Things to do in Surfers Paradsie without going to a Theme Park

I’m going to take you on a little holiday today, away from lovely Western Australia, and to the exciting Gold Coast in Queensland instead.

Why’s that? I hear you ask.

Well, the 2013 Problogger (blogging) Conference was held at the QT Gold Coast hotel in Surfers Paradise, and this year I was lucky to be able to attend along with about 450 other bloggers from all around Australia, including some US speakers who were flown over specially for the event.

I didn’t have a lot of time to spend exploring the Gold Coast, but I did manage to get sand between my toes when I walked along the awesome stretch of white, sandy beach on the day prior to the conference, and then afterwards when I was lucky enough to be selected by Queensland Tourism to do a photography workshop when we went out and about clicking the sights of Surfers Paradise under the expert guidance of professional photographer, Paul Broben.

Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo CastroHolding the Problogger event at Surfers was an inspired move by  Queensland Tourism because not only did it attract people to the Gold Coast, but it brought many influential bloggers together, most of whom would share their experiences of the hotels and  the area across their own blogs and social media platforms. By the way, if you are a blogger and missed the event you can buy a virtual pass to all the sessions right here.

Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro

9 Active things to do in Surfers Paradise

  1. Whale Watching
  2. Fishing Charters
  3. Wax Museum
  4. Skydive
  5. Indoor Karting
  6. Haunted House
  7. Tiger Moth scenic flights
  8. Jet boat rides
  9. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

Surfers Paradise may not be my first choice of holiday destination, but it was a great place for a conference because you could be walking on the beach one minute, sitting in a training session the next, and then out to dinner, or shopping  before the stores closed at night.

Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo CastroThere was a great buzz to the place, and the esplanade with its beautiful beach views and shaded promenade provided a lovely walk to blow away the stuffiness of being indoors all day. I think one of the things I really liked about Surfer’s was that everything was in such close proximity; the shops, the beach, the restaurants, even the highway leading to the Gold Coast Airport (Coolangatta just 30 minutes away).

On the first night a group of travel bloggers got together at the BMD Northcliffe Surf Club where we had an inexpensive meal in laid back surroundings chatting about travel and blogging and the fact that most of us hadn’t seen each other since last year’s Problogger conference in Melbourne. What was lovely was that it was only a 15 minute walk away, and the warm tropical Queensland spring weather allowed us to walk from the QT Hotel and enjoy the night buzz of Surfers.

Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro
Pictured: Jo Castro, Linda Fairbairn, Holly Galbraith, Brooke Schoenman, Kristin Repsher, Caz and Craig Makepeace, Kerwin, Bethaney, Amanda Kendle … and more but with apologies to lovely Rachael and Ben who somehow didn’t get in the pictures.

Things you’ll enjoy about Surfers Paradise

  • The beautiful long, white sandy beach that seems to go on for ever
  • The many places to wine and dine (and club – if you will)
  • The walk along the Esplanade
  • The life surf stations along the main part of the beach
  • The Sky Point Observation deck with its incredible 360 degree views (and a climb if you dare)
  • Attractions inland such as Tambourine Mountain – so you can get away from the glitz and high rise buildings
  • Its subtropical topography
Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro

What you may not like so much

  • At night the streets feel a little ‘seedy’
  • The traffic
  • Architecture (some of which) is  neither truly  modern or applaudable
  • Pot holes and roadworks (September 2013)
  • The urban sprawl
  • It’s lack of identity – I had expected more of a tropical flavour. Cavill Avenue looked  drab, with its flat grey slabs of concrete and pavers, and as for THAT sign. Where is there any indication of Paradise or Surfers? Shouldn’t it be iconic? Could it not be tropical? How about a surfboard at either end? As a piece of art, nothing about it suggested surfing or paradise … what do you think, below.

Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro

First impressions of Surfers Paradise

  • The lovely Esplanade walk
  • Surfboards, skateboards, scooters
  • Holidaymakers
  • The bright sunshine reflecting off high rise buildings
  • Eateries
  • Music
  • Clubs
  • Roadworks
  • The sea and the sound of waves.

