Forget the Gold Coast of old; the cheesy chintz and glitter of this beach-holiday mecca has dulled a little, making way for creative hubs and cultural enclaves with hip personality and character in spades.
From Art Deco and Bauhaus architecture, street art and perfectly preserved retro typography to modern art galleries and cultural festivals, the Gold Coast is throwing its hat in the ring as a contender for Queensland’s capital of cool.
If you’ve exhausted your beach time and consider yourself a bonafide culture vulture, then you’ll want to hit these hotspots on your next trip to the Gold Coast.
Architecture buffs: apply within
At first glance, the Gold Coast may seem all glass and glittering modern high rise when it comes to architecture but take another look and you’ll find a swag of hidden character-filled gems nestled amongst the skyscrapers. Beach and surf culture, international styles and historical pressures like post-war austerity have all left their mark on the Gold Coast’s buildings from Southport to Coolangatta.
Some of the best examples of art deco architecture can be found in the heart of Southport’s CBD. Head down Nerang Street, and nearby Scarborough Street, to see buildings like the Queensland Public Trustee, the old Ambulance Station, Southport Town Hall, Hotel Cecil, Earls Court, the former Woolworths store, Granton House and the former C. W. Tyley Shoes store among others.
The Main Beach and Southport bathing pavilions are also great examples of the classic beach-side bathing house of the ‘20s and ‘30s.
Housing on the Gold Coast may have evolved past the post-war austerity style of fibro beach shacks, California bungalows and besser block flats but despite years of development, examples of these can still be found proudly sitting between modern towers and beachfront mansions. Suburbs like Miami, Kirra, Palm Beach and Burleigh Heads hold a swag of goodies for the motivated archi-nerd with good walking shoes.
Are you my type?
If the curve of a well formed R makes you feel happy and seeing fonts on old buildings is your idea of fun, then all you need to do on the the Gold Coast is look up and around! Old motels abound in this tourist town and iconic signage like the one possessed by the famed Pink Poodle Motel, off the Gold Coast Highway, is par for the course. But cool lettering isn’t only reserved for commercial signage; there’s font fodder everywhere including on local surf clubs, etched into oars above lived-in beach shacks and painted onto nostalgia-drenched shop fronts. Keep your eyes peeled and head up.
Check out the Gold Coast Heritage Register
for a handy alphabetical breakdown of heritage-listed properties and locations on the Gold Coast.
The misconception that the Gold Coast is an artistic and cultural wasteland is long gone in no small part thanks to the plethora of galleries and artistic hubs popping up throughout the city. Formerly the Gold Coast Arts Centre, Home of the Arts (HOTA), has been the official home of celebrating the arts since 1986. Here you’ll find the 1,130-plus seat the Arts Theatre, Gold Coast City Gallery, two cinemas, a cafe plus function spaces, a chapel and two small performance spaces. Open year round, HOTA is a great one-stop shop for theatre, art exhibitions, music, film and free events for adults and kids alike.
For a more indie approach to contemporary art pop into 19 KAREN
in Mermaid Beach, cafe gallery slashie Dust Temple
in Currumbin, fine art specialist Gallery One
, mixed-media champions The Walls
in Miami and not-for-profit, artist-run space Urban Paradise
in Surfers Paradise.
The GC is also home to some great street art so keep your eyes peeled for murals
like the SOFLES x 40/40 Creative collab in Ichiban Lane (Southport) or the Insta-worthy piece adorning the northern wall of Mexicali in Nobbys Beach.
Hit the hills of the hinterland to visit the cute village of Mt Tamborine, where you'll find a smattering of art and craft galleries. Head down 'Gallery Walk' filled with space like Capanart
, where owner Susan Capan sells jewellery, colourful portraits and investor pieces; contemporary gallery Rivendale Gallery
and Tamborine Dreaming
, home to Indigenous and Australian art and treasures. Take a short detour through Beechmont where Dave Groom
's gallery is filled beautiful pieces inspired by the local flora and landscapes.
No cultural tour of the Gold Coast would be complete without getting an insight into the culture of the first people to walk this land. Running regular tours and activities for anyone (including locals) interested in learning more about the Indigenous history of the region, Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre is the perfect place to do just that. Learn about the traditions, history and spiritual society of the Yugambeh Aboriginal people, with walks, talks and immersive activities like ochre anointments and kids workshops based in Burleigh Heads. Make sure to book in advance!
It’s an art festival, dahling!
Thanks to the beautiful year round weather, the parks and streets of the Gold Coast play host to thousands of festivals from music and food to sport and, of course, art.
For 10 days in early September, SWELL Sculpture Festival
celebrates the splendour of the coastal environment with a free public exhibition of sculptures from more than 50 national and international artists. Now in its 15th year and attracting more than 275,000 visitors, the beautiful, thought-provoking and intriguing sculptures dot the shoreline of Currumbin encouraging art-lovers to appreciate the beach from a different perspective.
Billed as the Gold Coast’s signature arts and cultural festival, Bleach * Festival
uses the Gold Coast’s stunning natural landscape as its unconventional venues, inviting renowned local and international artists to “challenge expectations and change perceptions” across all artistic genres and mediums. Mostly free, the event takes place annually in the month of April.