Backpacking on the Gold Coast, Australia

Complete guide to one of Australia's best regions

Backpacking in the Gold Coast is a must-do for anyone visiting Australia on a gap year. Australia evokes images of white, sandy beaches, surfers relaxing, waiting to catch that perfect wave, the sun shimmering on the sea, and nowhere else in the country delivers this quite like the Gold Coast, making it a huge hit with anybody backpacking in Australia.

This is your complete guide to backpacking the Gold Coast. Click any of the links below to head straight to the section you need.

Gold Coast beach skyline

The Gold Coast has 70 kilometres of beautiful beaches and for those planning to go backpacking in the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach, Coolangatta and the aptly named Surfers Paradise are the places to see. Each offers the perfect lifestyle of sun, sea and sand epitomised by Australia’s glittering east coast.

In just 50 years, the Gold Coast has grown from a small beach side holiday destination to one of Australia’s most visited sections of coastline.

One of the reasons why so many tourists visit Australia is to see the weird and wonderful wildlife. At the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in the Gold Coast you get to see crocodiles, koalas and kangaroos, all in the freedom of the rainforest. Shows are put on daily and it’s an educational experience to learn about Australia’s wildlife in their natural habitat, but don’t think its all learning! Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has recently added an adventure course with rope swings and zip-lines to get the adrenaline pumping, so make sure you give it a visit!

Also, the Gold Coast is home to the world’s largest subtropical rainforest. Head over to the Hinterland and lose yourself for a few days in a rainforest lodge, swapping stories around a campfire. Visitors are rarely disappointed with a trip inland, and even though it’s only an hour’s drive from the beach, you’ll feel as though you’re a hundred miles away. There are charming mountain villages to explore and cool mountain pools to discover.

And for the sports and extreme activities lovers, there’s surfing, jet boating, sky diving, paddle boarding, theme parks, and more.

So, indulge your senses as you explore the diversity of the Gold Coast, from the sunny seas to the beautiful beaches, from the wonderful wildlife to the epic nightlife. The Gold Coast is not only unmissable, it’s unforgettable.

Accommodation in the Gold Coast

Backpacker Accommodation

Accommodation in the Gold Coast is varied and widespread, so finding a place to stay isn’t difficult. As one of Australia’s largest tourist destinations, the accommodation options in the Gold Coast allow backpackers and flashpackers alike to choose the style of accommodation best suited to them.

For most people on their gap year, backpacker hostels tend to be the accommodation of choice, especially for those on a Gold Coast backpacking trip. These are plentiful here, offering the choice between dormitories and private rooms, so you make a choice to suit your preference or budget. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet new people and make new friends, especially as many have their own bars (where the drinks are usually good and cheap).

Gold Coast skyline night

The weather on the Gold Coast makes camping a viable form of accommodation for those not averse to staying in a tent. Anybody looking for more unusual accommodation ideas may want to consider staying on a houseboat. Prices can be surprisingly cheap and it makes for a cool and unique backpacker experience. The Gold Coast region features a great many beautiful islands and a houseboat can be a great way to explore them, whilst doubling up as a roof over your head.

There are so many options to choose from that it can be difficult to pick. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular hostels.

Backpacker Hostels in Coolangatta:

  • Coolangatta Sands Backpackers hostel
  • Coolangatta YHA
  • Komune Resort and Beach Club

Backpacker Hostels in Southport:

  • Southport Tourist Park
  • Treasure Island Holiday Park

Backpacker Hostels in Surfers Paradise:

  • Aquarius Backpackers

Hostel newbies should check out our A First Timer’s Guide To Hostels, which is a great introduction to staying in backpacker accommodation on your gap year.

Hotels and Apartments in the Gold Coast

For those with a few bucks to spend on the higher end of the scale, luxury hotels are plentiful. However, even on a fairly modest budget staying in any of these for more than a short while may not be a feasible option. For those willing to spend some money on accommodation, self-contained, serviced apartments are one of the most common types of accommodation in the Gold Coast. Three and four star apartments are abundant, spacious and often feel a bit more comfortable and homely than a hotel. For those looking for a happy medium between backpacker hostels and high-end hotel resorts, serviced apartments are a great accommodation option.

