The Gold Coast is known for its awesome coastline, its vivid nightlife and its family-friendly experiences. But dig a little deeper and in just 2-3 days you can discover a whole world of culture. Let me take you on a journey to unearth some of the Gold Coast’s best cultural experiences and creative spaces.
DAY ONE – AFTERNOON
I’m going to assume you’ve had a lazy morning at the beach or imbibing at one of the city’s fabulous cafes before you embark on your cultural adventure. With that in mind, our itinerary begins at lunchtime, in Surfers Paradise.
GRAB A MOBIKE
Mobike is the Gold Coast’s bikeshare scheme and because the bikes are dockless, you can pick them up from and drop them off just about anywhere. Download the app, locate a bike or two and you’re on your way.
Our first stop is ONEArts on Isle of Capri, a leisurely ten minute cycle from the heart of Surfers Paradise, much of it riverside. ONEArts is a community arts space that mentors local creatives to extend their art into viable businesses and careers. The studio and gallery space is located in the park opposite Capri Via Roma shopping centre (which is a handy pit stop for coffee, snacks and meals). The gallery is open 10am – 4pm on weekdays and 10am – 2pm on Saturdays.
After you’ve had a sticky-beak around ONEarts – it’s a compact venue, so it shouldn’t take long – you continue across Isle of Capri and head for the city’s new arts hub.
HOTA – HOME OF THE ARTS
Situated right on the banks of the Nerang River, with stunning views across to the Surfer Paradise skyline is Gold Coast’s home of the arts – HOTA. With two cinemas, a theatre, a massive outdoor amphitheatre, a heap of other performance spaces and a fantastic café there’s literally something happening here every day. Gallery at HOTA is the centre’s art gallery, but be warned, there’s a big new gallery on the horizon and works have already started. Check out HOTA’s program of events before you go so you can schedule your time accordingly.
And while you’re here, grab a takeaway coffee and head to the rear of the precinct for a stroll around Evandale Lake.
Tucked into the back of the precinct is a totally under-rated sculpture walk that even many locals have never discovered. You can experience the walk while meandering around a small tidal lake, completely safe for swimming, and continuing through the gardens that surround HOTA.
After you’ve taken in all that HOTA has to offer, it’s time to head back to Surfers Paradise to venture further afield. As you continue the circuit back to Surfers, you’ll cross Chevron Island, a small urban village, known for its breakfast and brunch options as well as boutique stores and salons.
Once you return your mobike to Surfers Paradise, it’s time for some food and live music. You’re going to jump on a tram to Helensvale and explore NightQuarter. Open from 4.00pm – 10.00pm on Fridays and Saturdays, Nightquarter is a night market with a heavy focus on food and live entertainment. On any given Friday or Saturday you can find local, original musicians on the indoor festival-sized stage, cover artists playing Aussie rock favourites, buskers and all manner of street entertainers with thousands of people passing through the venue’s gates every weekend. And it all takes place just 100m from the Helensvale light rail station.
LATE NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
You might have had enough by the time you catch a light rail back to Surfers or Broadbeach, but if you’re up for late night entertainment, then Surfers Paradise delivers in spades. Elsewhere (pictured), located right on Cavill Ave and just metres from the tram stop is well known for giving local original bands their first break. But from midnight, DJs take over and the place turns into a dance party of epic proportions. Surfers Paradise Beergarden, Hard Rock Café and The Avenue host regular live music – both originals and covers and there’s nightclubs just about on every street. You can check the Gold Coast gig guide via Blank GC – the Gold Coast’s very own independent cultural street press.
DAY TWO – MORNING
BREAKFAST IN BURLEIGH HEADS
Today’s itinerary kicks off with breakfast or coffee in Burleigh. However, if you’re lucky enough to wake up on the Gold Coast on a Sunday morning, you’ll want to start with a quick visit to The Village Markets in Burleigh. Running now for more than ten years, this quintessentially Gold Coast market focusses on local creative products: think fashion, jewellery, home wares and textiles. Conveniently located in the grounds of Burleigh Heads State School, it’s also ideally positioned. Once you’re done here, you can pop down to James Street for breakfast or coffee at one of the village’s famous cafes.
SEAN SCOTT PHOTOGRAPHY
While you’re in Burleigh, you must stop in to Sean Scott’s gallery and store. Located right in the middle of James Street, the gallery features a range of Sean’s photography produced as fine art canvas prints as well as clothing, homewares and high-definition glass work.
