The Gold Coast, one of Australia's most iconic holiday destinations, epitomises the bold, brash, and beauty of Queensland, where sleek skyscrapers such as Soul and Q1 meet the Pacific along some of the world's best beach resorts.
Gold Coast is famous for its near endless stretch of white sand beaches, with sheltered sections such as Coolangatta ideal for families with kids, as well as world-class surf breaks such as Burleigh Heads and Snapper Point. Year-round sunshine and a range of attractions including theme parks and golf courses also add to the region’s appeal. And if you look beyond the glitz and glamour of the coast, there’s a lush hinterland brimming with beautiful national parks and cascading waterfalls.
With a range of accommodation to meet every need, Gold Coast can be the perfect chill-out retreat. Equally Gold Coast is teaming with night-life, with swanky bars, restaurants, and clubs, and not forgetting Jupiters Casino in Broadbeach.
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Read on to discover more about one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations and learn how you can make the most of your Gold Coast car rental.
We share some of our favourite places to stay on the Gold Coast, hot local restaurants, bars, and cafés, as well as attractions you simply cannot miss.
Get your holiday off to a great start by comparing the best deals on Gold Coast car hire before you leave home. You'll be surprised at the savings that can be had by booking ahead. In most instances there's no need to supply credit card details or pay a deposit, and with no cancellation charges there's nothing to lose except missing out on a cheaper rental deal!
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Eastern Avenue, Bilinga QLD 4225
Telephone: +61 7 5589 1100
Coolangatta airport is located approximately 30km south of Gold Coast
No. of Terminals: 1
Timezone: GMT/UTC +10:00
Gold Coast Airport (OOL) in Coolangatta is the most common entry point for travellers arriving by air. It is Australia’s sixth busiest airport and the country’s most active outside of a state capital. Gold Coast Airport can also lay claim to being the only airport in Australia to be located in two states at the same time: the runway straddles both Queensland and New South Wales.
DriveNow offers cheap car rental, with your Gold Coast hire car available for pickup directly from the airport so your explorations can begin the moment you exit the terminal. We compare prices from Australia’s most trusted rental brands to bring you the best deals, including leading suppliers such as Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot, and Thrifty.
Gold Coast Airport has just the one terminal so finding your way around is simple. The airport car hire service desks are all located opposite the arrivals area. Gold Coast rental cars are available for collection from the carpark across Terminal Drive.
Car hire in Gold Coast Airport – terminal map Source: goldcoastairport.com.au
Once you’ve picked up your vehicle, exit onto the Pacific Motorway (M1). This freeway offers the most direct route to the Gold Coast, which lies around 35km north of the airport. The drive can take around 40 minutes or more depending on the traffic. Fortunately, traffic congestion in the Gold Coast is nothing compared to the other big cities on Australia’s east coast.
Having taken advantage of cheap car hire at Gold Coast Airport, you’ll have the flexibility of travelling whatever route takes your fancy and the freedom of following no one’s schedule but your own. The Gold Coast is best explored by car, with over 50 kilometres of beaches to discover, theme parks such as Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Dreamworld, White Water World, and Wet’n’Wild, plus some of the most scenic roads in the country threading the mountainous hinterland. The circuit which runs inland from Gold Coast to Coolangatta taking in Mount Tamborine, the Natural Bridge and the verdant Numinbah Valley, is the ultimate scenic day trip on one tank of petrol.
With the money you’ve saved on cheap Gold Coast car hire with DriveNow, you’re free to splurge on accommodation at some of the many fabulous hotels and resorts the Gold Coast has to offer.
Most of the Gold Coast’s hotels and resorts are spread between two suburbs: vibrant, commercialised Surfers Paradise and the quieter, more upscale Broadbeach to the south. That said, some of the region’s most premium properties are located in affluent Main Beach, located at the north end of the Esplanade.
