While this Gold Coast beach town has long been a favourite in the holiday stakes, its cool-factor has recently spiked with a burgeoning scene of hip places to eat, play and stay.
Sorry to burst your bubble if you’ve only just discovered this beautiful neck of the Gold Coast hood: the secret’s been out for a while. Holidaymakers have been flocking to Burleigh Heads for more than a century to embrace its sun, sand and sea. Early visitors would travel by coach, cross the rivers by ferry and be transported along the beach at low tide to arrive here. That’s dedication.
In the late 19th century, a railway line between Brisbane and Southport was built, easing travel to the area and increasing its popularity. It became so popular, in fact, that in 1936 some 20,000 campers swarmed the foreshore over Christmas, setting up a sea of tents that extended all the way to North Burleigh. Though camping on the foreshore was later banned, Burleigh’s standing as a favoured seaside sabbatical hasn’t wavered.
In 1960, Paradise Caravan Park opened and the following decade saw a string of holiday units, motels and lodges pop up. Burleigh’s surf culture also gained momentum, with its point break drawing in surfers from far and wide. In 1965 the Burleigh Boardriders Club was established, and local surf brand Billabong (then little-known) became a long-time supporter.
Like much of the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads continued to prosper into the ’90s. Sure, it didn’t completely escape the wash of glitter from its brash neighbour on the not-so-distant horizon (with a handful of high-rises dotted along its coastline), but for the most part Burleigh Heads has always been a welcome antonym to Surfers Paradise’s revelry. Fast-forward to today and the town still boasts a predominately low-rise streetscape with throwback architecture, an abundance of green space, quiet pockets of beach, and an unpretentious vibe.
And while there still is a part of Burleigh that is clinging to its past (particularly in the accommodation space), a recent influx of exciting new places to eat, drink and shop means this long-loved beachside town is well and truly emerging from the good old days.
The Fish house
Flown in daily from across the country, the seafood at one-hatted The Fish House cannot be any fresher, and neither can the breeze coming in straight off the ocean. The ever-changing seasonal menu includes delicious dishes such as grilled octopus from Ballina; crispy fried whole baby snapper from Port Phillip Bay, and live Rottnest Island scallops.
This restaurant is the result of a five-week motorbike tour that chef Jake Cooley took around Vietnam.
Offering a (predominantly dairy- and gluten-free) menu of flavoursome modern Vietnamese fare like wok-seared squid, ong choy, chilli, crispy taro and lime; or half chicken, morning glory, kaffir lime and coconut cream, this local favourite takes its name from the Good Morning, Vietnam character, while music from the era plays over the pared-back dining room.
Who doesn’t love a rooftop bar? Sundowners, balmy nights, a tipple under the stars… Justin Lane combines all this with views out to the ocean and Surfers Paradise skyline. Part of the Justin Lane pizzeria and pasta bar establishment, the rooftop bar is a casual, chilled space with white umbrellas, festoon lighting, misting to keep you cool in summer and heaters to keep you cosy come winter.
Location, location, location. This sleek award-winning restaurant serves up pan-Asian flavours with front-row views of the rolling surf (bonus: the space’s tiered design means there are no bad seats). The menu has a focus on locally sourced produce, while the bar snacks – karaage chicken, barbecue pork steam bun and the signature fried bug roll – are perfect to enjoy in the casual al fresco seating area with sandy feet. Book ahead; this place is buzzing.
The Beach Furniture
A beach-loving interior decorator’s dream, The Beach Furniture is a bespoke furniture and homewares store just outside of town.
Each piece of furniture is handmade, so no two are the same, and the homewares – including cushions, throw rugs, wall art, baskets – are perfect to create a light and airy coastal-inspired abode.
The Village Markets
Every month, on the first and third Sunday, The Village Markets is a collaboration of designers, artists, foodies, musicians and the like.
Held at Burleigh Heads State School from 8.30am to 1pm, it’s an awesome way to spend a slow Sunday morning browsing stalls of good-quality local products, sampling cheerful and cheap street food, and listening to home-grown talent under the shade of sprawling, leafy trees.
Golosi Food Emporium
Meaning glutton in Italian, Golosi is an emporium of all things delicious. Pick up some goodies for a picnic down at the foreshore. Think freshly baked sourdough from Mullumbimby, delicious tapenades from nearby hinterland village Tyalgum, creamy handmade cheeses from South Australia, a banquet of mouth-watering sweet treats, and much more… try and stop us.
Greenhouse The Bathhouse
Soak, steam, sweat and swim… a session at Greenhouse The Bathhouse will have you feeling utterly rejuvenated. This communal bathhouse has hydrotherapy spas, a steam room, sauna, magnesium plunge pool, massage services and a sun deck to enjoy a plant-based lunch and kombucha afterwards. (Champagne is also on the menu… we’re just sayin’).
Dare we say this is Burleigh’s best-kept secret? On the second floor of an unassuming 1970s low-rise just minutes from the heart of town bon Sol is an exquisite hideaway unlike any other in the area. This two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment has everything guests need: a full kitchen, living area, laundry and balcony, as well as the added luxuries of a Bang & Olufsen sound system, and a fully stocked (and gorgeous) drinks trolley.
But it’s the interiors – a divine assembly of bright colour, texture and pattern – that have us swooning.
Designed by the inimitable Anna Spiro, bon Sol is a one-of-a-kind holiday abode that you won’t want to leave. Rates start at $500 a night, which includes a ‘starter pack’ of refreshments including vintage Champagne.