With a free weekend in Brisbane, I decided on a day trip to the Gold Coast. I wasn’t keen on the theme parks that the Gold Coast is known for and instead was looking to eat some good food, spend some time on the beach and find some nature.
While I thought about renting a car, I found public transportation to be an easy option, though perhaps not the quickest. The extra time made up for the hassle of renting a car for the day and it was easy, relaxing and problem free.
Here’s how I spent my full day exploring the Gold Coast using public transportation.
Getting to the Gold Coast from Brisbane using public transportation
Starting at Brisbane’s Central Station, I bought a Go Card (the travel card for the public transit system), filled it with $25 dollars as suggested by the agent and made my way to the platform for the 8:30am train. The train runs from the Brisbane Airport to the Gold Coast via the city centre every 30 minutes. If you don’t want to have a potential 29 minute wait, check the schedules online before walking to the station. Click here for TRANSLink’s website.
After an hour or so on the train, I hopped off at Helensvale station. About 2 minutes walking time from the train platform you’ll find the tram platform at the base of the escalators. The tram runs from Helensvale to Broadbeach taking about 45 minutes. From Helensvale, Surfers Paradise is about 35 minutes on the tram.
Surfers Paradise North
I hopped off the tram at the Surfers Paradise North stop to have breakfast at Bumbles Cafe. It’s listed as one of the best places to get brunch and thought it would be detour.
The walk from the tram stop to the cafe (which sits waterfront along a canal), isn’t the most scenic but the cafe is super cute and has a lot of character inside. Not to mention the lovely views from the outside tables, where I chose to sit since it was a beautiful morning. Once my order was taken, my food came so quickly I thought I was given someone else’s meal! It was nothing too exciting (eggs on toast with spinach) but the coffee was great and you need to see the dessert cabinet!
Walking to towards the coast, I was at the beach 10 minutes later. There’s a wide promenade all along the waterfront, so plenty of room for walkers, runners, dogs, and picnicking families. Despite the wind, it was a warm morning and there were lots of people on the beach.
While I didn’t take the obligatory photo under the Surfer’s Paradise sign, I spent about five minutes walking through a bunch of shops, restaurants and bars. I wasn’t interested in shopping, so I headed to the beach and walked along the water’s edge. I walked until I reached Broadbeach and Margaret Ave to check out the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.
Pacific Fair Shopping Centre
While shopping centres are not typically on my to-do list, I was craving a dip in the ocean and needed to buy a towel. I’ve lived in Australia for 10 years now and this was the prettiest shopping centre I’ve ever visited. While half of it looks like a regular mall, the outdoor area is pretty spectacular. If you’re into sweets, I highly recommend the sweet shop called Passionfruit Velvet. Yum!
Outside the shopping centre is the last stop of the tram from Helensvale as well as the bus stops for the buses heading south and east. I hopped on the 700 bus and got off in the suburb of Miami to try Commune Cafe for a coffee and a late lunch. The coffee was great, the cafe has a really interesting fit out and the corn fritters were closer to corn pancakes and were super tasty. You could almost confuse them as being a healthy meal. But not really!
From the cafe it was a short walk to the beach to continue southbound along the coast.
One minute the clouds were looking pretty scary and the next, the rain came pouring down. Hard. Everyone was jockeying for space under anything with a roof. Then as soon as the rain started, it stopped. With everything soaking wet, I thought it was a good time to check out the Burleigh Heads National Park and the rain-soaked forest trails.
Very unlike me, I hadn’t really researched anything before this day trip. Looking at Google Maps, I saw it listed as a national park and decided to check it out. Fortunately it turned out to be a highlight of the day. The trail has a few starting points, but if you’re at the beach you’ll find the entrance that looks like this next nearby.
The Rotary Lookout
The path to the Rotary Lookout starts with stairs and then the path continues on a zigzagy incline. It can be fairly steep, but you can do what I always do when I’m tired walking up a hill. I move to the side of the path when people are approaching “to be polite” and to catch my breath 🙂
Make sure to veer off the path on the way up to take in this view looking north at Surfer’s Paradise. In terms of ease of use, there is only one place where the path has two options and it’s clearly marked so impossible to get lost!
Once you get to the lookout, you’re rewarded with a view like this one.
From the Rotary Lookout, you can turn around the way you came or continue around to complete the loop. The full loop took about 15 minutes and it joins up with the path (and steps) used to get up to the lookout so you end up where you started.
Post walk I had a few mosquito bites and it was quite hot so a well-earned jump in the giant waves was in order. I love a good wave and the waves at these beaches keep coming and coming. The water was nice and warm (much warmer than I’m used to in Perth). Plus all along the Gold Coast beaches are surf clubs and lots of surf lifesavers so there’s (almost) always someone looking out for you.
There are some decent change rooms between Burleigh Beach and the start of the National Park walk complete with showers. In the opposite direction there are community toilets that were pretty small and left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness. I was too lazy to walk back to the nice change rooms and made do with the small public toilets …
Surfer’s Paradise (take 2)
To get back to Surfer’s Paradise, I took the bus (700) north along the main road, jumped off at Broadbeach (the last stop) and then switched over to the tram (the first stop). Using my pre-loaded Go Card all day made switching between trams and buses and trains a breeze. Simply swipe the sensor getting on and then getting off the bus and the sensor on the platform for the train and tram.
Before heading back to Brisbane, I wanted to fit in some dinner and some beer. I found a restaurant called Meat and Cheese on Beach Road. It was alright but nothing to write home about. I also found a beer at an Irish pub on the main street. I found Kitty O’Sheas on Cavill Ave with prime seating and people watching and one of my favourite beers on tap (James Squire 150 Lashes).
By this time I was salty from my earlier swim, happy from my beer and I needed to catch the tram back to Helensvale to catch the connecting train to Brisbane. All up, the public transportation costs were about $25 for the full journey. Money well spent, I would say.
Overall a great day out and an easy escape from the city. The Gold Coast is really easy to get around and I would use the public transport system again next time.
Have you visited Surfer’s Paradise, Burleigh Heads and the rest of the Gold Coast? What were some of your favourite things to do? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!