Gold Coast

Ultimate guide to things to do on the Gold Coast with kids

Think surf, sun and adrenaline. The theme park and beach capital of the country, the Gold Coast has these in spades. Prepare for a perfect family holiday with wild water fun, beautiful bushland, animal experiences and plenty of sea and sand.

No matter where you wander there are stacks of activities and attractions for the kids. Thrill seekers can get their kicks jetboating, parasailing, kite surfing, diving and snorkelling. Families can slide, ride, coast and splash at the Gold Coast’s world-class theme parks. Lovers of all things feathered, furry and finned aren’t forgotten either. There are many great animal parks where they can cuddle a koala, get friendly with a dolphin or hand-feed a kangaroo.

City break meets beach break on the Gold Coast. Credit: Shutterstock

Just 40 minutes’ from the coast is a hinterland of subtropical rainforest, dotted with quaint mountain villages, bushwalks, waterfalls and swimming holes. Take a hike above the trees at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk into the rainforest. You can also check out the Thunderbird Park, a collection of unique attractions that includes fossicking for treasures in the world’s largest thunderegg mine.

Read more: adventures in South East Queensland for every age

When it comes to where to stay, the beachside suburbs of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Main Beach and Coolangatta are popular with families. They offer a variety of accommodation including apartments, hotels and resorts, as well as plenty of holiday parks with self-contained cabins.

Top things to do on the Gold Coast

From its surf and sand to its theme parks, the Gold Coast is packed with plenty of unmissable family attractions. Here are 10 not to be missed.

  1. Tackle the big five theme parks Sea World, Dreamworld, Wet’n’Wild, Whitewater World, and Movie World. 
  2. Meet the local animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
  3. Watch the whales from late May to early November
  4. Learn to surf on one of the Gold Coast’s iconic beaches
  5. Hunt for thundereggs at Thunderbird Park
  6. Take to the treetops at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
  7. Enjoy bird walks, animal shows, Segway tours and accessible trails at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
  8. Meet movie stars and monsters at the Surfers Paradise Wax Museum, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
  9. Trip out at Infinity, Surfers Paradise, a maze of multi-sensory environments and optical illusions.
  10. Learn about the one of the oldest living cultures in the world at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Read more: top 16 up-close koala experiences in Australia

Things to do on the Gold Coast with…

The Gold Coast’s fantastic wildlife sanctuaries have created habitats that offer littlies real-life experiences with native Australian animals. They can mingle with a mob of kangaroos, hand-feed lorikeets, nurse a baby crocodile and feed sharks and stingrays.

Dedicated to conserving Australia’s Indigenous and natural heritage, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary boasts a variety of animal encounters for littlies. Older brothers and sisters will love a visit the Wildlife Hospital Foundation and should also try the tree-tops ropes course. Paradise Country is another great spot for koala encounters.

David Fleay Wildlife Park also hosts a range of native animals. It is in fact the only nature park on the Gold Coast with platypus. It is also home to fresh and saltwater crocodiles, snakes, lizards, kangaroos, koalas, native birds and butterflies.

In the hinterland, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat offers excellent accessibility for wheelchair users and a fun Fire Engine Tour. You can also interact and see birdlife in action with their Birds of Prey Show.

And at Sea World the kids can steal a kiss from a seal, feed the Gentoo and King penguins or visit Polar Bear Shores, Australia’s only polar bear exhibit. If you’re also with older kids, they can enjoy animal experiences such as Seal Safari or the penguin Aquatic Adventure.

Read more: the best things to do on the Gold Coast with a baby or toddler

With a wealth of beaches, each boasting its own personality, families are spoiled for choice. But Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Northcliffe, and Broadbeach are certainly the pick for younger kids. There is also Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks, two not-so-secret secret swimming holes inland from Currumbin Beach.

If you’d prefer bush to beach, take the kids to the hinterland. At Mount Tambourine village, enjoy arts and antique stores, great cafes and some of the Gold Coast’s best fudge. At Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, stroll through the rainforest canopy and over the valley. Then, gently descend to the forest floor with its rockpools, waterfalls and butterfly lookout. If your kids like to dig and get dirty, the nearby Thunderbird Park has activities for every age, including fossicking for treasures in a thunderegg mine. There are in fact more than 100 challenges. These including 11 huge ziplines, suspended bridges, a Tarzan swing, barrels to crawl through and nets to climb. Right next to this is an awesome laser skirmish game, laid out like a movie set. It’s like being inside a computer game!

Up the road you can slow the pace down and go horse riding with Tamborine Mountain Trail Rides, along winding trails through cool, green rainforest.

A holiday to the Gold Coast ‘worlds’ is almost a rite-of-passage with Aussie kids. Not a school holiday goes past without a member of the class returning with wicked tales of slides, rides and rollercoasters.

