>  Attractions   >  Coolangatta things to do, eat and see

Coolangatta on the Gold Coast was once a sleepy holiday town with little more than a nice beach. However, this has changed with the addition of cool new dining, entertainment, and shopping venues, and increased Gold Coast flights. Savvy travellers have discovered that Coolangatta, with its numerous beaches and hotels located close to Gold Coast Airport, has everything they need for a great beach getaway.

Things to do in Coolangatta

Go surfing at Snapper Rocks

Coolangatta has more than 20 kilometres of surf breaks and they have been designated as a World Surfing Reserve. Snapper Rocks hosts the world famous Quiksilver and Roxy Pro surf competitions, and is one of Australia’s most consistent breaks according to surfing legend Rabbit Bartholomew. If you have more enthusiasm than experience, sign up for a surf lesson at one of the surf school trucks parked along the foreshore.

Ride the waves at Coolangatta

Take a selfie at Point Danger

Coolangatta is in Queensland, but it shares a border with New South Wales, so you can be in two different states at once if you place your feet right. At Point Danger, a headland with great views and a famous lighthouse, the states’ borders are marked for ‘one-foot-in-each-state’ selfies. The cutting-edge lighthouse looks more like a sculpture and was the first in the world to experiment with lasers (unsuccessfully, as it turned out). Views of the ocean from here are superb and the winter months offer great whale watching.

Whale jumping
Whale watching on the Gold Coast

Greenmount walking trail

It is possible to walk from Coolangatta Beach to Point Danger in around 45 minutes but it usually takes longer as it’s impossible not to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way. Start at the end of Coolangatta Beach at Greenmount Hill. This headland is covered with pine trees and lush, green foliage and forms a border between Coolangatta and Rainbow Bay. From here, the distant Surfers Paradise high-rise resemble a mirage floating on the ocean. A paved trail winds around the headland towards Snapper Rocks. You can watch the surfers from Snapper Rocks and then continue to Froggy’s Beach (so called because of a large rock painted to look like a frog) and up the hill to Point Danger.

Watching the surfers from Greenmount Hill

Coolangatta Art & Craft Market

On the second Sunday of every month, you can listen to talented musicians and browse locally made artworks, jewellery and homewares at the Coolangatta Art and Craft Market. If you’re travelling with kids, a fun fair featuring rides, fairy floss and more takes over the northern end of the Coolangatta foreshore during the summer school holidays.

Go boogie boarding

Daredevil boogie boarders come to Froggy’s Beach for the tight, curling waves which they often share with pods of dolphins. If you aren’t an experienced boogie boarder, Coolangatta Beach is a better and much safer bet.

Best hotels in Coolangatta

There are sea views galore at most of the accommodation options along Marine Parade. At the southern end of Coolangatta Beach, Reflections offers upmarket self-contained accommodation in high-rise towers, but you will need to book a minimum three-night stay.

Next door, Mantra Coolangatta has renovated one, two and three bedroom apartments featuring chic, beachy decor with matching art prints on the walls. Small studio rooms which sleep two (but have no view) are ideal for an affordable one night stay before you fly out.

Oaks Calypso Plaza is a low-rise resort with two waterslides and a shallow lagoon pool, making it perfect for families with younger children. The pool is heated so you can even go swimming in winter at this hotel.

Mantra Coolangatta Beach Apartment View

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Best restaurants in Coolangatta

Nearby Rainbow Bay still leans towards old-school retro-charm with takeaway stores selling burgers-with-the-lot and frothy vanilla milkshakes. However, times are changing with the addition of Little Mali, a cute cafe where patrons perch on milk crates and eat organic sweet treats.

Marine Parade, the beachfront shopping street, offers plenty more dining options including Baskk which serves classy Mod-Oz food in contemporary surrounds. Friendly staff and great cocktails provide yet more reasons drop into this cafe.

Baskk at Coolangatta
Baskk at Coolangatta

Next door to the Mantra you’ll find Bellakai, another top breakfast spot, which opens at 4.30am to cater to the surfing crowd and emergency workers. For some more classic dining, head 100 metres across the New South Wales border to Gallura Italian for the most incredible seafood delights. Don’t miss the prawn and lemon risotto, it’s to die for. If you’re thinking Italian but pizza comes to mind, then Francie’s Pizzeria is the place with pizzas that have all Italian flour bases and loads of local stuff on top.

For the all important coffee, do not pass by Three Sons Coffee Cartel located across from the beach at Coolangatta near the entrance to the Stand Shopping Centre. Just up the road, Ottimo Gelato serves some of the best gelato you’ll find outside Italy. Be warned, this ice cream is so good and very addictive.

Shopping in Coolangatta

Most Coolangatta shopping options can be found at The Strand, a modern complex with supermarkets like Woolworhs and Audi, cinemas and myriad shops to browse. If you are after a floaty beach frock, you will find plenty at the shops here. Multiple surf wear stores ensure locals and visitors are always ready to hit the beach.

Disclosure: The writer holidayed at Coolangatta as a child and loves this part of the Gold Coast just as much now as she did back then.

Looking for some Gold Coast accommodation? Read our reviews of the Hilton Surfers Paradise, Oaks Calypso Plaza, The Darling, Surfers Paradise Marriott, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, The Star Grand, voco Gold Coast, Wyndham Hotel Surfers Paradise, AVANI Broadbeach Gold Coast Residences, Rydges Gold Coast Airport, Oaks Gold Coast Hotel, JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa, and the retro La Costa Motel. If you’re visiting the Gold Coast, don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to the Gold Coast.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.