Why the Gold Coast is (truly) a surfers’ paradise

With endless breaks and a laidback culture, the Gold Coast includes plenty to keep water babies happy in and out of the surf - whether you're a gun board-rider or just learning to surf.

A surfer rides the waves at the Gold Coast in Queensland.
  • Celeste Mitchell
  • November 2019

Photographer, surfer and gallery owner Sean Scott sheds some local knowledge on the best places to go and things to do when fellow board-riders holiday in south-east Queensland.

Catch a wave at Burleigh Heads

If you’ve only got time for one surf check, dive into Burleigh Heads for the laid-back local vibe and its world-class point break (that delivers line-ups as good as waves get when the conditions are right). Some people say Burleigh is becoming more like a mini Bondi but it still has a village feel. Any day of the week you can watch the waves from the hill overlooking the beach, sitting alongside tradies, lawyers, grandparents and kids – everyone’s there to drink in the surf. From there, it’s an easy walk to plenty of great places to eat.

People sit on a grassy knoll overlooking Burleigh Heads, Queensland.
Burleigh Heads is among the best surfing spots on the Gold Coast.

Learn to surf at Currumbin

The Gold Coast would have to be one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. Besides a few rocks at Burleigh, the coast is all sand bottom (other surf spots around the world break over reefs) and you’ll always be able to find a beach with favourable conditions. Due to its gentle peeling waves, Currumbin Alley – about eight kilometres south of Burleigh Heads – is a popular place to learn. Currumbin Alley Surf School have been in the water since 1993 and run lessons daily.
Pacific Parade, Currumbin, 0411 080 112, currumbinalleysurfschool.com.au opens in new window

A surfing instructor cheers on a student at the Currumbin Alley Surf School on the Gold Coast.
Currumbin Alley Surf School run daily surfing lessons for all ages and abilities.

Stop for coffee in Coolangatta

Surfing and coffee go together like boards and wax. Down at Coolangatta, I love Little Mali, near Rainbow Bay. They do a gritty and full-flavoured coffee and have bacon and egg rolls ready to go (because when you’re hungry after a surf, you’re starving). And at Burleigh, you’ll always find a queue at Nook Espresso opens in new window, right on Burleigh Hill.
237 Boundary Street, Coolangatta, (07) 5599 1819, fb.me/littlemalicafe opens in new window

A burrito bowl from Little Mali cafe on the Gold Coast
Little Mali is a great place to grab a bite after a morning surf.

Try a local brew in Biggera Waters

You’ll experience the GC’s vibrant surf scene in lots of little cafés and, more recently, local breweries. Of course, there’s Balter opens in new window – co-owned by pro surfers Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson – in Currumbin but there’s also Black Hops and Burleigh Brewing Co opens in new window, which celebrates surfboard shapers and screens 90s movies at a monthly outdoor cinema. All eyes are on the Gold Coast when the World Surf League is in town for the Quiksilver Pro but to explore the underlying surf culture, check out Bleach Festival opens in new window. It runs for over a week each year with smaller arts events, comedy, music and exhibitions.
671 Pine Ridge Road, Biggera Waters, 0423 585 032, blackhops.com.au opens in new window

Dancers perform at the Bleach Festival.
Every year, the Bleach Festival brings arts, comedy, and music to the Gold Coast.

Feast your eyes in Miami

Surf photography is becoming increasingly popular, especially underwater images. So take a break from catching the waves to shoot them – and score yourself a memento of your epic time on the Goldie. If you need inspiration, pop into my Burleigh Heads shop opens in new window or, for a look at how the analogue generation did things, check out the Surf World Gold Coast museum in Currumbin. For more culture, the Coast has many galleries, including brain-stimulators 19 Karen opens in new window in Mermaid Beach and Miami avant-garde gallery The Walls Art Space.
4/18 Mountain View Avenue Miami, thewalls.org.au opens in new window.