With a 57 kilometre stretch of spectacular beaches, it’s easy to think of the Gold Coast primarily in terms of sun and sand.
But beyond the beaches is a world of coastal chic, fine food and an array of opportunities for indulgence, perfect for a girls’ getaway or romantic interlude.
There’s a fair bit of coast to cover from Coolangatta through to the northern tips and from water activities to designer-inspired high teas, so here are our tips on some of the best the central Gold Coast has to offer.
Eat and drink
Behind a picket fence in a back street in the Miami ‘burbs lies a local secret. The quaint timber cottage (actually now two) and shaded courtyard is actually home to a humming cafe and bakery.
Pumping out breads, baked goodies and cronuts galore in full view, the much-awarded Paddock Bakery has a menu with a cornucopia of choices hot and cold.Look out for the milkshakes with a difference, house-pressed fresh juices or toasties on tap, and perhaps take home some dried flowers or a cactus.
20 Hibiscus Haven, Burleigh Heads | facebook.com/PaddockBakery
The long lines outside attest that Commune Cafe, part of a hub of enterprises on the main road just out of Burleigh, is the place to be for breakfast or lunch.
With an array of tantalising home-cooked goodies and cakes, Commune also serves up a great selection of all-day eats with good vibes, with a focus on carefully and ethically sourced produce. Acai bowls and superfood smoothies abound. Don’t miss their pancakes, served with a sprinkling of fruits and a bit of a twist—literally.
1844 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads | facebook.com/Commune
Right next door, Light Years‘ (feature image) modern Asian diner and bar attracts the night time crowds and those on a girls’ night out, serving a variety of fresh, vibrant plates to share with Asian flavours on tap. Think bao buns, slaws and fragrant curries. Wash them down with a creative cocktail from the bar. Settle in for the night as the lights dim and the soundtrack kicks in.
1848 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh | lightyearsasiandiner.com.au
If you’re serious about food, sophisticated restaurant Labart is a must-do. Previously heading up top restaurants in Sydney, Chef Alex, together with wife Karla, is shaking up the Burleigh dining scene with fine modern Australian dining with a touch of French around the edges.
Ethically sourced produce is key to their offerings, currently a set menu which changes with the season and availability. The wine menu features biodynamic and natural wines from unique producers. Sublime food, brilliant service.
8 West Street, Burleigh Heads | restaurantlabart.com
Bustling Jimmy Wah‘s in downtown Burleigh delivers quality Vietnamese treats full of vibrant and piquant flavours, without the burn.
Under the smiling image of Jimmy Wah himself—of Good Morning Vietnam movie fame—the light timbered interiors whisper Scandinavia but the punchy fresh fare shouts pure Asia, presented with flair with a talented young chef at the helm.
The zesty cocktails will elevate the meals but don’t ignore the excellent wine list, the pride of owner Michelle.
1724 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads | jimmywahs.com.au
A street back from the beach in Broadbeach, sleek and modern Miss Moneypenny‘s is all about great food with exquisite presentation and sometimes a bit of theatre.
Go it alone, tuck into shared plates or look out for their varying menu specials. The drinks are important here so leave room for a killer cocktail, or two. There’s even a bottomless lunch for the committed.
50 Surf Parade, Broadbeach | missmoneypennysbroadbeach.com
Osteria del Mare
Relaxed and casual, Osteria del Mare pizzeria and restaurant is just about as authentically Italian as you can get. If the dinky-di accent of owner and chef Andrea doesn’t convince you, the real-deal pizzas cooked on stone and fresh-each-day homemade pastas will tip you over. Splash out on a whole bottle of the excellent Nero D’Avola to get into the Italian spirit.
Shop 2/1718 Gold Coast Highway Burleigh Head | osteriadelmare.com.au/
When you want a bar and live music combined with a multitude of food choices, Miami Marketta has you sorted. A covered street-food marketplace with culinary offerings from all over the globe, it has a glam bar and a pumping vibe. The converted laneway even has little boutiques featuring local jewellery and fashion designers for those who like a bit of shopping with their meals.
23 Hillcrest Parade, Miami Beach | miamimarketta.com
For those unfamiliar with the stretch and variety of the Gold Coast, it can be a little confusing to gauge the (long) lay of the land.
Accommodation choices abound on the Gold Coast, so work out what sort of activities you want to do and where they are before deciding on accommodation. The good news is Queensland is reopening for visitors and deals abound.
Bujerum Apartments on Burleigh
When proximity to the beach is key, it doesn’t get any better than the lovely, light-filled Bujerum Apartments directly opposite Burleigh Beach, metres from the sand, minutes to the heart of town and just a hop, skip and jump to the national park.
An original two-storey establishment revamped with coastal style, this boutique complex offers two-bedroom self-catering apartments or one whopper three-bedroom one added on top. Views for days.
26 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads, bujerum.com.au
With a handful of spots in suburban Burleigh Heads and Mermaid Beach, The Halliday luxury homes away from home will have you living like a local in laid back luxury: whites, linens and naturals, spa-like bathrooms and special homey touches.
