I love Surfers Paradise. I really do. “Famous for fun” is the Gold Coast’s slogan, and it is so true.
A lot of Gold Coast locals tend to stay away from this place ‘to avoid the tourists,’ which is fair enough as there are so many other beautiful places along the coast, but that doesn’t mean Surfers Paradise isn’t awesome! I love being around people who are travelling through, there’s a slow-pace of life and living here literally feels like you’re on holiday all the time. I’ve lived in Surfers Paradise on-and-off in between travels since 2013, where I’ve worked as a tour guide, travel agent, hotel receptionist and on many tours desks… so you could almost say I’m an expert on Surfers Paradise tours and attractions.
There is plenty more to see and do on the Gold Coast outside of Surfers Paradise (which I’ll be sharing in the next post), but for those of you specifically looking for activity ideas within the city centre look no further…
I get asked for recommendations daily as I’ve done all of the attractions so I’ve put together this list, with my honest personal reviews, to guide you on your next trip to Surfers Paradise. Enjoy!
Sky Point Observation Deck + Sky Point Climb
If you’ve never been to the Gold Coast before, one of the first things I suggest you do to gain your bearings is visit the Sky Point Observation Deck on level 77 of the Q1 Tower. The Q1 is the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s right on the beach in Surfers Paradise. You can see all the way up and down the Gold Coast from Level 77 and even order food and beverages at the Sky Point Bistro + Bar.
If you’re game enough you can also climb to the very top of the Q1 building from the outside and stare down the 320 metre drop, while trusting that your safety harness doesn’t let you down! Book your tickets here.
You can’t come to Surfers Paradise and not go surfing. I’d suggest getting a surf lesson, where you learn all the basics and ride your very first wave. We did a 2 hour beginner surf lesson and had a heap of fun. Book yours here.
Tip: If you’re in Australia for a while and are interested in overnight surf camps I recommend the Spot X Surf Camp.
A more relaxing board experience is to go paddle boarding along the Gold Coast’s canals. Linda and her team from Go Vertical SUP Hire do awesome paddle boarding tours and lessons leaving from Budd’s Beach just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise.
Tip: Make sure to grab a coffee or breakfast from Bumbles – the highly rated local restaurant nearby at Budd’s Beach.
Or if you’d prefer to go paddle boarding outside of Surfers Paradise, then book a Surf and Stand Up Paddle Board Combo (where the locals go!)
Sea World Cruises
Get familiar with the Gold Coast’s waterways on a river cruise. This 1.5 hour cruise departs Surfers Paradise and explores up and down the Nerang River. There’s commentary onboard and you get to see some of the Gold Coast’s most expensive real estate along the river. There is another company that runs a similar cruise at a cheaper rate, however I highly recommend choosing Sea World Cruises as their boat Spirit of Elston is a lot nicer, the staff are very friendly and it’s an all-round quality tour that’s worth the extra five bucks. You can also choose a delicious buffet lunch or sit down dinner cruise option.
Random Fact: Did you know that The Gold Coast has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined?!
The Duck Bus Ride
These giant ducks that drive around Surfers Paradise are actually buses that also turn into a boat so can operate on both land and water. It’s a fun ride for all ages and one of the most affordable tours in Surfers Paradise. There are two companies that run the duck bus rides, there’s the Quackr’Duck and the Aqua Duck, so make sure to check your ticket to see where yours departs from. I actually worked as a tour guide on the Quackr’Duck for a while and loved it, and I personally know the staff at Aqua Duck too so whichever company you choose to ride with I can almost guarantee you’ll have fun.
FYI: Quackr’Duck also do tours in Chinese.
For a more thrilling and extreme ride along the river, you could go jet boating. Instead of using a propeller, jet boats draw water from under the boat through a pump-jet and expel it through a nozzle at the back. This is how they go so fast and why they can spin through shallow waters. There are a couple of main jet boating companies on the Gold Coast that are all great and the one departing Surfers Paradise is called Jet Boat Extreme. If they are fully booked you can book a jet boat ride through Paradise Jet Boating departing from Mariner’s Cove in Main Beach (they usually offer a free transfer from Surfers Paradise).
