The Ultimate 2 Day Gold Coast Itinerary for 2023

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The Gold Coast has long been Australia’s premier holiday destination with enough activities and attractions to fill your Gold Coast itinerary for weeks!

There are the beaches, incredible theme parks, waterways, the hinterland, hipster cafes, vibrant nightlife, shopping strips and so much more.

But what if you only have 48 hours on the Gold Coast to play with? What can you do on just a short weekend getaway to the Gold Coast?

Don’t stress, you can still experience the best of this city even when you only have a short time.

To help you out, I’ve put together this ultimate 2 day Gold Coast itinerary so you see the highlights and make the most out of your short visit.

views of surfers paradise beaches and buildings from the SkyPoint
SkyPoint Gold Coast views

About This 2 Day Gold Coast Itinerary

If you’re like most busy families and all you can manage is a short getaway, then don’t let those two days be packed full of stress and drama. The Gold Coast is all about having a good time, which is why it’s one of our favourite places to live in Australia.

For those flying into Coolangatta airport or Gold Coast Airport, you’re first going to need to hire a rental car to get around. Public transport is not going to cut it, and you’ll want to make the most of your limited time here.

Once you’ve grabbed your car, head to your accommodation on the Gold Coast and get settled. If you’re arriving on the first day of your 2 days, try to find a hotel with luggage storage so you can go off exploring and then come back and check in later.

Popular places to base yourself include Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach, and Surfers Paradise.

If you arrive early enough on a Friday afternoon, you could hit up the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets along the beach Esplanade which has over 100 stalls – especially nice on a clear evening.

Otherwise, relax at your accommodation and get a good night’s sleep, you’ve got a busy weekend ahead.

Day 1: The Highlights of The Gold Coast

The first day of this 48 hour Gold Coast itinerary covers the highlights. These are the most unmissable stops on the Gold Coast and places you simply cannot skip.

But, you have only a limited time, so you won’t be able to see everything. To help you out, I’ve given you some options for activities to do in your afternoon, so just pick and choose whatever sounds more exciting to you.

orange Sunset from Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Queensland
Sunset from Snapper Rocks, Coolangatta

Stop 1: Breakfast at A Beachside Cafe

If you’re staying in an apartment or a property with kitchen facilities, you have the option to self-cater and save a few dollars on eating out.

But because it’s a short stay, why not enjoy one of the many alfresco cafes on offer?

coffee on a table

Some of the best cafe scenes can be found at Broadbeach, Miami, Burleigh Heads, Coolangatta, and Kirra.

Take a 30-minute stroll or bike ride along a section of the Gold Coast Oceanway, a network of pathways along the beaches ranging up to 4km long.

Or follow one of the walking trails through Burleigh Heads National Park. A good way to walk off brekky.

Stop 2: Hit the Beach

surfers walking on beach at Burleigh Heads,
Burleigh Heads

Spend the rest of the morning on one of the Gold Coast’s famous beaches. You came for sunshine and sand, didn’t you?

Go for a swim or surf, play on the sand, relax on the beachfront grass beneath rows of pine trees, and have a guilt-free ice-cream – you’re on holiday!

Don’t forget your hat, sunnies, sunscreen, swimmers and a towel. Our favourite family beaches include:

  • Rainbow Bay – Gentle rolling surf, safe swimming conditions, and year-round surf patrols make for a relaxing family beach day.
  • Coolangatta / Greenmount Beach – a north-facing beach protected by the headland. Generally safe with usually low waves and two surf lifesaving clubs and lifeguard towers, and a playground.
  • Currumbin Creek – popular with families where you can enjoy a range of watersports including surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding.
  • Burleigh Heads – voted #1 by travelers on Trip Advisor and is one of the best swimming, body boarding, and surfing spots on the coast.
  • Broadbeach – towards the northern end of the coast. Long, clean stretch of beach, and bordered by large grasslands and a big playground.
  • Byron Bay – it’s a bit of a trek south of the Gold Coast but it’s one of Australia’s most famous beaches. Here is a great spot for experienced surfers looking to catch some big waves.

Stop 3: Lunch at A Surf Club

Currumbin surf club on the  Beach
Currumbin Surf Club

For a casual and affordable family lunch with amazing views, we like to dine at one of the many surf lifesaving clubs dotted along the coast.

If you have young children like us, the kid’s activity packs come in very handy for keeping them settled.

Our favourite surf clubs include; Main Beach, Kurrawa (Broadbeach), North Burleigh, Currumbin, Coolangatta, Greenmount, and Rainbow Bay.

If you want a seat by the window, you might want to reserve a table as they do get busy.

Stop 3: Experience The Wildlife & Nature

Depending on the age and interests of your kids, I’m giving you three different options for your afternoon on the Gold Coast.

Option 1: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

people holding animals and smiling
Loved our family experience here

Get up close with some Aussie wildlife at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Cuddle a koala, feed kangaroos, watch a croc feeding or take on the extreme high ropes challenge.

