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Gold Coast vs. Brisbane Which City Should You Visit

Gold Coast vs. Brisbane: Which City Should You Visit?

Does your idea of a perfect holiday include sunny days at the beach, picnics in the park and good food? If so, you have the Gold Coast and Brisbane to choose from. 

But as similar as they are, these cities are also quite different, each offering something unique and unforgettable to its visitors.

Having a hard time deciding already? Fret not because we got you covered with this comparison guide to help you make the right choice.

Getting to Know the Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

Getting to Know the Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

Image source: Patrick Ryan on Unsplash

When you think of Brisbane, you imagine sunny days and a lot of outdoor activities. 

Known for being the sunny capital of Queensland, Brisbane is split by the Brisbane river and connected by the iconic Story Bridge. 

Because of its location, most of the city’s attractions and activities are focused on nature and the outdoors. 

Here are some interesting facts about Brisbane that you should know as a tourist:

  • Brisbane enjoys 283 sunny days every year making it one of the sunniest days in Australia.
  • Brisbane City Hall in the City Business District is the largest in the country.
  • Brisbane’s only real body of water is the Brisbane River. But it has Streets Beach, a 2,000-square meter artifiical beach in South Bank.
  • Brisbane is a cultural city because it was occupied by the Meanjin people before being invaded by England.
  • You can’t miss eating some lamingtons while in Brisbane since it’s where the famous dessert was invented.
  • Brisbane is home to the largest and oldest koala sanctuary in the world where you can see and even cuddle the famous Austalian koalas.
  • The Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane is the largest modern art gallery that houses an impressive selection of artworks from local and international artists.

Located 66 kilometers south southeast of Brisbane is one of Australia’s most popular coastal cities.

Aptly named the Gold Coast, the city is known for combining the surfer and city lifestyles, thanks to its subtropical climate.

Here are some interesting facts that you need to know about this beautiful coastal city:

  • The Gold Coast  is home to some of the best theme parks in the world making it a popular tourist destination for families and groups.
  • The city is home to three of Autralia’s iconic surf beaches where international surfing competitions are held every year.
  • It’s dubbed  the “Venice of the South” for its 600 kilometers of waterways and 400 kilometers of canals, more than what Venice has.
  • The Gold Coast  has the largest film production facility in the country where several Australian TV shows and some Hollywood movies are filmed.
  • The city is home to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to the largest collection of native animals in all of Autralia. 

Different Attractions in the Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

Different Attractions in the Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

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Brisbane and the Gold Coast are both bustling destinations where you won’t have a shortage of attractions to visit and things to do. 

But while both cities offer outdoor-focused activities, Brisbane has more nature-centered attractions while the Gold Coast highlights activities on the water.

Top Attractions in Brisbane

Image source: Bob Walker on Unsplash

Brisbane is a city that’s rich with attractions focusing on nature and culture. Here are our top recommendations:

  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

You can’t be in Australia without hugging a koala and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the best place to get up close and personal with these cuddly creatures. 

The sanctuary is the first, largest and only koala sanctuary in the world and home to more than 100 koalas and 75 species of native animals.

Covering over 18 hectares of land, the sanctuary also focuses on koala research that aims to not only understand these animals better but also preserve them.

Aside from koalas, you can also see native Australian animals like kangaroos, lorikeets and kookaburras. 

  • Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

If you’re into the arts, you’ll have a grand time browsing through the exhibits at QAGOMA

The art museum consists of the Queensland Art Gallery in the main building and the Gallery of Modern art in its second building.

Here, you’ll find an extensive selection of more than 20,000 pieces of art from Australia and across the globe.

Exhibits here focus on Australian art, Asian art and international artworks using different styles and media. 

  • Story Bridge

Story Bridge is definitely one of Brisbane’s most iconic landmarks. In fact, it’s the highlight of the city connecting Fortitude Valley and Kangaroo Point.

Australia’s longest cantilever bridge is also home to one of only three bridge climbs in the world.

If you’re an adventure seeker, the Story Bridge Adventure Climb will take you to the highest point of the bridge where you get unparalleled views of the city. 

  • South Bank Parklands

If there’s one place in Brisbane that offers a lot of attractions and activities in one place, it has to be South Bank Parklands

Spanning more than 17 hectaress, this cultural and lifestyle hub sits on what was once the site of the World Expo 88. 

Today, it covers everything from a man-made beach to Brisbane’s best place to enjoy good street food.

There’s plenty of things to do at South Bank Parklands, so make sure to plan your itinerary ahead of time to maximize your visit. 

Oh, and don’t forget to take a photo of the big Brisbane sign on the property.

  • Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha

Located 7 kilometers away from the city center, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha is a haven for anyone who loves plants and nature.

Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice with all the extensive selection of plants and trees that you’ll find in this 56-hectare garden.

The garden is also home to the most diverse collection of Australian native rainforest trees in the world and its  beautiful Japanese garden.

And while you’re at it, make sure to stop by the Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha for the most stunning views of the city. 

  • Eat Street Northshore

Brisbane is a foodie hotspot and Eat Street Northsore  is where you go to satisfy your cravings.

A 15-minute drive from the Brisbane CBD will take you to this dining and entertainment hub where you get to enjoy every type of food that you can think of.

Here, you can find vendors serving different cuisines as well as comfort foods that you’ll surely enjoy.