As many visitors to the Gold Coast hire a car and locals predominantly drive, you’ll find parking an easy proposition and you won’t have to pay through the nose for it unlike many of the bigger cities on Australia’s east coast. Many resorts and hotels have their own private carparks or parking lots, while in Surfers Paradise there are plenty of public parking garages with car spaces at reasonable prices.
The Palazzo Versace’s elegant sweeping entrance Source: palazzoversace.com.au
This opulent Main Beach hotel is not for the faint hearted, with its ornate mosaics, bold fabrics, Juliet balconies, and gilt-edged mirrors. Everything here is pure Versace, from the daring cushions and the signature dinnerware all the way to the tiny in-room bath soaps adorned with the brand’s distinctive logo. If you’ve ever wanted to be a rockstar, the fantasy begins here the minute you pull up in front of the Palazzo Versace Hotel’s extravagant lobby.
Sheraton Grand Mirage Gold Coast unveils its refreshing new look Source: sheratongrandmiragegoldcoast.com
The Gold Coast’s only 5-star beachfront resort recently had a pricey facelift, and the new look interiors now feature plenty of clean lines, while the iconic pool and lagoon have been transformed with some seriously luxe Miami Beach-inspired landscaping. The gorgeous Sheraton Grand Mirage Gold Coast is situated just across the road from the Palazzo Versace Hotel.
You can’t go past QT Gold Coast for vintage cool. This hotel is quirky to the core with its 1950s pin up wall decals and friendly staff clad in candy-coloured jumpsuits. On Staghorn Avenue, it’s also right amongst all the action of Surfers Paradise if you can bring yourself to leave the chic market-style restaurant, swanky bar, and tropical pool. There’s a spa complete with nail bar onsite as well so you can always look your beachy best.
Meriton offers excellent value for money across the country, and their 405-unit Meriton Serviced Apartments Broadbeach is no exception. Expect oversized contemporary apartments with modern conveniences such as high-speed Wi-Fi, well-equipped kitchenettes and built-in robes, as well as access to a fitness centre, swimming pool, and undercover parking. Housekeeping services are also available every day. The Jupiters Casino entertainment complex is just across the road.
Did we already mention Gold Coast’s stunning outback? World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is just one hour’s drive (around 45km) southwest of the Gold Coast and harbours over 200 bird species, hundreds of waterfalls, and a multitude of walking trails. A good place to base yourself here is at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Canungra. Welcoming visitors to area since 1926, this rustic property offers comfortable accommodation, a restaurant, vineyard as well as a range of exciting activities including a flying fox experience, guided walks, and glow worm tours. O’Reilly’s also has a splendid day spa with a sparkling infinity pool, a couples’ therapy room with a handcrafted wooden tub and a steam room.
A relaxed resident of Queensland’s stunning hinterland
Mount Tamborine is another hinterland destination deserving of at least an overnight stay. This luxuriant green region is approximately 525m above sea level and favoured by city dwellers looking to escape the humidity of the coast. In winter it offers temperatures cool enough to invite sitting in front of a crackling log fire.
Mount Tamborine’s scenic walking tracks are ideal for visitors to discover the natural beauty of southern Queensland’s subtropical rainforests. Look for native birds such as kookaburras in the dense tree canopy fringing the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, and be sure to stop at an orchard, a winery, or the award-winning Tamborine Mountain Distillery. The fertile volcanic red soils here support crops such as avocado, macadamia nuts, and all manner of fruit.
The hinterland is easily reached by car and offers a tranquil, green alternative to the golden beaches, bright lights, and lively clamour of the Gold Coast.
Of course, there’s also Brisbane. Referred to affectionately as simply “Brissy”, Queensland’s state capital is a sprawling riverside metropolis one hour north of the Gold Coast. Travel here to see the annual best-of-three Australian rugby league football match known as the “State of Origin”. Played between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons, this series is often touted as Australia’s greatest sporting rivalry. Alternatively, hit the shops of the CBD’s Queen Street Mall or discover Fortitude Valley’s thriving food scene. Stay the night in a city hotel or head back to the Coast - the Pacific Motorway (M1) makes commuting between the two cities a breeze.
