From animal encounters to theme park crawls, Indigenous culture tours and hanging out on the city’s best beaches, here’s our pick of top spots to visit on your next Gold Coast family holiday.
One of the buzziest holiday destinations in Australia, the Goldie has long been a family favourite for good reason: it’s almost impossible to run out of things to do in the Gold Coast with kids. Whether your brood is into beach days, getting out into nature or seeking adrenaline highs, there’s something for children big and small in this sprawling Sunshine State city.
Boasting around 300 days of sunshine per year, the Gold Coast was made for beach holidays. Pile the kids into the hire car and splash around at one of the region’s countless beaches or swimming holes.
Rainbow Bay is a golden crescent of sand lapped by Tiffany Blue waters, that’s popular with families and surfers alike. Its protected location and typically low waves make this beach a safe spot to take the whole family. Moreover, it’s also patrolled between 8 am and 5 pm every day, all year round.
A sweeping ribbon of blue flanked by lush greenery, Tallebudgera Creek is another beautiful spot to hunker down for the day. Those with young families, or less confident swimmers, should set up camp on the Palm Beach side of the creek where there are lifeguards. And best of all, there’s a great little bakery dishing out strong coffee, Portuguese custard tarts and hot chips just a few yards away.
Known as the ‘Theme Park Capital’ of Australia, it would be remiss not to pencil in at least one day at the Gold Coast’s countless parks (and your kids would probably never forgive you either). Big kids with a need for speed should hit Warner Bros. Movie World, home to the superlative DC Rivals HyperCoaster. Littler ones might be better suited to Dreamworld, which has several family-friendly rides, plus a water park and animal enclosures. Sea World is the other heavy hitter, which is known for its shows and animal presentations as much as it is for its rides.
Indigenous cultural tours
The Goldie isn’t all sun, sand, sky rises and glamour. Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre peels back the curtain on the history of the Yugambeh/Kombumerri people, offering kids and adults alike a very different take on what may seem a familiar destination. It’s the only dedicated Aboriginal cultural centre on the Gold Coast, and it’s fully owned and operated by the local Aboriginal community.
Meet a traditional custodian, hear Dreamtime stories associated with the creation of Jellurgal (Burleigh Headland), and learn about local bush foods and fishing and hunting practices on the two-hour Jellurgal Walkabout tour (adults $39, children aged 5-14 years, $20).
Get up close to some of Australia’s most iconic creatures with a visit to one of the Gold Coast’s wildlife parks. Little ones will love the Breakfast with the Koalas experience at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which includes a scenic brekkie in the company of koalas, plus a chat with keepers where you can learn all about these furry marsupials and even have a cuddle with one of them. The sanctuary has plenty of daily presentations about its resident animals (both native and exotic) and every dollar spent there goes towards funding its wildlife hospital.
The David Fleay Wildlife Park is also well worth a visit. Home to rainforest and bushland, this park is managed and run by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Park Rangers who share their vast knowledge at daily wildlife shows, talks and encounters. Expect to meet barn owls, pythons, platypuses, bilbies, tree kangaroos, emus and more.
For something a little more ‘out-there’, drive to Mountview Alpaca Farm. You can take one of the resident alpacas out for a walk on a lead (we have our eyes on Noodle and Clyde), and better still, the farm is located within a vineyard, so hard-working parents can enjoy a well-earned glass of estate red, white, rose or sparkling too.
At first glance, the Gold Coast is all glittering high rises and foamy surf. But venture beyond the confines of the Pacific Motorway, and there’s a verdant mountainous interior to explore, replete with rainforest and plenty of opportunities for adventures in the great outdoors.
Try the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, which encompasses forest floor trails and a steel bridge that rises to 30 metres high, offering panoramic views of the upper canopies of the forest and lazy creek. Or for kids that have their eyes on more adrenaline-packed action, visit Tamborine Mountain’s Thunderbird Park, which has a high ropes course and rainforest ziplining, as well as fossicking for thundereggs and mini-golf. You can even go hunting for glow worm colonies in a Tamborine Mountain cave.