The park itself doesn’t have much to it, but there are a few spots where you can relax and admire the view, that alone is worth the trip!


Burleigh Heads

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

The wildlife sanctuary is a great place to visit if you want to see some of the diverse and interesting wildlife that live in Australia. The sanctuary is located in Currumbin, which is a suburb in the Gold Coast. The sanctuary is easy to reach by public transport, with buses stopping nearby.

The sanctuary was originally a bird sanctuary, so it showcases some of the weird and wonderful birds that call Australia home. If you fancy getting away from the hustle and bustle of Surfer’s and the Gold Coast, this is a great place to visit, as it is very relaxing and enables you to sample one of the many sides to Australia!


The Gold Coast is renowned as one of the best spots for nightlife in the whole of Australia. There are numerous clubs located in Surfer’s Paradise and even if clubbing is not your thing, they are still worth checking out just for the experience!

A downside is that clubs in Australia can be quite expensive, so you could end up spending a fair bit of money if you get a bit drunk. If you don’t like clubs, then there are a number of bars, where you can get a reasonably priced drink (at least compared to the clubs) and have a chat.

Either way, be sure to have a wander around Surfer’s at night, if just for the experience!

Surfer’s Paradise

The Gold Coast is essentially one long beach, and the most famous of those beaches is definitely Surfer’s Paradise! The name alone evokes images of golden sand, glorious sun and great surf, and this is certainly true most of the time! Surprisingly, for one of the most popular beaches in Australia, it is not too busy, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

Outside of the beach, Surfer’s is the hub of the Gold Coast, with lots of nightclubs, shops and restaurant in the vicinity. Truth be told, there isn’t a lot of charm in this, as it can essentially be found anywhere, but there are a few good places to find, and it is pretty cool, partying next to one of the most famous beaches in the world!


Gold Coast beach

Concluding thoughts

In short, the Gold Coast is a great location to stay for a few days, but perhaps any longer than that and you are not utilising your time in Australia very well. For all its charm and beauty, once you have seen and done everything, the itch to travel can be great!

However, the Gold Coast is beautiful and should definitely be included in your backpacking itinerary of Australia. This is a great place to relax or party hard in one of the coolest spots in Australia!

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Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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16 Responses

  1. Loved the Gold Coast! Great place, fantastic beaches (careful for these jelly fish though!).

    • Tom says:

      Sure is a great place! Ah yes, the jellyfish!! There’s quite a few of them, and they were a lot bigger than I thought they would be!! Australia eh!!

  2. Kerri says:

    Almost my backyard! I think we can get a bit blase about the Goldie because of our easy access to it. It truly is a beautiful spot (outside Surfers Paradise IMO). Love Burleigh, and love Kirra/Snapper Rocks etc too. I love nothing more than pulling up a chair at a surf club on the beach and having a cold beer! Glad you enjoyed your time here.

  3. Renato says:

    Great. Makes us want to leave right now. Thanks

  4. Paul says:

    We are just about finished with our European leg of travels and are then heading over to South East Asia and Australia, the gold coast is somewhere we’ve wanted to visit for a long time and you have made us want to visit even more now! Can’t wait

  5. Eostories says:

    Looks so beautiful! Can’t wait to visit Australia, hoping it will be soon!

  6. Alex says:

    Great post with tons of useful information! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. I’m ashamed to say I never made it to the Gold Coast in my two years living in Oz, it sounds like such a good spot for backpackers.

  8. Lara Dunning says:

    What a beautiful part of Austrailia. I hope to make it there one of these days.

  9. Wonderful tips, Tom! I always wanted to visit Gold Coast when I visit Australia. Thanks for sharing!

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