The Gold Coast is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia, with more than two million visitors flocking to it for their share of beachside glamor. It's a heady mix of Miami-style glitz, high-rise apartments, airport-sized shopping malls and million-dollar theme parks. Surfers Paradise is the epicenter of the Gold Coast, with bars, restaurants and nightclubs galore. Venture beyond the hub of hedonism and you'll discover islands and lush national parks for a different kind of thrill.
Day 1: Tour the Gold Coast
It's tempting to dive headlong into party mode on a Gold Coast holiday, but why not start the day off with a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the Gold Coast hinterland instead? Take in the almost tropical landscape before landing at O'Reillys Grand Homestead for breakfast and champagne. Now get your bearings on the ground with a full-day tour of the Gold Coast. Dip into the luxurious world of the Palazzo Versace and Marina Mirage before cruising along Broadwater Canal and venturing into the World Heritage-listed rainforest of Springbrook National Park. Finish up with a cocktail at your pick of the Surfers Paradise bars.
Day 2: Head to the theme parks
The Gold Coast in synonymous with theme parks and it is home to some epic ones: Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild Water World, Dreamworld and WhiteWater World. These slick parks are perfect for family getaways, with attractions designed to suit all ages – think Sesame Street, the Tower of Terror or an encounter with a whale. There's a lot of fun to be had here, so consider grabbing a multi-park pass or a Theme Park Super Pass which gives you unlimited access three major parks over 14 days.
Day 3: Day trips from the Gold Coast
Tear yourself away from the rollercoaster and get out into Queensland's great outdoors for a day. Check out Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's living legacy, Australia Zoo, or make a nocturnal visit to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for a guided tour by flashlight. Take an eco-tour to the Mt Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk to experience tropical Queensland at its best or go island-hopping to Moreton or Fraser Island. Not the outdoorsy type? Queensland's vibrant capital, Brisbane, is less than an hour away, so head to its riverside restaurants or Fortitude Valley boutiques.