A nice blend of backpackers accommodation and budget accommodation is the Vibe Hotel. It’s a lovely little hotel with amazing views, being only minutes from the beach, and it’s affordable. It’s a gap year favourite!

Finding Cheap Accommodation in the Gold Coast

Finding cheap accommodation in the Gold Coast is often about weighing up convenience with price. If you are looking to stay in the party hotspots of central Coolangata or Surfers Paradise, you may pay a little more than you would a little further from the hub of backpacker activity. Likewise, if you want to walk straight out of your hotel or apartment onto a white sandy beach, you will most definitely pay for the experience. There are, however, a vast number of hostels, hotels and motels to choose from, so finding Gold Coast accommodation that meets the balance of price and accessibility just takes a little time and patience.

Do your research and you’ll be fine! And if in doubt, some of the backpacker hostels featured above should always be your first port of call.


Attractions on the Gold Coast

If you want an incredible range of attractions and activities, then look no further than the Gold Coast. From the extreme thrill of skydiving to the relaxation of kayaking on the Gold Coast backwaters, there really is something for everyone. You can also go hiking in the world’s largest subtropical rainforest. We’ve selected a few favourites to help you on your way.

Gold Coast theme park roller coaster

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Experience an unforgettable native wildlife and coastal rainforest adventure. Enjoy wildlife shows and displays, getting up close and personal with a number of Australia’s creatures, and the opportunity to learn about indigenous history and culture.

Dreamworld 

Dreamworld one of the best theme parks on the Gold Coast is home to the Big 7 Thrill Rides, Tiger Island, The Australian Wildlife Experience and Australia’s first stationary wave, Flowrider. From the tallest and fastest thrill rides, to live interactive shows and animal attractions, there’s something for all adrenaline junkies at Dreamworld.

Gold Coast Skydive

Experience the ultimate rush of the Gold Coast’s only Tandem Skydiving operation. After the adrenaline rush of hurtling towards the planet at 200km/h, enjoy the sensational view as you gently glide towards your beach landing. Skydiving is a must on your gap year and there are fewer places that are nicer to do in than the Gold Coast.

 

The Canyon Flyer zip-line

The Canyon Flyer is Australia’s highest, largest, and fastest guided zip-line tour, featuring seven lines that crisscross Cedar Creek Canyon and take you 60 metres in the air, rushing up to 70 kilometres per hour. This is easily one of the most extreme activities on the Gold Coast, guaranteed to get your adrenaline surging.

 


Beaches on the Gold Coast

It’s not called the Gold Coast for nothing: the city sits on a 70-kilometre stretch of fine sandy gold beaches washed constantly by the subtropical South Pacific Ocean. If you can’t find your own piece of beach heaven here, you should just go home. Also, the Gold Coast has 300 days of sunshine a year at an average of 22oC, so there’s never a bad time to visit!

You might be expecting some secret, hidden little coves, but actually, some of the best ones are well-known but underrated. The popular ones you’d never think to visit. Here are some of the best beaches to get you started.

Gold Coast beach

Burleigh Heads Beach

You can’t have a ‘best beach’ list without including Burleigh. Somehow being so popular doesn’t dilute its quaint, surfy, boho charm. The best way to approach Burleigh is to come hungry, thirsty and ready to get into the outdoors.

Between barefoot bowls, walking up Burleigh Hill, browsing through the many boutiques and enjoying a rooftop cocktail, there’s practically nothing this little suburb can’t provide. But it’s the simple things in life that make the difference so a picnic on the grass looking out to the ocean is mandatory, preferably with a big parcel of fish and chips.

Kirra Beach

Kirra Beach is known by the pros as one of the world’s true great surf breaks. This is where Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore do their thing. Locals and visitors gather on the points and lookouts to watch the perfect Kirra barrel take surfers on a 2km ride lasting up to five minutes.