From my diary

“The Esplanade is busy with walkers and  joggers and mums with prams. There are skateboarders that appear out of nowhere from behind and send shivers down my spine, and bike riders who ride with keep-fit intent. It seems as if it all happens on the Esplanade, which is in fact rather lovely as it is sheltered from the harsh Queensland sun by trees and palms and is so, so close to the white white sand and the gloriously blue ocean beyond.”
“Cavill avenue is bursting with busyness this Sunday in September, and thongs, short shorts, rainbow coloured sarongs, dudes with surfboards,  and fast food outlets are the sights that capture my attention. I enjoy looking at the old photographs dotted around the town, showing Surfers  how it was way back when and comparing them to the scenes today.”
Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro
Then and now, a huge difference.
The views from Sky Point are amazing and really put the area into perspective.  It is beautiful and astonishing if you ignore the urban sprawl beyond, for there is water, and there are canals and impressive sky rise buildings and waterways with big houses that have boat moorings.
Things to do in Surfers Paradise without going to a Gold Coast theme park by Jo Castro
77 Floors up and the views from the Sky Point Tower are amazing
I had the slight feeling that Surfers wasn’t meant to last. It feels a bit, well, shabby and potholed in places. Some of the apartment blocks look dated, in need of some  modernisation.
Perhaps I’ve been a bit hard on Surfers and maybe its because I am envious of the young and their gung-ho energy and their lets go to bed late and party attitude. For of course they don’t care about any of the things that I don’t like about Surfers which leaves me feeling that it is a place for young people to play in the waves, be seen on the beach, admired in the clubs and then turned upside down and inside out on those theme park rollercoasters!
Will I return?
Probably not to the heart of Surfers, although just a little way away, Burleigh Heads looked absolutely divine.
Have you been to Surfers Paradise – what do you think? Or tell me what would you prefer – A Beach or Mountain holiday?

Until next time,

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  1. Was wonderful to meet you Jo in real life having known each other via our blogs and social media for x(?) years!!

    Surfers’ biggest draw card it that it is unique within Australia – There’s nowhere else quite like it!
    And if you’re someone who needs a bit of prompting to find things to do, you certainly couldn’t get bored there –
    But as a person who wouldn’t even get bored on a desert island…. its not quite my cup of tea 😉

  2. Hi Jo, I am with you not keen on Surfers Paradise, still a great place to visit though. I think all our states are quite different. Loved the photos, reminds me of what I imagine Florida to look like. Can’t really comment as I haven’t been there. Hi to Amanda, great photo. xxx Rae

  3. Too true,Rae … a great place to visit because it is unlike anywhere else in Australia as Linda says, and plenty to do if you are after amusement. Glad you liked the photos!

  4. My sentiments entirely Linda! We have been circling each other virtually for years, and it was so nice to find we had so much in common in real life too 🙂 I’m really glad to have experienced Surfers, and everyone should go at least once, but as you say for people who could keep busy, or write a book about a desert island and things to do, there’s an awful lot going on at Surfers to take in.

  5. Neva Fels

    The sandy beach looks so inviting. I’m glad you were able to link up with blogging friends. I went to a blogging conference before I started blogging and they all looked like 20 something mommies. I so glad to be connecting with people like you who have a similar lifestyle from the other side of the world.

  6. Janet @ Redland City Living

    Was so great to meet you IRL!
    I have always lived within coo-ee of the Gold Coast so was interested to read your article from the point of view of a newcomer. It IS a bit of a mess at the moment with all the roadworks for the trams that will be opening next year. Traffic has always been horrendous.
    We love going to the Goldie for the odd weekend getaways. Once you’ve booked into your unit, you really don’t need your car again – the beach, shops, restaurants and cafes are at your doorstep. We find we spend hours just sitting on our balcony, enjoying the view!!!! That alone is the best way to relax. Our favourite apartments have an indoor heated pool, spa and sauna which is lovely, Summer or Winter 🙂

  7. It was great to meet you IRL too Janet! It’s so good to have big meet up events like Problogger so that we can get together with people we’ve only met virtually. I was interested to hear about a local’s version of holidays on the Gold Coast and the benefits, especially as you say booking into your unit and not needing to get into a car again because everything is at your doorstep. And yes, that view is gorgeous, a wonderful time waster and daydream opportunity! And of course the climate is pretty special too. Thanks for your insightful comments 🙂

  8. Denise Gillies

    Hi Jo
    Loved reading this article on Surfers Paradise.
    We were there a few years ago but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
    However, your article makes me reconsider.
    See you soon.

