Forbes Advocate

Beyond the beaches: how to get the most out of your Gold Coast experience

Beyond the beaches: how to get the most out of your Gold Coast experience

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As the sunshine state, Queensland has a fairly strong reputation for being the place to go if you're looking for an Aussie coastal escape. That being said, there is indeed a lot more to the Gold Coast than just its coastline alone.

Being home to some of Australia's most renowned World Heritage sights and most popular tourist attractions, Queensland is brimming with a wide variety of culturally and ecologically enriching activities on top of its wealth of exciting, family-friendly destinations. There's a little something for every kind of explorer in Brisbane and its surrounds, and we'll be outlining the Gold Coast's most quintessential tourist experiences below.

Read on to unearth just how you can get the absolute most out of your next trip to the Gold Coast.

Enjoy a good game of golf on the Gold Coast

If you've booked a room at the JW Marriott Gold Coast or any of the other luxury accommodation options along the Main Beach, then chances are you may have a room that overlooks either the beach itself or better still, the many golf courses that can be found across the length of the Nerang River. The Gold Coast's Palm Meadows Golf Course is particularly well-known for being a challenging yet highly satisfying and intricately designed course that professional and hobby golfers can enjoy.

Strewn between the winding Nerang River and the region's Clear Island Lake, 14 of Palm Meadows' 18 holes have golfers contend against bodies of water and some challenging sandbanks. The course also measures up at a whopping distance of 6319 metres, so even playing three or four holes will leave you rather breathless.

Of course, if you're looking to play a game of golf off the mainland, you may even decide to schedule a game on the world-renowned green of Hamilton Island too. A par 71 course surrounded by scintillating panoramic views of the Queensland coastline and the wider Coral Sea, playing some holes at Hamilton is likely going to be an experience you'll never forget.

Meet a koala or two at Australia Zoo

It wouldn't be a trip to the Gold Coast without a visit to the home of the Crocodile Hunter. Australia Zoo is always guaranteed to be an incredibly vibrant experience for visitors of all age brackets and from all walks of life. Not only does the zoo have a wide selection of both native and exotic animals, but all daily shows have oodles of fun facts and educational narratives for visitors to enjoy. You can really immerse yourself in the life and challenges of Australia's most endangered native animals, as well as gain a deeper understanding of how the zoo's inhabitants are helping Aussie scientists learn more and more about breeding and endangered species conservation.

On top of this, the opportunity to get seriously up close and personal with Australia's native flora and fauna makes a trip to the Australia Zoo an absolute must for international visitors. Even homegrown Aussies are likely to appreciate the experience of being able to have your own meet and greet with a koala, even if it's just so you can boast to your international friends about the one time you held a drop bear.

Learn about reef conservation at the Great Barrier Reef

While some Queensland accommodation may boast they're situated on the water's edge and overlooking the Great Barrier Reef, it's one thing to have a view of the reef from your hotel window and a whole other thing entirely to be swimming among the coral structures themselves. Witnessing the serenity and gentle activity of the Great Barrier Reef is a genuine privilege and should absolutely be front and centre on your list of things to do when you visit the Gold Coast. It's important to note, however, that not all tours of the reef are the same, and while some may take you from island to island to go snorkelling in Queensland's most picture-perfect beaches, not all of the region's reef tours will go in-depth about reef protection and conservation efforts.

Witnessing the effects of climate change firsthand can be a life-changing experience for many people, and this by no means has to be a bleak affair. In fact, engaging with the reef and its challenges can make for an incredibly interesting afternoon or two and may leave tourists with a newfound appreciation of the natural world and the beauty that exists around them.

Hike deep into the Daintree Rainforest

Speaking of natural beauty, you definitely won't regret heading to the Daintree Rainforest as soon as you've explored all that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. And you may be surprised to hear that getting from the reef to the Daintree is a near-effortless endeavour, as these two regions are situated right beside each other, making tropical north Queensland the only place in the world where two World Heritage-listed sites meet.

Heading from reef to rainforest may have you feeling like Queensland has no shortage of breath-taking natural attractions, which is precisely why this picturesque pilgrimage is well worth taking. Consider booking a canopy tour and seeing the expanse of ancient treetops from the Daintree's expansive aerial walkway.

As you take in the wondrous sight of the towering eucalypts and tree ferns that make up the Daintree, take a moment to recall the statuesque corals and busy schools of fish that you saw across the reef. Take a moment to pay respect to the plentiful land you've been able to explore, set an intention to become a global citizen and take all the teachings from your trip to the Gold Coast back home with you.

Discover ancient Indigenous rock art on Quinkan Country

Of course, the sights and sounds of the rich region you've explored would not be half of what it is today without the First Nations people who cultivated and cared for the land for hundreds of thousands of years before colonial settlers arrived. For this reason, it's well worth taking a few days out of your itinerary to explore some of the region's mesmerising ancient Indigenous rock art.

While Indigenous rock art and cave paintings can be found all across Queensland including on the Whitsundays, witnessing the immaculately preserved and presented sandstone rock art that can be found on Quinkan Country is perhaps the most essential experience that can be found on our little list. Some of the art found at Quinkan Country has been estimated to be around 15,000 to even 30,000 years old, making these paintings some of the oldest, most highly-preserved pieces of prehistoric art on earth.

Quinkan Country is also home to many First Nations guides and historical experts, so you can immerse yourself in the narratives behind these artworks and gain a deeper understanding of the Indigenous populations that inhabited this land and their own relationship with the land beneath your feet.

Travelling to Queensland can easily consist of nothing but beach days and trips to theme parks, but by sticking to the Main Beach and the city of Brisbane alone, you'll drastically limit your trip's potential to become an infinitely enriching and unforgettable experience.

Take some time to plan out your own Queensland itinerary well in advance so that you'll know just what you'll have to look forward to come your first day on the glistening Gold Coast.