With its golden sands and irresistible holiday vibe, the Gold Coast has long been a favourite for those seeking a seaside escape. However, this famous Queensland holiday destination offers more than a day at the beach. Leave your swimsuit at home but don’t forget your sense of adventure. There is plenty to do on the Gold Coast in winter.

Meet friendly Australian animals

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has been operating for over 60 years and still has the world’s largest collection of Australian native wildlife. Cuddling a koala and feeding the lorikeets is as popular now as it was back in the 50s but the sanctuary has since added many new attractions. Drape a (friendly) snake around your shoulders or zoom high above pristine Australian bushland and the occasional crocodile on the TreeTop Challenge which includes 11 different ziplines. Those after something less adventurous can join a leisurely Segway tour which takes in many of the wildlife enclosures. 

Feeding the lorikeets

Reach for the sky at SkyPoint Climb

Swap the beach for the clouds at SkyPoint Climb, Australia’s highest external building walk atop the iconic Gold Coast skyscraper Q1. After a safety briefing you’ll be clipped to a specially designed harness system and taken outside to marvel at the jaw-dropping ocean view. Daredevils can walk along the edge of the climb and check out the sheer, 270 metre drop. Less adventurous types can skip the climb in favour of a drink at the cocktail bar. Opt for a romantic twilight climb or early evening visit and you’ll also have the chance to watch the sun set. 

View from SkyPoint Climb

Shopping by the sea at Surfers Paradise

Currumbin Sanctuary is also home to a lively Friday night market. After you’ve met the animals take a delicious journey around the globe with cuisine from Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Italy washed down with beer from Burleigh Brewing. For great ocean views and quirky souvenirs, head to the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets. Whether you fancy a cane toad purse or an elegant necklace, this market has you covered. Keen bargain hunters (and their kids) will love Carrara Markets where you can see everything from bric-a-brac and antiques to fashion, face painters and the world’s most venomous snakes. Thankfully these aren’t for sale.

Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets

Soak up the vibe at Main Beach

Tuck into some of the best fish and chips on the coast or blow your mind (and your budget) with a designer shopping experience, at Main Beach the choice is yours. Check out stylish Tedder Avenue, one of the Gold Coast’s top eat streets, or follow the laid back locals to Peter’s Fish Market at Fisherman’s Wharf. Next door there is Vanitas, a silver service restaurant renowned for its degustation menus matched with rare and impressive wines. You will find all the big names nearby at Marina Mirage – think Hermes, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein – but Posh Pets steals their thunder with its cute celebrity-influenced passion for (pet) fashion.

Vanitas at Palazzo Versace

Dining on the Gold Coast 

If you are coming to the Gold Coast you had better bring your appetite. Try The Fish House for everything from Italian caviar to classic fish and chips served overlooking the curling waves of Burleigh’s main beach. Moo Moo Restaurant at Broadbeach is one of the best spots on the coast to enjoy top quality Australian steak. Across the road The Star Gold Coast has over a dozen restaurants and bars including a famous seafood buffet. At Surfers Paradise, Seaduction serves up elegant Mod-Oz cuisine with a dash of molecular gastronomy magic. Up in the hinterland you’ll need hiking boots not high heels at Dancing Waters Cafe, an ideal jumping off point for the Purlingbrook Falls Lookout walk.

Disclosure: The writer loves visiting the Gold Coast with her family at any time of year.