Gold Coast holidays are synonymous with sun, sea, surf and adventure – and why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it, and the Gold Coast certainly has plenty – and more – to keep tourists entertained.  

However, if you’re keen to escape the tourist trail and enjoy a different kind of Gold Coast experience, here are five hidden Gold Coast gems we, as locals, recommend adding to your holiday itinerary,  


Food – Ferry Road Markets, the Brickworks 

For a selection of speciality food stores, take a trip to Ferry Road Markets in Southport. Hidden away in a converted warehouse complex called the Brickworks, Ferry Road is where the well-heeled locals go to shop, eat and mingle.  

Off the tourist track, it’s worth paying the slightly-higher prices to enjoy barista-made coffee, delectable desserts and other gourmet creations in this bustling marketplace.   

Travel – Hopo 

The Gold Coast’s passenger ferry service, Hopo, is an affordable way to cruise the Gold Coast waterways in style.  

Hopo operates an hourly, return service from Surfers Paradise to Sea World, including stops at kid-friendly Broadwater Parklands and high-class dining and shopping centre Marina Mirage. Prices start from just $5 for a single trip, or take your time sightseeing with unlimited stops for with a $25 Day Pass.  

Play – Broadwater Parklands 

Broadwater Parklands is a fantastic family-friendly, 3km parkland nestled right next to the waterway. Little ones can cool off in the fountains of the Rockpools water park, and its shallow enclosed ocean pools are the ideal place to swim a few laps (or you can swim in the built-for-the-Gold-Coast-Commonwealth-Games swimming pool, also located in the parklands).  

Add in a huge green lawn, picnic facilities (with BBQs), great paths for bikes and scooters, and a giant kids playground, and you’ve got everything you need for a great – free – day out.  

Explore – South Stradbroke Island 

Located just 200m from Southport’s Spit, South Stradbroke Island is a 1,800-hectare conservation park with a 22km of unspoilt sandy beaches. South Straddie (as the locals call it) that is only accessible by water taxi or boat, which keeps the crowds away and its surroundings serene.  

Take a day trip to South Straddie and enjoy hiking, rock climbing and ocean fishing. A car-free island, the easiest way to get around the island is to hire a bike, or you can book a 4 x 4 tour with full access to facilities as the island’s only resort, Couran Cove.   

Indulge – High Tea at Versace 

Get a taste for the high life and indulge yourself and a friend with a Couture High Tea at Palazzo Versace. Arguably the Gold Coast’s most glamourous hotel, the Palazzo describes itself as ‘the definition of luxury, glamour and sophistication’ and its High Tea as ‘a fashionable culinary experience’. Great food, in beautiful surroundings, it’ll certainly an experience to remember. Prices start from around $90 p/p, including a glass of bubbles.