A DriveNow rental car or campervan hire offers the most convenient way to get around the Gold Coast, even if all you want to do is travel between the bustling foreshore and entertainment venues of popular Surfers Paradise and the two main icons of Broadbeach: Jupiters Hotel & Casino and the Pacific Fair shopping centre.
If you decide to spend a day exploring Surfers Paradise, there is much to do. See the glittering Gold Coast skyline from the SkyPoint Observation Deck or browse the sprawling Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets, which boasts over 120 stalls and live performers. Younger kids will enjoy the wacky Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, and the Gold Coast Wax Museum and Infinity Attraction, while visitors of all ages will appreciate 7D Cinema Gold Coast, which lets viewers become part of the movie experience using the latest in virtual reality technology.
In Broadbeach, it’s easy to spend an entire day browsing the shops of Pacific Fair, which houses one of Australia’s largest collections of luxury boutiques set amid tropical greenery. Although Broadbeach is located right next to Surfers Paradise, it has a laid-back, almost suburban feel, with plenty of natural space for the whole family to enjoy. Learn to catch a wave at the local surf school or fire up the barbecue at Cascade Gardens, which is home to a huge kids’ playground, many pretty trails, and one the nation’s most significant war memorials - both these attractions are within walking distance of the Meriton Serviced Apartments Broadbeach.
If you’re looking for something to do around your hotel in Main Beach, you’re in luck. This suburb is home to Sea World as well as the terminal where whale watching boat tours depart between May and November each year. Palm-lined Tedder Avenue is a trendy local dining strip, while Marina Mirage offers some 60 specialist shopping boutiques and a Saturday farmers’ market. Stroll down to the heritage-listed bathing pavilion on Main Beach for fish and chips or a potato cake in the evening. Built in 1934, the building provided public bathing facilities to the citizens of Southport and continues to do so to this day.
A southern humpback whale making a splash
The Gold Coast dining scene has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past few years, catching up to its big sister Brisbane up the road. Naturally, many of the restaurants we’ve shortlisted make the most of Gold Coast’s charms - fresh seafood, balmy weather, and a casual laid-back vibe. The Gold Coast’s coffee and bar scene are also fast growing up, taking on the same kind of edge and understated urban cool that characterise the hippest venues in Melbourne.
Opened by Melbourne-born Simon Gloftis, this Gold Coast institution at Nobby Beach sits next to a highway but you don’t come here for the view. The main drawcard is the food: don’t miss Hellenika’s rich taramasalata (fish roe dip), smoky chargrilled calamari and the house special - a kilo of baked lamb which falls right off the bone. As for beverages, aside from wines of Greek and Australian origin, this unpretentious restaurant offers a number of classic cocktails, many of which feature refreshing combinations of gin or rum and citrus or mint - a perfect complement to the coastal evening breeze.
This Japanese bar-style eatery, whose entrance is marked by a red paper lantern (as is customary in Japan), has put Mermaid Beach firmly on the gourmet map with its colourful fresh sashimi platters, mouth-watering tempura Moreton Bay bugs, and deliciously charred meat and veg skewers slow-cooked over the traditional charcoal-fired robata grill. There’s nothing formal about eating at this bustling hip-and-happening hangout - use your fingers and knock back as many ice-cold Asahis as you can handle!
So you think that buffets are only for cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts? Think again. QT’s Bazaar requires that patrons “dress to impress” - no bare feet or singlets are allowed in this atmospheric dining space. An all-you-can-eat international restaurant, Bazaar has the buzz of a busy marketplace, with different “stalls” set up where you can watch the chef at work or see your meal get made. Think golden dumplings, decadent seafood, juicy roast meats, and crisp, colourful salads. The indulgent dessert section is also amongst the biggest on the Coast. If you’re a guest at the QT Hotel upstairs, consider having breakfast here - there’s an egg station plus an impressive spread of fruits, juices, cereals, and baked goods.
