Coolangatta is our southernmost suburb and an uncomplicated little town. Apart from when in summer (and outside lockdowns), you can travel between two time zones — by simply crossing the street!
Time travelling aside, Coolangatta has long been loved for its laidback, beachside vibes and of course, pumping surf when the elements align and the swell fills in. These days, there is a multitude of reasons to visit other than amazing beaches and world-class waves. These include outstanding food venues, lively bars and a few other businesses worthy of your attention. So here are some worthy reasons for a nip into Cooly town.
Have a beachside coffee at Vanilla Lily
Quite possibly Coolangatta’s prettiest cafe, Vanilla Lily is serving up solid coffees and fresh eats in a beautiful setting opposite Greenmount Beach. Chill with the local community who love this hangout and enjoy the delectable fare. Our pick is the Avocado Toast with sliced radish, dried chilli flakes, pomegranate and drizzled with raw honey and lemon on a slice of sourdough.
Where: Shop 2, 110 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Drink a beer at the Coolangatta Hotel
The Cooly Hotel is an absolute must-do. This well-known bar is opposite the town’s main stretch of sand and is often the place folks find themselves towards the latter part of the day. The attractions are world-class live music and great vibes aplenty. Pull up a chair and make an afternoon of it with salt-licked breezes blowing and uninterrupted beach views.
Where: Corner Warner Street & Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Enjoy some good food at Choofas Smokehouse & Seafood
Conveniently located on the town’s main street, the guys at Choofas offer some exceptional fresh and cooked seafood alongside BBQ style smoked meats, ribs, buffalo wings, burgers, steak, chicken and salads able to fill all hungry-bellies. The BBQ smoked meats are rubbed with Choofas own dark dry rub, then cooked long and slow to ensure tenderness and flavour. Choofas Horn Bar is also stocked with over 60 top brand rums, otherwise enjoy a cold beer on tap while overlooking Coolangatta beach as the sun goes down.
Where: 150 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Grab a pie from the Coolangatta Pie Shop
This iconic Gold Coast pie shop has been around for over 50 years, so it’s no wonder they’re serving up some of the tastiest pies around. You can also get some outrightly delicious caramel slices while you’re at it. Perfect for a mid-morning fuel up or after a big afternoon session of surfing. Fun fact: they’re open 24 hours on weekends.
Where: 50 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Eat pizza at Francie’s Pizzeria
Francie’s is some of the best pizza you’ll ever sample, so without hesitation, it quickly became the local’s favourite pizza bar. As purely a walk-in and no reservations style venue, swing by ahead of the crowd for delicious and inventive toppings. Our pick is the Pears Brosnan: Gorgonzola, pear, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella. YUM.
Where: 2/102 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Take a stroll through The Strand
The Strand at Coolangatta is a great respite from all the action at the beach. Filled with all you retail needs (ALDI, Woolies etc), dining (the views from the upstairs restaurants are outstanding) and entertainment (hello Timezone and Cooly’s only cinema). Spend some time strolling around the boutique shops in the air-con; you’re sure to find something you love here.
Where: 72-80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Scoop your way through all the flavours at Ottimo
Ottimo serves up great coffee and makes all of their moreish gelatos in-house, but why are their plethora of dazzling flavours so damn good? Likely because the owner and head gelato maker Davide is Italian and has studied for a diploma from the Gelato University of Carpigiani — we didn’t make this up, it’s true!
Where: 18/52 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Release your inner child at Timezone
Have the heavens opened up? Or are you simply up for a bit of fun? Timezone Coolangatta features full-sized bowling lanes, over 200 video games, dodgem cars and laser skirmish. Not just one for the kids!
Where: Level 1, 72-80 Marine Parade, The Strand, Coolangatta
Start your day with brekky at South East Espresso
A Cooly favourite for a tasty breakfast and excellent poured Paradox coffee, find South East Espresso tucked a block back from the majestic Rainbow Beach. It’s the ideal spot to satisfy those early morning hankerings, and if you fancy visiting again (which you will after a surf), they’re open for lunch too.
Where: 5 Dutton Street, Coolangatta
Indulge in an Italian feast at Little Cooly
Little Cooly is serving up some mind-blowing handmade pasta alongside a 100-strong Italian wine list that reads like a love letter to Italy itself. If it’s date night, look no further — and if you’re desperate for great pasta, well they have you covered on all bases. In an ode to the local area, dishes have been named after Gold Coast icons and suburbs and shine a light on local produce, for instance The Snapper Rocks features Tweed River prawns, mango, cashews and avocado or The Greenmount features Bangalow bacon, spicy chorizo, a fried egg and mozzarella.
Where: Level 1, Shop 120/72-80 Marine Parade, The Strand, Coolangatta
Get your art on at Maverick Hair & Art Studio
Pop into this tucked away gallery for a fabulous hair spruce up or to enjoy some fresh local art including that of Cooly local Byron Coathup. You’re sure to find sweet, locally designed souvenirs to take home. Your favourite local brand, The Undercurrent is stocked here too. Grab a Cooly tee to remember your time.
Where: First Floor, 1/17 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Take in the view at Greenmount Beach Surf Club
With unsurpassed views in a northerly direction, you can take in everything overlooking the spectacular Greenmount Beach right up to the skyline of Surfers Paradise and, on some days, beyond. If the surf is good, you can also be entertained by surfers as they jostle with each other and generally tear waves apart — the level here is high. Our favourite is an icy schooner in hand and an amber sunset: perfection.
Where: Marine Parade, Coolangatta
Eat a burger at Eddie’s Grub House.
Rock ‘n roll meets fried chicken, burgers and whiskey: does it get any better than that? Get a mouthful of naughty but nice American classics in this soul food dive bar. They regularly have live music and karaoke nights and are one of the best spots to catch up with mates before a night on the town.
Where: 171 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Shop local at Cooly’s Beachside Markets
On every second and fourth Sunday of the month, Queen Elizabeth Park comes alive with plenty of local traders selling anything from raw produce to clothing and accessories. The perfect place to take a stroll with a coffee in hand and the sun on your face — be prepared to spend some money.
Where: Queen Elizabeth Park, Coolangatta
Have a sunset cocktail at Moxy’s Rooftop Bar
This Griffith Street rooftop bar is always packed with sunset and weekend revellers sipping on cocktails living their best lives, and this should include you. Regular DJs and insta-worthy drinks mean this venue is a top place to see in the weekend or alternatively help you get over a hump day from hell. Either way, head upstairs and let the good times roll.
Where: 2/152-154 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
Words by Alex Mitcheson.