There’s no doubt about it, most people think of the Gold Coast as a summer destination – all relaxing in the sun, diving beneath the waves, and raising an ice-cold beer as the sun begins to set. But if you want to get away from the crowds, consider a trip there during the cooler months of the year. You’ll likely save plenty of cash on accommodation and airfares, and there’s still plenty to do.
You might need to pack a jumper and a pair of jeans, but even during winter, the days here can easily hover around 21 or 22ºC. If you’re more used to a colder climate, it can feel almost tropical and you’ll likely still want to go for a swim. If you’re a surfer, pull on a wetsuit, hire a board and you’ll be able to spend hours out on the waves.
Even if you’re not keen to hit the beach, there’s plenty of other attractions. Here’s what to see and do on the Gold Coast during winter.
Wild Winters on the Gold Coast
One of the best reasons to visit the Gold Coast during winter can be found off the coast. It’s whale season, when humpbacks migrate from Antarctica along the Queensland coastline to warmer waters. There are many operators here running whale-watching tours, but Sea World Cruises has one of the most advanced vessels on the coast. The purpose-built Spirit of Migaloo II has three levels of viewing platforms and large walk-around decks, so you have the best opportunity to see these huge marine mammals in all their glory.
If you want to get closer to the underwater world, winter is the perfect time to go snorkelling. The water is usually between 20 and 22ºC, so you might want to rent a thin wetsuit, but the water clarity and visibility will be at their peak. Jump in the rental car and head to Narrowneck Reef. This man made reef is only 200m off the shore of the small beach between Surfers Paradise and Main Beach. You’re likely to see octopus, turtles, lots of fish and maybe even dolphins.
The Gold Coast has about 300 days of sunshine every year, but if you’re unlucky enough to score a cool, rainy day there’s still lots to do.
If you’re interested in the world of surfing, head to Surf World Gold Coast. Here, among the collection of surfboards dating from the 1930s, photos and other memorabilia, you’ll learn about the history of Queensland’s surfing and beach culture.
Otherwise, head to Padlock’d, where there are 11 themed rooms from where you’ll have to escape. Go back to another decade and bring out your competitive side at Level Up Arcade, where you’ll find arcade games, pinballs and other amusements from the 80s and 90s. If the rain has really got you down, take out your frustration at the Rage Cage Smash Rooms. You’ll be kitted out with safety gear and weapons then you can go wild, crashing and bashing your way to fun.
Get Active When the Weather Cools
Jump in the rental car and head inland to Tamborine Mountain. In Tamborine National Park, hit the trail at Witches Fall circuit. It weaves down the mountain through rainforest to Witches Falls, which flows when there’s been recent rains. Otherwise, head through the forest on the Sandy Creek circuit, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the valley, some of Brisbane’s southern suburbs and D’Aguilar Range.
Not far away, the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is a 1.5km trail that includes trails on the forest floor and steel bridges to the highest part of the canopy, where you can walk above the rainforest and creeks below.
Take winter head on at Gold Coast Iceworld in Bundall. There are sessions every day, so lace up your skates and hit the rink to practice your moves. If you’ve never been ice skating before, there are hour-long lessons each day, which you can follow up with some free time to do your new thing.
If watching is more your style, winter is AFL season, so wrap yourself in a team beanie and scarf and see local club, the Gold Coast Suns, play a home game at Heritage Bank Stadium. In your rental car, it’ll take you about 15 minutes to get to the ground.
Gold Coast’s Market Magic
Every Saturday morning, there are rows of fresh produce and excellent food stalls at Palm Beach Farmers’ Market. Order yourself a coffee then stroll around and pick up some rations for a picnic and fresh tropical fruit for tomorrow’s breakfast.
For something completely different, Miami Marketta is open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night from 5pm. It resembles a hawker market, with stalls offering street food from around the world, all accompanied by live music. There are often also ticketed events – from vintage jumble sales to drag queen bingo – in the venue’s Studio 56.
Want to explore the Gold Coast this winter? Hire a rental car from Gold Coast Airport when you arrive.