Coolangatta

Cooly has a pace of its own – it forces you to slooooooow down. Be charmed by the contrast of the incredible sandy stretch at Greenmount Beach and the rock pools at Snapper Rocks. Then if you really want to laze the day away, head to Froggy’s Beach. A total hidden gem: small, private and sheltered. But shhh, keep that one to yourself.

For sustenance, simply stroll around and you’re sure to find what you’re craving, or keep it casual at the Rainbow Bay Surf Lifesavers Club, the primo spot for experiencing the best sunset on the East coast.

Surfers Paradise Beach

Yep, this is it. Surfers Paradise is where the city meets the surf and everybody wants to be seen. It is a big, safe beach for swimming and board riding, though most people just sun themselves with a drink in hand. Even on the busiest days there is room to hang out, and plenty of shops, cafes, bars and attractions surround the strip.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach is a seaside suburb with loads of restaurants, cafes and shops, but its main drawcard is the stunning, long stretch of beach. Palmy is tamer than other areas on the Goldie, but we think it has the perfect amount of energetic, buzzy vibes.

Beginners and advanced surfers can make the most of great waves and if you love spending time underwater, then heading out to the Palm Beach Reef is non-negotiable. After a dip head to Dune Cafe during the day or Palm Beach SLSC for a sunset drink.

Tallebudgera Creek

Although Tallebudgera Creek is technically within the suburb of Palm Beach, this area is so different it deserves it’s own listing. Don’t be put off by the word ‘creek’ – what you actually get is a sunny, calm, sparkly, almost-secret area that locals don’t want you to know about.

Spend your entire getaway with salty locks and sun-kissed cheeks as you try stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing or just floating in the pristine waters. Then camp in comfort at the Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park right on the waterfront of Tallebudgera Estuary.

Currumbin

Currumbin beach is one of our fave surf spots, and it’s not just for those who know what they’re doing. Choose from several learn to surf schools and get out there on the waves.

Once you’re nice and salty, head down to Elephant Rock and climb up to the lookout for stunning ocean views (bonus points if you make it for sunrise or sunset). Cute cafes line the beachfront ready to fill you with coffee and beachy cuisine.


Where to go in the Gold Coast

Broadbeach

Home to one of the most pristine beaches in the world, Broadbeach is perfectly located close to restaurants, cafes, shops and nightlife, all within easy reach of the Gold Coast’s many theme parks, golf courses and other attractions.

Broadbeach offers countless accommodation options, from luxurious suites to beach side apartments, spa retreats and family-friendly resorts.

lifeguard tower gold coast

The village atmosphere offers an almost European feel as you walk the streets and choose from one of the many multi award-winning restaurants or chic coffee houses along Surf Parade, or perhaps spoil yourself at one of the trendy eateries in Broadbeach Mall.

Regarded as a dining mecca, Broadbeach has successfully created the food lover’s dream escape with only the best of champagne salons, culinary creations and a wide variety of gourmet delis, bistros and brasseries.

There is always something happening in Broadbeach from piano lounges to world class nightclubs. Conrad Jupiters, with its 24-hour casino, bars, lounges and restaurants consistently offers up numerous entertainment options. Be dazzled each and every night with gala stage shows, cabaret performances and aerial acrobatics.

Broadbeach provides a family-friendly atmosphere as musicians and entertainers rove the streets, artists and dancers perform in the mall, and a year-long calendar is consistently filled with free festivals, community events and performances.

Broadbeach’s Pacific Fair is one of Australia’s largest retail centres with more than 300 stores, cinemas, and an abundance of casual dining.

The Oasis Shopping Centre, Aria, the Phoenician and Niecon Plaza complement the Broadbeach shopping experience as home to fantastic boutiques, art galleries and jewellers.

Leading Australian and international designers showcase their superb fashions in Broadbeach. For locally-made arts and crafts, gourmet goodies, beauty products, jewellery, fashions and more, peruse the Friday night Lantern Lit Markets or twice-monthly beachfront markets in Kurrawa Park.

For a day of pampered indulgence, head to one of Broadbeach’s full service day spas or simply treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure, haircut or deluxe massage at one of the many health and beauty salons.

