While there's no shortage of pricey glitz and glamour to make you feel like you're living the high life on the Gold Coast, there's plenty to see and do without the need to splurge. From enjoying the many beaches and parks, to browsing unique markets and galleries, you're sure to find something to keep you occupied and entertained free of charge on the Gold Coast. After all, the best things in life are free.
Hit The Beach
Build a sandcastle, catch a wave or walk the pooch on more than 19 beaches that join the famous Coast sandy strip together. Palm Beach and The Spit are two of our favourite dog beaches. Snapper Rocks and Currumbin are brilliant for sunrise and sunset while Narrowneck, Fingal, Greenmount and Currumbin Alley are hot surfing when the swell is right. Don’t be surprised if you run into a local surfing champ out enjoying a wave with you.
Keep fit and enjoy one of the fun fitness circuits, a children’s playground or a leisurely walk or cycle outing. The Gold Coast City Council promotes an active and healthy lifestyle with more than 3,800 parks and reserves.
Then there is diving and snorkelling from The Seaway, visiting the Wishing Tree, Broadwater Parklands and Coombabah Lakes Conservation Area, as well as free festivals like Swell Sculpture Festival and Blues on Broadbeach, marathons and sport.
Take a Walk
Put on your walking shoes and take the short track around Burleigh Heads. Within the national park, a variety of walks lead you through this slice of nature. The Ocean-View walk is 1.2 kilometres one way and you’ll view the rocky headland, surfers paddling the waves and the Gold Coast Skyline. It’s not uncommon to spot sea-eagles, turtles and whales migrating during spring.
Cave Creek and Natural Bridge are home to a large colony of endangered glow worms, and provide a brilliant evening outing , just 38 kilometres from Nerang in the hinterland. The short one-kilometre return walk is well worth it, but remember not to shine your torch or use flash with your camera as this harms the glow worms and stops them glowing.
Feed The Pelicans
On the shore of the Ian Dipple Lagoon at 371 Marine Parade, Labrador there’s daily pelican feeding at 1.30 pm. Get up and close with these ancient birds. Did you know that pelicans are found on all continents except Antarctica?
There are free two-hour parking spots, so to get the most out of your pelican feeding experience, pack your swimmers and make sure to arrive early so you can see the pelicans come in. End the activity with a delicious meal of fish and chips at Charis Seafoods.
Loosen up with Asmy and the Gold Coast City Council at a free yoga class by the sea. Just bring a towel or Yoga mat and turn up. Suitable for all ages and fitness levels, these gentle stretching and breathing exercises promote relaxation, improve muscle tone and flexibility, relieve stress, and boost immunity, and the ocean backdrop of the beach provides an ideal setting for getting you in the zen zone. Classes don't run on public holidays and you can check the website for various times and locations.
Just a 10-minute drive from the heart of Surfers Paradise, you'll find the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens. The garden includes a sensory, native and butterfly garden. There are boardwalks through mangroves, birds around the lake, a children’s playground, picnic areas, free guided walks, school holiday activities, and a café serving great coffee and cake.
Take a drive to Tamborine Mountain, the first mountain behind the Gold Coast. These stunning natural botanic gardens have lawns perfect for picnics, beautiful walks, and a charming stone bridge over a lake scattered by flowering lillies and busy dragon flies. Volunteer-cared for, the gardens' major fundraiser is ‘Springtime on the Mountain’ which includes an open garden trail and the opportunity to pick up great gardening advice and plants for your garden at home.
From beachside to hinterland, the Gold Coast hosts an array of markets, renowned for bargain prices, fresh produce, arts, crafts and valued wares. Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets is on from 3 pm until 8 pm every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and features more than 120 stalls of fashion, jewellery, accessories, artwork, photography, homewares and much more. Meanwhile, The Village Markets showcase live local music, delicious food and a range of stalls from which you're sure to find a unique treasure or two.
Across The Arts
Art, comedy, music, events and theatre: The Arts Centre on Bundall Road in Surfers Paradise is continually showing a variety of free and paid events. The centre is home to an extensive art collection and hosts some of Australia’s most prestigious art prizes such as the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award.
Go Fishing and Diving
For those that like to wet a line, The Seaway is one of the best fishing spots brimming with yellowtail, kingfish, jewfish, whitehead and flathead. Located at the Nerang River at Southport, it also makes for a popular shore diving site with the Short Pipe and Sand Pipe area the most popular and easiest to access. The variety of fish and marine life found at this site is astounding so if you have an underwater camera, make sure you bring it along!