Why visit Coolangatta
In many years of solo travels in Australia, I visited countless places and remote areas with secluded beaches and wilderness areas. Still, I discovered the Gold Coast in 2013 on a trip to Coolangatta. I was keen to see with my own eyes the place that attracts over 5 million tourists every year from all over the world. An exciting fact is that 15% of Gold Coast visitors return to visit or buy properties to become permanent residents. Here is my guide to the best things to do in and around Coolangatta Solo.
Where is Coolangatta
Coolangatta is located in Southern Queensland on the border to New South Wales, to the twin town Tweed Heads. It is quirky how this geographical border shapes the same place in two states. A sculpture at the roundabout on Boundary Street is the only visible sign of the geographical border unless you know about it. You could not tell you are in 2 different states just by crossing the road.
This means that during the six months of light saving, there will be two different times zone within the same towns. The funniest thing is on New Year’s Eve when you can celebrate the New Year twice by joining another club across the road…one hour after midnight.
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How to get to Coolangatta
You can get to Coolangatta by train, bus, or by car. You can take the train to Cold Coast City and then take the local bus there to Coolangatta. Another option you can do is take a bus ride directly from Brisbane. If you want the convenience of a vehicle, you can hire a car in the city and drive approximately 100 km from Brisbane.
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What to do In Coolangatta
Coolangatta is different from Surfers Paradise. Although there are high buildings in the town centre, the architecture has more gentle, soft contours with plenty of natural attractions, pretty surf beaches, and long vast stretches of sandy beaches, offering excellent walking and sighting of Surfers Paradise from afar. It’s the perfect place if you travel solo. You don’t have to walk long distances to get to places.
Do The Long Beach Walk
I recommend doing the long walk from the Pacific Parade or a shorter one from the Marine Parade up to the Captain Cook Memorial Lighthouse. This walk takes you through the famous swimming beaches like Greenmount Beach to Greenmount Heathland down to Rainbow Bay, a trendy surfing spot, along with Snapper Rocks, the most eastern rocky point. From there, you have a spectacular north- and southbound view of Coolangatta. This is the no. one thing to do if you visit on a day trip from Brisbane.
Enjoy ocean views at Captain Cook Memorial Lighthouse.
From the Captain Cook Memorial Lighthouse, keep walking up the hill for a fabulous 180-degree view over the ocean to Point Danger. On the lookout, you can take photos of Captain Cook Memorial Lighthouse and enjoy a stunning view over the sea, the jetty and the lovely Duranbah Beach with the Tweed River Inlets. The whole area is green, ideal for a picnic, and has BBQ facilities.
Watch surfers catching a wave.
From any beach in Coolangatta, you have a majestic view of the Surfer Paradise silhouette on the horizon. Kirra Beach and Coolangatta Beach are the best viewing points for watching surfers catch a wave. I could spend hours there watching surfers with the Surfer Paradise spectacular background.
Chill out at one of the Coolangatta Beachfront Cafes
The entire beach walk is quite a long one. And while there are many benches to sit down on the walking and cycling path, don’t miss out on stopping for a coffee and cake at one of the excellent cafes and eateries on the Coolangatta promenade walk.
Enjoy the Cooly’s Rock Festival
It was just a coincidence for me to visit during the Cooly’s Rock Festival. It is held every year in June and is one of the coolest things to do in Coolangatta. This is a unique festival not to miss out on if you are interested in vintage cars and memorabilia. And the finest rock music and dancing shows.
More fun things to do around Coolangatta
If you have more time and want to visit nearby places, hop on and off a bus from Coolangatta to Surfer Paradise and stop along your way. Or you can take a self-drive trip to the gold coast hinterland.
Visit The Currumbin Sanctuary
Next to the bustling beachside town with lots of shops, boutiques, cafes, clubs, pubs and live entertainment, you can visit the wildlife sanctuary in Currumbin, which is only a 7 km drive from town. If you need a nature escape at some stage, with a short drive inland (30km), you can reach the incredible rainforest and do one of the many walks.
Go for a hike to Mount Warning’s Summit
The Lamington National Park and the Springbrook National Park are very close to Coolangatta and home to an ancient volcanic area with beautiful walking trails. A popular hike from Coolangatta is up to Mount Warning’s summit. This is a must-do thing near Coolangatta. An excellent place for seeing wildlife and rare ancient trees estimated to be 2000 years old.
While my two days in Coolangatta allowed me a taste of the Gold Coast, I think this place is a great stopover if you plan a longer East Coast Trip to Australia. Walking along its beautiful beaches, watching surfers catching waves and taking photos of stunning Surfer’s Paradise on the horizon created long-lasting memories and the wish to revisit.
Where to Stay in Coolangatta
If you have not booked your accommodations yet, check the links below, or you can also check out our Guide To The Best Areas and Neighbourhoods in the Gold Coast.
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First published in 2013, last updated in Jan 2023
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