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ICA24 Local Hosts: Day Trips and Things to do on and Around the Gold Coast

  • 1.  ICA24 Local Hosts: Day Trips and Things to do on and Around the Gold Coast

    Posted 12-06-2023 09:08
    Posted By Oscar Davis, Sasha Goodwin, Chaundra Manorome, and Samantha Vilkins

    Welcome to the second installment of a series of local insights, recommendations and advice for what to do, see, eat and explore around the Gold Coast. This series of articles from your local hosts will hopefully inspire you to get out and explore the beautiful area when you visit for the conference. The following will detail some recommendations for day trips and local experiences in the area. While we cannot detail everything since there's so much to do around here, we have compiled some of our favourite things! At the bottom of this article, you find some more resources to help you plan out the rest of your tip. This article will cover from Noosa Heads to Byron Bay. 



    My (Chaundra) personal recommendation as someone who is not from Australia and has had many overseas visitors is to plan your trip in advance. I'd recommend, if you are flying into Brisbane and you have a few days before the conference begins, to head straight up to the Sunshine Coast (North of Brisbane). Along the way, you will find the beautiful Glass House Mountains (which you can hike up Mt NgunGun for a beautiful 360 view. Not far from there, you will find yourself at Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's Zoo), and if you continue, you will end up in beautiful Noosa, a holiday destination for many Australians in the area. Then on your way back, you can stop in Brisbane, then arrive on the Gold Coast. From there, you could do some more day trips down South to beautiful Byron Bay. 

    City escape: Brisbane

    The state capital city of Brisbane, known as Meanjin, on Yuggera Turrbal Country lies an easy hour north of the Gold Coast - and offers big city perks (like great shopping and on-trend eateries) along with plenty of that relaxed Queensland charm. You can also easily get from the Gold Coast to Brisbane without a car, as the Gold Coast tram links up to the train line right into Brisbane Central Station. 

    In Brisbane itself, Queen Street Mall delivers shopping in the city's heart, with leading high street brands and department stores, the Wintergarden's surplus of edgy boutiques, and QueenPlaza's international designers (including Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent), all in one place.

    Queensland Art Gallery, from:

    For a slower-paced afternoon, park your car in South Bank and enjoy a stroll along the riverfront, grab something to eat at Fish Lane, or wander one of Brisbane's world-class exhibitions. South Bank is at Brisbane's cultural heart and between the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), State Library of Queensland, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Queensland Maritime Museum, and Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, there's sure to be a show, exhibition or historical tale to take your fancy.

    If you're keen to meet some Australian native animals on your trip, there's no better place than Brisbane's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to over 100 koalas and 75 other species of Australian native animals. For native flora instead, Brisbane has two botanical gardens: the riverside City Botanic Gardens, and the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, boasting a massive Tropical Display Dome and offering guided walks through its 56-hectare gardens. 

    Tangalooma wrecks, from:

    Queensland is home to the largest sand islands in the world, with many accessible from Brisbane. Ferries across to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) depart from Brisbane's oceanside suburbs, while Yarun (Bribie Island) is accessible by bridge. All are stunning, with activities in and out of the water from snorkeling to art gallery tours. 

    "Bluey's Brisbane", from:

    Brisbane is also the real-life home of the children's television show Bluey. If you're a fan, scouting the city for familiar locations can make for an excellent adventure and a way to better get to know Brisbane. 


    Local Activities on the Gold Coast

    Warner Bros Movie World and Dreamworld

    Looking to trade the Gold Coast's laid-back charm for something more thrilling? A trip to Warner Brothers Movie World or Dreamworld is just what the doctor ordered. If you are bringing your children with you they will love meeting their favourite characters, from Superman to Bugs Bunny and enjoy the adrenaline-pumping rides.

    National Parks

    Draped with lush rainforest, the Gold Coast Hinterland is an ideal place to sneaker up and take a walk to see where the green meets the gold. Both Lamington and Springbrook national parks offer ample opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with nature. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the parks are home to ancient natural beauty, like Springbrook's Natural Bridge - an enchanting waterfall that cascades through the arches of a basalt cave. You could also wind your way up Lamington National Park Road for waterfall spotting and a stroll among the treetops at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat. Or, settle in at the base of the mountain at O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards, where you can pair a free wine tasting with a gourmet homestead picnic – tartan rug included.

    Tamborine Mountain is one of the most beautiful peaks in Australia that many enjoy hiking and trekking all year round. The Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is probably the best – and easiest way to get your head around just how beautiful Mount Tamborine is. Pack a camera, put on your best activewear and grab your walking shoes! This brings you to the best spots in the national park and the experienced guide will help point out the huge variety of wildlife, flora and fauna that you can spot along the way.


    The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has a huge variety of Australian birds and animals displayed in modern habitats for clear viewing & optimal animal welfare. There's plenty here to do for the whole family, including a walkthrough kangaroo enclosure and the new Lost Valley experience. The bird show here is excellent with stars like the giant wedge-tail eagle, the heart faced barn owl, barking owl, black Kites and colourful parrots. You can pat and feed a kangaroo or hold a snake. If you are feeling adventurous you can try the treetop climbing course.

    Aside from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the Gold Coast is also home to Fleays Wildlife Conservation Park, which offers more of an educational experience to the local wildlife. This is a great place to see some local animals being rehabilitated and learn all about their habitats. If you have a bit more time on your hands and want to also see some of these furry creatures in the wild, you can find koalas in the Burleigh headland (if you're lucky, I actually saw one there just the other day!). But if you have a mode of transportation like a rental car and you want to see some wild kangaroos, I recommend driving out to Currumbin Eco Village. There's always kangaroos hanging out there. Then if you continue down the road, you will find the Currumbin rockpools, a great place for a picnic or a quick swim!

    Staying active while you're on the coast 

    If you are athletic and love to go to the gym, swim, bike or run, then you will love the opportunities available here on the Gold Coast. Aside from having gyms around every corner like Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, World Gym, BFT etc. there are lots of opportunities for exercise along the coast. You will find outdoor gym equipment in each stretch of beach, from Mainbeach all the way down to Coolangatta. However, there are also a lot of running, cycling and swimming groups that meet along the coast for some outdoor activities. As someone who is part of these types of groups I can attest that they are always welcoming to newcomers. Before you arrive at the Gold Coast just google 'run' or 'cycling' or 'triathlon' groups in the area and make contact to find out their meeting schedules. If you are a cyclist and you are bringing your bike, I'm (Chaundra) more than happy to show you some local rides in the area, another option is to check the Strava routes. There will be hundreds available in the area. If you're bringing a mountain bike there are also great trails around. Nerang would be the closest. Or there's the BVRT rail trail which makes for a great day excursion if you're on a gravel bike. 

    Another great way to stay in shape and active while you visit is by walks along the beach during sunrise, sunset, or any time of the day! However, if you walk along during dusk and dawn, you will often find several outdoor group fitness classes or yoga classes. A lot of these activities are listed on the Gold Coast Council Website

    Resources if you're looking for more things to do (locally)

    Coming up… 

    Our next article will cover more specific things to do on the Gold Coast and will showcase the diverse and vibrant culinary scene, including top restaurants, local delicacies, and catering options for conference attendees. We will also explore the cultural attractions and artistic offerings of the Gold Coast, such as museums, galleries, and live performances that conference attendees can enjoy before or after the event.

    Tom Mankowski
    Washington DC
    United States