Aside from hitting the famous beach, these are the very best low-cost gems on the Gold Coast.
1 | Discover the gorgeous tramping.
Photographs worth a million bucks needn’t cost you a dollar at Burleigh Head National Park. Tackle the rainforest circuits and snap up stunning coastal sights as you go. Or climb Tomewin Range and reward yourself with stunning views, a fresh coffee and a couple homemade scones at Freeman's Organic Farm.
2 | Take in a bit of culture.
If you're in need of a bit of refining — or just a bit of air conditioning — head to Home of the Arts (HOTA) at Surfers Paradise, which is mostly free. It's brimming with contemporary artwork and a hip, friendly crowd. If that doesn't do it for you, how about the Jellurgal Aboriginal Culture Centre, which you'll find at the foot of the Burleigh Headland? Admission is free, and you can learn about this fascinating cultural heritage. Go deeper by joining guided walks of Jellurgal Mountain — these are popular, so book ahead!
3 | Explore a splash of surf history.
Where did the shaka even come from? You might find out at Surf World. Boasting Australia’s largest collection of surfboards, the museum traces the country’s epic surf culture for just a few dollars admission.
4 | Head out for a picnic lunch.
One of the best places in the city to set up your rug and hamper is the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens. As well as beautiful blooms, weaving pathways and a lovely lake (hello, Instagram!), there are also barbecue facilities, shelters and picnic areas. Open year round, from 5am to 7pm each day. Actually, you could have a picnic brunch, lunch and dinner there.
5 | Take in one of those famous sunrises.
If you can avoid hitting the snooze button, you'll be well rewarded with the sight over one of the Gold Coast’s stunning beaches.
6 | Hit a music festival.
For a few days every May, the Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival takes over open spaces in the Broadbeach CBD and sets a chill soundtrack, all totally free. Then in June, Groundwater Country Music Festival returns for a weekend of stellar (free!) performances in the heart of Broadbeach. With major stages in Surf Parade, Old Burleigh Road, Victoria Avenue and Oracle Boulevard, you're sure to hear plenty of twang.
7 | Go whale spotting.
Autumn and winter is whale migration season in the Gold Coast and you can admire these giant creatures as they splash their way north — and then south again come spring. Our top picks for a totally free nature show? Miami Lookout, Burleigh Hill and Point Danger.
8 | Stroll Miami Marketta.
Ok, ok, this is only free if you don't buy anything to eat, which is nearly impossible. But even without the food, there’s plenty of live music and excellent people watching. Open Wednesday evenings and the weekend in Miami, the market offers loads of international cuisine and even a dessert hall!
9 | Explore the Nerang River.
Head to Evandale Sculpture Walk, which features loads of eclectic art pieces from around the world. Simply pop into the Arts Centre Gold Coast on Bundall Road for free access.
10 | Put the pedal to it.
If you have a few Aussie notes left over at the end of your trip, hire a bike and cycle The Gold Coast Oceanway. A network of pathways fronting the coastline, these casual ambles are very popular with both cyclists and locals. Of course, if you want to do it on the real cheap, it's a great place for a walk.
11 | Dip into a hidden swimming hole.
We’re about to spill a massive Gold Coast secret. The Currumbin Rock Pools are a little-known swimming hole, just 15 minutes by car from Currumbin Beach. It's a little treasure that doesn't cost a dime, and you'll find rope swings, leaping ledges and a beautiful lagoon. There are even picnic tables — so don't turn up without lunch and bevies!
12 | Taste your way through the local craft beer scene.
You don’t need a much money to explore Gold Coast’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Tastes are usually on the house, and you can soak up the atmosphere at each brewery — starting with Balter, before moving north to Burleigh Brewing, Black Hops and Miami's Lost Palms. If you want to hit them all, we recommend heading out Fridays through Sundays.