Coolangatta, or “Cooly” as many locals would call it, is the southernmost suburb of the Gold Coast, and Queensland. With Tweed Heads around the corner and Byron Bay not much further, Cooly offers a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the Gold Coast.
The town’s beaches attract surfers, boogie boarders, swimmers, extreme sports enthusiasts and also people who simply want a casual day in the sun. If you’ve never been here but would love to experience the magic for yourself, here’s a list of activities to get you started.
Learn to surf (or simply chill while watching others)
Dave is the local surf enthusiast who can provide you with surfing lessons and equipment hire through Gold Coast Surfing Centre. You can easily spot Dave in his van on Rainbow Bay beach most days of the week. For those who are accompanying surfers, but not so keen to get on the board themselves, Rainbow Bay Surf Club offers great views of your mates catching waves on Snapper Rocks as you relax over cold drinks and hot food.
Stand in two time zones at the same time
Head to the rocky headland and Captain Cook Memorial and Lighthouse at the Queensland/New South Wales border where you can place one foot in Queensland and one foot in New South Wales. To get to this spot, go via the very scenic walk around the beachfront from Coolangatta Beach by Greenmount Beach to see a side of Cooly you can only experience by foot.
Visit the spot where Coolangatta got its name
Coolangatta got its name from the schooner Coolangatta which was wrecked at Duranbah Beach in 1846. So keep that in mind when you visit as Duranbah Beach typically has rips and strong currents to be cautious of. Even when there’s no surf elsewhere on the Coast, you’re almost guaranteed the only place you’ll find a swell is Duranbah Beach. The Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast has been hosted here and it is well recognised as providing a high-quality surfing experience. D’Bah, as locals would say, is located between the Tweed River mouth and Point Danger.
Get active with the kids
Greenmount Beach has a protected swimming area which is ideal for children. Otherwise, you can pick your favourite spot along the 2km (or so) of coastline that Coolangatta offers, simply start your stroll (skate, rollerblade, bicycle ride or Segway tour) from Kirra Beach southwards. Along the way you’ll notice people having picnics and cooking up feasts on the BBQs available for everyone to use. There are fantastic children’s playgrounds along this walk as well, especially Kirra Beach playground which offers a very modern (and challenging) A-line maze mountain.
Spot whales on the ‘Humpback Highway’
The Gold Coast's waters are commonly referred to as Humpback Highway during the whales' migration north from Antarctica. Their plentiful presence means you have a high chance of spotting them if you’re there between June and October. Point Danger is one of the best places along the coast to spot them and Kirra Hill is also a great natural viewpoint.
Enjoy Coolangatta’s events
Cooly hosts many events throughout the year that are worth flying in for, and it's very convenient that the only airport on the Gold Coast is located right there. Coolangatta annually hosts the Cooly Rocks On festival, which is a 1950s and 1960s festival including classic car shows and rock n’ roll and dancing. The soonest upcoming event is the NYE fireworks, and considering the time difference with NSW, you could celebrate the New Year twice.
Search for the area's best coffee
Cafes, shops and restaurants are available in abundance at Coolangatta. Rockleigh Cafe is up there as one of the best, but a few others to try are The Black Sheep Espresso Baa, Cafe Dbar, A Book an a Bite and the tucked away Gun Alley Espresso. But don't simply take my word for it, the only way to know is to try them all out for yourself!
Peek through the art and craft market
If you happen to be in Cooly on the second Sunday of the month, be sure not to miss out on the Coolangatta Art and Craft Market. Even if there’s nothing you’re wanting to buy, stroll through the over 150 local stalls just to see what stunning, handmade things are on offer. From food to fashion to fresh produce, the Coolangatta Art and Craft markets boast a wide variety of unique items. The markets run at Queen Elizabeth Park from 8am to 2:30pm.
Wrap up your getaway at The Strand
When you're done with all the activities you can handle, head to The Strand where you have plenty more options for dining, shopping and entertainment. This location has a new cinema and Timezone where the kids can be entertained for hours. Either become a big kid for the day and enjoy the entertainment with them or take some time out for yourself tasting the international cuisines and chilling at the bars throughout the building.