Broadbeach also boasts the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre which regularly hosts top international and Australian recording artists, and is the home venue of the Gold Coast Blaze National Basketball League team.

Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Heads is directly in-between Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise, offering a wonderful national park where you can see some fabulous scenery and a range of wildlife, as well as more great Gold Coast beaches. You can also get amazing views of the surrounding coastline from Burleigh Heads, not to mention a patrolled beach providing safe fun for everyone.

The beaches in Burleigh are lined with beautiful parkland, with picnic and BBQ areas for you to enjoy. Fabulous beaches and delicious food makes the perfect blend on a sunny day. Alternatively, sample the local cuisine in one of the beachfront cafes or restaurants and then wander around the great art and craft markets.

Burleigh Heads offers a range of accommodation, including hotels and apartments. There are also a number of attractions around the area, which will keep you occupied. Wander over to Burleigh Tourism’s site for some tips from Burleigh Heads locals.

Within the Burleigh Heads National Park there are a number of walking trails which you can follow around the coastline, which are very pretty. There are fantastic views from here along the coast and surrounding area.

Heading inland, West Burleigh is home to a large industrial and shopping park where you can find almost anything. It is also a popular dining area in the evening, offering a wide selection of cuisines.

Coolangatta

This southern city lies on the Queensland and New South Wales border as the gateway to South East Queensland. Gold Coast Airport is located within 5 minutes drive of Coolangatta Beach and its accommodation and shopping district, a feature rarely seen anywhere else in the world!

Coolangatta Gold Coast

Coolangatta is a great introduction to Queensland. The north-facing beaches Coolangatta, Greenmount and Rainbow Bay are popular swimming and surfing beaches. With walking tracks connecting the headland between Rainbow Bay and Coolangatta, forming part of the Southern Points Promenade and GCCC’s Oceanway network of 36km’s of walking/bike tracks, you can explore the coastline at your own pace.

Coolangatta and nearby Tweed have historic links. Captain Cook named Point Danger and Mount Warning as he sailed up the east coast in 1770. The Tweed River was developed as a port from the 1830s to ship cedar.

In early land surveys in 1883, the Twin Towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads were laid out on each side of the border. Coolangatta’s charms were discovered by holiday makers in the 1880s, with visitors from Brisbane and northern New South Wales gravitating to the pretty beaches annually.

Coolangatta has Queensland’s first surf life saving club – Tweed Heads & Coolangatta SLSC, formed at Greenmount Beach in 1911 and soon after, guest houses started to appear along the beachfront.

Coolangatta offers loads of activities – dive sites at Kirra and Cook Island to the south. Stand on Point Danger to spot dolphins, see circling birds, spy migrating humpback whales and the sense of the jagged coastline.

With an abundance of interesting shops, al fresco restaurants, cafes, clubs, pubs, live entertainment, cinemas and beachfront markets, Coolangatta is a perfect holiday destination for all ages. Coolangatta is also home to the Wintersun Festival Australia’s Leading Rock & Roll Nostalgia Retro Event.

Coolangatta is a great place to be for New Years Eve celebrations, giving visitors two fireworks displays, one at 11pm QLD time, as NSW rings in the New Year an hour ahead of QLD. You can also look north along the coastline to see displays at Surfers Paradise lighting up the night horizon.

Gold Coast Tourism’s Griffith Street Visitor Information Centre can help you get the most of your visit.

Surfers Paradise

The world-famous Surfers Paradise beach and breathtaking skyline continue to remain major draw cards for millions of Gold Coast visitors each year. With the emergence of a fresh cultural scene, Surfers Paradise is thriving as a diverse cafe, restaurant, fashion and nightlife hub.

Just 30 minutes from Gold Coast Airport, you’ll discover that Surfers Paradise is a must see, must stay destination experience.

Surfers Paradise Big Wave Australia

Featuring world-class developments, attractions, events, business facilities and unique shopping experiences, Surfers Paradise encapsulates all of the energy and excitement that only a unique and evolving location by the sea can offer.

Surfers Paradise services 41% of all accommodation on the Gold Coast, making it the best place to be based when exploring the region. There is an accommodation option to suit every budget.

