If you’re heading to Queensland’s east coast for a family holiday, you’re in for a treat. As the name suggests, the Gold Coast is beautiful, vibrant, and exciting. The Sunshine Coast continues this theme wonderfully, and if you are planning to travel from the Gold Coast to Sunshine Coast there is plenty to do for families. A trip across these areas is sure to be quite the adventure.
Because we live here, we know all the best things to do with kids between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. We are often asked which we prefer…
Is Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast better?
The Gold Coast is better for families looking for an action packed holiday that also has beautiful surf beaches and mountains. The Sunshine Coast is better for families who want quieter beaches, fewer high rises and animal encounters like zoos and natural experiences.You can also find more affordable accommodation for families on the Sunshine Coast.
Taking your kids along for the ride is a wonderful way to spend quality time together. And nothing says family time more than a road trip. For more kid-friendly activities, check out out list of the best things to do on the Gold Coast with kids.
Choosing to road trip between these two popular South East Queensland destinations also means that you can stop and see or do whatever takes your fancy. Whether that’s following a particularly good smell wafting in through the window, making an emergency loo stop, or fitting in many of the awesome things we’re going to look at in this list. A road trip simply allows you freedom of movement. Which anyone with children will know, is pretty important.
The drive only takes two hours if you’re in a rush. But if you want to make an adventure out of it, keep reading to find out the best things to do with your kids when driving towards the Australian Sunshine Coast.
Things to do in Gold Coast City
There are literally hundreds of things to do on the Gold Coast with kids. Famous for its long white sand beaches, surf spots and hiking trails, this city is an adventure lover’s paradise. And since it’s also home to some pretty incredible theme parks, there’s certainly no way you’ll get bored here.
There are so many Gold Coast things to do that you might not know where to start, or what is a must-see vs what is generic and can be experienced elsewhere. And then there are the kids. So here’s what you really need to see and experience during your vacation.
1. Try surfing Gold Coast’s world-renowned waves
Since this area is known for its great surf, why not take the kids to the beach for a beginner’s lesson on surfing. This is suitable for kids aged 8+ and is sure to be lots of fun, while also a learning experience. You can book a morning lesson, to fit in more activities in the afternoon.
Once you’ve spent 2 hours or so on the board, sun yourselves on the sand. If you use reward systems with your children, ice-cream is a great treat for trying something new and a little bit challenging. If you’re hungry for more than ice-cream, try one of Gold Coasts kid-friendly restaurants.
2. Warner Bros. Movie World
If you really want to stuff your day to the brim, you can fit this one into the same day as the surfing. Otherwise, extend your trip a little bit so that you can soak it all up to the fullest.
This movie-themed theme park is heaps of fun. The entertainment staff are excellent and will have you and the kids enthralled. You can check out heroes, villains, and everything in between. By the end of the day, you’ll feel like a kid again yourself, especially after trying out one or two of the rollercoasters.
If you are around the Gold Coast with a few days, we recommend this 3 days pass to get your into Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild.
3. Australian Outback Spectacular
Whether you’re visiting Australia for the first time, or you’re a local who’s seen it all, this experience is sure to suit everyone. After all, there’s nothing better than dinner and a show. And it can fit in nicely after Movie World, as it’s just a few steps away and is best as an evening activity.
Enjoy a delicious 3-course meal with drinks while a compelling performance takes place before you. This show includes exciting animals and immersive technology to keep the whole family entertained and happy. It’s about the heartland of Australia and the unforgiving but beautiful landscape, and will teach you about the space you’re traveling across. It’s certainly one of the coolest Gold Coast things to do.
4. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Consider spending one more day at the Gold Coast for this important attraction. At the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, your family can learn all about the local animals of Australia. The huge flocks of wild rainbow lorikeets that fly into the sanctuary for their daily feast are particularly awesome.
There are plenty of cool things to do and see here, including dingo encounters and bird shows. You’ll also witness the feeding of a massive saltwater crocodile that is so well known on the list of Australia’s scariest animals. And since this sanctuary does really important veterinary and rehabilitation work, you’ll also be teaching the kids the importance of compassion and learning.
FIND OUT MORE: Here are some things to do with teenagers on the Gold Coast, what to do on a Gold Coast rainy day, and some Gold Coast school holiday activities.
STAY: Check out our review of Voco Gold Coast, and our review of the JW Marriot Gold Coast.
EXPLORE: Check out this Aquaduck tour, this sight seeing lunch cruise, and your entry to Q1 Skypoint here.
What to do between Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast
Now that you’ve seen the best of Gold Coast attractions, you can hit the road. It should be afternoon by this point, as the next stop is an evening experience. If you’re wanting to book accommodation (instead of driving in an RV or camping), consider booking into a hotel in Yatala. Then you don’t have to drive after this next one.
5. Yatala Drive-In
This drive-in theatre is a unique and exciting experience that the kids are sure to love. Send the kids to the playground before the movie, while you grab dinner at the retro diner.
