Gold Coast attractions you’ve never heard of … but will love

Take in a spectacular sunrise or sunset over the McPherson Range and the Albert Valley from Moonlight Crag at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

Year-round, tourists flock to the Gold Coast for a chance to catch a glimpse of the idyllic lifestyle it’s become famous for. If you could bottle up the atmosphere – the perfect mix of laid-back Aussie beachside town and lively city – you’d be onto a good thing.

Far from being all sandy beaches and turquoise water – though it certainly is that, too – the Gold Coast has a host of other attractions on hand to keep visitors coming back for more. Whether you love to shop or prefer to get your thrills from more active pursuits, there’s plenty on offer. If you need any convincing, we’ve mapped out some of the Gold Coast’s best-kept secrets that you’ll love.

Hire a houseboat

While there are luxury resorts and hotels aplenty on the Gold Coast, Coomera Houseboats offers something that even the chicest of resorts can’t – the freedom to chart your own journey through the charming canals and waterways of the region. With 60 kilometres of calm waterways as your playground, enjoy the Gold Coast from a unique perspective as you cruise past the million-dollar mansions of Sanctuary Cove and Sovereign Island, keeping an eye out for pods of dolphins and colonies of pelicans that regularly frequent the waters. With 42 suggested anchorages to choose from, you’ll have the luxury of stopping at a different location each night, drifting off to sleep with the gentle sway of the water underneath your houseboat and waking up to the sounds of native birdlife before setting off for another day of adventuring.

Each boat comes equipped with everything you could need – cooking equipment, HD TV, BBQ and safety gear – all you’ll need to bring is food (though catering options are available), drinks, fishing gear, toiletries and pleasant company. The best part is you don’t even need a boat license to hire one of their fleet – friendly staff will guide you through the basics and take you for a test drive on your first day before you set off to explore.

Watch the sunset

Taking in a spectacular sunset at Moonlight Crag is a Gold Coast must-do. Located at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and Villas, Moonlight Crag has become a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike thanks to its incredible vantage point, offering views of the hinterland and beyond.

Practice your swing

Capitalising on Queensland’s idyllic weather, there are a huge range of golf courses on the Gold Coast to suit whatever skill level you’re at. Get in some tee time at The Pines at Sanctuary Cove, Links Hope Island Golf Club or KDV Sport.

If you want to practice your swing off the course, then Topgolf is the spot for you! It’s a driving range like you’ve never seen before, where you can hit micro-chipped balls into giant targets from your own private bay. If your golfing skills leave a little to be desired, you can even book in for a lesson with a PGA-certified coach – you’ll be a pro in no time!

If you prefer to spectate, kick back and relax from the comfort of the rooftop terrace with an icy-cold cocktail (we recommend the coconut and lychee mojito) and a bite to eat from the extensive American-inspired menu – think specialty wings tossed in your choice of flavourings, gourmet burgers, cheese fries and fresh salads – while you listen to live music. The range is open until late seven days a week, so why not make a night of it and jump on the Topgolf Shuttle from Broadbeach, Helensvale or Surfers Paradise? 

Hit the water

While there’s no shortage of picturesque ocean views from just about every hotel and restaurant on the Gold Coast, one of the best ways to appreciate it in all its glory is by jumping on board a scenic cruise and cruising out on the calm, blue waters. Depending on the time of year, you might like to go in search of whales, which migrate to Queensland waters as the weather cools down. Sea World Whale Watch tours operate from June to November and have been known to spot all types of marine life.

If you’re looking to add a little romance to your trip, why not charter your own private yacht with Sailing in Paradise? Or if you want to venture a little further, book a day tour to Lady Elliot Island. It’s part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and is home to over 1,200 species of marine life, including manta rays and turtles, and an unspoilt coral reef.

Reach new heights

For the thrill-seekers among us, add a climb up Q1 SkyPoint to your Gold Coast itinerary. At 270 metres above sea level, the iconic building is Australia’s highest external climb and offers views of the world-famous coastline and beyond. Tours operate at various points of the day, so you can conquer the climb at sunrise, throughout the day, at twilight as the sun sets, or in the dark of night, capturing a stunning view of the twinkling city lights as you tackle the ascent.

Of course, if climbing and heights aren’t really your thing, you can take the lift up to the observation deck and take in the incredible 360-degree view from indoors. There’s also a fully-licensed bistro and bar if you want to grab a bite to eat.

If you prefer a more relaxed take on the aerial view, why not admire the scenery from a hot air balloon or helicopter? Go Ballooning rises to the skies at sunrise each morning, making for a magnificent start to the day, while ABC Heli are the experts in scenic joy flights. The rush you’ll get from seeing the stunning coastline and lush green hinterland from 7,000 feet is incomparable and will take your breath away.

Go off-road

If a little action and adventure takes your fancy, book a guided 4WD tour with Southern Cross 4WD Tours. Venture through the beautiful hinterland to visit the World Heritage-listed rainforests of Mount Tamborine, Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge and O’Reilly’s. You’ll enjoy easy, guided rainforest walks past waterfalls and wildlife, bird feeding and plenty more. Tours depart daily from the Gold Coast – enquire to see if you can arrange pick-up from your accommodation – with full day or half day options, and most include wine tasting and morning tea or lunch.

For something a little different, the glow worm night tour is unlike any other, letting you explore the rainforest after the sun goes down and finishing off with dessert.

Drop a line

For keen fishermen (and women), the Gold Coast is home to some of the best fishing spots in the country, and known for its diverse range of fish species that inhabit the waters year-round. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or haven’t wet a line in years, Go Fish Australia specialise in bespoke fishing tours that almost guarantee you won’t leave empty-handed.

Come and Play on the Gold Coast

Come and play in our spectacular natural playground, where world-famous beaches with glistening waves are just the beginning. Lose yourself in the views of our lush hinterland and find a whole new way to escape.

Explore more