The Gold Coast delivers culturally on any day of the year. From underground creative spaces, to art galleries and music venues, there’s always something on the creative calendar. To be honest, it can be a little overwhelming when you live here. It seems like there’s another free, family-friendly event every weekend. And amongst all those awesome pop-up festivals are the city’s regular, big-ticket events. If, like me, you just can’t get enough music, visual arts, film and performing arts, then look no further. Gold Coast is an absolute mecca for cultural events. Here some of our faves.
SWELL SCULPTURE FESTIVAL, 14 – 23 SEPTEMBER
It’s an art gallery on the beach. It’s hard to find something more Gold Coast than SWELL Sculpture Festival. Running on the Gold Coast for more than 15 years, this open-air sculpture exhibition takes over Currumbin Beach for ten days every September and it always delights. Kids love running amongst the sculptures while getting their feet sandy and for grown-ups there are twilight walks and artist talks as well as workshops and life drawing sessions.
CELEBRATE GOLD COAST, 7 OCTOBER
Chevron Island is a bustling village located just a short walk from Surfers Paradise. And this October, the city is closing the island’s main street to throw one hell of a party. As well as Australian chart-toppers Busby Marou and some of the city’s best live acts (like Katie Who, Tully John and Liza-Jane and ELSKA), there’ll be a makers’ market, roller derby demos, silent kids’ disco, skateboarding lessons and a whole village of cubby-houses for small people with big imaginations. Chevron Island is known for its cafes and eateries, so you’ll leave with both your senses and your stomach satisfied.
BUSKERS BY THE CREEK, 13 – 14 OCTOBER
Jugglers, contortionists, musicians, dancers and acrobats, Buskers by the Creek really does have it all. It takes over the southern bank of Currumbin Creek for a whole weekend in spring and it’s Australia’s biggest busking event. Of course, there’s food trucks, bars and plenty of picnic space and like many of these events it’s all-ages and totally free.
SUMMER FESTIVAL BONANZA, NOVEMBER 2018 TO JANUARY 2019
Music lovers are completely spoilt for choice this summer on the Gold Coast. Broadwater Parklands, right on the water’s edge in Southport is playing host to three massive one-day festivals. Shakafest in November will bring Bliss N Esso, Last Dinosaurs, Alex The Astronaut, Bec Sandridge, Frenzal Rhomb and the Gold Coast’s own Jesswar to town. Under The Southern Stars returns for its second year with a focus on classic Aussie Rock from the likes of The Superjesus, Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I and British India and just a week later, Spiderbait, Shihad, Jebediah and Killing Heidi hit town for Hotter Than Hell. Shakafest is 24 November, Under The Southern Stars is 19 January and Hotter Than Hell is 27 January.
LET THERE BE ROCK, 8 DECEMBER 2018
What many people don’t realise about the Gold Coast is that it has a very long and rich history when it comes to music venues and touring bands. This December, the city’s very own Home Of The Arts has pulled together an exhibition which looks at the city’s live music heyday – the 70s, 80s and 90s. Not a lot has been released about the exhibition but we know there’ll be a tonne of memorabilia, historical tour posters, live music photography and a heap of stories being told about those three golden decades. The exhibition opens 8 December and runs into the new year.
GOLD COAST FILM FESTIVAL, 3 – 14 APRIL 2019
Film lovers will be completely overwhelmed with the Gold Coast Film Festival program. More than 100 films and film-related events happen across the city every April and 2019 is no different. Visitors can walk the red carpet alongside actors, filmmakers and their crew as the event brings a heap of world and Australian premieres to the city and there are heaps of opportunities to learn from leading producers and directors in intimate seminars and workshops. Oh, there’s also been a floating cinema for the past two years where you get to enjoy the glittering skyline of Surfers Paradise while watching cult and classic films.
BLEACH* FESTIVAL, 17 – 28 APRIL 2019
Imagine listening to an orchestra dispersed through a park, playing under the stars as you meander between cellos and violins? Or sleeping on the beach as world-class musicians play a soundtrack to match the ocean’s movements? Bleach* Festival – known as the city’s signature cultural event delivers incredible performing arts just like these, using the city’s natural landscapes as its venues. Alongside performing arts, there’s visual arts, music and dance as well as theatre thrown in the mix as well as a heap of family-friendly mini-festivals right up and down the coast.
SURFERS PARADISE LIVE, 2 – 6 MAY 2019
At the last one of these events, Daryl Braithwaite had 10,000 people singing along to ‘Horses’ right down the main mall of Surfers Paradise. Every year they close the Esplanade, build an enormous festival-sized stage right on the beach and then bring some of Australia’s most-loved artists to town for Surfers Paradise LIVE. It’s a genuine all-ages, family-friendly, multi-genre event with the music catering to people across multiple generations over the weekend. It’s also the home of the Gold Coast Music Awards, which opens the festival with four local acts as well as the awards presentation itself on the event’s first night.
BLUES ON BROADBEACH, 16 – 19 MAY 2019
There’s not a blues lover in Australia who hasn’t heard of Blues on Broadbeach. Artists from all over the world have the event on their must-play list and music fans here and abroad have it on their travel bucket list for good reason. I mean where else can you see so many fine blues musicians FOR FREE in such a stunning location. From the big-top marquee right next to Kurrawa Beach through to the intimate venues and cafes and the enormous stages that turn into street parties, this is a music-lover’s dream. What makes it even more awesome is that you have at your fingertips the impressive food offering of Broadbeach across the four day event and it’s literally just a stones-throw from the glistening waters that Gold Coast is famous for.
GOLD COAST FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL, 30 MAY – 2 JUNE 2019
Gold Coast is fast establishing itself as a foodie destination and events like the Gold Coast Food & Wine Festival are certainly helping. The Festival is the city’s signature food and wine event, brought together by the team behind NightQuarter, so it often includes quirky, interesting events that help tell the story of the city’s evolution as a food destination.
GROUNDWATER COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL, 26 – 28 JULY 2019
The dust has only just settled on this year’s Groundwater Festival – the fastest growing country music event in Australia – but organisers have already announced their headliner for 2019. Lee Kernaghan will join scores of Australian and international country music stars for the Broadbeach event. It’s a strange combination: a country music festival in the middle of the Gold Coast’s beaches and high-rises, but it works. As a music writer, the thing I love most about Groundwater is that it pushes the boundaries when it comes to country music. While still catering to traditional country fans, programmers also include a mix of alt-country, Americana and contemporary, indie and genre-bending country acts which cater to music lovers of all kinds.