Surfers Paradise is the only location in Queensland with late night shopping seven days a week, allowing you to enjoy the beach by day and shop by night. There are 14 shopping centres and arcades in Surfers Paradise, so make sure you put on your walking shoes, explore them all and discover the hidden gems within the precinct.

For that unique Surfers Paradise gift, head down to the Surfers Paradise Beachfront markets every Wednesday and Friday night between 5:30pm and 10:00pm. Explore more than 120 market stalls which stretch across half a kilometre of beachfront promenade, offering a selection of locally made gift ideas ranging from accessories, crafts, artworks, beauty products, home wares, jewellery and music.

With a variety of late night and 24 hour dining options, you’ll be able to plan a full day’s entertainment. Surfers Paradise is the entertainment capital of Queensland with an array of nightclubs, pubs, bars and clubs, all within a two kilometre range and most operating into the early hours.

Hinterland

Stand hundreds of metres above sea level and drink in the infinite views that stretch across an ancient realm. Wander through World-Heritage listed rainforests, follow walking tracks that weave through a subtropical dreamland, and cool off with a well-deserved dip beneath a magnificent cascade. The Springbrook and Lamington National Parks tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland seem like a different world compared with the beachside city, which is still just a stone’s throw away.

Lamington National Park

Grab a sturdy pair of walking shoes and get lost in the Lamington National Park – spot rare plant and wildlife species, dive into a sublime swimming hole along the Box Forest Circuit, watch the bee’s knees of hinterland sunsets from Morans Falls or Moonlight Crag, and camp in style beneath the stars at Nightfall.

Lamington National Park is a natural treasure, and in 1994 its significance was officially recognised when it was listed as a World Heritage Area.

The fortunate traveler will experience Australia’s largest preserve of pristine sub-tropical rainforest, over 900 species of vascular plants and more than 120 bird species, a remarkable diversity of wildlife and an environment of extraordinary majesty.

Lamington National Park

The region supports more frog, snake, bird and marsupial species than any other area in Australia. Birdwatchers may be lucky enough to see the endangered Albert Lyrebird or the regent and satin bowerbird.

Encounter the rare atmosphere on a well maintained system of gently graded trails which offer easy access to the majority of the features within Lamington National Park. From palm filled valleys which feature unspoiled streams and waterfalls to mist covered highlands cooled by rainforest air and dominated by Antarctic Beech trees.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Lamington National Park is its accessibility. Within 60 minutes of Surfers Paradise and only 90 minutes from Brisbane, the abundance of pure natural wonders are veiled within easy reach of two major metropolitan cities.

North Tamborine

Long a favourite for romance and weddings with cosy hideaways, day spas and cabins, Tamborine will work its magic.

Only 30 minutes from central Gold Coast beaches, Tamborine National Park is Queensland’s first national park reserve.

Unusual cycads which are relics of plants from 150 million years ago grow on the mountain, and the rare Albert’s lyrebird, the world’s largest skink and birdwing butterflies are some of the natives you could meet on a Tamborine visit.

Picnic at The Knoll and Witches Falls, tasting some of the award winning cheeses from Witches Chase, see cycads at Zamia Grove or check out the landscape on a lookout.

Nature is only part of Tamborine’s charm. Gallery Walk – a row of stores – offers plenty of gift ideas, craft and art markets are plentiful, with fresh produce and other regular events.

Better yet, combine them all with a stay at Songbirds in your very own luxury cottage.

Springbrook National Park

Step into the mesmerising magic of Springbrook National Park – be blown away by towering thousand-year-old trees and incredible vistas from The Best of All Lookout, discover a constellation of glow worms nestled deep beneath the Natural Bridge, and chase down a waterfall or two, like pretty Purling Brook and the sometimes-gentle-sometimes-thunderous Twin Falls.


Costs in the Gold Coast

There’s never a firm answer to the question “how much money will I need?” but it’s possible to work out a rough budget for yourself. The Gold Coast presents many varied opportunities for easing the burden on your wallet, but here’s a rough idea of what to expect.