If travelling with a mob, choose between villas or a house to sleep up to six. Location is key, so you won’t have to venture far from home for great food and the sand.
Accommodation options at Burleigh Heads or Mermaid Beach | thehalliday.com.au
One of only two Versace hotels in the world, Palazzo Versace is a haven of luxury and lavish Italian design washed down with superlative service.
Next door to Marina Mirage, it’s only minutes from the heart of Surfers Paradise if you want to hit the bright lights, or stay in and relax by the spectacular pool and lux surrounds and enjoy the five-star cuisine on offer. Oh, and there’s a spa.
94 Seaworld Dr, Main Beach | palazzoversace.com.au
Nothing says holidays like spa time. With branches dotted throughout the Gold Coast, Endota Spa allows you to step into their lightly scented melodic space and out of your daily grind for a little pampering and me-time. With a full spa menu of massages, facials and treatments on offer, the only difficulty is choosing your indulgence.
Endota Spa | 63-65 Surf Parade Broadbeach | endotaspa.com.au/find-a-spa/broadbeach
If you can’t bear to leave your mates, Greenhouse the Bathhouse—a modern boutique bathhouse and spa and rejuvenation space just outside Burleigh—offers communal and unisex spaces for soaking, steaming, plunging and relaxing, with optional massages if you choose. Take it with kombucha or even bubbles, but leave your phone and judgement behind.
Greenhouse the Bathhouse| 7/37 Tallebudgera Creek Road, Burleigh Heads | greenhousethebathhouse.com
Palazzo Versace High Tea
Don your heels and glad rags and head to waterfront Palazzo Versace for an afternoon of indulgence and a delicious high tea, with or without some sparkling bubbles. Soak in the opulence and splendour of vibrant designer furnishings in an afternoon of sweet and savoury delights. Don’t forget to admire the remarkable chandelier adorning the foyer, originally destined for the home of the great designer himself.
94 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach | palazzoversace.com.au
Sea World Cruises Whale Watch
It’s a thrill to witness a whale up close and personal and the best way to ensure a sighting is from a whale watching cruise where the experience of the vessel’s captain is on your side.
Sea World Cruises offer 2.5-hour sailings from May to November though prime migration season is June to October as the whales head north to breed or back to the Antarctic for a good feed with their little ones on board. You may spot some dolphins, sharks or turtles as well.
Sea World Cruises Terminal, 130 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach | seaworldcruises.com.au
The only way to get to the Goldie from Canberra at the time of writing is by air, so you’ll need some transport to get around and explore while you’re there.
Gypsy-Rose the Kombi
For a truly unique ride around town, a beautifully restored sky blue 1972 Kombi by the name of Gypsy-Rose can be your carriage.
She comes with her own chauffeur, the delightful Brigid, who can organise an airport pick up or tailor a bespoke tour for groups of up to four (or three and a dog!) to see some of the highlights of the area and make recommendations on what to see and what not to miss. Photoshoot, anyone?
Take in the water views as you cruise on the hop on hop off Hopo Gold Coast Ferry. Travelling between places like Surfers, HOTA Home of the Arts and Marina Mirage, the ferries are a scenic and rather relaxed way to get around.There’s even some fascinating commentary on what you’re passing. Single trip tickets or day passes available. Look out for the house with the helipad.
With all that holiday eating and drinking, a bit of exercise may be in order and an electric bike ride is the perfect way to get active— without any real effort!E-bikes are available for hire by the hour or longer and the wide paths sweeping along the coast are perfect for a long, safe cruisey ride to take in the views.
1/2717 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach | crooze.com.au/pages/e-bike-rentals
If you’re prepared to get up VERY early, a float in a hot pink hot air balloon with GoBallooning will provide a Gold Coast sunrise like no other. The effervescent Murray and his team figure they’re in the business of making memories, not just piloting balloons, though fortunately they take the flying part very seriously. At the end you may even get to venture inside the balloon, help fold it up or perhaps breakfast at the Sheraton Mirage.
What’s a getaway without a little retail therapy? On the Goldie, options abound from big centres to markets and little surprises in suburban spots and industrial areas.
Just a wander from the beach in Burleigh is village-style James Street, where all sorts of boutiques and independent traders offer a plethora of homewares, organic skincare, boho creations and even fashions for little people.
Also in Burleigh, on the first and third Sundays of the month the school oval transforms into The Village Markets, a boutique designer market where local creatives and designers display their wares, with food trucks and live music on the side.
For something a little more upmarket with lots of linen or things with sparkle, with things for him as well as her, Marina Mirage has the goods.
Dedicated shoppers can head to Harbour Town outlet centre around 10 kilometres from Surfers to hunt out bargains from your favourite brand. There’s even a free shuttle from Broadbeach and Surfers though it’s currently suspended (COVID!)
Design lovers will also be sated by the recently redeveloped Pacific Fair, which houses the major department stores and brands on tap.
Originally published on HerCanberra on 29 October 2020
Photos @BoomingOn unless otherwise marked. The author was a guest of Destination Gold Coast.