Get up close with all creatures great and small!
Get up close with all creatures great and small!
Life on the Gold Coast is synonymous with the outdoors, so naturally it makes sense that we make the most of that and squeeze in some wild animal encounters to round it out! From four-legged felines popping in for a pat while you sip your piccolo to encounters with native Australian wildlife and so much more, we’re all about taking a walk on the wild side and getting up close and personal with creatures great and small.
So, when we were looking for the ultimate animal experiences it was no surprise that there were a boat load to get amongst the action right in our backyard. Whether you like your friends furry or feathered, we’ve found the best animal encounters to add to your bucket list.
Tiger Island Dreamworld
Get up close and highly personal with some of the animal kingdoms most majestic creatures. Tiger Island is a true one-off as you’re able to watch daily shows — before the next minute finding yourself side by side and patting the big cats themselves for a photo opportunity like no other! It’s the only place in Queensland where you can actually feed the big cats, so what are you waiting for? Go get ‘em tiger.
Where: Dreamworld, Dreamworld Parkway, Coomera
Mountview Alpaca Farm
How does meandering your way around a vineyard with a glass of wine and your very own alpaca in tow sound? Be careful though; there may be some confusion around who is walking whom! These guys can be found at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard, where you can pat and feed them to your heart’s content. Why not make a day of it – kick back and set up with one of their delish picnic baskets or pizzas, there’s even a full menu with special options for the kiddies so everyone is looked after.
Where: 852 Lamington National Park Road, Canungra
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the best places for anyone on the Gold Coast to experience wildlife since 1947! There’s a long list of animals and encounters to find yourself involved with here, from crocodile feeding, bird shows, and having your picture taken with a koala. The highlight is one of the southern hemisphere’s largest aviaries, where you’ll mingle with red pandas, tamarins, and ring-tailed lemurs! Another fave of ours is the Capybara Encounter – you’ve problem seen these little guys going viral on TikTok and for good reason, they’re pretty much giant guinea pigs so you know where you’ll find us. If you’ve already seen the Sanctuary by day, why not try a Twilight Tour for an after-dark look at your favourite furry and feisty friends.
Where: Tomewin Street, Currumbin
One of our favourite times of year, whale watching season is still upon on us for just a little longer (May — November), and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the spectacular sight of migrating whales from a better location than the sunny waters right off our coast. Spirit Whale Watching tours will take you right into the action as groups of whales make their way north around the Whitsundays to give birth before then returning south later in the year. The operator has a history of getting their guests wet with whales breaching and tail slapping the water from proximity. And if you don’t see any whales, they’ll take you on another trip free!
Kokomo Cruises, a family-owned and operated business on Queensland’s Gold Coast, offers include whale watching and sunset cruises during the winter, as well as island adventures and exclusive charters in the summer. Jump aboard their Whale Watching Gold Coast cruise and observe mother whales caring for their calves, and encounter a variety of other wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, fish, and sea birds.
Where: Spirit Whale Watching, 60-70 Sea World Drive, Main Beach and Kokomo Cruises, Marina Mirage, Main Beach
Australian Outback Spectacular
Saddle up for the night of a lifetime at Australian Outback Spectacular. A hot tip is to arrive early to get photos with the dogs and horses, the stars of the show! Once inside the arena, you’ll then get a three-course dinner. Followed then by one of the most spectacular shows you’re likely ever to see, filled with animals, Aussie songs, and a guaranteed few laughs as riders frolic about on stunning steeds — all while you look on in awe. Expect stunts, special effects, and not forgetting a tasty meal. Making for a night, you’re unlikely to forget!
Where: Pacific Motorway, Oxenford
As far as aquatic encounters go, this is your one-stop place to see and learn about a plethora of water-based animals. From Polar Bears to penguins, seals to sharks, there is guaranteed to be an animal that will captivate everyone’s imagination. If this isn’t enough, you’ll come across a selection of shows where splashing around and seeing these magnificent creatures do their thing will leave you speechless, or maybe a dolphin encounter is more your thing: spending time in the water with these animals and their trainers! If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with a ray, Ray Reef is the place to be where you can touch some of the little guys – perfect fun for the whole fam!