Most travellers budget AU$1,600-2,300 per month. This depends on what type of traveller you are, how often you are drinking (this is where a lot of money magically disappears) and how many tours and activities you do.

Accommodation

In the Gold Coast the majority of travellers spend the night in hostel dorms. Prices largely stay the same throughout the whole year but availability becomes much more difficult over public holidays, especially Christmas, New Year and Australia Day. It’s advised to book in advanced for these time periods.

The average price for a shared dorm room (mixed) is around AU$20 (AU$15-AU$25). New, flash hostels may be anything up to AU$35. If you’re driving, campsites are an excellent alternative. Pitches cost around AU$30 with facilities, and that’s split between your group.

Food and Drink

The two main supermarkets in Oz are Coles and Woolworths. Coles ‘smart buy’ and Woolworths ‘basics’ are what you’ll be buying, and a weekly shop can cost about AU$60 per week.

Springbrook National Park birds

Eating out is cheaper than the UK, with a main costing anywhere between AU$12-20. There are lots of backpacker deals on eating out and you can pick up the occasional meal for as cheap as AU$5 (these are often found in backpacker hostels such as Coolangatta YHA and Aquarius Backpackers).

Alcohol prices are the same as the UK, though good wine is much, much cheaper. Backpackers always steer towards cask wine, also known as ‘goon bags’. They cost AU$15 for 4 litres of wine (if you can call it that). It’s an acquired taste…

Tap water is safe to drink, and keep a bottle or two to hand for emergencies – it’s very easy to get dehydrated.

Street Food

Who says that street food belongs only on the street? In several Gold Coast restaurants, they’ve given street food dishes a gourmet twist, adapting them to Aussie preferences, packed with the freshest ingredients from the local food bowl.

Bao

Bao, literally ‘wrapping cake’, is a dish eaten in different forms throughout Asia. Lucky Bao’s chef, Daud Kendall, brings you the most delicious Taiwanese-style bao, handmade buns sandwiched around tender meat, yielding easily to the bite.

Halo Halo

A colourful mix of shaved ice and evaporated milk with toppings of boiled sweet beans, coconut, sago, jelly, fruit, and purple yam ice cream, Halo Halo is the Filipino dessert sweeping the world. Kubo’s serves a beauty! ‘Mix mix’ as its Tagalog name implies, and you have a light, refreshing treat; perfect to share on a summer’s day.

Ramen

Originating from China, ramen is now a Japanese regional specialty with a culture all its own. Muso serves four variations, everything including noodles made from scratch by Chef Akira Takagi, his ‘Tokotsu’ pork stock cooked for hours to develop the rich flavour. Delicious!

Gyoza

There’s traditional gyoza, and then there’s Harajuku Gyoza’s ‘little Japanese dumplings of happy’. As co-owner Steve Minon says, “Dumplings and beer, sharing food, high energy service and crazy stuff…that’s Harajuku; a $30 trip to Japan.” Nothing old school here with 3-cheese and Nutella being two gyoza fillings available.

Pizza

If you’re following the holy grail true pizza trail, Double Zero has the highest ‘appellation’ of pizza; the first Queensland pizzeria accredited by Verace Pizza Napoletana Association for serving true Neapolitan style pizza. “It’s all about the quality of ingredients, and the attention to detail…Making pizza is a science,” co-owner Matthew Slivonik tells us.

Souvlaki

A modern take on traditional souvlaki, at The Lamb Shop shoulders of Junee lamb and Byron Bay pork are marinated for 24 hours, then slow-cooked over charcoal for four to five hours, basted constantly during cooking. With culinary techniques and family recipes passed down through centuries, this is far from ‘fast food’.

Nightlife

Gold Coast nightlife is hectic, so be prepared to spend a lot if you’re a clubbing fan. Always look into things other than just clubbing. It’s often a lot of fun to simply explore your surroundings at night. Surfers Paradise might be a bit too commercial for you, but its neon glow looks particularly spectacular from the beach in the dark. Failing that, there’s always the pub.

