Last Updated on August 14, 2020 by queenie mak
Gold Coast is a metropolitan city on the east coast of Australia. While the coastal city is in Queensland, the southernmost town, Coolangatta, straddles on both Queensland and New South Wales.
Famous for its golden beaches, surfing beaches, rainforest, themed parks and nightlife, Gold Coast’s became a popular tourist destination in the mid-’90s. Clearly, everyone is enamoured by its sheer beautiful and sunny subtropical climate.
While there are mountains, amusement parks and wildlife sanctuary in Gold Coast, my top 10 activities for solo travellers will center around the beach. After all, the gorgeous beach is the highlight of the Gold Coast.
Why the Gold Coast is great for a solo female traveller
With miles and miles of golden sand and blue water, the Gold Coast is one of the best places to visit along the east coast of Australia. It is a premier spot to surf (or learn how to surf), sunbath, standup paddleboard, hike, and so much more.
As a solo traveller, you can enjoy any part of the Gold Coast because there is something special to see in each place. I enjoyed the quiet Coolangatta and the upbeat and busy Surfers Paradise. However, I particularly enjoy staying in Burleigh Heads the most because of the laidback beach vibe. It is the perfect spot for a solo traveller!
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Before you go to Gold Coast
Before you go to Australia, take a look at my list of 17 things you need to know before travelling to Australia. I included information about Australia including applying for ETA, transportation, money and accommodation.
How to get to Gold Coast
Flying into Gold Coast
Gold Coast Airport (OOL) is located in Bilinga at the southern end of the Gold Coast. Many domestic and international flights fly into Gold Coast airport every day.
If flying into Gold Coast Airport is not an option, the next closest airport is Brisbane Airport (BNE). From Brisbane Airport, take the train all the way to the Gold Coast. See the directions below.
Train Travel to Gold Coast
Whether you are going to Gold Coast from Brisbane or Brisbane Airport, you can hop on the train on the Airport and Gold Coast Line and disembark at either Robina Station or Varsity Lakes Station. See map for more details.
From either station, there are local buses that will take you to different parts of the Gold Coast, including Burleigh Heads (bus 563, 750, 765) and Surfers Paradise (bus 747).
There are many buses from either train station. You can check the bus schedule by entering the start and end locations here.
And if you are travelling from other parts of Australia like Sydney or Melbourne, you have to take the train to Brisbane first, then connect to the local train. However, it takes more than 14 hours to get from Sydney to Brisbane, so you may or may not want to take the train.
For more information about train travel in Australia, click here.
Long-Distance Bus to Gold Coast
Greyhound Australia is Australia’s long-distance bus operator. The bus system has many routes, and many connect different parts of the country. The Greyhound bus has recline seats, USB chargers, and free wifi. And the easiest way to purchase a ticket is online.
One of the stops is in Coolangatta at the old transit centre across from Coolangatta Bowls & Recreation Club near Griffith Street. Another one is in Surfers Paradise on 10 Beach Road.
The two other stations in Gold Coast are not as convenient. So choose either Coolangatta or Surfers Paradise as your destination.
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How to get around Gold Coast
It is possible to walk the entire length (I did!) but it can be very tiring. It is about 25km from Coolangatta (the most southern town in Gold Coast) to Surfers Paradise. It might be best to learn the public transportation system.
And if you are going to take public transportation, make sure you get a Go Card.
Go Card is a rechargeable electronic card to take public transportation in Queensland. You can use the Go Card for all TransLink bus, tram in Gold Coast and other destinations in Queensland including Brisbane, and Sunshine Coast.
Buy and top-up a Go Card online, at the station or convenience stores like 7-Eleven. Initially, you have to purchase the card for $10AUD, but you get the deposit back when you return your card.
And best of all, by using the Go Card, the cost of each ride is cheaper than a paper ticket and convenient to travel around Queensland.
Fares are calculated base on zones. Click here for more details.
TransLink Bus services all the areas along Gold Coast. Click here for more information about bus fare and timetables.
The G:link, the tram system, services between Broadbeach South Station and Helensvale Station. Click here for more information about frequency and ticket prices.
And at any time if you want to look for public transportation, use your Google Map by simply entering your destination. Then Google Maps will show a list of available public transport to your destination.
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Where to stay in Gold Coast
While there are a lot of hotel options in Surfers Paradise, I didn’t particularly want to stay in a touristy area.
I prefer to stay in quieter areas and neighbourhoods where locals hang out. Both Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta are excellent towns for a short term stay.
Coolangatta is at the southern end of Gold Coast and has more hotel selections for various budgets. While Burleigh Heads, which is 17km north of Coolangatta, has fewer choices but the area has a better vibe.
There isn’t a whole lot of good budget accommodations on the Gold Coast, so you will spend a bit more on accommodation in this area. Take a look at some of the suggestions below.
