I remember fondly my first family camping trip to the Gold Coast. It was the summer before we moved here permanently in the mid-1980s. We pitched a tent at the caravan park at Miami and filled our days with burgers, boogie boards and beaches.
Gold Coast was different then. It’s population was half what it is now, but tourism was still king. One thing that hasn’t changed over that time is the prime location that the city’s tourist parks occupy. Beaches, rainforests, rivers and big expanses of water; Gold Coast’s camping locations are top notch.
Camping on the Gold Coast is a low-cost way to explore the city (many tent sites are less than $50 a night) and some of the best spots are a stone’s throw away from the gleaming towers of Surfers Paradise and burgeoning dining destinations of Burleigh and Palm Beach. Or, if pitching a tent sends the wrong kinds of shivers down your spine, then there’s a bunch of glamping options on offer too.
It’s not possible to list every camping spot on the Gold Coast, but here are our top picks – no matter what your style of tent:
Recently named Queensland's number one park for holidays with kids, this tourist park is located just south of the Tallebudgera Creek Bridge on the Gold Coast Highway. The park is in one of the best locations for water-lovers visiting the Gold Coast. It has direct access to Tallebudgera Creek including a walkway under the bridge for families who want the patrolled beach. From here you can hire stand-up paddleboards or even walk through to the surf beach. Burleigh Heads National Park is also an easy stroll away and the thriving dining scene at Palm Beach is just a couple of kilometres to the south. Tallebudgera Tourist Park offers tent and van sites and has an adults-only pool and two family-friendly pools, as well as free Wi-Fi.
From the beach to the bush, this farmstay offering is located close to the highway at Oxenford and conveniently close to Movie World and Wet ‘n’ Wild theme parks. There’s a choice of eco-tents and you can either BYO motorhome or stay in one permanently housed onsite. Guests can feed farm animals, collect eggs and milk cows and join a nightly campfire. There’s also a restaurant and bar onsite. This is practical glamping with a farm-like twist.
It's hard to imagine a better location. Right where the Loders Creek inlet meets the Broadwater - sits Broadwater Tourist Park. Taking out third place for Queensland’s best holiday with kids in 2016, the park has a heap of tent and van sites as well as cabins with killer views. There are two swimming pools and a bouncing pillow, the site office hires bikes and there’s a BBQ area and recreation room too. Just 5km from Surfers Paradise and only 2km from the light rail network and Broadwater Parklands, the location of this busy tourist park is hard to beat, particularly for those who like flat-water activities. The park even has its own boat ramp.
Hands down one of my favourite places to “camp” on the Gold Coast, and the perfect launching pads for dozens of walks into world heritage national park and ancient rainforest trails. Set high up on the ranges with insane views of Numinbah Valley, Binna Burra offers tent, van or safari tent options with guided interpretive walks, a fully licensed restaurant and a café (hello, pizza) for weary bushwalkers – or you can cook for yourself on the coin-operated BBQs. Tent and van sites are nestled in the rainforest with designated fire-pits and the safari tents offer proper beds and mattresses with lighting but no power-points and it’s pretty much BYO everything. Bushwalks range in length and difficulty – from 20 minute strolls on flat bush paths to multi-day walks which require camping out in the forest – and you should always log your longer walks with the staff at reception.
This is not camping. This is a five-star glamping experience that will possibly spoil you for camping forever. Nightfall Wilderness Camp is located beside Lamington National Park as well as the crystal-clear headwaters of Christmas Creek. Accommodation is limited to just six guests at a time and the property is booked at least three months in advance for good reason – it’s an off-the-beaten-track glamping experience for those who love wilderness, but also love a dash of luxury. We’re talking about bathtubs, rain-showers, rotating fire places and fire-cooked food. These guys take their approach to ecotourism seriously too, allowing guests to join in foraging for food, using a 5KW solar system, planting of trees to sequester the camp’s carbon footprint, restoring rainforest, monitoring water quality in the creek and protecting species like the glossy-black cockatoo. They’re also registered wildlife carers. All this, just 45 minutes from Gold Coast beaches. Our advice is to book early. Like, really early.
Just 2.5km from Surfers Paradise, and taking out a Highly Commended for Queensland’s best holidays with kids last year is Main Beach Tourist Park. There are nearly 100 van and tent sites at this park which is right across the road from patrolled Main Beach and within easy walk of the light rail station and dining options of Tedder Avenue. You can cycle or walk to Surfers Paradise, Southport Yacht Club is a five-minute stroll away and there are playgrounds both along the beachfront and within the Tourist Park itself.
I tossed up whether to include South Straddie in this list because no-one wants to give away a secret camping location. But the reality is, camping at South Stradbroke requires a level of coordination that will only appeal to regular and committed campers. The campgrounds are totally surrounded by bushland and there is no commercial development. That means you have to be reasonably self-sufficient (although there are toilets and gas BBQs plus ice and firewood available at Tipplers Kiosk, so you’re not exactly slumming it). There are three campgrounds and it’s not possible to drive to South Stradbroke so boating (private or water taxi) in is your only option. That said, sea plane charters are also available for those who want to add a level of adventure to the camping experience. Generators (and pets) are prohibited and you must book a campsite before arriving on the island. South Stradbroke Island is a nature-lovers wonderland (complete with sandflies and other ‘natural’ wonders). As well as the surf beach, there’s the Broadwater, a kids’ playground and acres of bushland and sand dunes to explore.