The Best Things To Do in Coolangatta, Australia by

The Best Things To Do in Coolangatta, Australia

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When we booked three weeks at the Beachcomber Coolangatta on the Australian Gold Coast, we were ecstatic for three reasons: sunshine, sand and sea. At first, we envisioned doing little more than soaking up the sun’s rays on the powder-sand beach. Coming from a whirlwind week of sightseeing in Sydney, we were looking forward to the slow pace of beach life. We swapped out our city walking shoes for bare feet – and discovered an abundance of things to do in Coolangatta, both on and off the beach.


Things to Do in Coolangatta

Our list of what to do in Coolangatta – or just Cooly – includes the top Coolangatta activities. At the end of the post, we include essential information, like what Cooly hotel to stay at and where to eat. And, to help you better plan your trip, we also provide a Coolangatta map.


Take Your Vitamin Sea

Go to the beach! Put your feet in the sand. Sunbathe near the surf. Walk along the shore. The main attraction in Coolangatta is the beach…and there is plenty of it. We are hoping this is already on your list of Coolangatta things to do – but if it’s not, it needs to be! As they say, Life’s a Beach, Enjoy the Waves!

Our visit was in the winter, and we still went to the beach nearly every day. The strong Australian sun warms the sand and a gentle ocean breeze keeps beach-goers cool. Mornings are ideal for brisk beach walks when the fresh air is cooler. Even in the winter, the afternoons are warm enough to take a dip in the ocean waves. The sea is just what we needed – and, for the first few days of our trip, we let one lazy day melt into the next. At the beach, you can just kick back and enjoy the ocean view along Australia’s Gold Coast.


Get Up Before Dawn

We know what you are thinking: Are you kidding me? I’m on vacation! But trust us on this one: Coolangatta sunrises are spectacular. Getting up early to watch sunrise on the Gold Coast is definitely worth it! There is a peaceful calm in witnessing the fiery sun break through the darkness and slowly inch up over the horizon. Top Tip: The coastline of Coolangatta angles northeast, so to get a good view of the sunrise straight on, we recommend walking to Point Danger. It’s the best viewpoint of the eastern horizon.

On the day we chose to watch the sunrise, we woke up at 6:00am – but it only took us about five minutes to pile on four layers of clothes, brush our teeth and get out the door. As soon as we stepped outside, our hopes of seeing the sunrise on the Gold Coast were squashed: thick, dark clouds hung low in the sky. But, we were already dressed and outside, so we continued with our plan.

We puffed up the hill to Point Danger in darkness. As we crested the hill, we could see a break in the clouds just on the horizon and streaming rays of sunlight were already starting to shine through. Soon, the dark clouds were rimmed in dazzling gold and hot pink. Below, the water was shimmering brilliantly, and sunrise surfers were already riding waves.


Enjoy the Afterglow

Sunrise isn’t the only time to keep an eye on the sky in Coolangatta. Although some people may scoff at the idea of ‘watching the sunset’ from a northeast-facing beach, the sunsets are actually fantastic. The afterglow from the setting sun can set the sky on fire. As the sun sets in the west, the light shifts radiantly on the eastern sky. Watching the colorful display reflect of the glimmering Coral Sea is a must-see in Coolangatta.


Grab Binoculars for Whale Watching Coolangatta

Whale Watching is one of the top Coolangatta attractions – and there are numerous boat tours that take visitors on a scouting mission out at sea. However, the whales are easily spotted from the shore in Cooly. Whether sitting on the beach or at a lookout point, whale watching from the coast is one of top things to do in Coolangatta, QLD.

From June to early November, nearly 16,000 humpback whales move in pods passing Cooly on their route. The migrating whales swim north from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Gold Coast to both mate and to give birth. August is the most eventful time for whale watching in Coolangatta, as whales are moving in both directions. Some haven’t arrived to their northern destination, while others – with their just-born babies swimming alongside – are already heading back south.

The lookout at Point Danger is the best whale watching spot we’ve found in Coolangatta. Almost every time we ventured to the elevated lookout point, we have seen some evidence of whales in the area: mist from spouts, splashing from playful fins and tails and sometimes even a full breech.

