Best Free (or Cheap) Things to do on the Gold Coast in 2020
Big on dreams but low on budget? You can still have a great time on the Gold Coast!
Wondering what to do on the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise?
If you're travelling on a budget, here's a ton of easy, cheap and fun things to do.
This comprehensive list has the best free and paid Gold Coast activies that you can do while you are visiting or embracing life in the city.
1. Visit the Best Beaches on the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is so named for good reason, and there are a lot of amazing beaches you can spend some time at. Our suggestion for your beach crawl from top to bottom: Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Kurrawa Beach, Mermaid Beach, Miami Beach, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach and Kirra Beach, just to name a few.
Take your boogie board, put up a beach umbrella or bust out the cricket set, just don’t forget to slip, slop, slap!
COST: Free, but we’d suggest to bring some spare change for fish and chips by the water!
2. Go on a bushwalk
The incredibly beautiful World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests (and the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world) can be found across NSW and Queensland and comprises roughly thirty National Parks. The hinterland where you can access some of the parks is around an hour's drive from the Gold Coast. Filled with a variety of walking tracks for all fitness levels, they are definitely worth a visit! Some of our favourites tracks are:
Springbrook National Park – the Purling Brook Falls walking track circuit, the Natural Bridge Rainforest Circuit, Canyon lookouts and Twin Falls walk.
Tamborine Mountain – the third oldest National Park in the world with 12 walking tracks, each one is no longer than 3 kilometres.
Lamington National Park – The Booyang Boardwalk and Tooloona Creek circuit are both nice walks, and there are many other fantastic walking trails: from short walks to all day hikes. O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk is 180 metres in length and made up of 9 suspension bridges.
Photo by Alistair Kitchen
3. Eat like a celebrity
Bam Bam Bakehouse is a quirky bakehouse at Mermaid Beach and where Margot Robbie kicked off her hen's weekend on the Gold Coast.
Photo credit Vogue
Cost: Depends on how much you can eat, but a warm croissant will set you back $7.90
4. Go for a bike ride
Photo by [Bogdan Dada]
If you’re wanting to feel that ocean breeze running through your hair and cover a bit more ground, a bike ride is the way to go!
The Gold Coast Oceanway is a network of pathways along the beaches of the coast which range up to 4km long and are popular with cyclists and walkers. You can cycle the full length, 36 kilometres in total from Point Danger Lighthouse (Coolangatta) in the south to the Gold Coast Seaway (The Spit) in the north.
More of a mountain biker? You can go to the hinterland or rural areas for some more extreme riding. Take a look at the Gold Coast Mountain Club for some trail inspiration.
COST: Free if you’ve got your own bike, or you can hire one for a day from a bike shop in town.
5. Barefoot Bowls
One of the best things about the beautiful warm weather is the fact you can get away with wearing thongs (flip flops) all the time. This makes it even easier when you need to slip them off to partake in barefoot bowls, so make your way to the Burleigh Heads Bowls Club on a Sunday afternoon.
COST: $5 per person, but spare yourself some extra dollars for a couple of beers. Bookings are essential as it is very popular!
6. Farmers Markets
Burleigh Farmers Markets – Every Saturday at Burleigh Heads State School this gourmet food market with locally grown fruit and vegetables, bakery, meat, fish, deli, plus live entertainment and a great atmosphere!
Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets – every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night along the beach Esplanade at Surfers. There are around 100 different stalls to enjoy as you stroll down the Esplanade.
Miami Marketta – Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night the Miami area on the Gold Coast comes alive with delicious street food from around the world. It’s open and free to the public to come, check out and enjoy!
Night Quarter Markets - every Friday and Saturday 4pm to 10pm. You can find food stalls, market stalls, three bars and three live music stages.
Miami Farmers Market – every Sunday at the Miami State School. The area’s first truly Organic Growers Market straight from the farm.
Carrara Markets – over 500 stalls and a Gold Coast institution with locals and tourists looking for a bargain. Open every Saturday and Sunday.
The Village Markets – every first and third Sunday at Burleigh Heads State School. The original boutique fashion and lifestyle market plus live local music and food from around the world thanks to the lineup of food trucks.
Famous Beachfront Markets – each Sunday in a different beachside location from Broadbeach, to Coolangatta to Burleigh.
Marina Mirage Farmers Market – held every Saturday. Located at Seaworld Drive on the Broadwater Spit, Main Beach, opposite the Sheraton Mirage Resort.
COST: Free to attend, but you may end up spending some cash on the delicious food or cute crafts!
7. Go whale watching from the headlands
Whale watching season typically runs from May to October when thousands of humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica, passing up and back down the coast.
While there are tours that you can go on, you don’t necessarily need to spend money to see them. There are a lot of elevated headlands along the coast where you might be lucky enough to make a sighting. Or, if you’re staying in a highrise apartment you might even be able to see them from there! To spot them, keep an eye out for the telltale, tall, column shaped spouts of water being blown into in the air.
