There’s no denying the Gold Coast is an iconic Australian destination. With glittering sandy shores, turquoise blue waters and bronzed bathers, it’s considered the very epitome of the country’s beach culture.
But there’s so much more the Sunshine State has to offer, and a couple of spectacular day trips from the Gold Coast reveal a diverse landscape rich in natural splendour, family-friendly attractions, wildlife, gourmet goodies and, of course, magnificent beaches.
All you need to do is get your car hire from the Gold Coast sorted, and you’re good to hit the road. Now, to Toowoomba or Byron Bay first?
Trip 1: Gold Coast to Brisbane
Sometimes, it’s best to start with the most obvious destination: Brisbane. Just an hours’ drive north, the Queensland capital is a sensational option when it comes to Gold Coast day trips. While its close proximity is an obvious drawcard, Brisbane also offers a completely different vibe to the glitz and glam of the Goldie. An abundance of highly-rated restaurants and trendy bars, plus a recent spate of world-class exhibitions, festivals and live music events have turned Brisbane into quite the cultural hub. And with big-name brands like H&M, Zara and UNIQLO located on Queen St Mall, the shopping possibilities are even giving the Gold Coast’s Pacific Fair mall a run for its money. So go on, organise car hire from the Gold Coast Airport and make a beeline for Brisbane – we promise its relaxed riverside charms will win you over.
Trip 2: Gold Coast to Noosa
If you’re an early riser, a day trip to Noosa from the Gold Coast is totally achievable – and trust us, it’s well worth the pre-dawn wake-up call. Noosa is a little pocket of heaven roughly three hour’s drive from the Goldie. It’s a popular holiday destination that truly has it all: gorgeous white-sand beaches surrounded by lush rainforest, day spas, markets and a buzzing promenade lined with boutique stores and cute cafes. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the chance to kayak, surf and stand-up paddle board, or explore the expansive network of bushwalking tracks within the national park, while those with littlies can splash around in the calm, sheltered waters of the main beach. The only problem you’ll face on your Gold Coast to Noosa road trip is having to leave at the end of the day.
Trip 3: Gold Coast to Byron Bay
Ahh Byron Bay; while it’s not quite the laid-back hippie enclave it used to be, there’s just something special about this coastal town that makes it irresistible. And that means a Gold Coast to Byron Bay day trip absolutely needs to be on the itinerary of any visitors to Queensland. While the drive time from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay is a little over an hour, we suggest arriving as early as possible so you can fit in a walk to the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse (Australia’s most easterly point), head down for a surf at The Pass, and enjoy a cold one at Stone and Wood Brewery. And no trip is complete without stopping by The Farm – a working property that’s home to an incredible restaurant (Three Blue Ducks), produce store, bakery and children’s playground.
Trip 4: Gold Coast to Toowoomba
There’s more to Queensland than just sun-drenched beach days, so to see all the state has to offer, you’ve got to head inland. Toowoomba is the Goldie’s country counterpart; where the Gold Coast has sea, sand and surf, Toowoomba has gardens, greenery and grapevines. Situated at the point where the Darling Downs and Great Dividing Range meet, the Toowoomba landscape is incredible – think rolling mountain ranges and incredible lookouts – and all that fertile land means you’ll be returning to the coast laden with delicious regional produce. A two-hour trip is all it takes to reach this bush oasis, so if the weather turns and you’re wondering what to do in the Gold Coast on a rainy day, jump in the car and head for Toowoomba.
Trip 5: Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island
Say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast and hello to North Stradbroke Island, where you’ll feel as though you’re a million miles away from the rest of the world. Well, kind of – to get to ‘Straddie’, it’s an hour’s drive north to Cleveland, and then a 50-minute ferry ride. As the world’s second largest sand island, the amazing beaches are a standout, but the marine life is also a major factor in the island’s popularity. From June to November, it’s one of the best places in Queensland for whale watching, and it’s a wonderful spot to see dolphins or go scuba diving and snorkelling. If you’d prefer to cast a line, half-day fishing trips from the Gold Coast are a great option too. Just consider Straddie nature’s very own playground!
Trip 6: Gold Coast to South Stradbroke Island
You might be surprised to discover that the less-visited South Stradbroke Island is actually much quicker to reach from the Gold Coast than its northern counterpart. Water taxis and ferries run from Main Beach, Runaway Bay Marina and Sanctuary Cove Marina, and take just 40 minutes. What South Straddie lacks in amenities and infrastructure it makes up for in secluded swimming coves, epic ATV tracks, ocean fishing, plus windsurfing, sea kayaking and jet-skiing. A plethora of hiking routes weave across the island, and you’re almost guaranteed to run into some of the local native creatures, like wallabies, koalas and bandicoots. There’s a tasty cafe called Tipplers if you need to refuel, but aside from that and a few camping spots, the rest is yours to roam.
Trip 7: Gold Coast into the Hinterland
It’s the green belt that encircles the golden shores of the Gold Coast – the Hinterland is a pristine paradise often overlooked in favour of long, lazy days at the beach. Just half an hour’s drive from the outskirts of the city, the Hinterland is comprised of ancient Gondwana rainforests, breathtaking national parks and delightful mountain villages. Must-do activities include the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, an eco-adventure that takes visitors high into the treetops, plus the magical Glow Worm Caves – the only location in Queensland where you can see these illuminated critters during the day. And Springbrook National Park offers a smorgasbord of wonders, including the Instagram-famous Natural Bridge, a spectacular waterfall in a cave. Exploring this incredible region is undoubtedly one of the best things to do on the Gold Coast for families.
Trip 8: Gold Coast to Kingscliff
The sleepy town of Kingscliff, in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, could just be the area’s best-kept secret. Regularly bypassed by tourists heading straight for Byron Bay, it’s located 15 minutes across the Queensland border and boasts just one lovely main street and a stunning stretch of coastline. Where the beaches can be ridiculously crowded on the Gold Coast, at Kingscliff you’ll have them (almost) to yourself, and there’s more than enough room for families to spread out and relax. Don’t miss out on Tropical Fruit World either; this enormous plantation offers tours and tastings of its delicious produce, plus there’s an adjoining wildlife park. So if you don’t know what to do around the Gold Coast, lock in a trip to this hidden gem and you won’t be disappointed.
Be on your way to discovering Australia’s Sunshine State by booking cheap flights to the Gold Coast with Webjet. Don’t forget to add your rental car into the same booking to make sure you’ll be able to hit the road as soon as you touch down. Plus, you can also find Gold Coast accommodation. Or, book a Gold Coast holiday package to combine your flights and hotel for even more savings!