  9. Oh Neva, I do know what you mean. I felt a bit like that at the first conference I went to in Australia a few years ago, and felt like Grandma Jo! But since then it seems that people interested in blogging, within our age demographic, has increased dramatically, and now I find that I’m connecting with lots more older women 🙂 It’s so great to know people like you too, although at this stage just ‘virtually’, but I’m very glad of that opportunity too. Who knows perhaps we shall also meet up at a conference one day 🙂

  10. Ahh, thanks Denise, so glad it made you reconsider Surfers Paradise – I think Janet’s comment about not needing a car, and the views, probably add an extra dimension to its attractions.

  11. Gosh Jo, what a terrific overview of Surfers Paradise. Just the chance to get away to see something different can provide another perspective on where we come from. I love the little yellow surf lifesaving lookout with the peaked roof. Maybe that could be the Team Sadowski holiday house?

  12. Janet Scott

    Hi Jo, I have never really liked the place personally. We took the girls there when they were little and they loved it as we also did the theme parks but when we lived in Brisbane we only ever went when we had out of town visitors. It always felt a bit seedy and dirty with no real identity of its own. I think it is an age thing as the youngsters love it. Much prefer the north coast.

  13. Definitely an age thing, Janet. And definitely a great place for youngsters or families with young ones:) Thanks for your comments.

  14. Have to say Jo, besides the beach and surf, Surfers has pretty much everything I personally dislike about a destination. I could never understand why it was so highly profiled along with the great barrier reef and whitsunday islands in the holiday brochures back in the day in blighty. When I first went there as part of my Australian dream holiday, which I’d saved up so hard for, I was so disappointed. I recently wrote an article about it too which will be going out soon. Having said all that, when I was researching for the article, I loved reading about the history, and what Surfers was like in its heyday. And the meter maids just completely summed up the rebellious Aussie attitude I love. I don’t think you’ve been hard at all. In fact, very fair and balanced in your assessment, summarised perfectly in my view and I congratulate your warts-n-all honesty, which is why people read your blog.

  15. Thanks for your comments and your kind words Tracey. I think you’re spot on with your thoughts about expectations.

  16. Now we just need a write up on ‘what young people can do on the Gold Coast without going to nightclubs’.
    Great read. thanks Johanna

  17. Thanks for your comment … now that’s food for thought 🙂 Think I need to take another fact finding trip 😉 I’m sure there’s lots to do, just need to find the most alluring that would replace the quest for the biggest hangovers!

  18. Victoria

    An interesting read Jo.In places maybe a little harsh.My family has lived on the Gold Coast and within a kilometre of Surfers for over 30 years.It is a fantastic place.Yes everyone has expectations of the new destinations they are travelling to,I’ve been disappointed many times.Out of interest are there no skateboarders where you are?.and “urban sprawl”is where we locals live.I enjoy reading your posts and it’s interesting to see things through other peoples eyes.I look forward to many more enjoyable reads from you.Victoria.

  19. Thanks for your comments Victoria and I’m gald you enjoy reading my posts. Yes, perhaps I was a little harsh in places about Surfers, but I think first impressions are so different to if you’ve lived in a place for a while. I know I was pretty scathing about Bunbury when we first came to live here, but now I love it, and other people dismiss it as not worth visiting! It’s all in the perspective I guess. I’m sure Surfers is a great place to live. Yes, we have skateboarders, but not so many skating down Ocean Drive and the beachside pathways as appeared to be in Surfers, but again, maybe just a first impression which in daily life is different 😉

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