Top Attractions in the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is definitely a surfer’s paradise. But it also has some top attractions that will surely make your visit worthwhile:

  • Surfer’s Paradise Beach

First stop, the city’s most popular beach. Surfer’s Paradise Beach is a stark contrast to the many skyscrapers on the shoreline.

This three-kilometer stretch of sand offers the perfect break from city life and you’ll find a lot of residents getting a tan and enjoying some sun here any day.

But what really makes Surfer’s Paradise Beach popular is its gentle swells, which make for the perfect place to learn surfing. 

Your kids can also enjoy the shallow part of the water and if you get hungry, there’s a long line of cafes and restaurants for you to choose from.

And if you’re visiting on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights, stop by the Surfer’s Paradise Beachfront Markets to shop for local products.

  • Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

The Currumbin Wildife Sanctuary is Gold Coast’s heritage-listed zoological garden that’s famous for its free-flying rainbow lorikeets.

This massive sanctuary offers shows and experience that lets you get up close and personal with native animals and observe them in their natural habitat.

But the highlight of your visit will surely be the free-flight bird show where  you get to see hundreds of birds flying around the sanctuary.

  • Sea World Marine Park

The Gold Goast is home to some of Australia’s best theme parks and the Sea World Marine Park is definitely a must-visit.

Being the largest marine park in the country, Sea World is home to many marine animals including sharks, stingrays, dolphins and sea lions.

You can also book for specific experiences while at the park, especially when you have kids.

  • Coolangatta Beach

If you want to enjoy the beach but not the crowd at Surfer’s Paradise Beach, a 30-minute drive will take you to Coolangatta Beach.

For surfers, this beach has a beautiful point break that makes it a favorite among those who seek the best waves in the city.

But you can still enjoy Coolangatta even if you’re not a surfer because it has a long stretch of sand, a string of restaurants and a more relaxed ambiance.

  • Point Danger Lookout

You may think twice about visiting this place because of its name, but you have to go to Point Danger if you want to see the best ocean views in the Gold Coast.

Located in Coolangatta, this headland was named by Captain James Cook to warn sailors of the dangerous coral reefs in the area. 

Today, Point Danger is a great place to enjoy panoramic views of the ocean that will surely make your hike to the top worthwhile.

  • Dreamworld

Combining a theme park and zoo in one, Dreamworld is truly a dream destination for tourists of all ages.

This popular Gold Coast tourist spot offers more tahn 40 attractions including the famous Gold Coaster, which is Queensland’s oldest operating steel roller coaster.

Dreamworld also offers nature encounters where you get to experience being near native Australian animals.

What City is Best to Visit?

What City is Best to Visit

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The choice between visiting Brisbane and the Gold Coast will depend on your preferences. 

If you prefer a destination with a lot of activities, a great beach and a bustling nightlife, the Gold Coast would be the perfect choice for you.

But if you’re more about traveling slowly and enjoying local activities like nature walks, museum visits and discovering local street food, Brisbane should be the right destination.

To give you a better perspective, we compare the pros of visiting each city:

Pros of Visiting BrisbanePros of Visiting the Gold Coast
Family-friendly destinationBustling food and nightlife scene
Different historical and cultural sites
Excellent shopping options
Family-friendly destinationDifferent theme parks
Beautiful beaches and surfing spots
Nature parks and hiking trails
Many resorts

Between the two cities, the Gold Coast has a more diverse list of tourist attractions to cater to different tastes and preferences.

Brisbane, on the other hand, has a more laidback vibe, which is perfect if you enjoy a slower pace of travel.

Let’s compare Brisbane and the Gold Coast on the different aspects of travel that you might be considering when choosing a destination:

BrisbaneGold Coast
FoodHas more local street eats, food stalls and food markets.Has more options for restaurants and food spots that are recognized around Australia.
Cultural and Historical SitesOffers a more impressive list of museums, galleries  and historical sites.Has several museums but not as extensive as Brisbane.
ResortsHas beautiful hotels but not luxury resorts.Has a long list of luxury resorts by the beach since it’s a coastal destination.
NightlifeHas entertainment spots around the city including rooftop bars with a more laidback ambiance than the beach parties in the Gold Coast.Famous for different beach parties and a more diverse selection of bars, clubs and pubs, especially those along the beachfront.
BeachesHas one man made beach.One of the best beach destinations in Australia for its beautiful beaches and surfing spots.
ShoppingA famous shopping destination where you can find several malls and local markets.Has outlet malls and outdoor markets but not as diverse as the options offered in Brisbane.

What City is Cheaper to Visit?

What City is Cheaper to Visit

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If you’re a budget traveler, visiting the Gold Coast is generally cheaper than Brisbane. 

Let’s compare average daily costs between the two cities based on data from Budget Your Trip:

BrisbaneGold Coast
Average daily cost per person per dayAUD 201AUD 151
MealsAUD 48 dailyAUD 42 daily
HotelsAUD 249 dailyAUD 169 daily
LocalAUD 27 dailyAUD 35 daily
One week trip for twoAUD 2,818AUD 2,111
Average weekly cost per personAUD 918AUD 1,055
Average monthly cost per personAUD 6,038AUD 4,523

Of course, these numbers will vary depending on the attractions that you’d like to visit and other expenses that you would incur during your trip.

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