Where: Sea World Drive, Main Beach
Paradise Country Aussie Farmyard
Sometimes there are so many adorable animals, yet so little time. From native Aussie wildlife to farmyard animals and even an animal nursery, you’ll be spoilt for choice at Paradise Country. If you’ve never been to a farm, this is the perfect place, only minus the hard work! It’s a great weekend adventure if you need to escape city life. They’ve got their own mob of Meerkats and Marmoset Monkeys (the cutest), as well as a pack of cheeky Tasmanian Devils — making your decision to visit, simples.
Where: Pacific Motorway, Oxenford
Crazy Cat Café
If you’re feline like you need your animal fix alongside your daily coffee hit, we’ve got the purrfect spot for you. If you’re more of a love from a distance kind of cat person, the café section is separated by a window that allows you to look in on the cat lounge while your crazy cat friend gets in there amongst the action while the kitties leap around, swat each other, and generally enjoy their cat castle. We reckon you’ll be the coolest among the cats if you get up close and personal for a sesh of zoomies and selfies with the fluffy friends.
Where: 63 Centre Arcade, 3131 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise
David Fleay Wildlife Park
Right in the heart of Burleigh is an intimate, heritage-listed wildlife sanctuary home to a vast array of animals — and most people drive past without even realising! Wander around at your own pace and soak up the serenity or go on a guided tour and learn all about everything from Dingoes and Rock Wallabies to Bilbies and Owls. There are shows throughout the day too; so be sure to carve out a good chunk of time for a visit.
Where: Loman Lane, Burleigh Heads
Words by Jacqueline Bojanowski.
It’s the season to go whale watching! Every year from May to November we are blessed to have thousands of Humpback Whales passing through the Gold Coast’s warm waters. Everyone knows the magical feeling of spying one of the majestic mammals from afar so, in the spirit of sharing, we’ve found the top six spots to see them (for FREE) from the shore.
Point Danger Lookout, Coolangatta
Point Danger Lookout is right on the NSW – QLD border and features the Captain Cook Memorial Statue and some pretty amazing views to the north and the south. Duranbah Beach (D’bah to the locals) is right below, so keep your camera ready to capture the surfers in action. Oh, and of course it’s a great place to watch whales play out in the ocean, they even have public binoculars. For a fresh juice or acai bowl, stroll on down into closeby juicery Liquid Dreams. You won’t be disappointed.
Kirra Hill, Kirra
Just a bit further north is Kirra Hill, another picturesque piece of land. You can either drive or walk up (be warned, it’s quite steep) and then just enjoy the view, it’s pretty special! Once you’re done, head back down into Coolangatta and check out one of the trendy eateries along Marine Pde (our hot eating tip is Little Cooly – because who doesn’t love pizza and pasta).
Tumgun Lookout, Burleigh Heads
Sitting atop the Burleigh Heads National Park is Tumgun Lookout. It’s higher than Burleigh Point and gives you a different angle all together (on a clear day you can see all the way to Coolangatta). Put on some activewear, run up Tumgun Lookout through the National Park and enjoy the breathtaking view, and keep a lookout for the BIG SPLASH!
Burleigh Point, Burleigh Heads
Burleigh Point is paradise, the most peaceful place on earth not to mention a perfect Tinder-date location. It’s easy to spend a whole day here and not get bored. What a coincidence that it’s also one of the best whale-watching vantage points on the Coast. When you have had enough whale sightings, have a bev at Burleigh Heads Bowls Club or for a fresh Vietnamese takeaway bite head to Bunlee Bun & Brew.
Miami Hill, Miami
Located in between North Burleigh Surf Club and Miami Surf Club is the Miami Hill lookout. The all-wooden verandah stretches around the headland and offers you great views to the north and south. We suggest going in the afternoon for whale watching and staying ’til dusk to see the sunset over the hinterland. Then take and easy walk down the hill to pop in for a G&T at recently renovated The Miami.
The Spit, Main Beach
The Spit may not be the highest lookout on the Coast but it surely is closest to the action as it stretches way out to sea. It’s a great place to take your doggo for a walk and enjoy the scenery (go for a swim if it’s warm enough – we dare you!).
Now if you do want to see the whales for an up close and more exhilirating experience, check out Spirit of Gold Coast for a 2.5hr whale watching cruise.