Australia has a big drinking culture, and you should never find yourself too far from a bar. Beer measures are slightly different in Oz – pints don’t exist in a lot of places. Instead, depending on the state, you get half-pints, ‘glasses’ (around seven fluid ounces) and ‘schooners’, which hold three-quarters of a pint. Unless you’re British or Scandinavian, booze is going to seem expensive.

Tours and Activities

Hostels are a fantastic place for information on tours and activities. They also offer some of the best deals and if you’re travelling on your own then it is a great way to meet like-minded people. However, Tourist Information Centres are even better. They are always welcoming and offer unbelievable deals that under-cut the hostels.

Obviously, the quickest way of losing money when travelling is by doing every activity and tour on offer. It’s a great idea to plan what you want to do before you get there. You’ll find yourself bombarded by different tour posters in every hostel you stay at. Always ask if there are deals on, or whether it is cheaper to book in a group. You’ll be surprised at how often this works.


Events in the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is famous for its spectacular, year-round event calendar. There’s so much to see and do – it’s always best to be prepared!

From international championships to unique cultural exhibitions, the Gold Coast is a natural stage for some of the most exciting, accessible, and memorable events in Australia.

The city’s annual favourites include the Magic Millions Racing Carnival, Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival, the Quiksilver Pro Surfing Championship, the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, the Armor All Gold Coast 600 and the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

Cultural and musical acts regularly tour venues such as the Gold Coast Convention Centre and the Gold Coast Arts Centre, while festivals including the Surfers Paradise Festival, the Gold Coast Film Festival, the Tambourine Mountain Scarecrow Festival, Big Day Out, and Kirra Surfstock take over precincts across the city.

Almost every weekend of the year locals and visitors join forces to support the region’s national sporting teams in some of the country’s most impressive venues. Get a taste of life as a ‘Gold Coaster’ at a Gold Coast Titans Rugby League game, a Gold Coast United Soccer match, a Gold Coast Blaze Basketball game or a Gold Coast Football Club Australian Rules match.

Spectacular venues, ideal weather, and a friendly atmosphere make Gold Coast events a memorable highlight of any visit.


Weather in the Gold Coast

Weather on the Gold Coast is a delight for backpackers visiting Australia on a gap year. The comedian Bill Hicks once described the weather in Los Angeles as “every day, hot and sunny” but he could just as easily have been talking about the weather on the Gold Coast.

Ranging from spectacularly hot in the summer to dry and comfortably warm in the Australian winter, the weather on the Gold Coast makes it a perfect destination for outdoor activities right through the calendar year. A humid subtropical climate, coupled with a refreshing sea breeze ensures that the weather on the Gold Coast usually reaches a good balance of sunny but comfortable.

Gold Coast Seasons

Summer (December to February)

It will come as no surprise that the summer is the ideal time to hit the Gold Coast’s world-famous white sandy beaches. With temperatures averaging around 20°C to 29°C, backpackers will find that beach culture tends to rule during the summer. As is the case in much of Queensland, humidity can reach very high levels during the summer. In the Gold Coast, this is somewhat counteracted by the same South Pacific winds that make the Gold Coast such a nirvana for surfers.

Autumn (March to May)

Autumn is surf season in the Gold Coast. Featuring four world famous ‘point breaks’ (namely Burleigh Heads, Snapper Rocks ‘Superbank,’ Kirra and South Stradbroke Island) and a range of high-profile ‘beach breaks’ it’s easy to how Surfer’s Paradise got its name. Of course it’s not all about surfing; autumn weather on the Gold Coast will delight non-surfing travellers too. With temperatures ranging on average from 15°C to 26°C, and peak temperatures in excess of 30°C not uncommon, autumn on the Gold Coast will feel decidedly summery to many backpackers travelling outbound from central or northern Europe. Boating, fishing and water sports are also common during the autumn.

Gold Coast beach sunset

Winter (June to August)

With temperatures during the winter averaging between 10°C and 21°C, the weather in the Gold Coast during the winter is considerably warmer than the climate further south. Light but variable winds and comfortable temperatures make golf a popular pastime through the winter months. Humpback whales make their way north to their breeding grounds during the summer, which makes whale-watching expeditions a popular tourist activity during the winter. There’s a bit less surfing on the Gold Coast during the winter months, but not drastically so. The beaches remain busy all year round and the chance of rain is far lower in the winter than the summer, making Gold Coast backpacking during the winter an enticing prospect.

