The Gold Coast With Kids: A Beginner’s Guide

Hello there! Are you thinking of visiting the Gold Coast with kids? Would this be your first visit? Have you been looking at all the fun things to do with the kids at the Gold Coast and feeling a bit overwhelmed? Fear not! I have visited the Gold Coast with my kids and then on my own in my role as a travel writer, and I can break it all down for you here. But you might need a cup of coffee as this is going to be a pretty long read.

Surfers at Burleigh Head right in the middle of the Gold Coast. Photo credit: Destination Gold Coast

Let’s get started with a list of all the topics we are going to cover. Then we can settle in for a while together and get acquainted with this family-friendly destination that is called ‘Australia’s Favourite Playground’ for very good reason.

First I will show you some different areas, explain why to stay there and give some tips on good cafes and restaurants. After that, there is a section on cool things to do.

NB I have aimed to write the sort of article that I needed myself when I decided to take my four children up to the Gold Coast one school holidays. My husband was working away so a girlfriend and her son came too. It was all a bit overwhelming when I started researching, anyway, we ended up staying at Sea World itself on that trip, and we used public transport and taxis which did keep things simple.

The Gold Coast – An Introduction

Strictly, the Gold Coast is a city, the second largest in Queensland and the largest non-capital city in Australia. But for our purposes, the Gold Coast is a wonderful holiday destination which stretches about 56 km from Coolangatta, just north of the NSW border, up to the suburb of Coomera, where the theme park Dreamworld is. The airport is at the south end at Coolangatta.

The Gold Coast is best known for its surf beaches, dozens run up the coast from Danger Point at Coolangatta to the tip of Main Beach. There are also many creeks, rivers and inland waterways both artificial and manmade.

From the coast you can see the hills that rise up in the east, this is the Gold Coast Hinterland, with its massive national parks, bush, rivers, waterfalls, farms, adventurous activities and small villages. This article is going to deal mainly with the coastal area, with some ideas for things to do in the Gold Coast Hinterland at the bottom.

The northern areas of the Gold Coast are the busiest areas, with towering skyscrapers and an almost futuristic skyline. This is where you’ll find the suburbs of Main Beach, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach and where a lot of the well know theme parks and adrenaline sports are either based or easily accessible from.

Then there is beautiful Burleigh Heads, with its iconic surf break, a pocket of rainforest and a coastal village vibe. The area south of Burleigh Heads is much more low-rise and quiet. Each beachside village has its own atmosphere, charms and attractions, with many cafes and restaurants to enjoy and lots of accommodation options. You can find Currumbin here, with its famous Wildlife Refuge, Mermaid Beach, Miami Beach, Kirra Beach and at the south Coolangatta Beach has high rise buildings again as well as the natural wonders that are of Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks.

Map of The Gold Coast

Getting Around The Gold Coast

The roads, driving and parking are very easy around the Gold Coast, any visitors from Australia’s busier capital cities will be thrilled with the ease of driving and parking. So if you come by car or you choose to hire a car then you can very easily get to know the whole area in just a few days. Having your own car gives you heaps of flexibility and is the best option if you know you want to explore widely.

However, if you are after a more relaxing, beachy holiday then you will be fine with public transport. The Gold Coast Tram is a 13-kilometre line that runs from Helensvale to Broadbeach. Visitors will mainly use the section from Main Beach through Surfers Paradise and down to Broadbeach, the tram is an easy and accessible way to whizz around these areas. You need a Go Card or paper tickets to use the tram, easily purchased in shops and at the stations.

There are bus services all over the Gold Coast, including shuttle services from the airport and to all the theme parks. We used these when I visited with my four kids as I was not game to navigate and drive them to all these places without another adult in the car. The shuttle buses made life much simpler.

Try the Con-X-ion company for airport and theme park transfers.

For more options see the Destination Gold Coast transport page here.

Where Should My Family Stay At The Gold Coast?

Now, that’s an excellent question. A search around the various aggregating websites like Airbnb and Booking.com will have your head spinning.

Here’s my advice, if you are looking for an action-packed holiday, where you and the kids will be on the go all day, where there’s some serious nightlife and a bustling, exciting vibe, then head north. The heart of Surfers Paradise is the busiest and most central spot and there are some excellent places to stay there.