This sanctuary is also well known for feeding hundreds of wild lorikeets who descend upon you from the surrounding trees to get a lick at the sweet honey nectar that you hold out in a bowl in your hands.

If you don’t want to pay the admission price to see all the animals, FREE lorikeet feeding takes place every day at 4 pm, and also 8 am.

Option 2: Tamborine Mountain

Just a 40-minute drive brings you to Mt Tamborine where you can experience tropical Queensland at its best.

There’s the one-and-a-half kilometer Rainforest Skywalk, Australia’s first and largest high ropes Tree Top Challenge, the glow worm caves, Thunderbird Park, and for us big kids the Winery or Distillery.

You can also hike to Curtis Falls, one of the best waterfalls in the Gold Coast region. Many people opt to do this hike at night as it’s a good time to see wildlife in the jungle. With a guide, of course.

Option 3. Water Activities

people enjoying Greenmount Beach - Gold Coast, Australia
Greenmount Beach

There is no shortage of water activities on the Gold Coast for those who want relaxation or the adrenalin fix.

Ride jet skis, get your thrills on a jet boat ride, spot migrating humpbacks on a whale-watching cruise (in season), explore the waterways on a fun aqua duck safari, take a leisurely cruise on the canals and Broadwater, or learn to stand up paddle board or surf.

Option 4: Springbrook National Park

Twin Falls cascading over the lush rainforest cliffs of Springbrook National Park

If you love nature, then you might enjoy a trip to Springbrook National Park, which is famous for its refreshing waterfalls, rainforest, ancient trees, and the unique rock formation known as Natural Bridge.

The Natural Bridge is made from the force of the waterfall over a basalt cave, which forms this unique bridge-like formation.

You can walk to the bridge within 10 minutes from the car park as it’s only 1km away. But don’t just visit for this attraction and leave. Take some time to wander the walking trails into the rainforest and enjoy being in nature.

The Twin Falls (pictured) are one of the highlights of the park!

Option 5: O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards

If you enjoy sampling local wines, then a trip to the O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley vineyard may be on the cards.

The vineyard is open 7 days a week and is the perfect place to sit back, relax with a picnic and sample some local wines.

You can even order picnic baskets there, as well as pizzas, cheese boards and tasting paddles.

If you’re visiting with kids, don’t skip the Mountview Alpaca Farm, where you can walk an alpaca through the vineyards.

Option 6: Whale Watching (Seasonal)

humpback whale breaching

Depending on what time of year you visit, you could be in with a good chance of spotting some humpback whales that migrate along the coast in the winter.

New South Wales is one of the best states to see them as they swim close to the coastline with their newborn baby calves.

The best way to see them is to take a boat cruise, or you can visit an ocean-side cafe with views overlooking the ocean, such as Cafe d’Bar, or from a cafe along Surfers Paradise Boulevard.

The best time to see whales is from May until October.

Option 7: River Cruise at Surfers Paradise

Susnet over Surgers Paradise - from Mantra Coolangatta Beach
Sunset over Surfers Paradise

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do on the Gold Coast, then a scenic river cruise is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Sit back, relax and soak in the sun on the open-top sundeck as you cruise through the beautiful waterways, canals and broadwater of the Gold Coast.

You’ll pass by the millionaires row and see some luxury homes, sail past the expensive yachts and boats at Marina Mirage, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot some dolphins and sea Eagles off Main Beach.

Option 8: Lamington National Park

waterfall flowing over rocks framed by ferns

Another national park in the Gold Coast Hinterland region that you may enjoy is Lamington National Park. It’s actually only a 2-hour drive south of Brisbane, so if you want to visit here, you should plan for a full day.

However, it’s definitely worth visiting. The park is famous for its dense Gondwana Rainforests which is an Australian World Heritage area full of ancient trees and hiking trails.

Some of the main attractions are the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves, which are full of aboriginal rock art. If you’re traveling with kids, they will love seeing the wildlife at Daisy Hill Koala Centre and David Fleay Wildlife Park.

Stop 5: Dinner at Miami Merketta

people watching a concert
Miami Marketta

For a real local experience that involves food and entertainment head to Miami Marketta – we recently discovered this local’s favourite.

Every Saturday (and Friday nights) Marketta comes alive with street food, live music, boutique wine, and craft beer.

Another popular place to eat on the Gold Coast at night is Marina Mirage.

Day 2: Theme Park Day

The Gold Coast is the theme park capital of Australia, with attractions designed to suit all ages. So the second day of this two day Gold Coast itinerary is going to be spent hopping around a few of them.

You can ride roller coasters, meet your fave favourite movie characters, or get wet at one of the water parks.

mum and child standing on the stairs at the entrance to Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Australia
Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Australia

Grab your breakfast (self-cater or eat out) then stock up on water and healthy snacks before hitting up one of the parks.

