A local’s guide to the Gold Coast: ‘There’s a great grassroots art scene’

Forever an Australian go-to for simple, sunny holidays, this sandy stretch of beach suburbs has matured into a thrumming metropolis. Still, nature is never far away, says local artist Dion Parker


The Gold Coast’s food scene has come a long way since I moved here as a kid. There are so many suburbs from one end to the other where you can find some really good little places to eat. I spend a lot of time in Burleigh Heads, where my studio is, and a favourite is Oi Izakaya. The food is funky Japanese – think nori tacos and okonomiyaki – and it has a great whisky list and cocktails. My partner and I are there all the time.

In the morning, I tend to hit up Dust Temple – a cafe and art space in this rambling old surfboard-shaping warehouse, with art studios out back. They do approachable breakfasts and great coffee. If I’m just chasing a brew, I head to Portside, also in Currumbin, for an early morning flat white. It’s hidden away a little bit, but it’s worth finding for some of the best coffee on the coast.

Come for the coffee, stay for the art: Dust Temple.
Come for the coffee, stay for the art: Dust Temple. Photograph: Dust Temple


I have to mention Dust Temple again. It has a gallery but also life-drawing every fortnight and regular live music shows. It’s this creative hub that helped kickstart the transformation of Currumbin Creek Road from an industrial spot into a thriving little community.

Home of the Arts (Hota) is amazing for larger events. Its new building is phenomenal – its design is inspired by the works of William Robinson, who’s known for his Queensland and Northern NSW landscapes – and has been hosting some great exhibitions.

But there’s a great grassroots art scene on the Gold Coast. I’m part of Mint Art House, an artist-run studio and gallery space in Burleigh Heads, and just down the road is Art-Work Agency, a creative agency that has its own gallery space that hosts regular shows.

Mint Art House is an artist-run studio and gallery space.
Mint Art House is an artist-run studio and gallery space. Photograph: Mint Art House


Currumbin is in that sweet spot between the busier northern end of the coast and the more chilled southern suburbs. The further south you go, the lower the average building height gets – the pace is a little slower, which I like.

Probably the best views on the coast are from Currumbin surf club – you literally sit out over the ocean. It’s also one of the best strips of sand in the city. A good time to check it out is during Swell Sculpture festival, which takes over Currumbin beach every September with about 70 sculptures.

The Currumbin beach surf life saving club is a Gold Coast institution.
The Currumbin beach surf life saving club is a Gold Coast institution. Photograph: Andrew Bain/Alamy

The Salt Mill on the Currumbin beachfront does a great coffee, and there’s Cornerstone Stores, this amazing little modern red-brick precinct with a terrific cafe, Stable Coffee & Kitchen, and other shops.

Green space

As a city, the Gold Coast is basically a long strip that runs down the coast to the Queensland-New South Wales border, meaning nature is never far away.

Tallebudgera Valley is one of my favourite places. To relax, I take my motorbike out for a ride through the bush on the winding Tallebudgera Creek Road. You can drive to the end, walk up the creek and hear all sorts of birds. The water’s great for a swim on a hot day.


James Street in Burleigh Heads is fantastic. It’s a really relaxed vibe – you can go out with your friends and have a great time and not have to deal with the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise.

There’s a bunch of little bars and often you’re walking down an alley to find a sneaky back entrance. Lockwood is a great place – dimly lit with a stack of whisky, you always know someone is going to make you a fantastic cocktail.

Earlier on in the night I might go to Paloma, an elevated little wine bar run by Restaurant Labart’s husband-and-wife owners Alex and Karla Munoz Labart. We’ll often all be finishing in the studio and someone will invariably suggest heading down to Paloma for some wines and snacks.


Blast from the past: The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta.
Blast from the past: The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta. Photograph: Michael Tomkinson/Pink Hotel

I always recommend staying at The Pink Hotel Coolangatta. It has this classic old-school Gold Coast feel, but they’ve done a great job painting the place and doing up the rooms. It has Eddie’s Grub House on the ground floor, which does a great chicken burger and has live music, and this tiny bar called Janitor’s Closet, while the beach is just across the road.


As told to Matt Shea

The GuardianTramp

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