If you want to be close to the heart of the action, but to have a bit of peace and quiet in your accommodation, look at Broadbeach south of Surfers or at Main Beach north of Surfers. There are thousands of apartments available in these areas, all very close to the beach itself. There are great cafes and restaurants too. Broadbeach has a particularly excellent playground and reserve by the main area of beach, it is a little bit upmarket, locals say.

If you would like a more beachy, quieter beach holiday then stay at Burleigh Heads or one of the suburbs south of there. These run all the way down to Coolangatta which has high rises but is still at the quieter end of the Gold Coast. Coolangatta is handy for trips into NSW and has the advantage of being a five minute drive from the airport.

Staying At Surfers Paradise, Main Beach or Broadbeach

Here are some of the places I can recommend myself.

Paradise Resort’s foyer with indoor playground

Paradise Resort

Address: 122 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradies

Phone: 1800 074 111

Paradise Resort website is here.

Huge water play spaces at the Paradise Resort

Paradise Resort has won many awards in the most family-friendly resort category for very good reasons. There are good facilities here for families, extensive play areas, huge water play areas and a great kids club. So even the adults can have a holiday.

Paradise Resort is a short walk from the central streets of Surfers Paradise and the beach. I have visited this resort and can totally see its appeal. It is not five star, and doesn’t have huge areas to lounge around in, but it is very well set up for families and justifiably popular.

Kitchen/dining area at Meriton Suites
The outdoor pool

Meriton Suites Southport

Address: 2 Como Cres, Southport
Phone: 02 9277 1111

Meriton Suites website is here.

I stayed at the Meriton Suites in 2021 and found them very handy for Surfers Paradise without being in the thick of things. The suite was huge, with a laundry and kitchen, very useful. There are indoor and outdoor pools and a kids’ play area.

If you stay over at Southport, you must have a walk along the Broadwater Parklands, where you will find some play equipment and good walking paths. Here is also the very large Gold Coast Aquatic Centre with its high diving boards, and also an inflatable Aqua Park. At Ian Dipple Lagoon by the Labrador boat ramp, you can see hundreds of pelicans being fed every day at 1.30pm. Charis Seafoods throws out all their leftover fish and the pelicans are the very happy recipients.

The QT’s iconic pool and bar area

QT Gold Coast,

Address: 7 Stanghorn Ave, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217

Phone: 07 5584 1238

Check availability and prices at the QT Gold Coast here.

Even the bathrooms are stripy

Lovers of style will be very happy at the QT with its super cool stripy pool and creative spaces. I loved the fact that the bathrooms are as cool as the stunning pool and play area.

I have enjoyed dinner at Bazaar restaurant which was superb, a real fusion of world food. There are four other places to eat and drink at QT: the Spring poolside bar, Yamagen for Japanese cuisine, FIXX Cafe for coffee and all-day light dining and the excellently-named Stingray for drinks and West Coast USA dining.

The Waves Resort, Broadbeach

Address: 89-91 Surf Parade, Broadbeach

Phone: 07 5555 9200

Waves website here.

This is a luxury apartment hotel offer one one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Close to the beach the resort also has two terrific pools. I haven’t stayed here myself but friends recommend it highly.

The Mantra Sun City

This apartment hotel is in the heart of Surfers Paradise, has a great pool for kids and is close to the action. Read my review of a stay here:

The Mantra Sun City

Inland from Surfers and surrounded by its gold course, the RACV Royal Pines Resort is great for families who want some peace and quiet and plenty pool time, perhaps with some gold. I have stayed here, read about the RACV Royal Pines here.

Kid-Friendly Cafes + Restaurants around Surfers Paradise

The patisserie display at Bumbles Cafe

Bumbles Café

Found at Budds Beach on the river side of Surfers Paradise, this cafe is just a walk away from the busyness of the surf side yet feels tranquil. The interior rooms have quirky, interesting decor and there is outside seating with views too. Serves breakfast and lunch.