Another plus if staying at QT Hotel Gold Coast is the ability to totter back up to your room after a big night at the Stingray Lounge. Tucked inside the hotel, this fashionable watering hole offers 50 different kinds of tequila (yes, 50!), Mexican-inspired bites, and plenty of beautiful people dressed to the nines to dance the night away. Decor is industrial-chic, with exposed pipes painted black running across the ceiling and plenty of moody lighting.
This kooky Queensland chain is responsible for some of Australia’s most satisfying burgers, with a busy shop on Surfers Paradise Boulevard. A delightfully simple menu - classic burgers, chips, onion rings, thick shakes and ‘concretes’ (a frozen custard served with toppings such as hot fudge or caramel sauce) - has the place crawling with fast food aficionados of all ages. Presentation is kitschy-cute and the icing on the cake is that this Betty’s Burgers is licensed, with a selection of beers and wines on the menu.
This low-key cafe on Chelsea Avenue in Broadbeach wouldn’t look out of place at all in Melbourne’s Yarraville or Fitzroy, with its edgy warehouse aesthetic. Catering to a mostly local crowd, Elk Espresso makes a mean latte and a decadent hot chocolate. The menu is also chock-full of good honest breakfast fare like bacon and eggs and Bircher muesli. However, it’s the little things like the passionfruit-and-coconut panna cotta and ‘The Summer Doughnut’ that remind you that you’re very much on the warm and sunny Gold Coast.
If you enjoy feasting with both your eyes and your mouth, there’s no better place to go than the local market - the Gold Coast has plenty of options in this respect. Early birds should look no further than the morning Bundall Farmers’ Markets at The Arts Centre, which brings rural treasures such as fresh bread, baked goods, sweet home-grown strawberries, and homemade jams straight from the farms into the city. A truly wholesome way to start the day!
Night owls will appreciate the wide selection of eclectic sunset markets on the Gold Coast. Head to the fortnightly covered Miami Marketta for a huge array of street foods, ranging from Thai stir-fries to tacos. Already had dinner? No problem, there’s also a designated dessert hall - heaven for sweet tooths. The sprawling Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets on the iconic Esplanade is open-air and boasts over 120 stalls selling everything from jewellery and confectionery to homewares, with live entertainers to add to the ambience.
Stock up on seasonal produce straight from the farm
While Gold Coast might be most famous for its warm weather and picturesque landscapes, it has plenty more to offer. In addition to its wonderful climate, dazzling beaches, fantastic hotels, and slew of excellent restaurants, Gold Coast also plays host to a number of world-class events throughout the year. Here are just a handful of the biggest ones:
Held in March at Snapper Rocks, home to arguably the finest right hand point break in the southern hemisphere, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast is the first stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour. Come see the planet’s top surfers - male and female - compete for the crown and a big prize pool.
Really stretch out those legs and breathe in the pure coastal air on this scenic road race which attracts over 27,000 runners of all ages and abilities each year. The course is flat, fast and usually puts on perfect weather for running in July.
The three-day Gold Coast 600 held in Surfers Paradise over a weekend in October is one of the toughest V8 Supercar street circuits on the planet. If your need for speed and action isn’t fulfilled during the day, don’t worry - Gold Coast’s biggest party continues long after it gets dark.
Some of the nation’s best golfers have competed in this prestigious tournament, held in December at some of the country’s top courses including the RACV Royal Pines in Benowa. Previous winners include international superstars Adam Scott, Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Greg Norman.
So be sure to make the most of your Gold Coast holiday by picking up a quality rental car from DriveNow. We offer the best deals on cheap car rental in the Gold Coast from the most respected car hire companies in Australia. Use the handy search box to start comparing deals today.