We recently settled down on the Gold Coast after traveling around Australia for 18 months, and honestly, it feels like we're still on a permanent holiday here.
Although we've visited many times previously, there seems to be endless things to do on the Gold Coast and we're planning on experiencing as many activities as possible.
If you want to get the most out of the Gold Coast without breaking the budget, here is a list of things to do for free that we've previously done or are planning to do.
Watch sunrise and sunset
How about starting off your day the best way possible, by watching the sunrise over the ocean? Throw in the surfers doing their thing on the morning swell and you can sit and be mesmerized.
My favourite place to watch the sunrise and sunset is from Burleigh Point, just follow the path up the hill from the surf club. Also the Rainbow Bay Surf Club is a great spot for sunset drinks as you watch the sky light up in the distance behind the Surfers Paradise skyline.
Free lorikeet feeding at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Twice a day, 8am and 4pm, you can feed the wild lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for free!
Hundreds of rainbow lorikeets descend upon you from the surrounding trees to get a lick at the sweet honey nectar that you hold out in a bowl in your hands. They will climb up your arms, on your head and just sit on your hands drinking.
We did this a few years ago and it is worth an hour visit to see these beautiful birds up close.
Hit the beaches
Obvious I know, but is there a better free day out on the Gold Coast than hitting up one of the beaches along the 56km of pristine coastline?
They don't call it the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise for nothing! The Goldy is renowned for their beaches which also happen to be home to some of the world's most famous surf breaks.
But you don't have to be a surfer or even a water baby to enjoy them, just soak up some sunshine, and play on the sand or the surrounding grassland, playgrounds and BBQ areas.
- Sunshade/beach umbrella
- Bucket & spades
Our favourite family beaches are Rainbow Bay, Greenmount beach, Currumbin Creek, Tallebudgera Creek, Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach.
Hit the markets
Where ever we go we always try and hit up the local markets, and I can't believe the choice of markets open on the Gold Coast.
From fashion to farmers markets, art and craft to music; and everything in between. Now that we are living here, we have time to explore them all!
They are all free to attend and quite often there are lots of free samples on offer, or bargains.
We especially love farmers markets for stocking up on supplies for self-catering when having picnics and BBQ's, or when staying in apartments with kitchens.
As much as we love eating out, you can save a pretty penny preparing your own meals, and it can be more relaxing with young kids.
Hit the playgrounds and parks
Having only lived on the Gold Coast for two months now, we are constantly amazed at the quantity and quality of playgrounds and parks on offer.
At almost every beach, or green space, there is a playground with picnic benches and BBQs. The council does such a great job of providing and maintaining these facilities for everyone to enjoy, and most of them are right on the beach.
You can let the kids play on the equipment, kick a ball around, or just relax with a picnic or BBQ.
Experience the festivals and events
There are several free events and festivals held throughout the year celebrating music, art, sports and our multicultural society.
We recently experienced Blues on Broadbeach, which was cool, and we look forward to checking the rest out:
- Blues on Broadbeach is held every year in May and is regarded as one of the world's largest free festivals with multiple stages and shows spread over the four day period. It brings together the best blues and soul music from all over the country, nurturing Australian talent, as well as providing a stage for international acts.
- Cooly Rocks On is Australia's largest 50s and 60s Nostalgia Festival held annually in Coolangatta celebrating classic cars, rock 'n' roll, dancing and more! Cooly Rocks On is a free event and is open to all ages. In 2016 the event will be held from 3-16 June.
- Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach becomes home to dozens of sculptures by local, national and international artists. Over a 10-day period in September visitors can experience the sculptures for free on twilight walks and even talks from some of the artists.
- The Quiksilver Pro Surfing Event is your chance to watch the world's best male and female surfers battle it out at one of the world's best surfing spots, Snapper Rocks at Rainbow Bay around February-March each year. There's also the Breaka Burleigh Pro in February.
- Bleach Festival is the Gold Coast's largest arts and cultural Festival and coincides with the launch of the World Surfing Tour, the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro at Snapper Rocks in March. Over 50 events for all ages, over 17 days up and down the coast.
- Broadbeach Jazz Festival in August is another free event featuring entertainment on outdoor stages and in venues, along with an array of activities for people of all ages throughout Broadbeach.
- Surfers Paradise Festival is one of the premier Gold Coast events and happens over the course of four weekends in April. It's a celebration of art, culture, music and food and includes street parades and parties, concerts and a la carte in the park.
Go whale watching from the headlands
Whale watching season typically runs from May to October when thousands of humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica, passing up and back down the coast.
Try your luck from one of the elevated headlands along the coast, or even from your sky rise apartment, as whales have a tendency to come in quite close to shore.
Some of the best naturally elevated viewpoints include Point Danger, Greenmount, Kirra Hill, Currumbin Rocks, Tumgun Lookout within Burleigh Heads National Park, North Burleigh/Miami headland.
Look out for the big spouts of mist that shoot up into the air. Bring a zoom lens and maybe some binoculars!
Cycle the Gold Coast Oceanway
We've done parts of the Gold Coast Oceanway, which is a network of pathways along the beaches of the coast which range up to 4km long and are popular with cyclists and walkers.
But we'd love to cycle the full length from Point Danger Lighthouse to The Spit, as it would make for a fantastic day out to get some exercise, fresh air, and take in the magnificent coastal views.
Walking is free, good for you, and one of our favourite ways to explore a destination.
It's not just the coastal area that offers great walking opportunities, the hinterland and National Parks offer lovely walks too!
What's on our list:
- Burleigh Heads National Park -2.5 kilometre coastal walk around the headland to Tallebudgera Creek and back.
- Federation Walk - a 3.5 kilometre pedestrian walkway located at the northern end of the Gold Coast Oceanway on the Southport Spit.
- Springbrook National Park - the Purling Brook Falls walking track circuit, the Natural Bridge Rainforest Circuit, Canyon lookouts and Twin Falls walk.
- Lamington National Park - many fantastic walking trails from short walks to all day hikes.
- Coolangatta to Point Danger - a great little coastal walk via Greenmount and Rainbow Bay.
- Tamborine Mountain -12 walking tracks, each one is no longer than 3 kilometres.
Currumbin Rock Pools
This is on our must do list when the weather warms up again.
Apparently the Rock Pools are just a 15 minute drive from Currumbin Beach, and are a favourite spot with the locals, and sound like the perfect area for a family day out with picnic tables, BBQs, grassy river banks, and toilets at close hand.
There's varying pool depths for everyone and just another five minutes along Currumbin Creek Road is the Mount Cougal section of Springbrook National Park - looking forward to doing that 800 metre walking trail to cascading waterfalls, more rock pools and an historic bush sawmill.
Sounds like nature at its finest!
It's not all just beaches and theme parks on the Gold Coast you know, the city is also famous for its glorious views as you've no doubt seen panorama shots on many postcards.
We're planning to head to all the best lookouts and incorporate a picnic or BBQ into the experience.
The 'Best of All' lookout at Mudgeeraba appears to be aptly named, and among the best lookouts. From Canyon Lookout in Springbrook National Park they say you can see waterfalls and the main strip of the Gold Coast skyline off in the distance.
Mt Tamborine comes highly recommended, offering sweeping coastal views, and of course the previously mentioned Tumgun Lookout within Burleigh Heads NP is a must.