The shimmering high-rises of the Gold Coast appear like a mirage from the distance but up close this iconic destination still dazzles despite its (sometimes justified) tacky-Vegas strip meets beach vibe. While it has its fair share of high school grads gone wild, it’s impossible to go past the 52km of white sands, no-filter needed sunsets, warm waters and never-ending sunny days.
Surfer’s Paradise is packed with malls and clubs for the young party-hard set but beyond that there are plenty of suburbs for blissful beach-y days, surfing, kayaking, hiking, eating and adventure. Palm Beach, Burleigh Heads and Mermaid may still sport 70s retro charm but their flourishing foodie scene has caught up with the 21st century (the Palm Beach Surf Club is perfect for beach-side feasting). For crafty wares, the long-running Burleigh Heads market has local designers, makers and collectors plus live music and a local vibe.
Learn to surf with the pros on the epic breaks of Coolangatta, named after a schooner that wrecked there in 1846. For land lubbers, beautiful walking trails wend their way around Greenmount Hill to Rainbow Bay – and from there you can go up the hill to Point Danger and stand with one foot in each state, straddling New South Wales and Queensland as you spy the whales swimming by. And in the balmy evenings, hit up the Twin Towns Services Club to see local and international bands.
And if you get sick of washing off the sand and working on your Gold Coast tan, the hinterland is all come hither nearby with its lush subtropical rainforest for hiking and ogling wildlife.