But with just one day, how do you know which of the theme parks will suit your family’s interests and keep everyone happy?

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find at each park to help you plan your day. It’s unlikely you will visit all of these theme parks, so just pick and choose the ones that appeal to you the most.

If you’re planning on visiting Dreamworld, Whitewater World or the SkyPoint Observation Deck with Skypoint Climb, yTravel readers can get a 10% discount by purchasing your tickets via this link

Stop 1: Movie World

bugs bunny, daffy duck on car at Movie World, Gold Coast, Queensland
Movie World, Gold Coast, Queensland

Movie World is for the movie lovers in the house.

For the kiddies that adore the Looney Tunes characters like Goofy and Tweety bird (Caz’s personal favourite), or for the bigger kids who want to get their thrills on huge, movie-themed rides like Green Lantern and Superman Escape.

The day is filled with street parades and performances from your favourite superheroes and movie characters.

The WB Fun Zone is a place for smaller children with rides and shows and characters roaming around.

The action-packed Hollywood Stunt Driver show will entertain all family members (although be careful with the little ones, as the loud noises may spook them).

Stop 2: Dreamworld

roller coaster ride
Love the rides at Dreamworld

Dreamworld is the biggest theme park with attractions for all ages.

The young ones will enjoy Wiggles World and Madagascar Madness, with age-appropriate rides and the chance to meet all their favourite characters.

Your teens will love the Big 8 Thrill Rides such as the Giant Drop, Buzz Saw, and the Tower of Terror (my personal favourite).

Dreamworld also has many animal encounters to enjoy.

Meet koalas, wombats, and kangaroos in the huge native wildlife park, and there’s the popular Tiger Island, where you can see Bengal and Sumatran Tigers play.

WhiteWater World (attached to Dreamworld) is the newest addition and the place to get wet.

Plummet five stories down in a thrilling drop slide, zoom down in a racing water slide or let the toddlers enjoy the Wiggles splash & play area.

Stop 3: Sea World

dolphins leaping out of the water at seaworld
Seaworld

Sea World is a marine park for marine animal lovers.

Here you can swim with dolphins and get up close to seals, polar bears, sting rays, penguins, and have close encounters with sharks.

This park offers an educational side and the Dolphin Show is spectacular – you’ll walk away even more in love with these intelligent, gentle creatures.

And the seal show will bring you several laughs.

The Jet Stunt Extreme show will amaze you with its amazing aerial flips, and gravity-defying stunts. I enjoyed this far more than I anticipated.

There are a few rides to enjoy such as Jet Rescue, Sea Viper, and Storm Coaster. For the little kids, there are Dora and SpongeBob shows that will keep them entertained.

Stop 4: Wet ‘N’ Wild

As the name suggests, Wet ’N’ Wild is all about getting wet and going wild on the slides.

There are extreme thrill water slides and vertical drops, such as Kamikaze and The Black Hole for the older and more daring teenagers and parents.

Family members can race each other down the Super 8 slide or enjoy more gentle water slides such as the River Rapids.

And there are places to relax in quieter family zones, as well as wave pools, whirlpool springs, and simulated, perfect waves to surf.

Wet’n’Wild is the park to visit on those piping-hot Gold Coast summer days.

Stop 5: Dinner at Bazaar Restaurant

mini desserts on a plate
QT hotel

There are buffet dinners and then there is the Bazaar Restaurant at the QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise.

To be honest, I try to avoid buffets these days as I can’t help myself from over-eating, and Bazaar is not cheap as far as buffets go, but this is not just any buffet.

Bazaar has a marketplace concept with literally something for everyone with fresh produce in endless quantities.

My fave is the seafood station, and I also love how the Asian chef steams up dumplings to order. There’s a BBQ guy, wood-fired pizza, pasta, and a great salad bar.

Your kids, and you, will love the AMAZING dessert bar with all these miniature cakes and slices. And you thought you were getting out of there relatively healthy!

Final Thoughts On This 2 Day Gold Coast Itinerary

There you have it, this is how you can spend 2 days on the Gold Coast, and as you can see, there’s plenty to see and do.

With 48 hours you’re only scratching the surface of what the Gold Coast has to offer, but you can always come back and tick off the rest of the activities on this list.

If you have more time, you can make sure to check out the shopping centres such as Pacific Fair and Harbour Town Premium Outlets.

We hope this guide gave you some inspiration for how you can spend 48 hours on the Gold Coast. If you need any more information, feel free to reach out to us in the comments!

More Gold Coast Inspiration:

Are you in need of more inspiration for the Gold Coast? Check out the following guides to help you plan your trip to the Gold Coast:

If you found this 48 hour itinerary for the Gold Coast helpful, please consider sharing it. You can pin the image below to Pinterest!

waterfall and beach on the gold coast

The Ultimate 2 Day Gold Coast Itinerary for 2023

Karen J. Simmons

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