- La Costa Motel ($$) -Located near Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta, you can get a standard studio room for a moderate price. The room includes a queen bed, clean bathroom, small kitchenette and a balcony or terrace.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Outrigger Resort ($$) – Stay in the double room in Burleigh Heads. The room is basic but has everything you need for a short term stay.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- The Pink Hotel Coolangatta ($$$) – The Instagrammable hotel features spacious rooms with retro mid-century finishes. The newly refurbished boutique hotel is right by Coolangatta centre and has a fantastic rooftop from you can enjoy the beach view.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Iconic Kirra Beach Resort ($$$) – Stay in a luxury hotel studio room in Coolangatta. The newly renovated modern room includes a king bed, ensuite, a sitting area and a balcony facing the beach. The popular resort hotel sells out quickly so make your reservation as soon as possible!
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
There are over 300+ Airbnb units in Gold Coast, including entire apartments, private rooms and shared rooms. On top of that, there are many verified Airbnb units as well.
Similar to hotel selection, there are many in Surfers Paradise area. But I found better (and more affordable)options in Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta.
- Cost: average price is about $115AUD per day, but it is possible to get an apartment between $24-$76AUD
- I stayed in Burleigh Hub Bliss, which is a private room at the bottom floor of a townhouse. I also had my own bathroom and access to a kitchen. The location was great as it is a few minutes away from Burleigh Heads Beach and Burleigh Village. And most of all, the host is very friendly and easy to communicate with.
- I also stayed at Poppy’s Place in Coolangatta. The entire apartment is newly renovated where you get a queen-size bed, a clean bathroom, a sitting area and a full kitchen.
- Before you book your Airbnb accommodation, always read reviews and see all the fine print before booking.
- And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
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Top 10 things to do alone in Gold Coast, Australia
Gold Coast is a rather large region in east coast Australia. So I’ve narrowed it down to the best 10 things you can do in Gold Coast. Take a look below.
For all the places I mentioned in the blog, I pinned them in the interactive map as well. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
1. Learn to surf at one of the most famous beaches in Australia
Gold Coast is known for its golden sandy beaches. And if you love surfing, or want to learn how to surf, then you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to surf the waves in Gold Coast.
Surfing at Surfers Paradise Beach may be on your bucket list, but you might want to check out other places along Gold Coast as it can get pretty busy even during non-peak season.
Bring your surfboard to the south end of Burleigh Heads Beach near Burleigh Heads National Park. The beach is not as crowded. However, make sure you are at least at an intermediate level.
While you are in Coolangatta, check out Duranbah Beach as well. If you don’t have a surfboard already, you can always rent one from various places including Inverted Bodyboarding Gold Coast and Coolangatta Board Store in Coolangatta.
And if you want to learn to surf, one of the best spots to learn surfing is at Currumbin Alley. You can take lessons with Currumbin Alley Surf School. They offer lessons for all ages and all levels.
2. Take a dip in Snapper Rocks at Coolangatta
One of the best things you can do in Gold Coast is to swim in one of the most famous rock pools in Gold Coast, Snapper Rocks. Strong ocean currents create natural pools of water over time, creating these fantastic natural pools in Gold Coast and other coastal areas in Australia including New South Wales and other parts of Queensland.
Similar to the Fairy Pools in Noosa, you can swim in Snapper Rocks during low tide. It is a rather remarkable experience to swim in a natural pool of water surrounding by rocks. But make sure waves are not crashing into the rock pool, and the seawater is relatively calm before you jump into the rock pool.
3. Standup paddleboard at Tallebudgera Creek
If you want to try something other than surfing, rent a standup paddleboard from All Coast Paddle Board Hire and enjoy a few hours paddling on Tallebudgera Creek. The creek is a popular area for SUP as the seawater is calmer as you paddle away from the river mouth. You will get a free lesson when you rent a board. It is a great way to see the Gold Coast and also to strengthen your body.
4. Hike up to Tumgun Lookout in Burleigh Head National Park
When you want to take a break from the beach, head over to Burleigh Heads and find the hiking trails in Burleigh Head National Park.
Park access is at the north end of the park, near Burleigh Heads Beach. From the entrance, you can start your trek on the Oceanview Track, which lines the perimeter of the park where you can see the South Pacific Ocean and rocky shores. The track ends at Echo Beach. Then you can backtrack a bit and continue on Tallebudgera Link Track which links to the Rainforest Circuit. Follow the signs through the rainforest, and you will find the Tumgun Lookout, the highest point in the park where you can see a panoramic view of the area.
It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is; you can easily walk all the trails in Burleigh Head National Park.
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5. Check out the panoramic views of the beach along the coast
At the south end of Gold Coast, take a brisk stroll up to Point Danger in Coolangatta. It is a scenic park with a gorgeous view of the ocean. You can also see surfers catching the waves at Duranbah Beach. On a clear day, it is possible to see Surfers Paradise to the north and Byron Bay to the south.
