Insider’s Guide To Surfers Paradise

Insider’s Guide To Surfers Paradise

19 Feb 2021

When people think of the Gold Coast, it’s Surfers Paradise that usually comes to mind. This constantly evolving destination is one of the country’s genuine tourism hot-spots. There’s always something happening in Surfers. With a thriving nightlight and food scene and endless options for entertainment, you only need to step outside to get amongst the action. Yet it’s easy to get away from crowds completely on kilometres of uncrowded beach or the tranquil waterways and canals that border the precinct on its western fringe. Experience the best of both worlds.

No-one could ever be bored in Surfers Paradise; there’s every kind of attraction known to humankind, from putt-putt golf to amphibious vehicle tours to indoor skydiving… and everything in between. It’s also home to some of Queensland’s best beach-side dining options and there’s a bar or café to suit any kind of traveller.


Oh boy, where would you like to start?  Away from its all-too-obvious natural attractions, Surfers Paradise has plenty of activities you won’t need a pair of swimmers for. Like iFly Indoor Skydiving, where you’ll get inside a 360 degree glass tunnel so the whole family can watch as wind’s blasted at you, and you’ll have a simulated parachute jump, minus the plane. Or if you’d prefer to actually get high in the sky, take a lift to the top of Australia’s tallest residential building, to the Skypoint Observation Deck at Q1. If that’s far enough, order a cocktail at the bar and enjoy the 360° view of the beaches and the hinterland, otherwise take Australia’s highest external climb from the 77th floor to the top.


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For those who aren’t keen on heights, there’s plenty to do with your feet firmly on the ground. Check out the largest collection of authentic wax figures in the Southern Hemisphere at the Gold Coast Wax Museum. Take a walk on the wild side and pay a visit to the iconic Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in Cavill Mall. Marvel at the weird and wonderful oddities on display including shrunken heads, rare animal skeletons and a two-headed calf! There are also themed galleries of artefacts, pop culture memorabilia and a Laser race where you’ll need to squeeze between laser beams in a timed challenge.

Challenge your family’s collective IQ to get out of a dark room at Padlock’d Escape Rooms – you’ll have to find clues and solve puzzles to get out of the dark in 60 minutes. Or take a half hour journey into a futuristic world of mazes at Infinity Attraction – there’s 20 multi-sensual environments inside, including the world’s first-ever Time Tunnel. It’s a chemical-free trip into another dimension of your imagination.


If you’d prefer to stay outdoors, Surfers Paradise serves up one of Queensland’s best outdoor activity menus. There’s a whole range to choose from: best you leave plenty of time to see as many as you can.

Don’t just watch the waves breaking on the beach beside you: ride them! Go Ride A Wave offers lessons for complete beginners – or perhaps you’d like to refine skills you already have. There’s group and private lessons available.

That will keep you entertained on the ocean side of Surfers, but the waterways on the other side of Surfers Paradise offer another kind of experience. Admire the fancy houses on the canals of Surfers and Main Beach from a stand-up paddle board. Hire one (there’s lessons if you need one), or take a tour through the waterways with Go Vertical SUP. Or take a gondola ride through the canals pretending you’re in Venice with your own private gondolier – either on a cruise, or with dinner or lunch included (with Gold Coast Gondolas). For bigger groups like families, take a sightseeing cruise across the waterways with Surfers Paradise River Cruises (there’s a bar on board) and keep your eyes out for the resident dolphins of the area.


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For as little as $3, you can also hop on and hop off HOPO ferry, which connects with G Link light rail and travel between the area’s best tourist hot-spots, like Sea World, Home Of The Arts and Marina Mirage. You can also combine the best sites of Surfers Paradise on an amphibious tour that travels as a bus along the street, then converts to a boat for a tour of the waterways to see the mega-mansions of the rich and famous. Welcome aboard the famour Aqua Duck! There’s an Adults Only Scandals and Sunsets Cruise at night which delves into all the gossip of the rich and famous in the area if you get a night off from the kids.

