While laid-back beach holidays remain at the heart of the Gold Coast’s undeniable charm, this perfect pocket of South-East Queensland offers so many ways to play. If there’s one thing the Gold Coast has no shortage of, it’s beaches.

An almost endless stretch of them that reach from rural Beenleigh in the north to picturesque Duranbah – or D’bah’ as the locals call it – in the south, with the famous sandy stretches of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach in between.

Each boasts its own unique personality with world-famous surf breaks in the south including Snapper Rocks, Duranbah, Coolangatta, Kirra and Currumbin Alley, and South Stradbroke, Narrowneck and the Seaway to the north. There are also the popular swimming spots of Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Northcliffe and Broadbeach, and for baby waves and calm creek waters head for the crystalline waters of Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks. If you really want to escape the crowds to cool off, head inland to Currumbin Rock Pools, an easy 15-minute drive from the coast to shower under waterfalls or flop happily in tranquil rock pools surrounded by lush rainforest.

Of course, there are dozens of ways to enjoy the Gold Coast’s waters from kayaks, SUPs and waterbikes to sailing and sunset cruises. And for those inclined there’s adrenalin-infused fun to be found with surfing lessons, waterski safaris, hydrofoil, foiling, and jetboarding.

While justifiably famous for its waves, there’s just as much happening under the sparkling ocean surface. Divers are spoilt for choice with numerous nearby islands providing natural reefs teeming with sea life. Now you can add Wonder Reef to the to dive list. Situated just minutes from The Spit at Main Beach, Wonder Reef is the world’s first buoyant reef. Following a large-scale coral planting of local species, its nine sculptural reef flutes, towering 22 metres above the sea floor, have created a flourishing habitat for marine life, and experienced divers can enjoy its ever-changing ecosystem, the deeper they dive.

Affectionately known as the Humpback Highway, as many as 35,000 whales enjoy a Gold Coast detour during their annual migration from the krill-rich feeding grounds of Antarctica to the warmer, shallower waters of Australia to mate and give birth, before returning south with their new additions in tow. Tours to spot the gentle giants depart Main Beach (Mariner’s Cove), Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta, with the first whales migrating north generally spotted from late May and sightings peaking from June to October, the longest continuous whale watching season in Australia.

Just under an hour from the beaches and big thrills is the ‘green behind the gold’. Surrounded by farmland, vineyards and quaint mountain villages, the Gold Coast Hinterland weaves a spell. Jam-packed with lush rainforests and waterfalls, rustic retreats and quaint villages packed with paddock-toplate produce, it feels worlds away from the everyday.

Tamborine Mountain invites visitors to walk among the treetops along steel bridges on the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk or tackle the TreeTop Challenge, a series of ziplines and high ropes courses through the rainforest canopy. World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is Australia’s largest remnant of subtropical rainforest. Known for its ancient Gondwana Rainforests, more than 500 spellbinding waterfalls, rare wildlife and 320 kilometres of walking trails. O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk, spanning 180 metres and elevated 16 metres above the rainforest floor, offers a superb opportunity to observe its verdant beauty.

When night falls, luminous fungi and fireflies transform the forest, and the Natural Bridge glow worm cave in Springbrook National Park adds an otherworldly sparkle to what is an already magical spot. Or for something completely different, head to Mountview Alpaca Farm for charcuterie and a crisp glass of chardonnay with a couple of alpacas for company.

It’s not all beach and bush, visitors can discover art – inside and out – at HOTA, a cool and colourful cultural precinct where art, entertainment, culture and lifestyle meet. Enjoy live performances on the outdoor stage, movies, world-class theatre productions and galleries packed with art and imaginative ideas.

The Star is also entertainment central, hosting regular stage shows, music and entertainment, plus buzzing bars, a 24-hour casino, and multiple restaurants including new Japanese dining experience – Kiyomi and at contemporary Cantonese at Uncle Su. Make a night of it with a stay in The Star’s luxurious hotel accommodation.

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