One afternoon, we arrived just in time for an impressive show. As graceful as dancers, but as big as, well….whales, the giants launched out of the ocean and smacked back in the water creating an enormous splash. We had never seen such a sight; just as one splashed down, another would fly into the air. In between breaching, they would wave their fins and flap their tails, as if knowing they were entertaining a crowd on shore. The display lasted for nearly a half hour before they continued on their journey.

Top Tip: Even with my Canon Rebel, these were the best photos I could take with my 18-55mm lens. You will need a zoom lens if taking photos from the shore. If you want a good view of the whales, be sure to bring binoculars

Want a closer view of the whales? Find out more about booking a Gold Coast whale watching tour for your trip! 


Cruise to Currumbin

Another one of the Coolangatta fun things to do is to hop on a bike and pedal around town. There are miles and miles of bike paths that make it easy to enjoy a bike ride in Cooly. One of our favorite bike routes was a 5-mile stretch from Coolangatta to Currumbin. The bike path between the two towns sticks close to the edge of the surf, providing fabulous views and places to stop along the way. The relatively flat path enables a smooth and almost effortless ride.

From Coolangatta, we donned the required helmets, saddled up and cruised north into the wind with the sun on our faces. We stayed on the main bike path, passing Kirra Beach and other beachside towns, each of which clustered around a strip of shops and ocean view cafes.

We ended our northbound ride where Currumbin creek flows into the ocean; locked up our bikes and went for a stroll on the beach. From Currumbin Rock we could see Surfers Paradise to the north and to the south we could see the distance we covered from Coolangatta. Board surfers, kite surfers and wind surfers provided entertainment as they zipped through the waves.

On the ride back to Coolangatta, we stopped at Elephant Rock for a beverage and a view. From the vantage point, we spotted whales just off the coast that were splashing about, flipping their tails and smacking their fins. Back on our bikes, we noticed the afternoon winds were picking up. With the wind at our backs, we pedaled back to Cooly in no time at all.

Top Tip: One of the many perks at Beachcomber International Coolangatta was the free use of their beach cruiser bikes and helmets. If your accommodations don’t provide bicycles, there are bike rental shops in town.


Splish-Splash in the Sea

While lazing around the beach is truly relaxing, splashing around in the water is even better! Jump in the waves, rent a stand-up paddle board, take a surf lesson or set sail from the shore in a sailboat. Water sports are one of the biggest Coolangatta tourist attractions – so get out on the water and test your skills!

You can read reviews and book Coolangatta activities – from surf lessons to sailboat cruises – on Viator!

During our trip, we paddled around in kayaks, sailed a small catamaran and had our first crack at stand-up paddle boarding. I had long wanted to learn to SUP (that’s short for Stand-Up Paddle). I have to admit, it isn’t as easy as it looks, and I felt like a wobbly kid learning to ride a bike. But, once I got my balance (by keeping my eye on the horizon), it was awesome.


Watch World-Class Coolangatta Surfers at Snapper Rocks

Whether we were searching for whales in the ocean or the sunrise on the horizon, one thing we could always find in Coolangatta, Australia was surfers on the waves. Surfing is, after all, one of the top things to do in Coolangatta, Gold Coast. Early mornings and late afternoons the entire stretch of water from Greenmount Beach to Rainbow Bay to Duranbah was filled with long boards, short boards and sometimes even boogie boards. However, the best place to watch Coolangatta surfers is at Snapper Rocks.

Clad in wet suits, the surfers jog across the beach with their boards tucked under their arms and splash into the water without any reaction to the chilly water. Hundreds of surfers sit buoyantly in the water waiting for the next set of waves and each time one rolls in, the “paddle-battle” is on to catch one. The swell hitting the reef at Snapper Rocks on the east end of Rainbow Bay produces some incredible waves; the most skilled surfers line up waiting to ride them.


Day Trips from Coolangatta

Although we loved spending our days on the Coolangatta Beach, there are a few things to do near Coolangatta that shouldn’t be missed!