Photo by Thomas Kelley / Unsplash
Some of the best naturally elevated viewpoints include Point Danger, Greenmount, Kirra Hill, Currumbin Rocks, Tumgun Lookout within Burleigh Heads National Park, North Burleigh/Miami headland.
If you can, bring along your binoculars, or a camera with a great zoom lens for some close up views.
COST: Free from the headlands
8. Work up a sweat
Photo by Autumn Goodman / Unsplash
The weather on the Gold Coast with beautiful ocean breezes is perfect for an outdoors workout. And with physical exercise being a popular pastime here, it’s easy to motivate yourself off the couch.
Up and down the coast there are exercise machines and equipment that are free for everyone, plus the walking and cycle routes.
9. Gold Coast Regional Botanical Gardens
Take a stroll around the Gold Coast Regional Botanical Gardens. You can find it at 230 Ashmore Rd, Benowa. We're suggest to take a day of it and pack a picnic. The Gardens are open year round, from 5am to 7pm each day.
10. Currumbin Rock Pools
The Currumbin Rock Pools are a secret swimming hole, a mere fifteen minute drive from Currumbin Beach, on Currumbin Creek Road. It is popular with locals and those who take the time to seek out this little treasure. The drive alone is worth the trip as Currumbin Creek Road follows the creek inland through the lovely, lush Currumbin Valley.
Prepared to spend a bit of cash?
Here are some Gold Coast attractions we'd recommend
11. Take a Gold Coast Hike
If you’d prefer to stick a little closer to the beach, here are a few coastal walks you can do.
Federation Walk – a 3.5-kilometre pedestrian walkway located at the northern end of the Gold Coast Oceanway on the Southport Spit.
Burleigh Heads National Park – head to the point and catch the magnificent sunrise before doing the 2.5-kilometre coastal walk around the headland to Tallebudgera Creek. About half-way back you’ll come to Tumgun Lookout which offers awesome views over Palm Beach.
The Oceanway– instead of cycling, walk one of the sections each day.
Coolangatta to Point Dangar – a lovely coastal walk via Greenmount and Rainbow Bay.
12. Jet Boat Ride
For those of you looking for something a little more fast paced, take a high speed jet boat ride, with 360 degree spins, wake surfing and high speed drifting. A fifty-five minute ride starts from about $60, but check around a few operators for specials to find the best price!
13. Dracula's Theatre and Restaurant
This is a cabaret with a crazy vampire themed stage. It involves comedy, cabaret and burlesque, along with a three course meal. Please note Dracula's is rated MA15+ so don't bring your young children to this show.
Cost: A basic ticket starts at $59, the cabaret with dinner starts at $95
14. Visit some Theme Parks
For a fun, family friendly day at the Gold Coast, a theme park is a surefire way to impress the kids. The Gold Coast is the mecca of Australian theme parks, with Dreamworld, Movieworld, Seaworld and Wet n Wild all found here.
Cost: A single adult ticket starts at about $70, but there are also a lot of three day passes that allow you to visit the Movieworld, Seaworld and Wet n Wild for a discounted price. There are normally a lot of deals you can find for these so do your research.
15. Drive in movie in Yatala
Take your date or family and head to Yatala drive-in. Here, tickets will set you back just $15 each (or $20 for a double viewing) and leave plenty of money for you to stock up on treats for the show.
Photo by Terry Jaskiw / Unsplash
Cost: $15 per person + snack. If you need a car to hire on the Gold Coast, you can find cheap car rentals nearby
16. Go to a Footy Game
Whether AFL or rugby is your preferred sport, the Gold Coast Suns (AFL) and Titans (rugby) both play regular games at Metricon and the Cbus stadium respectively. So grab some tickets and probably a couple of beers as well.
Cost: $$ Ticket prices will vary depending on where you want to sit
17. Have a spa day
If you are more interested in a bit of TLC time for yourself and your besties on a beach break, there are many great day spas up and down the Gold Coast.
COST: Varies - you can search for a bargain special, or ball out - it's up to you.
18. Surf Museum
A fun thing to do in Surfers Paradise is to go to the surf museum, Surf World where you can learn about the history of a deceptively challenging sport.
COST: $10 for adults, $5 for children/concession. Open 10am-5pm.
Photo by Johny Goerend / Unsplash
19. Surf lessons
You can't go to Australia and not take a surfboard for a spin, or at least that is what one of the many surf school operators will tell you. The water is warm, the sun is shining so if you're feeling in the mood for a more physical challenge, surfing is hard but a real blast.
COST: A 90 minute group lesson starts from $33/$38 (student/adult) and goes up. If you're going to be around for a while, it might be worth getting a couple of lessons to learn the basics, then just hiring the board to learn through trial and error!
Whatever things you decide to do on the Gold Coast, we hope you have a blast doing them! If you need a car for your trip, why not borrow one from someone in the Gold Coast community? You can hire your new neighbours car while you take in the sights.