Beneath a jagged skyline shaped by dozens of high-rise beachfront apartment blocks, the Gold Coast is Australia’s Miami Beach or Costa del Sol, a striking contrast to Brisbane, only an hour to the north. The coast forms a virtually unbroken beach 40km long, from South Stradbroke Island past Surfers Paradise and Burleigh Heads to the New South Wales border at Coolangatta. The beaches swarm with bathers and board-riders all year round: surfing blossomed here in the 1930s and the key surf beaches at Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads and South Stradbroke still pull daily crowds of veterans and novices.

In recent years, other attractions have sprung up, notably the club and party scene centred on Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, and several action-packed theme parks, domestic holiday blackspots mostly based about 15km northwest of the town. Aggressively superficial, Surfers is not the place for peace and quiet, but its sheer brashness can be fun for a couple of days. There’s little variation on the beach and nightclub scene, however, and if you’re concerned this will leave you jaded, bored or broke, you’re better off avoiding this corner of the state altogether.

With around three hundred days of sunshine each year there’s little “off-season” on the Gold Coast. Rain can, however, fall at any time during the year, including midwinter – when it’s usually dry in the rest of the state – but even if the crowds do thin out a little, they reappear in time for the Gold Coast Indy car race in October and then continue to swell, peaking over Christmas and New Year. The end of the school year in mid-November also heralds the phenomenon that is Schoolies Week, when thousands of high-school leavers from across the country ditch exam rooms and flock to Surfers for a few days of hard partying, a rite of passage that causes an annual budget-accommodation crisis.

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