Address: 21 River Drive, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217

Phone: 07 5538 6668

Bumbles Cafe website is here

Views over the marina at Southport Yacht Club

Southport Yacht Club

This club welcomes families and even provides a fenced playground for the little kids in its covered outdoors area. This is the only north-facing waterfront restaurant in Main Beach, with great views over Broadwater. Serves lunches and dinners.

There is a little beach in front of the restaurant where kids can play.

Address: 1 MacArthur Parade, Main Beach

Phone: 07 5591 3500

Southport Yacht Club website is here

Oysters kilpatrick at Omeros Brothers

Omeros Brothers Seafood Restaurant

An award-winning seafood restaurant, Omeros Brothers has fine dining in a casual setting. For celebratory lunches and dinners, this restaurant makes a terrific venue. The seafood is super fresh and cooked simply to allow the full flavour to be enjoyed. Being right on the boardwalk, the views over the marina and Broadwater are fantastic.

Address: Marina Mirage, 74 Seaworld Dr, Main Beach

Phone: 07 5591 7222

Omeros Brothers website is here.

Streetscape at Hot Shotts

Hot Shott

In the heart of the shopping village at Main Beach, a walk away from the beach and surrounded by interesting shops, Hot Shotts is a large cafe full of Gold Coasters drinking coffees and catching up. The breakfasts and lunches are hearty, healthy and even a touch rustic. Great spot to eat and drink without rushing.

Address: 3/17 Tedder Ave, Main Beach QLD 4217

Phone: 07 5532 3275

Hot Shott website is here.

Staying at Burleigh Heads

Swell Resort

This is a 4.5 star resort with fully self-contained one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, swimming pool, spa, tennis courts, yoga and gym. The location is terrific, being just across the Gold Coast Highway and a a quick walk to the beach, the national park and to Burleigh’s great cafes and restaurants.

Address: 1 Ocean Street, Burleigh Heads

Phone: 07 5586 0500

Swell Resort website

Photo credit: Swell Resort

Burleigh Heads Kid-Friendly Cafes + Restaurants

Burleigh Heads is full of terrific cafes and restaurants, many are very family-friendly. The Burleigh Pavilion is a local legend, highly recommended by friends of mine as is Commune at 1844 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads, and Miami Marketta at laneway with food vendors at 23 Hillcrest Parade, Miami, just south of Burleigh Heads.

I visited Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club‘s restaurant lately and swooned at the views. On the one side you can see all the way up Burleigh Heads to Surfers and on the other side is magnificent Elephant Rock and views to Currumbin and Coolangatta. Service was great, and the food good too. Next time, I am booking in for one of their famous breakfasts.

Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club

Address: 741 Pacific Parade Currumbin QLD 4223

Phone: 07 5534 2932

Currumbin SLSC website is here

Currumbin Beach Vikings

Staying At Coolangatta

There are thousands of apartments to rent in the southern suburbs of the Gold Coast, plus plenty of hotels too. Personally, I can highly recommend the Greenmount Beach Hotel where I spent three nights. It has wonderful views over both the beach and over the Tweed River, there is a kid-friendly pool with a slide. The Greenmount Beach Hotel is just a few minutes walk to the cafes and restaurants of Coolangatta as well as to the stunning beaches Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks. Swoon.

Greenmount Beach Hotel

Address: 3 Hill St, Coolangatta QLD 4225

Phone: 07 5536 1222

Greenmount Beach Hotel website

The pool and slide at the Greenmount
Stylish lobby at the Greenmount Beach Hotel

Coolangatta Kid-Friendly Cafes + Restaurants

Cafe Dbar

Find the best views in town at Cafe Dbar which is right on the southern tip of the Gold Coast at Danger Point. Great for breakfasts and lunches, with generous portions of rustic, healthy food. Kids will love the exotic milkshakes.

Address: 275 Boundary Street Coolangatta QLD 4225

Phone: 07 5599 2031

Cafe Dbar website is here

The Caramilk Bubble – butterscotch salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream, caramilk chunks and caramel sauce. Breakfast of champions!
Right at Point Danger, Cafe Dbar is a top brekkie spot in Coolangatta
Artworks at the rear of Cafe All Sorts

Cafe All Sorts

This beach-vibe cafe is fun with very friendly staff and great views across to Kirra Beach, it has cool artworks to look at whilst you eat.