DAY TWO – AFTERNOON
JELLURGAL ABORIGINAL CULTURAL CENTRE
Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre is based at the foot of the Burleigh Headland, alongside the pristine Tallebudgera estuary. The centre features Indigenous art for sale as well as a range of Aboriginal artefacts such as nulla nullas, digeridoos, tools and instruments used in everyday life. Entry is free and the centre is open 8am – 3pm Monday to Friday. If you want a more in-depth Indigenous experience, then jump on one of the Centre’s daily tours which explore the traditional lives of the Yugambeh people and interpret the surrounding landscape.
There are two tours to choose from, each involving a guided tour of Jellurgal mountain, where countless culturally significant sites have played an important role in the lives of Aboriginal people. The two-hour Jellurgal Walkabout tour runs twice a day (9.30am and 12.30pm) and the Jellurgal Journey Tour runs for 2.5hours at 9.30am every day. It’s important to book ahead.
BURLEIGH BREWING CO.
Seeing you’ve spent the morning in Burleigh, what better place to wrap up the daylight hours than with a tipple made by Burleigh’s very own craft brewery. Tucked into the warehouse precinct, just 5km west of Burleigh beach is Burleigh Brewing Co.’s taphouse. It’s open three days a week, 3.00 – 8.30pm on Friday and Saturday and 2.00 – 6.00pm on Sunday. What I love especially about Burleigh Brewing (apart from their Black Giraffe Beer) is that they’re constantly upping the ante when it comes to cultural events. With regular live performances from original musicians, an annual arts event called BLA! (Brewing Local Artists) and monthly film nights, it’s the perfect excuse to indulge in some craft beer goodness while experiencing local culture at its best.
The day’s not over yet! As you wrap up your afternoon at Burleigh Brewing and head north back to your accommodation, you’ll pass the suburb of Miami.
By now, you will have heard of Miami Marketta – it’s such a Gold Coast institution, it’s recently been immortalised on the limited edition Gold Coast Monopoly set. On Wednesdays, there’s tapas for $6 and under as well as a suitcase rummage and funk DJ. On Fridays (open from 5pm) and Saturdays (open from 4pm) there’s street food trucks, designer markets and live music from local and touring bands. Pretty much, if it’s open, there’ll be tunes. It’s the perfect spot to debrief on a day of cultural sight-seeing while discovering your new favourite Gold Coast band or designer. It all wraps up by 10pm too. Check out the regular Marketta events at their website.
DAY THREE – MORNING
SOUTHERN GOLD COAST DELIGHTS
We’re going to head south for some quick artistic pit-stops on your last morning exploring Gold Coast’s cultural scene and where better to kick start the day than possibly the most forward-thinking gallery the city’s seen for a long time.
With exceptional coffee, twice monthly life drawing sessions, gallery space and regular exhibitions, additional artist studios, slam poetry nights, regular live music (day and night) and a thriving but motley crew of local artists coming and going, Dust Temple, located on Currumbin Creek Road has really made a name for itself as a beacon for Southern Gold Coast’s creative community. Check what events are on before you go so that you can make the most of your time or simply stop in for a leisurely coffee and amble through the permanent art fixtures.
MAVERICK HAIR & ARTS SPACE
One part hair salon, one part art studio, Maverick lives up to it’s name. Owned by artist Byron Coathup, the arts space is a contemporary gallery for emerging artists with regular exhibitions, events, workshops and seminars. The art space also boasts a large range of unique art and design books for sale as well as jewellery, ceramics, art prints, homewares and clothing created by local artists and designers.
CAFE DBAR AND DBAR HOUSE
Just inside the Queensland border, across the road from a headland with incredible views sits Café Dbar and Dbar House. Dbar house, open 9am – 4pm and located in a classic 1925 Queenslander, hosts continuous art exhibitions and product launches from distinguished local artists. Crammed with gifts and artworks, the quirky and breezy little space provides local artists with a platform to exhibit their works and handicrafts. The café, which is open 6.30am – 4.00pm is an ideal refuelling stop too and stocks local craft beers to complement the local art.
THE SCOTTISH PRINCE
If you’ve managed to turn a morning of art into a full day, then you might be ready for an afternoon tipple. The Scottish Prince, located on the highway at Palm Beach is a favourite for locals. As well as serving more than 100 whiskies and offering regular whisky appreciation courses and a substantial menu, there’s live blues music every Thursday night and often live music for the rest of the week.