The Miami of Australia – My Time in Surfers Paradise

My three days in Byron Bay were up and I’ll admit, I was a little glum. The hippy vibes and flip-flop lifestyle had won my heart. I was ready to dig my heels into the sand and cling to the nearest palm tree if anyone tried to remove me from this place.
As I reluctantly packed up the car, I had to remind myself that this is an adventure. Half the fun is not knowing what’s around the next corner. I was comfortable in Byron Bay but I know I would later regret spending too much time there and not enough time exploring other places. And with that thought firmly etched in my mind, we pottered on up the coast toward The Gold Coast.

We spoiled ourselves rotten in Byron Bay with eating out, drinking until 3am and ice creams on the beach. It’s safe to say our pockets were considerably lighter leaving the town! To cut some costs on this trip, we use “rest stops” off the highway. These are all over Australia, where you can “stop, revive and survive” as the Aussies say.

Many allow camping, and are lit up with toilets and BBQ facilities. They’re not much, and many lack a flushing toilet and running water, but if you’re planning a road trip around Oz, take use of these free spots while you can because take it from me, accommodation over two months can rack up a hefty bill!

One rest stop we stayed in.

With bleary eyes and heavy heads, we agreed to pull into the next rest stop we found. Following the weaving road, we pulled into a wooded area called “Sleepy Hallow”! It was dead quiet, with looming trees overhead, no phone reception and snake warning signs everywhere. Even though these places can be a little creepy, they’re still some of the best night we’ve had on this trip so far!

A sign we came across at one of our rest stops.

The following morning we woke up feeling refreshed and ploughed on to our next destination, Surfers Paradise! We were well and truly in tourist territory now, not a single free area to camp in, not even a free parking spot. I think if you’re doing this trip and want to stay by the coast the whole way, it just has to be expected you’re going to have to pay for camping spots. There are plenty of free places inland, but right now we are staying as close to the ocean as possible.

A view from our car driving up the Gold Coast.

After a quick glance at Wikicamps, we booked into a beautiful camp site right beside the beach. As soon as I took my first step out of the car, I knew straight away we were in Queensland! The sun was stronger, the air heavier and the trees filled with colourful parrots! Definitely starting to feel like paradise to me!

Expect to pay dear for accommodation in Surfers Paradise, but they are all very nice!

Surfers Paradise at first glance was kind of a shock to the system. So far I’ve enjoyed little beach towns and this place was anything but that. It’s kind of like Miami’s smaller surfer dude cousin. It’s got all the glam and tacky show lights of The Magic City but is situated on one of the most amazing beaches of the east coast.

Skyscrapers are packed together in Surfers Paradise, which puts a lot of people off but I think it’s a cool contrast to the sleepy towns surrounding it. One major downer to the sky-high buildings however, was the shadows cast over the beach from 3.30pm onward.
My advice is to get your fill of the sun and sand in the morning then spend the later half of your day walking around the shops, enjoy a drink in one of the many beach-lined bars and make sure to take in the local buskers on the esplanade.

Friday evenings there are markets held right on the beach front, with quality Aussie made products and lots of yummy foods.

Or if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Main Beach, take a ten minute drive up Seaworld Drive toward Doug Jennings Park. Here you’ll find an absolute gem of a beach. Mostly reserved for dog walkers, this beach is far enough away from the tourist strip but close enough to enjoy the view of the city and sand.

There is a gorgeous pier also at Doug Jennings Park, but unfortunately, like everything else in Australia, it’s not cheap! Two dollars fifty will get you onto the pier itself and $4 will get you a fishing permit.

As you can probably tell by now, the east coast trip is FULL of beaches and nearly everything is based around the water. If you’d rather keep your toes dry, the Gold Coast is host to major theme parks like Wet ‘n’ wild waterpark, Dreamworld, Warner Bros and Sea World. We had limited time on the Gold Coast so on the way back we are going to hit the Springbrook National Park with beautiful caves and waterfalls. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is also a favourite on the Gold Coast where you can interact with koalas and kangaroos. 

While doing my research on the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, I’d heard a few negative reviews, claiming it was tacky and a waste of time. What I’m finding about my time in Oz is no two places in the country are the same and Surfers Paradise is completely different in its own way! It may be a little gaudy but that’s the appeal.

We stayed two nights here and probably would have stayed longer had we the time. There’s plenty to see and do here, but make sure you bring the dollars, ’cause this place ain’t cheap!

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Keelin Riley

Keelin is an Irish travel writer with a degree in journalism and a background in the Irish media. Based in Sydney, Australia she loves to blog about all things travel-related specialising in budget travel, ethical travel and off-the-beaten-track itineraries!

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