Address: 34 Musgrave Street Coolangatta

Phone: 07 5536 9612

Cafe All Sorts website is here

Baskk Italian’s indoor seating, there is heaps outside too

Baskk Italian

This Italian restaurant has an extensive menu and outdoors and indoors seating. Great for family dinners and lunches.

Address: 52/58 Marine Parade Coolangatta QLD 4225

Phone: 07 5536 8136

Baskk website is here

Tupe Aloha

A tiki bar and cafe with fun decor and enough tacos on the menu to keep any kid content.

Address: 1/1 Douglas St Coolangatta

Phone: 07 5536 4870

Tupe Aloha website is here

Little Cooly

Kids will love watching the chefs make pizzas in the wood-fried pizza oven at this family-friendly Italian restaurant.

Address: Shop 120/72-80 Level 1, The Strand, Marine Parade,

Phone: 07 5607 4173

Little Cooly website is here

Fun Things To Do On The Gold Coast With Kids

So now hopefully you have an idea of where you would like to stay on the Gold Coast and you have some ideas of good cafes and restaurants. Next it is time to look at all the Gold Coast’s kid-friendly activities and places to visit. This is a list of all the ones I think are best… and which I can fit into this (already very long) article. There are more!!

But just to get you started, cast your eye over this little lot.

Gold Coast Theme Parks

Families will easily spend a whole day at any of these theme parks. You can buy tickets which allow you into several of them. They are busy and noisy, and are definitely not my own favourite but my kids enjoyed visiting. We all do find the noisiness and all the people a bit overwhelming though.

Wet’n’Wild

There are thrilling water rides for all members of the family here. If you have little kids, do check out the height restrictions to make sure it will be worth your while to visit. Great for hot days, there are plenty places to spread out and relax too.

Address: Pacific Motorway, Oxenford

Wet’n’Wild website

Sea World

Younger children adore seeing all the aquatic animals at Sea World, with the dolphin show, the rays and the polar bears being especially popular. I one stayed at Sea World with my kids which worked really well. There are also some fun thrill rides there, suitable for all ages.

Address: Seaworld Drive, Main Beach

Sea World website, click here

Image credit Destination Gold Coast

Dreamworld + WhiteWater World

The combination of thrill rides and amusements, alongside the white water rides makes this a varied amusement park with something for everyone.

Address: Dreamworld Parkway, Coomera

Dreamworld website is here

Image credit Destination Gold Coast

Warner Bros. Movie World

Kids will adore meeting some of their favourite cartoon characters and there are film-themed shows and exhibitions to keep the adults and teenagers entertained too. Thrill rides add to the fun of course.

Address: Pacific Motorway, Oxenford

Warner Bros. Move World website

Gold Coast Watersports

Jetski tour on the Nerang River

Jetskiing, Parasailing + Fly Boarding

Find your way to Gold Coast Watersports for parasailing, fly boarding, jetski rentals and jetski tours.

Children aged 7+ can sit behind an adult as passengers on the jetski. Teenagers aged 16+ can drive their own jetskis. Children aged 12+ can try Fly boarding can be tried by children aged 12+ and kids aged 6+ and weighing more than 22kg can have a parasailing ride.

It is a good plan to avoid the weekends on the Gold Coast waterways if you can, as weekdays are much quieter.

Parking: Try Bruce Bishop Car Park, 10 Beach Road, Surfers Paradise, a 200m walk away.

Gold Coast Watersports website, click here.

Address: 58 Cavill Ave, Surfers Paradise

Phone: 0404 445 000

Surfer at dawn at Burleigh Heads. Photo credit Destination Gold Coast

Surf Lessons

I advise booking surf lessons at the beach closest to the accommodation, there are many companies offering surfing lessons at beaches all the length of the Gold Coast. Just do a search to find the one nearest to where you are staying. Here is one website to get you started:

Gold Coast Surf Schools

Tallebudgera Creek. Image credit Destination Gold Coast

Family-Friendly Gold Coast Beaches

The vast sweep of beach from Main Beach down to Burleigh Heads has life guard towers with flags set out in front approximately every 500 metres. The surf is often fairly big here but you can splash, swim and boogie board between the flags safely.

