5 of the best ways to explore Gold Coast waterways

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Beyond the surf beaches that lure the crowds to the Gold Coast year-round, there are countless options for water-based fun on the Gold Coast. We’ve nominated five of our favourite on-water adventures to get the most out of the Gold Coast.

Take a guided tour by SUP board. Image Go Vertical SUP Hire

Take a guided tour by SUP board. Image Go Vertical SUP Hire

Explore the waterways by SUP board or kayak

The Gold Coast beaches with their pummeling surf and long sweep of sandy beach are what the city is famous for. But, tucked away behind the ‘look at me’ surf coast are a myriad of waterways that duck and weave through the city’s residential suburbs. One of the most pleasant ways to enjoy these calm waters is from a SUP board or kayak, where you can take in life at the gentle pace of the fish which can be seen swimming in the shallows.

You can hire a SUP or kayak at Budds Beach at Surfers Paradise, or take a guided tour to be introduced to a whole new perspective of the glitzy Gold Coast. Surrounded by the highrise apartment buildings, down at waters level you’ll share the space with wading waterbirds poking amongst the mangroves, dolphins fishing for unsuspecting prey on the incoming tide along with other marine life like fish and crabs that clamber over rocks or bridge pylons as you pass by. The pace of a guided tour along the Nerang River is leisurely, and there’s time enough to take in the waterfront sights as well as stop for a walk around MacIntosh Island Park where you may be lucky enough to spot the resident peacocks.

Hire a SUP or kayak or take a guided tour with Go Vertical SUP Hire.

HOPO Gold Coast Ferry. Image Fiona Harper

HOPO Gold Coast Ferry. Image Fiona Harper

Hop on and hop off the sightseeing ferry

Cruise the canals and waterways with a hop on hop off ferry service, where you can board the vessel at  your leisure, allowing the freedom to explore different parts of the city at your own pace. There are five boarding points along the Broadwater – Marina Mirage, Southport, Sea World, Surfers Paradis and HOTA (Home of the Arts), with a vessel circling this route during daylight hours.

The vessel is new and modern with wide open spaces allowing the city views to take centre stage. Crew are super friendly and helpful and provide running commentary of the highlights and little known facts and historical tales.

If you’re short on time, take the Hopo as a leisurely sightseeing cruise and do the entire circuit in approx. one hour on a Loop Sightseeing Pass to get your bearings. For a more indepth adventure,  a Day Pass is the best value, enabling you to explore the surrounds at each of the stops, which will put you into the centre of the action.

Explore the Broadwater with Hopo Gold Coast Ferry.

Go wild with Paradise Jet Boating

For something a little more action packed, strap yourself into the seat of a jet boat and unleash your inner wild child (admittedly, your inner bogan is also likely to emerge as you emerge from your first donut spin). You may have seen these supped up jet boats churning across the water as they whip around bends, doing donuts, figure eights and generally leaving a crazed chop in their wake. For onlookers left bobbing in their wake, the experience is not all that pleasant, but for those onboard, the experience is sheer, uninhibited joy.

It’s hard not to laugh hysterically as the driver whips the boat into a hard left turn, then counters gravitational forces, pulling the boat back to the right, then into a full-blown circle, or donut, at full speed, culminating in a drenching for the unlucky few who cop the plop of the wash upon their heads.

It’s flat out good fun and is highly recommended. Go wild with Paradise Jet Boating.

Whale watching with Sea World Cruises. Image Fiona Harper

Whale watching with Sea World Cruises. Image Fiona Harper

See the Gold Coast (and the whales) from a boat cruise

If you time your visit right, you may be lucky enough to spot humpback whales on their annual migration north or south during whale watching season (approx. May to October). Though, truth be told, even it the humpback whales aren’t on their annual migration, getting out on the ocean and looking back at the Gold Coast is spectacular, regardless. And bottlenose and common dolphins are in abundance year round, as well as turtles and birdlife that are attracted to the marine life, diving into the sea to fish for their breakfast, providing endless entertainment.

But if the humpback whales do show up during your cruise, you’re in for an absolute treat. There are few wildlife viewing experiences as magnificent as witnessing a massive whale launching itself from the sea and belly-flopping into a breaching frenzy, sending ocean spray flying and onlookers gasping in pleasure. Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity!

Cruises depart year round from Sea World Cruises.

See the Gold Coast from a helicopter. Image Fiona Harper

See the Gold Coast from a helicopter. Image Fiona Harper

View the Gold Coast from above on a scenic heli flight

And if you really insist on staying dry yet want to see the Gold Coast from a unique vantage point, it’s hard to go past a scenic helicopter flight. Scenic tours depart from the heliport next to Seaworld and offer extraordinary views of the coastline. Travelling at similar elevation to the adventurous souls traversing the external structure of the  Skypoint Tower Climb 270m above sea level, make sure your camera is charged as you won’t be able to stop clicking away. A 15 minute flight will pass by in seemingly the blink of an eye, but it’s worth every draw dropping second.

Take a scenic heli-flight Gold Coast with Sea World Helicopters

More information: Destination Gold Coast

The writer was a guest of Destination Gold Coast, stayed at Xanadu Main Beach Resort and travelled with Hughes Limousines.

About the author: Fiona Harper is a Queensland-based travel writer – follow Fiona at Travel Boating Lifestyle


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