A quick guide to Gold Coast beaches
Sand, surf and beach life made the Gold Coast famous. Long before the first theme park opened in the mid-1970s, the strip from Southport to Coolangatta was a place for sunny holidays and catching waves. The first official surfer was Cyril Burcher, who in 1935 imported a surf ski from Hawaii to ride the waves at Surfers Paradise.
While the Gold Coast's shore landscape has changed dramatically over the years, the beaches' white sands and rolling Pacific Ocean waves keep on doing what they've always done. If you want to immerse yourself in sun, sand and surf, there's no better place to go than GC.
At Currumbin Creek pods of dolphins sometimes cruise in for lazy afternoons of playing with stand up paddle boarders. Hire a board and you might get lucky.
Main Beach and Surfers Paradise
Gold Coast beach culture was born at Main Beach and Surfers Paradise Beach. Main Beach is the outer portion of a huge sand bar that contains Doug Jennings Park and Sea World. A little further south, the beach becomes Surfers Paradise, then Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach and Nobby Beach.
If you're staying nearby, you get the best of two worlds - restaurants and shopping inland, water activities (including parasailing) on the coast. While this is the busiest series of beaches on the Gold Coast, there's plenty of room for everyone. A wide, paved pathway follows the shore, so you can walk, bike, scooter or skateboard to get around.
On the Nerang River, right in the heart of Surfers Paradise, is Budds Beach Reserve - an excellent place to hire a stand up paddle board (SUP) for gliding around the tranquil waterways. If you've never SUPed before, lessons are easily arranged.
Burleigh Heads Beach
Known simply as 'Burleigh' to the locals, this beach and headland separates the northern and southern stretches of Gold Coast beaches. The best surfing is around the headland, while the Burleigh foreshore is a great place for picnics and barbecues.
Burleigh Heads Markets, held on the last Sunday of the month, is the longest running outdoor market on the coast. A bonus at this beach is the Burleigh Heads National Park, a wonderful place for rainforest walks and whale spotting.
Tallebudgera Creek, Currumbin Creek and Palm Beach
Never be put off by the word 'creek'. On the Gold Coast, it's simply a way to say 'beach without surf'. Inevitably, you can count on turquoise water, white sand and safe swimming.
Tallebudgera is an aboriginal word for 'good fish'. Today it could also mean good kayaking, good swimming, good picnicking and good stand up paddle boarding. This sparkling, white-sand creek is a glorious spot for all the non-surf things you want to do at the beach. Nearby accommodation options range from super-fancy waterfront villas to a back-to-basics campground.
At Currumbin Creek pods of dolphins sometimes cruise in for lazy afternoons of playing with stand up paddle boarders. Hire a board and you might get lucky. There's also a wildlife sanctuary nearby, fully-stocked with Australia's most famous native animals.
Between Tallebudgera and Currumbin is Palm Beach. It's lovely for a surf or a swim, but even better for a dive or a snorkel. Palm Beach Reef has rocky outcrops and several large coral bommies. The top of the reef is just five metres below the surface of the water, a perfect depth for snorkeling and learner scuba diving. There's lots to see - stingrays, coral fish, blue wrasse, school fish and maybe even the odd shark (of the friendly kind).
Coolangatta and Greenmount
If you've always wanted surf lessons, Coolangatta could make your dream come true. There's every chance you'll be standing up on your board just 30 minutes after your first lesson. The beach break here is perfect for learners, as well as those who want to add to their skills.
Greenmount Beach at the eastern end of Coolangatta is a mecca for more experienced surfers. Some would say it has some of the finest surfing breaks in Australia. There are several areas to explore: Duranbah, aka D-Bah, for a fast-breaking beach break; Snapper Rocks, a classic point break; Little Mali, a reef break off Rainbow Bay Beach; Kirra Point, something of a legend in the surfing world; and Greenmount Point, where waves curl around a rocky point to break on a sandbank.
Eating at surf lifesaving clubs
If you've had beach holidays in Australia before, you'll know there's more to surf lifesaving clubs than saving lives. They also save you from hunger. Almost every club has a restaurant with family-friendly menus, excellent beers on tap and big views. These restaurants have a very important job to do - they raise the money that keeps the surf lifesavers on the best beaches. We don't want to play favourites here, but reviews point towards the clubs at North Burleigh, Currumbin Beach, Southport, Northcliffe, Kurrawa, Mermaid Beach and Palm Beach.