The glamorous Gold Coast stretches 42km from Coolangatta to Southport and Main Beach. It boasts beautiful beaches and beautiful people and takes pride in its extravagance. This is where the rich come to play and although afternoons on the beach are shadowed over by beachfront apartment towers, the energy before nightfall couldn’t be higher. If there is anything residents are more dedicated to than their daily tanning sessions and shopping, it’s the nightlife. Flashy, flaunting, and meticulously coiffed, Gold Coasters enjoy basking in the glory of their hedonistic lifestyle.
Most people stay in Surfers Paradise, which is the coast’s accommodation, shopping and nightlife hub. Surfers’ hostels are geared for busloads of party-seeking backpackers and organise loads of nightly activities so that, if you are so inclined, you can spend your entire holiday here in a blurry rotation of binge drinking, dancing and sleeping it off at the beach. Other things to do on the Gold Coast involve spending your time and money visiting the many theme parks plus skydiving, bungy jumping, horseback riding and visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
North of Surfers Paradise is Main Beach, which leads towards the Spit – a long sandbar stretching northwards with Sea World at its northernmost point.
Southport is a quieter residential and business area just north of Surfers Paradise past the Nerang River. It has a couple of good hostels with frequent trams to Surfers Paradise, so if you want to stay in a calmer area, the commute to the city is easy. The Australia Fair Shopping Centre on Scarborough Street in Southport is a huge but relaxed shopping centre good for shopping and cheap eats.
Coolangatta at the southern end of the Gold Coast is part of the same city but the atmosphere could be from a town a world away. Laid-back surfers lounge in hammocks in hostel gardens, mingle with the local fishermen and laze away sunsets talking about the best waves of the day. Things are cheaper, healthier and humbler here. Surf starts at the famous Kirra Point and Duranbah Beach, continuing to the famous Snapper Rocks and mellowing out at Greenmount and Rainbow Bay. The other great point break in the area is at Burleigh Heads 14km north of Coolangatta. The rip currents on these beaches can be dangerously strong, so always swim within the limits of the lifeguard flags.
There is a good local bus service along the coast that is supplemented by a tram line that runs between Southport and Broadbeach and a rail line in the hinterland. Although services are frequent, it can take a while to travel the complete length of the coast.
The G:link tram (also known as the Gold Coast Light Rail) is a 13km tram line that runs between Griffith University (near Southport) and Broadbeach with stops in Surfers Paradise. This is the most useful transport service for most travellers staying in hostels in Southport and Surfers Paradise.
Trams run Mon–Fri 5am–midnight, Sat–Sun 24 hours with services every 7½ minutes during weekdays and every 15 minutes in the evening.
Tram fares cost $4.60–5.70 for a paper ticket and $3.20–3.90 if you're using a go card.
Surfside operate a good bus network along the coast. Their routes that run along the Gold Coast Highway have stops around every 300 metres and operate 24 hours a day.
You’re most likely to use the bus if you’re staying at one of the hostels in Southport, Main Beach or Coolangatta. Buses 700, 702, 703, 704, 706, 707 and 709 run between Southport and Surfers Paradise; bus 750 runs between Main Beach and Surfers Paradise and bus 700 connects Coolangatta with Surfers Paradise.
Bus fares cost $4.60–28 for a paper ticket and $3.20–19.32 if you're using a go card.
Citytrain operate a rail line in the hinterland that connects to the Brisbane suburban rail network. The main stations on the Gold Coast are Coomera, Helensvale, Nerang and Robina. There are frequent buses that connect these stations with the coast, these include bus 750 from Robina station to Surfers Paradise and Sea World, bus 765 from Robina station to Coolangatta, bus 745 from Nerang station to Surfers Paradise, buses 1A, 1X, 3, 14 and 16 from Helensvale station to Southport and bus 709 from Helensvale station to Surfers Paradise and bus 715 from Helensvale to Sea World.
Fares are based on a zone system with eight zones in south east Queensland including three zones in the Gold Coast area, with Surfers Paradise, Southport and Main Beach in zone five, Coolangatta and the airport in zone six and most of the theme parks in zone four. A single trip within one zone is $4.60 with a paper ticket and $3.20 with a go card.
A single ticket allows you to transfer to other modes of transport within a two-hour period.
|Zones||Fare (paper ticket)||Fare (go card)|
|one zone||$4.60||$3.20 peak ($2.56 off-peak)|
|two zones||$5.70||$3.90 peak ($3.12 off-peak)|
|three zones||$8.60||$5.96 peak ($4.77 off-peak)|
|four zones||$11.40||$7.85 peak ($6.28 off-peak)|
|five zones||$15||$10.32 peak ($8.26 off-peak)|
|six zones||$19||$13.09 peak ($10.47 off-peak)|
|seven zones||$23.60||$16.28 peak ($13.02 off-peak)|
|eight zones||$28||$19.32 peak ($15.46 off-peak)|
Gold Coast bus, tram and train fares
If you’re only in the Gold Coast for a day or two you can buy paper tickets to get around, however the go card ticket is better value if you’re planning on spending longer on the Gold Coast.
The go card is an electronic smart card ticking system (similar to the Oyster card in London, Octopus in Hong Kong, Myki in Melbourne and Sydney’s Opal card) that works out cheaper than buying paper tickets. Like smart cards used in other cities, you top up your go card with credit that is used to pay for your travel and you need to touch on at the start of your journey and touch off at your destination in order to calculate your fare. You can purchase go cards from around 625 locations throughout Brisbane and the Gold Coast including any train station, from tram stops and many convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven). The go card system can be used on buses, ferries and trains in the Gold Coast and it works throughout southeast Queensland (that is on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts and also in Brisbane).
When purchasing a new go card you need to pay $10 for the blank card in addition to the credit you need to load on to it. Because of this, it is not always the best option if you’re only in town for a day or two.
Go Explore pass
The Go Explore pass is an alternative to the go card that is aimed at tourists visiting the Gold Coast for one day. A one-day Go Explore card costs $10 and gives you unlimited travel on buses, trams and trains on the Gold Coast.
The seeQ card is another alternative to the go card that is aimed at tourists visiting southeast Queensland for three to five days. The seeQ card works throughout the Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
The seeQ card gives you unlimited travel buses, ferries, trains and trams in Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast for three or five consecutive days and also includes discounts at many tourist attractions in southeast Queensland. A three day seeQ card costs $79 and a five day card costs $129. Like the go card, you need to touch on and off when using this pass.