Dreamworld is Australia’s biggest theme park. It is home to the Big 9 Thrill Rides, some of the country’s fastest, most action-packed, adrenaline-pumping rides. Partner park WhiteWater World boasts some of the coolest waterslides in the Southern Hemisphere such as the alarmingly named Wedgie, which shoots you down vertically through a trap door. There is also the Triple Vortex, the hottest high capacity tubing ride in the world.

Movie World has a mix of heart-thumping thrill rides, chilled rides for younger kids and fantastic movie entertainment. Be sure to schedule in the ‘edge-of-your-seat’ action of the Hollywood Stunt Driver Show.

Enjoy Sea World’s Shark Bay, especially the Tropical Reef Snorkel. Here you can swim with rays, reef sharks and thousands of colourful tropical fish. It’s a great introduction to snorkeling for confident guppies, especially if you can’t get as far as the Great Barrier Reef itself.

At Wet’n’Wild you can choose from the Aqua Loop, Mammoth Falls and the brand new Constrictor. Or you can choose to float pleasantly along the gentle waters of Calypso Beach.

When it comes to attractions to stimulate the senses, the Gold Coast is unbeatable. But there’s more to the coastal hub than just theme parks thrills.

It is a Surfers Paradise after all! Surfing school Go Ride A Wave has been operating since 1987. They teach thousands of people to surf every year in several locations on the Gold Coast. They now also operate in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

If you’d like to try your hand at Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Currumbin Lagoon, on the lower reaches of the Gold Coast is a great place to learn the basics. It’s also where you’ll find paddleboard company JM SUP.

Kids aged 12 to 15, accompanied by an adult, can take control and blast along the sub-tropical shores of South Stradbroke Island on a state of the art jet ski with Jet Ski Safaris. Or maybe you’d prefer to get airborne with Jetpack Adventures. They will send you sky high as hundreds of litres of water blast you up and out of the water.  

If you prefer to find your fun indoors, Game Over Gold Coast is Australia’s first Electric Indoor Karting track. It comes complete with a high-tech Laser Tag arena, 16 climbing and adventure walls, an indoor zip coaster as well as the high speed go karts.

For the more adventurous (and less scared of heights) Q1 Tower’s  SkyPoint climb takes you outside the building, 77 floors up for spectacular (and windy) views. It’s not for the faint-hearted. While you are securely fastened to a balustrade on your left of the staircase, there’s no handrail on your right!

Visit in warm weather to make the most of water-based attractions such as Sea World. Credit: Shutterstock

Best time for families on the Gold Coast

With more than 300 days of sunshine every year, it’s always a good time to explore the Gold Coast’s 70 kilometres of unspoiled coastline and 100,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforest.

While the Gold Coast’s consistent weather is one of the reasons it is a popular family destination every month of the year, April and May is the best time to beat the crowds and enjoy the most comfortable temperatures. On the flipside, huge holiday crowds and high UV ratings make December and January less ideal.

It’s also worth noting that there is an increase in pricing during school holiday periods. You’ll need to book early if you are travelling during these peak times.  It is also a wise idea to avoid the area from mid-November until the first week of December, when the Gold Coast plays host to the nation’s largest and wildest Schoolies week celebrations.

Food trucks and markets will help you stock up for a picnic lunch on the beach! Credit: Shutterstock

Where to eat on the Gold Coast with kids

The food scene on the Gold Coast is ever changing and evolving with many established and new venues offering great dining options for families. With its beautiful weather, expansive coastline and a farm-filled hinterland, you can expect produce that is fresh and fabulous.

You’ll find kid-friendly cafes, buffets, hotels and pubs that serve up kids’ meals with a side of playgrounds, arts, crafts and games. And the region positively buzzes with food and farmers markets, night and day. The weekend Night Quarter market is a particular favourite with families as it offers great food and fun entertainment for all ages.

On Friday and Saturday nights families can also head to the private laneway precinct at Miami Marketta to taste food from all over the world as they listen to local musicians play. Don’t forget to hit the designated dessert hall, which is filled with gelato, crepes, homemade cakes and slices.

And if you like a little entertainment with you meal, check out the Hard Rock Café at Surfer’s Paradise and The Australian Outback Spectacular – where you’re served a 3-course meal while being entertained by impressive horse riding stunts.

Things to do on the Gold Coast for free

  • While Surfers Paradise is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, The Gold Coast coastline stretches for an incredible 57-kilometres and boasts 19 other fantastic beaches where families can enjoy a dip between the flags, surf and soak up the sun.
  • Beyond the beach, Currumbin Valley Rock pools’ slippery rocks and waterfalls provide natural slides into the freshwater and are another popular free swim spot for local families.
  • If you’d rather stay dry, pack a picnic and drive to the hinterland to hike through the lush Gondwanan rainforest, along the rim of an ancient volcano or on one of the all all-abilities trails at Cedar Creek Falls.
  • In town, head to The Broadwater Parklands, located in Southport, for fantastic free outdoor activities to amuse all ages. Younger kids will love playing in the mini water-park and the giant bouncy pillow while older kids might prefer to swim out to the floating play pontoon.

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