Life Travel How to do the Gold Coast like a local Updated:

How to do the Gold Coast like a local

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With visitors from around the country, as well as the world, descending on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games, it pays to know where to find the area’s secret spots and favourite haunts.

Armed with some intel on the city’s hidden bars, quirky restaurants, breakfast spots and favourite beaches, you’ll be living like a local in no time.


The love locals and celebrities such as Margot Robbie have for Bam Bam Bakehouse in Mermaid Beach runs deep. Once you’ve tried the flaky croissants, cream puffs, wood-fired sourdough, or any other of its house-baked goods, you’ll get it.

From the same hospitality stable, Paddock Bakery in Miami occupies a lovingly-restored weatherboard house. The shady front courtyard is set with generously sized tables that entice diners to spread out the weekend papers and linger a while.

Sceptical you can get Melbourne-quality coffee on the Gold Coast? Test the gun baristas at Canteen Kitchen. Tucked away up a pedestrianised Burleigh alleyway, Canteen offers a precision-made house blend and single-origin coffee, along with a breakfast menu of dishes such as caramelised banana with pistachio and dark chocolate ganache on sourdough toast with candied orange zest (totally worth the kilojoules) make it one of the best loved on the coast.

At Nobby Beach, everyone’s favourite wholefoods cafe BSKT (“Biscuit”) is perpetually packed with vegetarian, vegan or special-dietary-requirements brunchers sipping turmeric lattes or savouring eggs benny with surprisingly good “kaleonaise”.

The cafe life is the good life ✌🏽 #bskt #cafe #healthfood

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Broadbeach institution Elk Espresso was moved to bigger, flashier premises late last year but is still as busy as ever. Something to do with breakfasts like panna cotta with seeds, fruit and puffed grains or gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, smoked bacon, chilli and feta topped with poached eggs perhaps?

Tip: Have a massage, shop for farm fresh produce and eat breakfast at the community-minded Ground in the Currumbin Valley.


The Gold Coast has more than 50 kilometres of beaches, but not all were created equal. The tourists’ beloved Surfers Paradise, for example, suffers from afternoon shadows thanks to the looming skyscrapers, as well as challenging parking.

Explore a little bit further and you’ll find where locals hang out. Like the silver swathe of Nobbys, frequented by surfers, cyclists, joggers and families. There’s parkland all along the foreshore.

Keep walking south and you’ll come to the famous Miami headland staircase, which you should climb for the panoramic coastal views.

With a laid-back inclusive vibe, sheltered north-facing beach and mostly low-rise accommodation, Rainbow Bay feels gently retro. It is a mecca for families and those who prefer more gentle waves.

Bookended by the headland and with views all the way to the high-rises of Surfers, Burleigh Beach is popular for a reason – it’s patrolled and well protected from a southerly wind or swell.

Walk across the national park headland from here and you’ll reach the idyllic Tallebudgera Creek, a crystal clear and calm bluewater estuary perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

Want to be alone (well almost)? Try Bilinga or Tugun beaches at the southern end of the coast – but swim only in patrolled areas.

And if you’ve brought your furred friend on holiday, join locals at one of the best and loveliest dog-friendly beaches on the coast at Palm Beach.

Tip: Want to learn to surf? Check out the surf schools at Currumbin Beach – the Gold Coast’s most learner-friendly location.


Bar Hellenika recently opened on the rooftop of popular restaurant of the same name at Nobby Beach and is already being hugged to the collective bosom of locals.

There’s a range of classic cocktails, bottled beer and cider. Wine lovers will appreciate a list that can be extended by dipping into the 500-odd bottles in the restaurant’s collection.


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The succinct directions to the unsigned Lockwood Bar in Burleigh are “find the red door” (luckily, there’s also a map on the bar’s website). The drinks list is skewed towards cocktails and fine spirits, but the friendly and proficient bar staff can pretty much make you anything your heart desires.

Also in Burleigh and equally low key is Iku Yakitori Bar, whose entrance is via an anonymous door in Justin Lane. Once inside you could as well be in Ginza as the Gold Coast. There’s a drinks list of rare Japanese whiskies, sake, shochu, a weekly rotating cocktail list and a carefully chosen wine list.

Also embracing whisky is Palm Beach’s The Scottish Prince (named, like sister bar The Cambus Wallace, for a Gold Coast shipwreck). Slide into a booth in the moodily lit, nautically-inspired bar and order from a list of about 200 whiskies and a handful of whisky cocktails.

Whisky? Sure thing! Doors open from 4pm. 📷🙏🏻 @thefreedomstateonline

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If gin’s more to your taste, pull up a padded stool at the Gold Coast’s first gin bar, Old Tom and let venerated ex-Kiyomi mixologist Tom Angel guide you through the comprehensive and constantly rotating drinks list.

And: Surfing (and shark boxing) legend Mick Fanning is part-owner of Balter Brewing Company, in a unprepossessing industrial estate at Currumbin. Try a tasting paddle of four brews by Balter brewer Scott Hargrave.


Having opened  late last year, The Collective at Palm Beach is one of those brilliant “why has no one done this before?” concepts.

It’s home to five restaurants and two bars, but just one menu. Wait staff will take orders and deliver to the table from any one of the kitchens and bars.

Also at Palm Beach, former Fins head chef Dylan Cashman is the brains behind the intimate Blue Door on 5th, a “casual fine diner” with a strong “local farmed and foraged” focus, the menu partnered by a predominately organic and natural wine list

Literally on Burleigh beach, with uninterrupted views stretching to the Surfers skyscrapers, Rick Shores quickly gained permanent icon status in the hearts of locals. There’s a stylish fitout and equally smart pan-Asian menu. The bar menu is just as popular for more casual dining, with the Moreton Bay bug roll a fierce favourite.

Stairway to heaven.

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Owners Tim and Shannon Stewart opened The North Room in Mermaid Beach mid-last year. The intimate dining room, decorated in crisp navy and white, has tables for just 28 – or you can choose to sit at the bar and watch chef prepare contemporary share plates.

Queensland’s most highly awarded seafood restaurant, The Fish House, serves daily market seafood, in a dining room overlooking the swimmers and surfers of Burleigh Beach. Booking is a must, especially if you want to nab one of the coveted window tables.

And: On Sundays, the popular Justin Lane has the best wood-fired pizzas in Burleigh.

There’s nothing better than a Sunday with Justin!

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Natascha Mirosch is a food and travel writer and former editor of the Queensland Good Food Guide.