Hire Electric Scooters
One of the best ways to get familiar with the streets of Surfers Paradise is to scoot around on an electric scooter. These are a lot of fun! There are scooter hire shops all around Surfers Paradise so you won’t miss them. Just remember to bring your scooter back in time so the batteries don’t run out.
If thats a bit too much for you then why not hire a normal bicycle? There are many gorgeous bike trails all along the Gold Coast to take advantage of.
Beach Front Markets
Every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoon from 4pm-9pm you’ll find many market stalls spread across the beach in Surfers Paradise where you can buy lots of cool souvenirs and craft-like things. It’s well worth a stroll along the beach front markets on one of these days.
Tip: Make sure to bring cash as many of the market stalls don’t accept cards.
If you’ve always wanted to try skydiving but have been too nervous to actually do it, then indoor skydiving may be your first step. Surfers Paradise recently opened their first ever indoor skydiving centre and it’s the closest you can get to the real thing. Flying is literally one of the best feelings and indoor skydiving is not scary at all. The way I’d describe the difference between indoor skydiving and jumping out of a moving aeroplane is that with indoor skydiving you feel like you’re floating rather than falling. Book you indoor skydive here.
Travel tip: If you’re wanting to do an actual skydive I recommend skydiving in Byron Bay with Skydive Australia.
The Infinity attraction is in my opinion a little bit overrated. You’ll see signs everywhere in Surfers Paradise pointing to Infinity but what actually is it? Its basically like a maze with lots of illusions, special effects and trippy music to confuse and excite you as you go from room to room. It’s hard to explain without seeing it for yourself, although to make the most of the experience I recommend having a few drinks first 😉. Buy your Infinity tickets here.
The Crazy Cat Cafe
One of the newer attractions in Surfers Paradise is the Crazy Cat Cafe. It’s literally a paradise for cat lovers as you get to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee surrounded by cats! Each cat has a name and a biography so you can really get to know them. And don’t worry the cats are cared for really well and can leave the public area at any time to go into their own little room if they don’t feel like playing.
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Who's been to the Crazy Cat Cafe in Surfers Paradise? Even though I'm slightly allergic to cats it hasn't stopped me cuddling up to these cuties. The cats here are treated very well. Sometimes I wish I was a cat and could just nap all day while my humans did everything for me 😹
Tip: Make sure to book a time slot to see the cats as there is a maximum number of people that are allowed in the cafe at any one time to not overwhelm the cats.
If you’ve never had a 7D cinema experience you’ll want to try this at least once. Basically you watch a 15 minute movie in virtual reality so the screen is 3D, your seat moves according to the film and there are 7 special effects including water being sprayed to make it feel like you’re actually there. Although it’s a cool 15 minutes I probably wouldn’t spend $20 to see another short film.
Update 2/12/19: 7D Cinema has now permanently closed. However, if you’re planning on going to Movie World during your time on the Gold Coast, then you’ll find a similar cinema within the theme park that’s included in your admission ticket.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
Remember the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not TV Show where Ripley would go searching for the most unbelievable things from around the world? Well a lot of the weird stuff from that show can be found in the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Surfers Paradise. Some of those things you’ll find in there are pretty interesting. Buy your tickets here.
The Wax Museum
Speaking of museums, we also have a Wax Museum in Surfers Paradise. Although wax artists are quite talented, in my honest opinion The Wax Museum itself is one of the more boring attractions. I probably wouldn’t recommend spending time here unless you’re genuinely interested in seeing celebrities made from wax. Though if you are, you can book your tickets here.
Dracula’s Haunted House
If you’re wanting to really scare your friends, dare to enter Dracula’s Haunted House. It’s literally a house with a few levels that you walk through to discover optical illusions and haunting effects. It’s quite funny actually, although there is an unusual anti-climax at the end which doesn’t make much sense. But don’t let me ruin the experience by telling you what happens…
Update 20/01/19: The Haunted House has now closed down and been replaced with TrickPic (see photos below) – an interactive photo gallery where you can take funny photos with optical illusions.
Update 2/12/19: Both the Haunted House and TrickPic have now permanently closed.