Day Trip to Surfers Paradise

Located 16 miles north of Coolangatta, a trip to Surfers Paradise is a fun way to spend a day. {Read about our Day Trip to Surfers Paradise}

Take a Day Trip to Springbrook National Park

As much as we love the beach, we also love the forest! Just an hour drive from Cooly, Springbrook National Park has multiple hiking trails for a full day of fun! {Read about the 3 Springbrook National Park walks we recommend}

Go South to Byron Bay

Byron Bay is a seaside town with a chill vibe…and an iconic lighthouse. You can drive to Byron Bay in about 45 minutes – or join one of the Byron Bay tours. {Read about our trip to Byron Bay}


Coolangatta Nightlife

Coolangatta isn’t known for having a stellar nightlife scene (go to Surfers Paradise if that is what you are looking for!). But, there are a few fun Coolangatta nightclubs for visitors looking for fun things to do in Coolangatta at night. For live music, The Coolangatta Hotel usually has an entertaining line up and fun crowds.


More Things to Do Around Coolangatta

Need more ideas of what to do in Coolangatta, Queensland? Check out these Coolangatta activities and attractions:

Coolangatta Golf

Golfers should bring their clubs and head to the Coolangatta and Tweed Heads Golf Club.

Visit Broadbeach

Broadbeach, just south of Surfers Paradise, is home to a convention center, a casino and gardens. Of course, spending time on the beach still ranks as one of the top things to do in Broadbeach. For more ideas of what to do in Broadbeach, check recommendations on TripAdvisor.

Coolangatta with Kids

Looking for fun family activities on the Gold Coast? Check out the tips in this family guide to the Gold Coast for tons of tips and information. 


What’s On Coolangatta

If you are looking for things to do in Coolangatta this weekend, check the calendar of Coolangatta events.


Coolangatta Accommodation

During our trip to Coolangatta, we stayed at the Beachcomber Coolangatta. Located across the street from the beach, our unit had one bedroom with a pull-out couch, full kitchen with dishwasher and an in-unit washer and dryer. Our spacious balcony faced the sea, which was lovely. The Coolangatta beach resort had several on-site amenities, like a rooftop pool, hot tub and BBQ grills. They also provided free use of beach cruiser bikes and boogie boards. Additionally, they had scheduled weekly activities, many of which were free.

However, visitors have ample options when it comes to Coolangatta holiday rentals – from inexpensive hostel rooms to high-rise Coolangatta resorts. Top Tip: Looking for beachfront accommodation in Coolangatta? Many resorts overlook the ocean, but none are actually on the beach. We recommend starting your search for Coolangatta NSW accommodation on


Coolangatta Restaurants

Coolangatta boasts an array of restaurants. For beachfront dining, check out Coolangatta Surf Club. For delicious burgers and steaks, go to Bondi Grill’d. Find the top Cooly restaurants and read reviews on TripAdvisor


Flights to Coolangatta

The Gold Coast Airport is located in Bilinga, the suburb next to Coolangatta. The airport is serviced by domestic and international flights. You can search SkyScanner for the best prices on flights to the Gold Coast. Use this link for a Coolangatta Airport Map. Passengers can take Bus 760 from the airport to Coolangatta or book an airport transfer. Coolangatta car rentals are available at the airport; use this link to find transportation for your trip.


Coolangatta Tourist Information Centre

Tourist information for Coolangatta and the region can be obtained at the airport at the Gold Coast Visitor Centre. Tweed Heads Information Center also provides area info and help with booking things to do in Coolangatta and Tweed Heads.


Coolangatta Map, Gold Coast



Before You Go

  • Don’t forget your beach essentials! You will need a swimsuit, high-SPF sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and flip flops or beach shoes
  • Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving.
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.


Start planning your trip to Coolangatta! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!


We want to know: What is your favorite Cooly activity? What would you add to our list of things to do in Coolangatta, Queensland? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below! 


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The Best Things To Do in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, Australia by

Things to do in Coolangatta, Australia by Best Things To Do in Coolangatta, Australia by

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