Southport: The Cultural Hub of the Northern Gold Coast

Southport: The Cultural Hub of the Northern Gold Coast

21 Mar 2021

The northern Gold Coast region has always been a quiet achiever on the cultural front, and for decades Southport has been the unofficial (and now formal) CBD of the city. With its Chinatown redevelopment and repurposing of heritage buildings, as well as a growing number of cafes, galleries and live music venues, the villages around Southport dish up an eclectic mix of architecture, food, art and culture. If you’ve got some time to kill in the northern Gold Coast, here’s our top picks.

Broadwater Parklands

Home to sprawling lawns, a calm-water swimming enclosure, Southport Aquatic Centre, zero level children’s water park and Gold Coast Aqua Park and located a stone’s throw from downtown Southport shopping and dining as well as the light rail, Broadwater Parklands is like a magnet for families. There’s an enormous kids playground (complete with jumping pillow), wide paths for prams and bicycles and million-dollar views across to Main Beach marinas and the sparkling waters of the Broadwater. Whether you want to bring your own picnic or duck across to Southport for refreshments, you could easily kill a day at Broadwater Parklands, no matter who you’re trying to entertain.  What’s even better about this expansive public space is the number of festivals taking place across the Parklands every year.

Chirn Park

Mural at Ground’n’ Sound

We didn’t have quirky little villages like Chirn Park when I was growing up here on the Gold Coast, but they are fast emerging in the most unlikely of places. Chirn Park is a completely urbanised setting, kinda half way between Southport and Labrador. There’s a quiet cultural revolution going on here. It started with some of the best cafes on the Gold Coast springing up and it’s moved into other retail spaces too and the public art too. There’s murals painted onto the side of shops and along alleyways and there’s a barber, deli, florist and fish ‘n’ chip shop. But it’s the cafes that really have made Chirn Park what it is. Our favourite, Ground ‘n’ Sound is an emerging hub for local musicians. They host regular open mic and trivia nights and live shows for emerging talent and the café is chockablock full of music-related memorabilia and knickknacks. People rave about Tonic on Chirn, TASTE, Little Barista and Daark as well – each of them bringing something unique to Chirn Park’s dining scene.

Southport CBD

With its Chinatown redevelopment and repurposing of heritage buildings, as well as a growing number of cafes and live music venues, Southport is quickly finding its feet as the city’s gazetted CBD. It’s a bustling hive of activity during the daytime thanks to TAFE, international student and transport hubs and a hotspot for boutique live music venues at night. Vinnies Dive Bar, right on the main street hosts regular punk, indie and metal shows, while Mr PP’s and The Station have irregular gigs featuring local, original talent. Southport RSL has been dishing up live music – including a stellar program of tribute shows – for decades, and while not in the CBD, Fisherman’s Wharf, across the Broadwater, delivers in terms of epic views and entertainment options. Southport CBD is also the home of Gold Cost’s Chinatown, with regular markets and other activations as well as all the dumplings and Asian delicacies you’d expect.

Coombabah Wetlands

Image: Samantha Morris

The wetlands at Coombabah are the most southerly lake and coastal swampland system in the Southeast Queensland bioregion. Coombabah is an Aboriginal word meaning home of turtles and the Coombabah Wetlands are located on Kombumerri land. The site is listed on the RAMSAR register of significant wetlands around the world (one of only a handful in Queensland) and is part of the Southern Moreton Bay Marine Park. The bird-watching is considered excellent with more than 227 species recorded (35 listed in international migratory bird treaties) In total there are more than 308 fauna species recorded in the area. Located just 5km from the Gold Coast’s CBD of Southport and less than 10km from the high rises of Surfers Paradise, Coombabah Wetlands, also known as the Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area, boasts a boardwalk and bird hide as well as interpretive signage with information about the flora and fauna found around the site.

Narelle Bouveng
Narelle Bouveng

A local Gold Coast mum and well-travelled Australian travel writer, Narelle has over 21 years’ experience wandering and chooses to call Mermaid Beach, Gold Coast home. A sunrise and sunset regular, you will often find her juggling a coffee and her camera, snapping for her blog and family travel inspired Instagram @alittleatlarge while youngest daughter Tiah frolics alongside.


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.