Just past Burleigh Head is the lovely and very kid-friendly Tallebudgera Creek where you can swim and play in flat waters of the creek or run over the dunes to the surf beach. On the south side of the creel there are flags and life guards on patrol, plus parking an dcafes.

Currumbin Creek is also very family-friendly, shallow splashing areas abound and there is no surf. Park at Palm Beach Parklands where you will find the fab Treasure Island playground right beside the creek.

The Treasure Island playground at Currumbin Creek
Currumbin Creek at low tide.

At the southern end of the Gold Coast you will find Rainbow Beach and Snapper Rocks which were my absolute favourite swimming and playing spots, very beautiful and also family-friendly.

Rainbow Bay, there is a lovely cafe/bar in the surf club here
Snappers Rocks at high tide, a stunning swimming spot.

Jetboating

We think of jet boating as a noisy, exhilerating adventure, and it is. But you might also see some ineteresting sea life and visit the more remote areas of the northern parts of the Gold Coast.

Paradise Jet Boating

Address: Mariners Cove Marina Shop, 7b/60 Seaworld Dr Main Beach

Phone: 07 5526 3089

Paradise Jet Boating website is here

Indigenous Cultural Tours

Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre

You can visit this Cultural Centre at Burleigh Heads at any time to enjoy the art gallery and learn about indigenous artefacts like shields and nulla nullas. There is a boardwalk storyboard display explaining the history and culture of the Yugambeh people. Walking tours of the nearby National Park leave from here too and there is a cafe serving drinks, meals and snacks.

Address: 1711 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Phone: 07 5525 5955

Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre website is here

Dancers at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s daily afternoon dance performance

Animal Attractions On The Gold Coast

You can learn lots about koalas at Currumbin
Koala takes a walk

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Currumbin is heaven for families, with heaps of space and animals to enjoy meeting. There is also a well-equipped and spacious playground there with water play too, great to cool off on hot days. Teens might enjoy the TreeTop Challenge high ropes course which is onsite. Little kids will love a ride in the trains and an up-close koala encounter.

Address: 28 Tomewin Street, Currumbin QLD 4223

Phone: 07 5534 1266

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary website, click here

TreeTop Challenge Currumbin website is here

The extensive playground, and do not worry, the croc is just a sculpture
I loved the idea of a koala pantry
Image credit: Destination Gold Coast

Catch a Crab

Join a crabbing tour daily from this Tweed River oyster farm and return to enjoy a seafood lunch at the cafe. On the tour you will feed wild pelicans, trap live crabs, pump for yabbies, go fishing and learn all about the oyster farm. You will learn all sorts of things you never knew about crabs.

Address: Birds Bay Oyster Farm, 11/17 Birds Bay Dr, West Tweed Heads NSW 2486

Phone: 07 5599 9972

Catch A Crab website


A hawksbill turtle

Snorkel With Turtles

Also at the southern end of the Gold Coast, in fact just south of the New South Wales border, you can take a guided boat trip to snorkel with huge turtles at Cook Island. The waves are often large here and the water fairly deep so this is not a trip for newbie snorkellers. But experienced snorkellers will love earning all about the three species of turtle who live around this island. On the tour, we saw enormous green turtles and some smaller and speedier hawksbill turtles too. The tour leaves from the sleepy seaside town of Fingal Bay.

Watersports Guru

Address: 10 Lighthouse Parade, Fingal Head NSW 2487 Tel:

Phone: 0430 082 890

Watersports Guru website is here.

This huge green turtle is probably well over 100 years old.

Gold Coast For Adrenaline-Lovers

You will be amazed at how much of the Gold Coast you can see on a short helicopter ride

Gold Coast Helitours

This was one of my very favourite tours at the Gold Coast and only my second ever helicopter journey. The ride along the beach in front of Surfers was truly spectacular. What a thrill.

Address: Mirage Heliport D-Arm Marina Mirage, Seaworld Drive , Main Beach QLD 4217

Parking: Closest is the car park at Mariners Cove, or the car park at Marina Mirage

Phone: 07 5591 8457

Gold Coast Helitours website is here.

