Sun, surf and golden sand: Why the southern Gold Coast is the ideal place for a family holiday

Surfing is a major part of life in the south Gold Coast
Surfing is a major part of life in the south Gold Coast Photo credit: Hilary Longley

If you stand on the beach at Kirra on the Gold Coast and look north, in the distance you can see the high-rise towers of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.  

Kirra Beach is at the southern end of the Gold Coast, around 20km away from its more famous neighbours, but it's a million miles away in terms of its vibe.   

It is a short beach that has a boardwalk running along it that people walk or cycle along. At the southern end, the beach curves outwards towards a head called Snapper Rock, creating a relatively sheltered bit of sea that is turquoise and ideal for swimming.  

The Kirra Beach Pavillion houses several retail spaces and restaurants where you can eat just a stone’s throw from the sand.   

It's an idyllic spot, laid back, relaxing and a far cry from the bustle of Surfer’s Paradise.    

Kirra is one of the four beaches that make up what is known as the “Golden Four Beaches” - Tugun, Bilinga and Currumbin are the others.   

They are basically one long bay that stretches along the southern tip of the Gold Coast, from the end of Palm Beach down to the border with New South Wales.  

Kirra Beach with the central Gold Coast in the distance.
Kirra Beach with the central Gold Coast in the distance. Photo credit: Hilary Longley

The Golden Four Beaches are proper Aussie beaches and have a very summer beach vibe. In parts, the water is full of surfers, and other people just enjoying the sea. The beaches are, as the name suggests, golden and generally well-protected, so good for swimming and learning to surf.   

The boardwalks that run along most of the four beaches are bustling with walkers, joggers and cyclists. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes that offer stunning views of the ocean as you dine. It is the perfect place for a relaxing family holiday. 

My family and I had come to the Gold Coast for a holiday, looking for some decent weather after what was the wettest winter I can remember in New Zealand. We wanted to head somewhere that wasn’t too far to travel but had lots to do for the kids.   

After three nights in the central Gold Coast, which I covered in part one, we spent three nights at Bilinga Beach, staying at The Villas - a privately owned house that has been divided into two villas.  

The downstairs villa where we stayed had three bedrooms and a plunge pool that was a great way to cool off. The property has recently been completely refurbished and was a great family-friendly place to stay.   

Bilinga is in the centre of the Golden Four Beaches and is a good place to explore the region from. It's very close to the Gold Coast Airport as well.   

After three days of theme parks and aqua parks, it was the perfect place to unwind.   

Fruit heaven  

I must admit that after Sea World and Movie World, Tropical Fruit World was a hard sell to my kids. “Are there any rides?” One of them asked.   

“There is a tractor ride,” I replied hopefully.  

Tropical Fruit World (TFW) is exactly what the name says, a family-owned and operated plantation growing over 500 fruits. It's set on 250 acres and is a haven not just for fruit but for Australian wildlife. When we went on the tractor ride, the driver told my son not to reach out and touch the trees because there were snakes in them.  

TFW is actually in New South Wales, just across the border from Queensland, where it is a lush, bountiful environment. The region is full of places that promote local, sustainable living.  

Tropical Fruit World
Tropical Fruit World Photo credit: Hilary Longley

Originally called Avocadoland, the farm was first purchased by Bob and Valorie Brinsmead in 1972. Their original plan was to grow fruit such as avocado and run it as a great place to raise their kids. In 1983 they opened the farm up to the public and soon renamed Tropical Fruit World.   

There is an amazing restaurant with a heavy focus on local produce where I had the most incredible fresh fruit drink. There is a farm shop and a gift shop that sells a range of fruit-inspired ice creams.  

There are tours of the farm on a tractor where you learn about the many different types of fruit and how they are grown. There is also a kind of wetland where the kids can get out and feed a range of animals including wallabies, sheep and goats.   

There is a short river trip where you can see turtles basking in the sun on the bank. All of this is explained to you by a very knowledgeable guide.  

Despite it being a hard sell to my kids they had a good time and it was interesting to see a working fruit farm with so much history.   

Surf’s up 

We couldn’t come to this part of the Gold Coast without trying one of its popular pastimes – surfing. Nearly everywhere you go along this piece of coast you see surfers bobbing up and down in the water waiting for the next wave.   

So my nine-year-old son and I headed to Surf Easy School in Currumbin Alley just behind Currumbin Beach, a hotspot to learn how to surf.  

Now I have accepted I am really too old to learn to surf. I can get up just about, but I look like a newborn giraffe taking its first steps as I try to stand on the board and navigate the small wave that is carrying me to shore.   

It ain’t a pretty sight but I am comfortable that this is as good as surfing will get for me.  

But I wanted my son to have a go, he is on the autism spectrum, and I wasn’t sure if he would take to it, I needn’t have worried.   

