Surfers Paradise is the capital of the Gold Coast, and one of the largest tourist destinations in Australia. Set on miles of ocean surf beach, Surfers has more going on than just the waves. From the high rise apartments that line the shore, to the nightclubs, pubs and late night shopping lining the mall, Surfers is busy all through the day and night.
It is a site of near-pilgrimage to many Australian teens. It's a destination for New Zealanders, with direct flights bringing frozen Kiwis to defrost on the golden beaches, and an attraction for travellers from around the world.
Many believe that Surfers Paradise has been over-commercialised, and there is certainly intense high-rise development. The area has a reputation for rip-off shopping, timeshare salespeople, and seedy strip clubs (which are plentiful). The beaches and the rest of Surfers sit in the long shadows of the high rises in the late afternoon.
Love the beaches, or hate the kitsch. Love the nightlife, or just find the drunks stumbling and singing down Cavill Mall a turn-off. You can't be ambivalent about Surfers.
This part of Gold Coast is a 30 minute taxi ride from the Gold Coast Airport.
Surfers Paradise itself is quite compact, and you walk between much of the Surfers accommodation, Cavill Mall, and the beaches. In fact walking may often take less time than trying to find a parking spot close to the centre.
Taxi cabs are another way to go, but can be quite expensive.
Mobike sharebike scheme operates. Download the app to locate your nearest station.
There are theme parks, water parks, wildlife parks, and a range of things to see in the surrounding Gold Coast.
In Surfers Paradise itself there is:
- 1 Q1, 9 Hamilton Ave. Situated right at the waterfront and rising 323m, it is the tallest building in Australia and when it was built it was also the tallest all-residential tower in the world. Visit the SkyPoint Observation Deck on level 77, or climb outside in the Skypoint Climb. Observation deck $25.
As the name of the city implies, surfing is the order of the day. Other water sports like boating and fishing are also plentiful.
If you are going to swim make sure you swim in patrolled areas (between the red and yellow flags). Each year hundreds of swimmers get into trouble in the strong currents swimming outside the flags. If you do get in trouble just put your hand up above your head to get the lifesaver's attention. There are many sets of flags around the Surfers area. Head north or south from the main beach if the crowds are too much.
- The Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club. Choice of lunches for $10. Dinner meals under $20. Right across for the beach just down from Cavill Avenue.
- Surfers Paradise RSL Club the staff at the sign-in desk are quite rude and the whole place feels a little seedy as you walk right in to the pokie machine lounge, however once you get upstairs it's ok. This club offers a great value roast dinner from 5:30PM till about 8:30PM for about $6.50, all the other meals are well priced. Beer is cheap and it's just a short walk to Melba’s and Cavil ave.
- Jacks Kebabs, this is a great little Kebab joint across from the beach opp. McDonalds, makes a very tasty Kebab and it's popular in the early hours of the morning as all the drunks stumble out of the clubs looking for a meal.
- King of Noodle is a great little Chinese restaurant located in the Centre Arcade across from Circle on Cavill (next to where the Hilton is being constructed). They offer cheap Asian dishes however unlike some other cheap Asian restaurants, the dish sizes are quite very good for the price (Dishes start from $8). Offer a good range of vegetarian alternatives
- 1 Medexotic, Chevron Renaissance, 35/23 Ferny Ave, ☏ . Middle eastern/med style restaurant. Friendly service with funky decore and great food. Belly dancing every Friday and Saturday night from 8PM.
Plenty of the hotels around Surfers Paradise offer buffet all you can eat seafood, which is normally quite nice and around $50 - $60 per person plus drinks. Some offer lunch specials or early bird deals.
Most of the night clubs are down Orchid Ave just off the main strip Cavil Ave, ones to check out are:
- Cocktails & Dreams (multi-level club)
There are accommodation options all up and down the Gold Coast. Surfers itself is home to numerous apartments, premium high-rise hotels, and many backpacker hostels. Motel style accommodation is generally elsewhere on the coast.