Also, check out Kirra Hill Lookout in Coolangatta. It is an excellent spot for a picnic or barbeque.
And make sure to walk up the hill at Mick Schamburg Park Lookout at North Burleigh. You will get a magnificent view of Miami Beach and Surfers Paradise in the distance.
It is not difficult to walk up to any of these viewpoints. You can even wear your flip flops!
5. Take a stroll on the Beree Badalla Boardwalk along Currumbin Creek
Near Palm Beach, there is a boardwalk along Currumbin Creek. The path takes you through Tarrabora Reserve and Beree Badalla Reserve.
Tarrabora Reserve is popular with locals. You can swim in the creek, and walk along the boardwalk, and have a picnic in the area. It is also a refuge for wildlife, especially for birds and reptiles. I didn’t see any wild animals while I was there, but I did see a lot of people walking their dogs.
The stroll along the boardwalk is relaxing, and the scenery is beautiful. Start at the north end of Tarrabora Reserve and follow the boardwalk. It will lead you right into Beree Badalla Reserve.
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7. Indulge in the best coffee & delicious brunch
I love brunch! And there is no shortage of brunch food in Australia. I can’t get enough of simple breakfast like smashed avocado on toasts. And their coffee is simply the best in the world!
Not only does the food tastes good, but they also look good too! Every meal I had in Australia always look like a piece of artwork! The presentation alone is 10 out of 10.
While you are in Gold Coast, check out some (or all) of these cafes:
- Social Brew – everything on the brunch menu is excellent. I know that because I went several times!
- Burleigh Heads Fishmongers – they have one of the best fish and chips! I was surprised to see how big the fish was and how much fries they give.
- Canteen Coffee – they make a perfect flat white!
- The Milkman’s Daughter – a small restaurant but they serve the most delicious lemon ricotta pancake!
- Burleigh CO.OP – sometimes you want something wholesome and healthy. Try their gluten-free garden bowl.
- The Paddock Bakery – they make delicious brunch food and pastries. Try their dippy eggs or order a carrot cake.
- Black Hops Brewery – voted as Australia’s best’s small brewery in 2018
8. Shop til you drop at boutique stores, local markets and shopping mall
You can find the trendiest clothing, swimsuits, beachy souvenirs and other knick-knacks in the boutique shops of James Street in Burleigh Heads. Sean Scott Boutique sells trendy clothing, houseware, and unique photographic prints. But don’t stop there, there are many other boutique shops on James Street.
While you are in Burleigh Heads, you must visit Heartfill, a retail store inspired by living slowly and consuming mindfully. They sell unique items, including retro furniture, handmade candles, one-of-a-kind graphic prints, and so much more. The shop also offers its space for creative workshops.
If you want to find other brand name retail stores including the glitziest brands for clothing, purses and shoes, then head over to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. The large indoor and outdoor shopping mall has many retailers and a whimsical foodcourt at the second level.
And check out The Village Markets in Burleigh Heads. Small local businesses sell their creative products at the market, including clothing and jewellery. And there are delicious treats and live music. The market opens every first and third Sunday of every month from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.
9. Eat and sleep in Burleigh Heads
Many towns line the Gold Coast, and each one is different. Families and senior communities tend to concentrate near Coolangatta. Locals and younger people are around the middle regions like Burleigh Heads while backpackers party it up at Surfers Paradise.
My favourite spot has to be Burleigh Heads without a doubt. Burleigh Heads has good options for accommodations, excellent cafes and restaurants, access to the best beaches for surfing, proximity to a national park with various hiking paths, and so much more. I like the relaxing beach vibes of Burleigh Heads, and it is not touristy at all.
As a solo traveller, I felt safe to wander around Burleigh Heads, and people are very friendly. I was able to get around Gold Coast quickly via public transportation. For me, it was the best spot to stay in Gold Coast. I highly recommend staying in Burleigh Heads!
10. Watch the most beautiful sunsets on the beach
Whether you are on the beach or at one of the viewpoints along the coast, you can always catch the most gorgeous sunsets in Gold Coast. Even though the sun sets away from the beach, you can still see the warm pink glow around the area.
I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets while I was in Gold Coast. One late afternoon, it rained intermittently for several hours. As soon as the rain stopped, two perfectly arched rainbows appeared from the ocean. The sky was lit in the most vibrant hues creating the most magical moment (see photo above). It only lasted for maybe 10 minutes or so, but it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
If you want to catch a beautiful sunset, make your way to a nearby beach around 5:30 pm or so. The sun sets early and pretty quickly.
Need ideas for tours? Check out some of the tours below:
Are you including Gold Coast in your Australia itinerary?
If you are travelling through the east coast Australia, make sure to include Gold Coast in your itinerary. You don’t want to miss the golden beaches, the best waves and awesome beach vibes. And don’t forget to check out my top 10 things activities in Gold Coast.