For every location we move, I think it’s important to write about which specific areas are best to live, and why.
Unlike the comparatively small wonders of Maui and Bali, however, Australia is freaking massive. It’s like a random person asking you where in the United States they should live. And all politeness aside, without knowing what kind of person you are, your interests, preferred daily scenery, food interests, degree of political or religious weirdness, etc., and without suggesting you simply close your eyes and point to a random spot on the map (“ooo look, Tulsa!”), how the holy hell should I know where’s best for you to move?! I can’t be responsible for that kind of broad, endless possibility nonsense. But I do wish you the best.
So let’s ignore Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Logan City, Adelaide, Cairns, Hobart, the Sunshine Coast and the million other places you could possibly live in the big bad expanse of Australia, and assume you’ve officially decided to move to ‘The Goldie,’ aka Australia’s Gold Coast. With pristine beaches, year-round surf, charmingly dated 1970’s motels, hipster cafes, tons of restaurants, festivals and a shockingly blasé attitude about all things plastic surgery, it’s certainly not the worst place to land in eastern Australia. Without further ado, here’s where you should live on the Gold Coast.
Australia’s Gold Coast: The Best Areas to Live
First of all, if you plan on moving to the Gold Coast without immediately buying a car or scooter, you’re going to want to live as near to public transportation as possible. While the Gold Coast’s bus and tram systems are fairly convenient, you’ll find that not having your own vehicle limits how far you can go and at what times of day, especially once you begin to stray away from the Gold Coast Highway (namely, anywhere more inland).
Since we don’t own a vehicle in Australia, or have any immediate plans of getting one – have I mentioned Australia is expensive? – be aware that we’re writing this from the perspective of people who heavily rely on their feet, a rusty $13 bicycle, the occasional drunken Uber ride and public transportation to get them anywhere they need or want to be.
The North: Southport, Main Beach
For starters, I’ll just say that unless you’re moving to the Gold Coast to attend University or work directly with a boat company, this area isn’t known for being particularly hip or happening. Though a recent tram ride through Southport’s cafe and bar neighborhood made me somewhat rethink my stance, overall, I’d still not recommend moving to this area unless a close proximity to school or work called for it.
Pros: Conveniently near several bus routes and the Gold Coast tram line. Close to the main central hub of the Gold Coast, as well as Griffith University, the Southport Sharks Stadium, Southport Yacht Club, Runaway Bay Marina, The Spit and theme parks. Near to the beach and several harbors. Many choices for restaurants and shopping.
Cons: Has a somewhat ‘corporate’ feel about it, with lots of bland concrete office buildings, pristine yet ultimately empty grassy areas and an overall lack of character. Most rentals in the area cater to students, meaning you’re likely to find lots of options if you’re okay sharing a single room with someone else, but less opportunities as a couple, family, or solo traveler looking for their own space. Fairly time consuming to travel anywhere south of Broadbeach.
Live here if: You’re a student at Griffith University and seeking relatively cheap accommodation in a convenient location. You own a boat and plan to take it out often. You’re a somewhat bougie family unit (I’m not judging) and want to enjoy the (actually really kickass) kids playgrounds in the area. You’re on a super budget and have no qualms about sharing a room with a stranger. You plan on getting a job on a boat, at a harbor, or at a theme park and want to live near to work.
Why we like it: Well, if I haven’t already made this clear, I’m not sure we do. Give me 10 years, 2 kids, a jet ski and a brand new Prius and I might just dig it more. Meh.
The Central Strip: Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach
The main tourist hub of the Gold Coast, the ‘Glitter Strip’, as its been affectionately and insufferably dubbed since the 70’s, is the gathering place of weirdness and people watching on the Goldie. Though it’s hard to take a town named Surfers Paradise super seriously, I believe that’s also kind of the point. Much like Austin’s 6th Street, New York’s Times Square, New Orleans’ French Quarter and Bali’s Kuta, you need to embrace the chaos if you plan on living here.
Pros: Conveniently near the Gold Coast tram line, and within walking distance to tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, pubs, shops, tattoo parlors, strip clubs, karaoke bars, high rise resorts, the Convention Center, Jupiters Casino and more. Great surfing beach (I’d damn well hope so, with a name like that), and a fun place to party down into the wee hours of the morning.
Cons: I say this in a loving way, but Surfers is a bit on the trashy side, and almost no one who’s grown up on the Gold Coast or lived here for any length of time would recommend living in this area. That being said, I really don’t think it’s all that bad. In my opinion, the worst part about living in this area would be the constant crowds, the noise, and the fact that you’re less likely to make friends because most people you’ll meet will be on vacation.
Live here if: Saturday night bar fights are your jam. I kid. Live here if you are okay with answering the question “why Surfers?” every day, you scored on a really cheap room, plan on working in one of the nearby resorts and value being close to work, or you recently inherited mass sums of money and want a killer view from a fancy high rise apartment.
Why we like it: It’s Vegas’ baby sister, which might in fact be Reno if I’d ever been to Reno and knew what Reno was like. It’s a well-balanced, somewhat strange mix of class and trash, and though I’m alright to visit it on the random nights I feel like singing Usher and drinking too many bogan beers, I’m also fairly alright with it not being my home base.
