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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 Australian 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.
9 Things To Do in Coolangatta, Gold Coast
Our list of what to do in Coolangatta – or just Cooly – includes many of the top Coolangatta activities. At the end of this Coolangatta travel guide, we offer helpful travel tips, like what Cooly hotel to stay at and where to eat along the Gold Coast. And, to help you better plan your trip, we also provide a Coolangatta map.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Gold Coast blog post so that you can use it while planning your trip to Australia!
#1 Take Your Vitamin Sea
Go to a Coolangatta 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 to Coolangatta 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 in the cool fresh air. Even in the Australian winter, the afternoons are warm enough to take a dip in the Pacific 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 a Coolangatta beach, you can just kick back and enjoy the ocean view along Australia’s Gold Coast.
#2 See a Gold Coast Sunrise
We know what you are thinking: Are you kidding me? I’m on vacation! But trust us on this one: Coolangatta sunrises are a spectacular experience. Plus, they are one of the free things to do in Coolangatta – so why not?
Getting up early to watch sunrise on the Australian 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.
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 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 on with our Cooly sunrise 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. Absolutely worth it!
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.
#3 Enjoy an Australian Sunset
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 Australian 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.
#4 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 Gold 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. Every time we ventured to the elevated Gold Coast lookout point, we have seen some activity of whales in the area: mist from spouts, splashing from playful fins and tails and sometimes even a full breech.
Top Tip: Even with our go-to travel camera, the Canon Rebel, you will need a professional zoom lens if attempting to take 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!
#5 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 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 with 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, the afternoon winds were picking up and 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.
#6 Set Sail (or Stand-Up Paddle Board)
While lazing around Coolangatta 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 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.
#7 Catch World-Class Coolangatta Surf 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 sea 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 ocean swell hitting the sandbar at Snapper Rocks on the east end of Rainbow Bay produces some incredible waves; the most skilled surfers line up waiting to ride them on what is know as the “superbank”.
#8 Visit the Captain Cook Memorial
Standing on Point Danger on the border of Queensland and New South Wales is a memorial dedicated to Captain James Cook. Although we already mentioned Point Danger as a destination on our Coolangatta to do list (both for sunrise and whale watching), the Memorial to Captain Cook deserves some attention, as well.
The modern lighthouse – called the Captain Cook Memorial Light or Point Danger Light – that stands on the site is the first of its kind. Rather than traditional lighting, it was configured with a laser beam of light (which was later deemed inefficient for ships). Rising 7 stories, the lighthouse is comprised of four pillars – one for each direction: North, South, East and West.
The lighthouse was built in 1971 to commemorate 200 years since Captain Cook’s first voyage along the Australian coast in 1770.
#9 Take Day Trips from Coolangatta
Although we loved spending our days on the Coolangatta Beach, there are a few things to do near Cooly 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.
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!
Go South to Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a seaside town with a bohemian vibe…and an iconic lighthouse. You can drive to Byron Bay in about 45 minutes – or join one of the Byron Bay tours.
Coolangatta Map, Gold Coast, Australia
Use this Google Map for all the best things to see in Coolangatta and around the Gold Coast of Australia.
More Things To Do Near Coolangatta
Need more ideas of what to do in Coolangatta, Queensland? Check out these Coolangatta activities and attractions.
Spend a Day at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Want to see koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles? Spend the day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – it’s one of the top things to do around Coolangatta! Whether you breeze through the park on the train or take the Tree Top Challenge, it is certain to be an entertaining day of fun.
Play a Round of Coolangatta Golf
Golfers should bring their clubs and head to the Coolangatta and Tweed Heads Golf Club to play a round. While it is the best course in Cooly, there are other nearby courses, too.
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.
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 hotel search for Coolangatta NSW accommodation on Booking.com.
Coolangatta Restaurants and Bars
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.
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 bars and 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, especially for a legendary Australian Sunday Session!
Flights to Coolangatta
The Gold Coast Airport (OOL) is located in Bilinga, the suburb next to Coolangatta. The Coolangatta Airport is serviced by both domestic and international flights; we arrived from Sydney and departed to Cairns. You can search SkyScanner for the best prices on flights to the Gold Coast.
Getting to Coolangatta from the Airport
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.
Alternately, if you are also visiting Brisbane, Australia, the Brisbane International Airport (BNE) offers additional international flights and is less than a 2 hour drive away from Coolangatta.
What To Pack for your Coolangatta Trip
Now that you know the best Things To Do Coolangatta, we have a few final travel tips before you go! You can find all of our advice on our Travel Packing Tips blog page – and you can grab your Free Packing Checklist here!
Gold Coast Beach Gear
Coolangatta Sightseeing Essentials
Australia Travel Insurance
We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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.
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