Spring (March to May)

In terms of its weather, springtime on the Gold Coast is pretty similar to autumn. Average temperatures are similar to the autumn, sitting around 15°C to 25°C. From paragliding championships to bicycle races (such as the Rainbow Ride and the Matrix Twilight Six Hour Challenge), there’s plenty for the sportier traveller to watch or participate in, and the surf’s always good.

Reliably good weather and a wealth of things to see and do have made the Gold Coast a hit with tourists for many years. Those looking for accommodation in the Gold Coast with find a wide range of options and surfers, fishing enthusiasts, golfers of all levels and anyone who loves a white sandy beach will find the weather here in their favour throughout the year.

Within reason, whatever you are planning to do and whenever you want to do it, the wonderful weather in the Gold Coast will make it possible all year round. Expect a little rain in the summer and some colder days in the winter, but generally speaking the warm weather in the Gold Coast makes it easy to plan in as part of a round the world trip or whilst backpacking in Australia. For sun, sand, seas and surf, backpacker need look no further than Australia’s Gold Coast.


Visas for Australia

Whatever you’re doing in Australia, you’re going to need a visa. There are a few different types of visas, but you’re probably interested in one of these three:

1. Tourist Visas

Up to three months – If you’re visiting purely as a tourist for three months or less, an Electronic Travel Authority or ETA is the easy alternative to a visa. It doesn’t cost much, only a small administration fee – your travel agent or airline can sort one out for you.

If you decide once you’re there that you want to stay a bit longer, you should be able to extend your ETA to last you an extra three months. To do this, go to an immigration office in Australia.

Three to six months – If you want to go for three to six months, you’ll need to apply for a long-term tourist visa. To do this, you’ll have to download and fill in a form, and send it to your nearest Australian High Commission. You’ll also need to pay a larger administration fee, and send various documents, including proof that you can support yourself in Oz (for example, a bank statement, letters from a bank concerning your financial position, air tickets that have been purchased).

2. Working Holiday Visas

The UK and many other countries have reciprocal agreements with Australia so any citizen aged 18 to 30 can get a working holiday visa. They allow you to work for 12 months from the date you arrive in Australia. You can extend that and obtain a second-year working holiday visa if you can provide evidence that you undertook 88 days of agricultural work (for example, fruit picking) in Australia during your first year. However, you can’t work for the same employer for more than six months. Australian authorities check every one in four visa applications, so don’t run the risk of applying in the hope of being overlooked.

To be issued a working holiday visa you need proof that you can support yourself – AU$5,000 is advised by the Australian Government. You can apply online for a working holiday visa and it only takes a couple of hours to complete.

You can leave and re-enter Australia using this visa as many times as you like during your year. However, if you permanently leave Australia without staying for the full 12 months you cannot go back, say, a year later and use the remaining months of your visa.

Once your visa has been approved you will be told what you need to do. Basically, your passport will be stamped when you arrive and you’ll have a year before you have to leave. Simple really. Everything is tagged electronically so there’s no paper-work to worry about.

3. Student Visas

If you want to study (where better to do marine biology than on the Great Barrier Reef?), the Australian government operates an overseas student programme (OSP) that allows people who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents to study in Australia.

Anyone who is not an Australian resident may apply to study in Australia under the OSP. If you want to study under this programme, you’ll first need a student visa. You can only get one of these if you wish to undertake a registered course or part of a registered course on a full-time basis.

You can’t go out to Oz and then look around for courses. Before you apply for an Australian student visa, you’ll need a letter of acceptance or electronic confirmation of enrolment from your education provider. Types and prices of student visas vary, and there are various requirements you’ll need to fill (including being of ‘good character’).

The visa is easy to apply for and can be done online. Student visas last for two to four years. You can work on a student visa too, but you need to be in education for at least four months of the year. Also, many UK universities offer placement years in Australia.

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