Northern Gold Coast

Eat, stay and play on the Northern Gold Coast

There’s more to the Gold Coast than Surfer’s Paradise. A lot more.

Many visitors have taken note of this advice in recent times, opting to head south to the beaches of Burleigh or Coolangatta, or west to the waterfalls and lush rainforest of the Hinterland.

Theme parks notwithstanding, the northern areas of the Gold Coast don’t draw as much publicity as their southern counterparts. But with an island brimming with natural beauty, a plethora of shopping, accommodation and dining options, and a range of things to do, there’s a lot to see north of the Q1.

Here are the best spots to explore on your next visit to the Northern Gold Coast.

South Stradbroke Island

South Stradbroke Island is often the forgotten island of South East Queensland.

While Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island may receive plenty of attention, ‘South Straddie’ basks in its undiscovered glory.

It’s a slice of natural beauty only a stone’s throw (almost literally) from a major city. And it’s a spot that is easily accessed by private boat, ferry, water taxi or jetski. It’s so close, keen surfers can also paddle the 200-metre distance across to the island to take advantage of the thumping waves.

Fishing, swimming and bushwalking are the most popular activities once you’re on the island. During winter, you may be able to glimpse migrating humpback whales, or settle for the wallabies and 150 species of birds that call the island home.

There are three campsites on the island, and a café to satisfy all your food or drink cravings. Couran Cove Island Resort is also located on the island and is perfect for active travellers looking for a range of activities that revolve around swimming, walking and paddling.

The Sunset Beach Club at the resort is the best spot to enjoy a drink and as the name suggests, watch the sun disappear for the day.

Main Beach

Keep following the sand north from Surfer’s Paradise and after a couple of kilometres, you’ll reach Main Beach.

With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Southport Broadwater on the other, Main Beach is perfectly situated to enjoy the best of the Gold Coast.

Stop by the Marina Mirage to browse high-end boutiques. With water views almost everywhere you look, seafood is a great option for lunch or dinner. The best spots to go are Omeros Brothers Seafood Restaurant or Terraces Restaurant.

Rest your head overnight at the sumptuous Palazzo Versace if you’re after a dose of luxury for the body and soul. Or the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort is also a great spot to stay and located right near the Marina Mirage.

The best way to see the hidden waterways of the Northern Gold Coast is on board a jet ski with Gold Coast Jet Ski Safaris. No license and experience is necessary.

At the end of Main Beach is the Spit, which is a popular location for fishing, swimming, diving and dining. Budding surfers can learn to ride a wave with Get Wet Surf School.

The Spit is also one of the Gold Coast’s most popular dog-friendly beaches.

And don’t forget about Sea World. See dolphins, penguins, polar bears and more, all while getting your daily dose of adrenaline on the park’s theme rides. In winter there are daily whale watching trips leaving from the park.

Conservation is a key focus for Sea World and the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc has been running since 1988 and has supported over 180 research projects along with countless rescue operations for marine animals. Passionate kids aged 8-14 can join in for an exclusive tour and hands-on activities as part of the Rescue Ranger Program.

Stay at the Sea World Resort which has an incredible water park on-site to entertain the kids all day long.


Inland from Main Beach is Southport, a hub for shopping, dining and exploring.

For retail therapy, head to the Australia Fair Shopping Centre or enjoy a dose of the famous Gold Coast sunshine while exploring the many boutique shops along Marine Parade and Scarborough Street.

Recover from all that shopping by taking a short walk through the Broadwater Parklands. Find a shady spot to enjoy a picnic or slip and slide on the Gold Coast’s only inflatable water park: GC Aqua Park.

To keep your stomach happy, head to De Vito Waterfront, Mr P.P.’s Rooftop and Deli or Jafa. Vegans and otherwise should visit Cardamom Pod at Brickworks for a conscious, plant-based menu so spectacularly plated (not to mention tasty) it will dazzle even the staunchest of meat-lovers.

The Meriton Suites Southport is a Southport favourite and perfectly positioned near a light rail station, connecting you to the rest of the Gold Coast.

Runaway Bay

The fish are always biting at Runaway Bay.

Originally known as Angler’s Paradise, Runaway Bay still lives up to that name with its reputation as a place where the fish are always biting. Snapper, kingfish, tuna, mackerel, marlin and sailfish are all known to frequent these waters. Hotshot Charters can take you out for the day and set you up with gear.

The BLK Performance Centre was used as a training base for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and is a great place to stay for a ‘fitcation’.

Gotham Grill and Rooftop Bar, Zingara’s Kitchen and the iconic Runaway Bay Tavern are the picks of the restaurants in the area.

For lovers of a discount, Australia’s largest outlet shopping centre, Harbour Town, is also nearby.

Sanctuary Cove

It isn’t all about big boats and golf in Sanctuary Cove, although the boats are big and the golf courses are seriously impressive.

Head to the Marine Village to discover a range of fashion boutique, art galleries and most importantly, a chocolate shop.

Jonez on Food and Ioesco Cafe Cucino are great spots to refuel for lunch or dinner.

Hire a houseboat, party pontoon or sailing boat to cruise along the Coomera River.

The opulent Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort commands a prime position on the waterfront. The five-star, 243 room resort is the perfect escape from the city with the one-hectare saltwater lagoon a highlight.


Coomera in the Northern Gold Coast is home to six prominent Gold Coast figures.

There are the everlasting favourites of Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet’N’Wild, Dreamworld and WhiteWater World.

Dreamworld’s Sky Voyager and Movie World’s DC Rivals HyperCoaster are both new attractions designed for maximum thrills.

At night, Australian Outback Spectacular is the place to be. Enjoy a three-course meal while watching an immersive show that tells a tale of life in the Outback.

And don’t forget about Top Golf, the new high-tech driving range that is all about fun.

Stay near the theme parks in an eco tent at Paradise Country or at the BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park. Or for a versatile stay, hire a houseboat from Coomera Houseboat Holidays and let the river decide where you go.

Escape the crowds for lunch or dinner at Vue 175 or Pickers and Co.