You’ll tune your car radio to the soundtrack and watch one of the latest releases under the stars. So pack in some snacks, get comfy, and enjoy the great atmosphere and old-school movie experience. Just be sure to check that they are playing a kid-friendly movie when you visit. There are three screen fields, so you’ll have options.
6. Yatala Pies
The next morning, make a quick stop at Yatala pies to stock up for the rest of your road trip. This little gem has an excellent reputation amongst pie lovers. You can get a few savory pies for breakfast, and some sweet ones for later.
Things to do in Brisbane
As the capital of Queensland, Brisbane has lots of cultural activities to engage in. it’s a great place to learn while being entertained. However, while there are lots of fun things to do in Brisbane, they might not be as exciting as the Gold Coast activities. So consider spending just a day here before moving on to the Sunshine Coast attractions.
7. Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Since holidays cannot be constant thrills and excitement without getting a little tiring, head to the botanic gardens next to unwind a little. You can pull out one of your pies for a tasty picnic while taking in the beautifully kept flowers and trees.
Stroll along the waterside path after your lunch to fully appreciate this heritage-listed botanic garden. The kids will be enthralled at the impressive accessible playground, and you can sit on the expansive lawns and reconnect with nature a little bit.
8. Indoor skydiving
Next, kick it up a notch with a little indoor skydiving. This adrenaline-inducing experience is available for the whole family, as long as your littlest one is above 3 years old. It’s sure to be an unforgettable rush and will tire everyone out before bedtime.
FIND OUT MORE: Here are some things to do with teenagers on the Brisbane, what to do on a Brisbane rainy day, and some Brisbane school holiday activities.
STAY: Check out our review of Rydges South Bank, and our review of the Novotel South Bank.
EXPLORE: Check out this Brisbane Wheel ride, this Brisbane Story Bridge tour, and your Brisbane River cruise here.
Things to do on the Sunshine Coast
Last but not least on this road trip agenda, is the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Known for its impressive mangrove forests, waterways, sand dunes, and shallow lakes, there are plenty of things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
9. Glasshouse Mountains
On the way up to the Sunshine Coast, make sure you make time to stop at the Glasshouse Mountains for some Insta worth photo opportunities as well as some of the best hikes in Queensland.
Especially suitable for families, Mount Tibrogargan includes the easiest of all the mountain trail options, including a 4km circuit (1.5 hours) through casuarina groves and eucalypt forest around the mountain’s base. Find out more about walking the base of Mount Tibrogargan here.
10. Australia Zoo
This huge zoo is a wonderful place to take the kids to really see all of Australia’s famous animals. This 1000 acre wildlife park is owned by Steve Irwin’s widow, Terri Irwin. It’s been around since 1970 and has stayed in the Irwin family ever since. It has won the Australian Tourism Awards and is a world-class zoo with happy and healthy animals. We show you how to get the kids in to Australia Zoo for free and you can get discount tickets here.
11. Noosa National Park
In the northern area of Sunshine Coast is this wonderful national park. Take the kids here for a day of exploring the natural world. You’ll come across truly impressive bird life and cute koalas, as well as pristine beaches and ocean. The exceptional beauty is sure to instill a feeling of awe in the youngest amongst you, to the oldest.
You can find out more about exploring Noosa’s natural attractions with kids here.
12. Noosa Heads Main Beach
To wrap up your experience in Sunshine Coast, spend the rest of the afternoon at this soft white sand beach. The waves are gentle, so you can all pop into the water to cool off and swim. And since there are lots of things to do in Noosa with kids, you might be tempted to stay in this little town even longer.
If you’re travelling with a dog, check out this list of the best dog friendly beaches and swimming.
FIND OUT MORE: Here are some dog friendly beaches in the Sunshine Coast
STAY: Check out La Promenade, and Ramada Resort.
EXPLORE: Check out SEA Life Sunshine Coast, this whale watching cruise, and your Australia Zoo and hotel transfer here.
Things to do on the drive from Gold Coast to Sunshine Coast
If you’re wanting to have a great vacation adventure, this road trip will certainly deliver. There is so much to see and do between these two popular coasts. And the fantastic beauty of the area makes a great backdrop to any and all activities that you get stuck into.
From theme parks to botanic gardens, you’ll never have a dull moment. One of the best aspects of this road trip is that you can get the best of all different kinds of fun. From calm and relaxing to some serious adrenaline rushes, Australia’s coast has it all, for the whole family.
Looking for more fun road trips to do in Queensland with kids?
- Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip
- Brisbane to Rockhampton road trip
- Brisbane to Byron Bay road trip
- Brisbane to Hervey Bay road trip
- Brisbane to Bundaberg road trip
- Brisbane to Cairns road trip
- Road trip from Townsville to the Outback
- Townsville to Porcupine Gorge
- Longreach road trip
- Bundaberg and North Burnett road trip
- South-western Queensland road trip
Check out these day trips from Queensland cities and towns
- Day trips from Bundaberg
- Day trips from Mackay
- Day trips from Toowoomba
- Day trips from Cairns
- Day trips from Townsville
You can find all our Queensland content here.