Surfing on Currumbin Beach
Surfing on Currumbin Beach Photo credit: Hilary Longley

Our instructor Gabe was excellent, he had the patience of a saint and spent a lot of time getting my son to be more confident until he was soon standing and riding the wave.  

My son went from being nervous to paddling out and catching waves on his own. It was great to see. He loved it and it was a great way to spend some time in the beautiful clear blue water.  

Vibrant food scene 

As I said in part one of this series on the Gold Coast, the region has a vibrant food scene, and we ate at some more incredible restaurants.   

There is a focus on beachside dining in the southern Gold Coast with a number of restaurants offering stunning beach views. 

Tommy’s is an Italian restaurant at Currumbin Beach that is set across the road from the sand and serves authentic Italian dishes from traditional pizza and pasta to king prawns and rainbow trout.   

As you would expect from an Italian restaurant it has a very easy, laid-back vibe and beautiful views along the beach. It goes without saying it was highly kid-friendly and the homemade tiramisu was out of this world.  

Currumbin is a popular surf beach and you can watch the surfers catch the final waves as the sun sets while you eat.   

The Tropic is another restaurant with unobstructed views across the beach and out to the ocean and if you can it is worth getting a table on its large outdoor deck.  

The view from the Tropic
The view from the Tropic

When we ate there the heavens opened as a storm blew over, but watching the lightning over the sea as we dined only added to the experience.   

It is a Mediterranean-style menu with an emphasis on smaller sharing plates. As you would expect from a restaurant near the ocean there were a lot of fish and shellfish dishes. I had a stunning king prawn with lots of garlic dishes.  

When we went for lunch on a Thursday it was packed, which is always a good sign and a lot of the diners looked like they were set in for the afternoon.   

The views back up to Miami Beach were worth the trip alone.  

My favourite restaurant of the entire trip was Siblings at Kirra Beach because it was so close to the beach you could taste the salt in the air.    

The view from Siblings restaurant
The view from Siblings restaurant Photo credit: Hilary Longley

It was special eating a Morton Bay Bug and prawn risotto looking out across the golden sand and turquoise water. A warm breeze wafting the smell of the ocean across the table. After eating we went for a swim, it was a perfect lunch.  

Getting up close with the wildlife   

There is an abundance of weird and wonderful wildlife in Australia, much of it unique to the country and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to experience some of it.  

What was originally a bird sanctuary, set up in 1947 by beekeeper and flower grower Dr Alex Griffiths to stop lorikeets from feeding off his flowers, is now an eco-tourist attraction, and more importantly an animal hospital.   

The hospital cares for wounded, orphaned and sick animals and was particularly busy during the 2019 bushfires when so many wild animals were injured or killed by the intense flames that ravaged Queensland. It is one of the busiest animal hospitals in the world and is in part supported by the tourism side of the sanctuary.  

Interacting with the wildlife is a big part of the experience at the sanctuary and a wonderful experience for the kids. You can feed kangaroos, have breakfast with koalas and get up close and personal with a number of the inhabitants.   

We did a twilight tour, which happens as the sun goes down and the park is closed. We were the only ones on the tour and it was a magical experience as many of the animals are nocturnal and come live at night.   

My kids were transfixed as we watched bats swoop low over the water of a lake to feed off bugs. We saw the normally sedate koalas come to life and walk around their enclosure.   

Our expert tour guides told us all about the animals as we walked by them. We watched a Tasmanian Devil, that looked cute, rip apart its dinner with razor-sharp teeth.    

The highlight though was feeding the kangaroos. Now kangaroos are probably no big deal to Australians as much of the country is teeming with them. But if you have never seen them in the flesh before they are very cute.   

Feeding the kangaroos at night in Currumbin Wildlife Park was magical.
Feeding the kangaroos at night in Currumbin Wildlife Park was magical. Photo credit: Hilary Longley

Most of my kangaroo knowledge came from news stories of some big male trying to fight a human. These kangaroos were not that big, very friendly and happy to see us as we had food. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by these animals as they fed out of your hand. My kids loved the experience.  

Walking around the park at night, with no other people and only the sounds of the animals was truly unique and well worth doing. The theme parks we had visited a few days before were great, but this was something completely different and definitely the highlight of the trip.   

We had come to the Gold Coast in search of a great family holiday and it didn’t disappoint. Three nights in the central GC and then three in the southern end, gave two very different experiences of the region. 

The central GC was packed with plenty of exciting things to do while the southern GC was a more relaxed beach-style holiday. Great weather, good food and plenty to keep the kids amused, what more could you ask for?   

Mark Longley is a daily editor at Newshub and travelled with his family to the Gold Coast courtesy of Destination Gold Coast.