Photo credit Destination Gold Coast

Skypoint Climb

Kids aged 12+ can take part in Australia’s tallest external building climb. I found it pretty scary but it is run very safely. A visit just to see the views from Skypoint are the next best option.

Address: Level 77, Q1 building / 9 Hamilton Ave Surfers Paradise

Phone: 07 5582 2700

Skypoint Climb website is here

Flying lessons at iFLY Gold Coast

iFLY Gold Coast

Indoor skydiving is accessible and such a thrill. You will be amazed what you can learn in a short amount of time. Kids aged 3+ are welcome to fly.

Address: 3084 Surfers Paradise Blvd Surfers Paradise QLD 4217

Phone: 1300 366 364

iFLY website is here

Gold Coast Sporting Activities

Photo credit Destination Gold Coast

King Tutt’s Putt Putt Mini Golf

Three themed 18 hole mini golf courses are located in the heart of Surfers Paradise. There are indoor and outdoor options so this is great for rainy weather or when it is just too hot.

Address: Ocean Avenue, Surfers Paradise

Phone: 07 5570 2277

King Tutt’s website is here

Photo credit Destination Gold Coast

Topgolf

A bit further out of town, Topgolf has heaps of space and fun activities like whacking micro-chipped golf balls into giant targets, you have your own bay and score points for hitting the targets. Great fun. There’s also a restaurant here and a rooftop bar.

Address: Cnr Roadshow Way and Entertainment Drive, Oxenford QLD 421

Phone: 1300 008 442

Topgolf website

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk in the Gold Coast Hinterland

Gold Coast Hinterland Things To Do

Tamborine Mountain is the gateway to the beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland and it is just a 30-40 minute drive from Surfers Paradise. If this is your first trip to the Gold Coast then you may not make it to the Hinterland, or you might just like to do a day trip. If you have time, then taking a few days and staying up in this lush area of waterfalls, national parks and rich farmland is also highly recommended, especially if you are not a Gold Coast newbie. But I am not the right person to be your guide as I have not explored this area myself.

Friends say to me that their favourite places to visit include:

Alpaca Picnics at Mountview Farm

Natural Arch Natural Bridge walk which features glow worms inside the cave at night time from around December through to March and also the Twin Falls Circuit, in Springbrook National Park.

Thunderbird Park TreeTop Challenge/Ziplines sound such fun.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat looks like an amazing place to stay or just to visit for a half day.

Plan your visit using the Places To See webpage on the Destination Gold Coast website.

Accessible Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is aiming to be Australia’s favourite playground for families with members of all abilities. There are beach wheelchairs for hire, beach matting, mobility maps, recharge stations and adult-sized changing places.

Go straight to the best information on the Destination Gold Coast website here.

Click here to read all about the huge Kurrawa Park – All Abilities Playground at Broadbeach here.

Address: Kurrawa Pratten Park, just south of Kurrawa Surf Club, Old Burleigh Road, Broadbeach.

visiting the gold coast for the first time image
The soaring spire of the Q1 building at Surfers Paradise. Photo credit: Destination Gold Coast

How many cups of coffee or tea did you drink whilst reading this long article? I can tell you that I drank about 20 cuppas whilst writing it. Haha.

Hope that you have now got a good overview of your Gold Coast family holiday and know where your family might enjoy staying and what activities and adventures you would like to have.

Please do ask any questions you might have in the comments below. Or pop over to the Facebook group Australia Travel Planning For Families and ask them there.

To plan more, do pop over to the Destination Gold Coast website here.

When you arrive at the Gold Coast, I do advise you to visit one of the two Visitor Information Centres.

Gold Coast Airport Visitor Information

Site 20, Gold Coast Airport, Domestic Arrival Terminal, 1 Terminal Drive, Bilinga

Surfers Paradise Visitor Information

2 Cavill Ave (Cavill Mall), Surfers Paradise

NB I have travelled to the Gold Coast with my kids and by myself at my own expense four times. I was hosted by Destination Gold Coast on my latest trip, many thanks to the team for their help and support. All opinions are my own – just ask my kids.

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