The Hip Hub: Mermaid Beach, Nobby’s Beach, Miami, Burleigh Heads
Without a doubt, this is the fastest-growing strip of ‘coolness’ the Gold Coast has to offer. Located just south of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, residents here are treated to a quieter, more local, authentically hip Aussie experience than their northern counterparts. We totally lucked out and nabbed a gorgeous apartment (with a radical English chick roommate, nonetheless) in an area of Burleigh Heads called Koala Park, sandwiched between Tallebudgera Creek, the stunning Burleigh Heads National Park and a white sand beach. <pats self on back> Well done, us.
While neighborhoods like Mermaid Waters, Varsity Lakes, and Burleigh Waters are located just inland from here, the bus routes through these areas typically only run once an hour, which, for our sake, isn’t often enough to warrant the slightly cheaper price of living there.
Pros: Convenient to the Gold Coast Highway bus line, and fronted by an incredibly long, sandy, beautiful stretch of beach, perfect for surfing, lazy days in the sunshine, whale watching, sunrise walks and boozy beach picnics with your homies. Excellent paddle boarding, creekside grilling and boating at Tallebudgera Creek. Great cafes, surf clubs, bowls clubs, restaurants, night and weekend markets, boutique shops, bars, and more. Easy walking to different hangout spots, and the short hiking trails in Burleigh Heads National Park are time-efficient and stunning. Younger crowd than Southport, and older than Surfers.
Cons: I could potentially see how this area could be seen as too cool for its own good, but I personally don’t think it’s gotten there yet. Sure, there are vegan snacks galore, and a store where all the employees seem to have been hired to play bongos for the entirety of their shift, but does that necessarily make it bad? You can still drink martinis and eat burgers around the corner, so it is what it is. I guess the point is I can’t really think of any cons, except that it’s way too hard to eat food after 9pm. Where the hell are all the 24 hour diners, Australia?!?
Live here if: You dig nature (there’s a million little gorgeous nooks to hide out in), and are looking for an area to meet lots of talented, attractive, friendly, fun locals. Rad coffee shops turn you on, you’re a surfer, or you’re really hoping to run into Chris Hemsworth on a coffee run. Or an actual run, more likely.
Why we like it: It’s beautiful, relaxing and funky, and it feels like home. ‘Nuff said.
The Lower ‘Hoods: Palm Beach, Currumbin, Tugun, Bilinga
While still very similar in scenery to the areas listed directly above, these southern gems are perhaps a little quieter and further from the larger, more happening areas of the Gold Coast.
Pros: Convenient to the Gold Coast Highway bus line and airport, and fronted by less crowded stretches of beach and renowned, very crowded surf spots like Kirra. Excellent kayaking, paddle boarding and boating at Currumbin Creek. Short drive (assuming you make friends with someone who has a car or want to try hitchhiking) to the Currumbin Rock Pools and Springbrook National Park. Good assortment of cafes, restaurants, shops and bars, with high probability of new locations opening up soon.
Cons: If you plan on working in the area, it ain’t no thang, but if you get a job anywhere north of Broadbeach and are without a vehicle, plan on spending lots of time on the bus. Everything closes early, so there’s pretty much no partying to be had unless a random band happens to be passing through the Currumbin Soundlounge.
Live here if: You don’t mind making a commute to enjoy peace and quiet in your living arrangements, and you don’t particularly care about being ‘in the scene,’ to put it badly. You’re more of a daytime outdoors person than a happy hour seeker slash evening bar explorer. Cozy cafes and op shops (aka thrift shops) make your day, and the idea of sharing the beach with a million 20-somethings sounds gross.
Why we like it: This area is like the handsome older brother of your best friend. You certainly enjoy visiting it often, but you have a feeling you’re not quite old enough to fully appreciate all of its charm.
The Far South Stunner: Coolangatta
‘Cooly,’ as it’s called, is an alluring place. Located on the edge of the state border between Queensland and New South Wales, Coolangatta is the southernmost point and town on the Gold Coast.
Pros: Cooly is, at least in my opinion, probably tied with Burleigh Heads as the most loveable town on the coast. Killer surfing at Snapper Rocks and D’bah, and plenty of lookout points, beaches, cafes, restaurants, shops, markets and quirky festivals to keep you entertained otherwise. Likely to meet lots of friendly locals, considering it’s decently far off the tourist trail.
Cons: Far removed from other towns, especially if you don’t have a vehicle. I can’t imagine living here and working anywhere north of Currumbin, and wouldn’t recommend it. Definitely an older crowd, and not particularly well known for happenings after 9pm.
Live here if: You get a job and housing in the area, and are okay with small town life. You’re a surfer and plan on spending most days in the water. You’re training to be a long distance cycler and figure you may as well enjoy some lovely scenery on your route.
Why we like it: It’s charming as hell, and totally retirement-worthy. It’s also (according to some random lady I met on the beach) one of the only places on Australia’s east coast where you can see the sunrise and sunset.
Happy Gold Coasting, travelers, and keep in touch if you’re cruising or moving through.
Maps courtesy of Visit Gold Coast.