Lantern Ghost Tours
Funnily enough, although still a very young city, the Gold Coast has it’s fair share of history. Generations of families have lived here (or still do in the supernatural world) so there are often ghost sightings. You can join a Lantern Ghost Tour either in Surfers Paradise or at The Southport Cemetery where you’ll learn more about these sightings and interesting history about the people who’ve lived here in the past. We did the creepy Southport Cemetery tour and the ghost stories were entertaining, although we didn’t actually see any paranormal activity during the tour. Book your Ghost Tour here.
Fire Truck Tours
Ever wanted to ride a real fire truck? Fire4Hire tours give you the full experience of being a fireman or firewoman and they aren’t just for kids. You can book a fire truck for private airport/theme park transfers, school formals, special events or even hens/bucks nights (can even hire topless male waiters to ride with you). I used to help Fire4Hire with their reservations and can confidently say that it’s well worth booking if you have an event coming up. Book your Fire Truck Tour here.
Spot A Metre Maid
A rather unique tradition since 1965 is that of the Gold Coast’s Meter Maids. These young ladies who are dressed in bikinis roam the esplanade to check the parking meters of parked cars. If the parked car is about to exceed it’s time limit then the metre maid will add coins in to prevent the owner of the vehicle getting a fine. Be generous and tip them to keep this tradition going. To learn more about the history of meter maids see their website. I’ve recently seen ‘metre men’ walking around too!
Looking for an affordable place to stay in Surfers Paradise? Get $70 off your first AirBnB stay using this link.
Old Time Photos
For memories that last forever, treat your family or partner to an ‘Old Time’ Photoshoot in Surfers Paradise. The team dress you up in old fashioned attire and take shots of you in different display rooms that print out black and white. This is my favourite Old Time Photo of Will and I.
King Tutt’s Putt Putt
For a game of mini golf head to King Tutt’s Putt Putt in Surfers Paradise. It’s a really creative course to play on. Or alternatively there is another mini golf centre called Putt Putt Golf in Mermaid Beach.
Time Zone & 360
Time Zone is a an attraction with numerous interactive games mainly for kids but it’s also fun for all ages. It’s just like any other Time Zone around the country only the one in Surfers Paradise happens to be the largest indoor gaming centre in Australia. There’s also a smaller games centre called 360 that was recently opened on Orchid Avenue. If you’re with kids during your holiday another cool activity for them is the Build A Bear attraction just down stairs from Time Zone, and also Planet Chill Kid’s Ice-Skating Area located at Paradise Resort.
Next to Time Zone in the Centro Shopping Centre you’ll also find the Australian Shooting Academy. However if you’re interested in shooting some firearms in a safe environment I highly recommend heading down the road to the Southport Indoor Pistol Club instead, as they have a wide range of firearms to shoot from and their price list is much more affordable for the same experience. We had the opportunity to experience shooting from a pistol, revolver and a couple of different rifles and it was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience to shoot a gun for the first time!
The local ten pin bowling club is Strike Bowling located within Circle on Cavill. The unique thing about Strike Bowling clubs is that they have a fully licensed bar on site, so it’s become a popular place to meet for a few drinks over a game before heading on a night out.
As of recently Strike Bowling has added an addition to their venue: Holey Moley Mini Golf. It’s fun to come here with friends for a game of mini golf while sipping the night away. You can even get a photo sitting in The Simpsons lounge room.
And, of course, The Night Clubs
For some reason Surfers Paradise has got a reputation as the “party hub” of Australia, which is so not true. I mean stroll along Orchid Avenue at night and you’ll definitely find pumping bars and nightclubs, just like you would in any other city but Surfers Paradise is so much more than party life. However if you must know, I usually recommend The Avenues Bar (especially the stand up comedy shows on a Wednesday night) and House of Brews as a top pick for bars. Or if you’re wanting a bit more of a classy night then have a cocktail at Chapter & Verse at the Marriott Hotel or Stingrays Lounge at QT Hotel.
And for a big night hitting the clubs I suggest starting off at Melbas or The Beer Garden (Surfers Paradise Tavern) for cheap drinks, and then heading to Sin City, Bedroom, Underground and/or Shooters seem to be the most popular choices.
So these are all my tips on attractions within the small Surfers Paradise city centre. Be sure to check out my recommendations for top attractions on the Gold Coast (outside of Surfers Paradise)!
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