- Backpacker hostels, are mostly located in Surfers Paradise, Southport, Main Beach and Coolangatta. Some backpacker operators in Surfers Paradise require an international passport. If you hold an Australian passport, you may be asked to sign up and pay for membership to a group the backpacker operator is affiliated with (eg. YHA, Nomads or VIP)
- Motels are located all along the Gold Coast Hwy. Most can be found in Labrador, Mermaid Beach, Miami, Palm Beach and Tweed Heads. Single rooms are $60 to $80, while doubles rooms are $70 to $90 but prices increase during peak summer. Prices are lower and availability is better, the further they are away from Surfers Paradise.
- Camping and Caravan grounds are dotted about the Gold Coast, although many have closed to make way for other development. The largest operater is Gold Coast Tourist Parks  a business arm of the Gold Coast City Council. It has 7 parks: Main Beach, Tallebudgera Creek, Burleigh Heads, Kirra Beach, Broadwater, Jacobs Well, Ocean Beach (Miami). Other caravan parks can be found in Miami, Carrara, Labrador, Nerang and Mudgeeraba. Accommodation options include caravan and camping sites, luxury cabins and group lodgings. Facilities may include swimming pools, play equipment and barbecue areas.
- Apartment accommodation in high and low rise buildings is plentiful. Book early, and you will have a vast array of choice. A two-bedroom apartment in Surfers Paradise will cost around $150 per night in the off-season, and upwards of $300 a night in peak summer. Many have a minimum stay of 3 or 5 nights, and in peak periods there may be other restrictions as they try to block book as many nights as they can. Reception hours are limited and a bond may be required in some cases. Inside amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. Outside amenities often include a swimming pool, and sometimes a gym and other resort facilities.
- Hotels, include chains such as the Mariott, Crowne Plaza and Novotel. Hotels are concentrated in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
- Aquarius Backpackers, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 229 955. 44 Queens Street, is a budget backpackers resort with dorm rooms starting from $27 in peak season and doubles from $70.
- Islander Backpackers Resort. 6 Beach Road (cnr Surfers Paradise Bvld), is a cheap Hotel/Backpackers resort with Backpacker rooms starting from $18 for cheap rooms, $28-30 for dorms and $95 for private backpacker rooms. There is also a hotel part to the resort with studio rooms and full-fitted apartments. However be careful of some of the staff, as they can be very arrogant and turn their noses up at Backpackers.
- Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort, 2837 Gold Coast Highway, ☏ . A top-end backpacker's accommodation
- Surfers Paradise YHA at Main Beach. close to beach and surrounding pubs, the perfect base to explore the area.
- 1 Woodroffe Hotel, 22 White St, Southport, ☏ , toll-free: 1300 315 608, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel with a business lounge and free WiFi. From $100.
- Ashmore Palms Holiday Village, Ashmore. A family run "holiday village," on 15 acres of landscaped gardens. The village consists of holiday and interim cabins, and offers family-oriented activities. As it is outside Surfers Paradise, a car is a must. Villas from $85.
- Palazzo Colonnades. Surfers paradise
- Holiday Inn. Surfers Paradise
- Luxury resorts
- Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa. Surfers Paradise - one of the first 5 star hotels in Surfers Paradise. Features a 5 metre deep slatwater lagoon with over 400 tropical fish and recently completed a $20M refurbishment. Voted as one of the top 10 Resorts in Oceania at the 2011 Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards.
- Mantra Circle On Cavill. Gold Coast
- Palazzo Versace Hotel. Main Beach
- Sanctuary Cove Resort. Sanctuary Cove
- Sea World Resort. Main Beach
- Q1 Resort & Spa. Surfers Paradise
- Mantra Legends Hotel. Surfers Paradise
- QT Gold Coast. Surfers Paradise 5 star designer resort hotel.
As with all beaches in Australia you need to swim between the Red & Yellow flags at all times. These flags mark the safest area of water in which to swim & also the area in which the lifeguards are supervising. Many lives have been lost due to people not swimming in the marked area.
Surfers Paradise, as with all other clubbing areas, can have its fair share of alcohol related problems as drunks stumble out of clubs (or are not let in to them due to the 3AM lockout law). You'll even see a few who've obviously started earlier. There is probably safety in the crowds.
Go anywhere else on the Gold Coast, even if it's just a walk down the beach to Broadbeach. If you confine yourself to Surfers for the duration of your stay you haven't actually seen the Gold Coast.