Adrenaline junkies can hire a jet ski or take a tour, or try parasailing or fly-boarding (where a hose connected to a jet ski propels you through the air) with Gold Coast Watersports. Or take a 55-minute jet boat tour with Jet Boat X-Treme.

Have a go of the coolest new action sport and experience the sensation of of flying over the water with Gold Coast Hydrofoil Tours. You stand on a surfboard that has an electric engine attached, which you control with a remote control. There is no surfing experience required and it’s easy to learn.

For a change of pace and some quirky fun, get your mini-golf game on! Steer your ball through shark infested waters at Holey Moley where you’ll enjoy a one-of-a-kind 18-hole course, a bar and a private karaoke room. There’s also ten-pin bowling at Strike Bowling and arcade games at Timezone.


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Surfers Paradise has a restaurant for every kind of diner – from chic beach-side eateries to boisterous, budget-friendly family restaurants. Soul Boardwalk – just 20 metres from the beach – is wall-to-wall with dining choices and is the only shopping and dining precinct on the Gold Coast (you’ll have beach views as you eat too).


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Sit and people-watch at Euro-chic pasta and pizza restaurant, Vapiano Gold Coast – the cocktails are legendary. Or order flame-grilled steak and ribs (or seafood – try the king prawns) with sweeping views of the surf. Families are welcome any time of the day – take a sit on the balcony for lunch, or join in the fun of the main dining room at night. For something fancier in Soul Boardwalk, pick a level that suits you at Seascape. There’s a bistro and bar ideal for families on level one, or fine dining for couples on level two. The seafood chowder’s only $18 while the lobster roll is to-die-for, and there’s a well priced kids’ menu too,

You’ll find some of the best restaurants in the lobbies of the area’s best hotels. You’ll feel like you’re in a food market in Asia or the Middle East at the interactive food market place in the lobby of QT Surfers Paradise, called QT Bazaar.


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The Hilton spent $9 million revamping its lobby restaurant, Ms Margots (named for a 92-year-old who comes for breakfast every day). There’s floor-to-ceiling windows and a hip coastal vibe, and one of the Coast’s best mixologists fixing unique cocktails. Try the tempura bug rolls. While you can have an interactive seafood market experience a little further north at newly refurbished JW Marriott’s Asian-influenced restaurants, Citrique Restaurant, where kids eat for half price.


There’s plenty to do in Surfers Paradise that won’t cost a cent. Take a walk along the beach –south to Broadbeach, or north to Main Beach and beyond to The Spit (where the Broadwater empties into the ocean at the Seaway). Or walk to the western side of Surfers Paradise to catch a sunset over the hinterland from Budds Beach. Visit Macintosh Island Park on the outskirts of Surfers Paradise. You’ll find peacocks wandering through the grounds as well as great playgrounds for kids and plenty of prime picnic spots.


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Or check over 100 stalls and free live music every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4-9pm in the open-air Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets. Or wander through two shopping centres located in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Paradise Shopping Centre has over 100 stores and an al fresco dining precinct and fronts Surfers Paradise Beach, while Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre is home to boutique stores and restaurants, bars and cafes.


Buy a Go Explore card for the  G Link Light Rail from newsagents, selected hotels or the airport and you can ride the light rail through the heart of Surfers Paradise and south to Broadbeach, or north to Southport and beyond. The new Smart Ticketing systems means you can pay for light rail travel using contactless debit and credit cards. Simply tap on and off with your VISA, Mastercard, American Express or smart device.

Or hire an electric bike with Lime E-Bike hire – a bike sharing scheme which allows you to unlock and lock your e-bike using a Smartphone. You can pick them up wherever one’s available, with no need to return to a docking station. Walking is a great way to get around Surfers too – there’s no better way to get a feel for place than strolling the streets.

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Craig Tansley
Craig Tansley

Craig Tansley is one of Australia’s most travelled travel writers, spending at least a quarter of his year on the road. Raised near the Gold Coast, he’s lived around the world but has returned home, now residing at Currumbin. He writes for some of Australia’s best known newspapers and magazines, and has written for international titles such as The Sunday Times of London.


Destination Gold Coast acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. 
We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout Southeast Queensland.