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A Guide to the Gold Coast for First-Time Visitors

With direct flights to the Gold Coast available from both of New Zealand's main islands, it's no wonder that more and more Kiwis are heading across the Tasman to enjoy the attractions of southern Queensland.

Not sure where to start? Read Skyscanner New Zealand‘s guide to the Gold Coast for first-timers.

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When is the best time to visit the Gold Coast?

Weatherwise, the Gold Coast is attractive year-round. January sees average temperatures of 26°C while July, the coolest month, averages a pleasant 16°C. The winter tends to get less rain, but there’s never a time that’s particularly wet.

There are certain times of the year when the Gold Coast gets particularly busy. School holidays are one of those – especially around Christmas and Easter. The other thing to be aware of is Schoolies – generally mid-November to December – when Australia’s Year 12 graduates embark on Goldie en mass to celebrate the end of school.

This year the Gold Coast is hosting the Commonwealth Games, so expect accommodation to be at a premium between 4 and 15 April.

Which airports have direct flights to the Gold Coast?

There are four airports in New Zealand that have direct flights to Coolangatta Airport:

  • Auckland
  • Christchurch
  • Queenstown
  • Wellington

As well as Air New Zealand and Australian airlines, you can find cheap flights available through international carriers such as AirAsia.

Things to do in the Gold Coast

Go to the beach

As the name implies, the Gold Coast is full of stunning beaches. The most famous are Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, found in the centre of the tourist stretch. Not far from the sand you’ll find a huge selection of the best bars, restaurants and cafes to help fill out a lazy day.

Other nearby beach options include the family-friendly Burleigh Heads, the dolphin-inhabited Currumbin Creek and the surfer-favourite Rainbow Bay.

Go to the theme parks

One of the big reasons that the Gold Coast is so popular during school holidays is that it’s surrounded by so many theme parks.

Kids are spoilt for choice with two water parks (WhiteWater World and Wet n Wild Water World), Warner Brothers Movie World, Dreamworld and Paradise Country, which gives an Australian farm experience to visitors. If you can’t decide on just one, passes are available that give discounted entry into multiple venues.

Most of the theme parks are grouped together, roughly 20-30 minutes north of Surfers Paradise.

Go to the hinterland

Half an hour south-east of the Gold Coast is its hinterland, a vast area of national parks, rainforest, waterfalls and lookouts.

The activity centres around Tamborine Mountain, where you can go on a rainforest skywalk, see glow worm caves or visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery – Australia’s most-awarded distillery.

Other signposts to look out for on your drive include the delicious Lamington National Park, the McPherson Range and Numinbah Valley.

Where to stay in the Gold Coast

Just as Bali has different regions for different holiday types, the Gold Coast has a number of different areas for different travellers.

The hub of action is in Surfers Paradise. If you want to be amongst the pubs and clubs – as well as shops, restaurants and cafes, and one of the most popular beaches – this is the spot for you. Many first-time visitors to the Gold Coast stay in Surfers Paradise and use it as a hub to explore the rest of the region.

Close by is Broadbeach, which offers many of the same facilities but in a slightly toned down manner. It has more of a focus on eating out rather than going out, but is also home to the area’s casino and one of its bigger shopping centres.

For a quieter break – whether that’s a romantic getaway or a family retreat – you may prefer the stretch from Mermaid Beach to Burleigh Heads. This has much less of a party atmosphere, allowing you to enjoy the pristine beaches and independent businesses in peace.

How to get around the Gold Coast

Hiring a car when you arrive at the airport gives you great freedom to explore the beaches and get out to the other major attractions, but if you’re content to stay close to the coast then you’ll be pleased to hear that the public transport system is excellent.

The tram system links Gold Coast University Hospital in the north to Broadbeach South, where it connects with the local bus system. Along the line, you can get off at Surfers Paradise, Southport, Main Beach and other points of interest.

For the cheapest fares, grab a go card (similar to AT HOP). These are available from most stations and convenience stores, where you can also add credit. The go card works on public transport around southeast Queensland, including in Brisbane.

Search Skyscanner New Zealand for the best deals on flights to the Gold Coast, hotels in Surfers Paradise and car hire at Coolangatta Airport – all without booking fees.