By Louisa von Ingelheim
There have been about 53 public holidays of late, meaning more time for activities and more money going out of your wallet. Meanwhile, the sun is shining (most of the time) and it’s almost summer, so there are still plenty of good times to be had.
Thankfully we have the answer, FREE THINGS TO DO on the Gold Coast. They do say the best things in life are free!
Bike crawl to Burleigh
There are many sweet spots to cruise along on the Gold Coast. Start at Kurrawa Park in Broadbeach and head south to the hill at Burleigh Heads. You’ll mostly be on the Esplanades but there are bike lanes on the roads for max safety. Wear your helmet.
Sunset at Burleigh Hill
Everybody’s favourite picnic spot. Roll out a blanket and kick up your heels for one of the best sunset views on the Gold Coast. People watching is at an all-time high here too if that’s your thing. Take some sport-related things to throw/kick and join in with the rest of the revelers.
Cruise through the markets
The Coast is home to lots of epic markets including beachside ones at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta and Broadbeach, the ever-popular Village Markets at Burleigh Heads State School every second Sunday and the HOTA markets every Sunday. So many goodies.
Stroll through the national park
We are lucky enough to boast some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world (if we do say so ourselves). Take a stroll over Burleigh Hill through the national park and around to Tallebudgera Creek and then return on the Oceanview path. Make sure to keep an eye out for breaching whales.
Paddle in Tallebudgera Creek
The water in Talle Creek is all of the absolutely stunning shades of blue and green and it’s truly a sight to behold. Swim out into the middle, float around on your back and think about how lucky you are to experience it.
Check out The Spit
Main Beach is home to a spot called The Spit which is home to a dog beach and a sweet pier-style situation so you can both make lots of hairy new friends and take some sweet snaps to remember it all.
Feed the birds
Okay, so this one is almost free but well worth the gold coin donation. Head to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and feed the hundreds of lorikeets who gather there twice a day (8am and 4pm). They’re beautiful and loud and it’s an amazing experience.
Splash at Currumbin Rock Pools
Just a short drive from Currumbin are the Currumbin Rock Pools, complete with a jumping rock and little waterfalls to splash around in. It can get busy but it’s a relaxing spot to spend an afternoon.
Take a hike
Actually. There are TONS of hikes you can take around the Gold Coast from short little easy ones (yes please) to more challenging, mountainous ones and all with absolutely stunning views and lots of natural goodness to soak up.
Swim in a waterfall
Also just a short drive from Currumbin are Cougal Cascades, a collection of beautiful waterfalls you can swim under and take pretty pics of. You can also laze about in the rock pools and slide down the rocks themselves. It’s a delight. There are plenty more around too.
Slide into a playground
The Gold Coast is home to many epic playgrounds for kids. Most of them have tables and BBQ facilities, so pack an esky and make a day of it. The perennially popular Pirate Park in Palm Beach has just had an upgrade and it’s now bigger than ever. Other unmissable parks include Bim’bimba Park, Pimpama, named the 2020 Best New Park in Queensland and the new Broadwater Parklands North with a 5 storey slide!
Find the frog
Down south a little further, there’s a stunning walk around the ocean from Coolangatta to Snapper Rocks. Go in search of the big green frog on your way, he’s overlooking a secluded little beach called Froggies (for obvious reasons).
Gaze at local art
The Gold Coast is home to several art galleries showcasing our talented local artists plus, of course, some from further afield. Find 19 Karen in Mermaid Beach, Dust Temple in Currumbin and the impressive contemporary HOTA Gallery in Bundall. Grab your Nikes, a LIME bike, skateboard, scooter, or your choice of wheels and hit the trail of the Gold Coast’s best street art with Art Roll. Their easy-to-navigate maps will have you rolling to the best street art by suburb.
Frolic on the beach
We’re lucky enough to be home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. From Surfers Paradise to Snapper Rocks, the options are endless and each one more beautiful than the last. Don’t forget water and sunscreen of course, that Gold Coast sun is unrelenting.
Make your way up the mountain
Mt Tamborine is only a 40 minute drive from the Coast and the views from up there are next-level. Not only that, there are more beautiful walks than you can poke a stick at, waterfalls and the main street is a sight to behold in itself. Plenty of shops to scope out if you’ve got some spare change too.
Enjoy, friends, those should keep you going for awhile.
Words by Kirra Smith