You probably know Coolangatta as that place on the way to somewhere else. If you went back there now, you’d find things have changed.

The beach town at the southern end of the Gold Coast not only offers paradisiacal scenery, sun and good, consistent surf, but is showing a new lease on life. A new set of restaurants and bars have appeared in recent years and there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself between dips in the water.

Just a short two-hour flight from Melbourne (one-hour from Sydney) will have you touching down within a five-minute cab ride of dreamy beaches, clear water, laid-back bars and bustling restaurants. Here’s your guide to kicking back with a weekend by the beach.

EAT/COFFEE

Little Mali
A relaxed deli and espresso bar, Little Mali specialises in great coffee, homemade food, cold-pressed juices and smoothies and a gourmet selection of premium cheeses and produce. For particular dietary requirements, Little Mali offers every milk on the planet, and is gaining a reputation for wholesome (and well-priced) salads/wraps/Turkish melts, which it changes up every day. While you wait for takeaway, there’s chalk activities for the kids (and adults), who are free to graffiti the footpath.

237 Boundary Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5599 1819

Burger Lounge
Truly good burgers are hard to come by, but Burger Lounge can stand with the best of them in any city. Pepper your order with house-made beetroot and tomato relishes, roast garlic aioli, pickled cucumber, or ditch the bread and choose the gluten free, low carb san choi lettuce cup. Its burgers are best served with cold beer, but if that’s not your fancy, choose from specialty cocktails or what’s said to be the best Sangria in Queensland.

6b/1 Douglas Street, Kirra
(07) 5599 5762
burgerlounge.com.au

My Gelato Cafe
Right next door to Burger Lounge (and across the road from the beach) is My Gelato Café. The routine is to polish off a burger then step next door to meet possibly the loveliest Italian chap you’re likely to find in Coolangatta: Davide Lo Giudice. There, he (or one of his family) will serve you an all-natural, gluten-free, preservative-free, artificial-colour-free, award-winning gelato. After spending time with Davide, it’s clear he takes a lot of pride in his craft, using real fruit, fresh milk and cream, Dutch cocoa and organic white chocolate. Flavours change daily, which means new sensations every visit, even if it’s just for a weekend.

1 Douglas Street, Kirra
0410 738 281
mygelato.com.au

Sunhouse Surf
A surf shop and cafe with a big-screen showing surf movies and vegetarian hotpot dinners every Friday and Saturday night. It’s fully licensed, has beer on tap, serves wine and spirits and sells (modern and vintage) surfboards, wetsuits, surf hardware and accessories. And Allpress coffee. It’s a refreshing change from every other surf shop on the Gold Coast.

41 McLean Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5536 4886
sunhousesurf.com

Bread N Butter
Not particularly exciting from the outside, step through the narrow entry and you’ll see the appeal straight away as the chefs sling excellent thin-crust pizzas into their large wood-fire oven. Climb the staircase to the generous open space upstairs and settle in for the pizzas, Spanish tapas, cocktails, beers and a dance floor that can fire up late into the night. The décor is a mix between modern and good old vintage/recycled, which happens to be slightly more comfortable than most. Bread N Butter is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 5.30pm utill late.

Shop1/ 76 Musgrave Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5599 4666
breadnbutter.com.au

Fresh Garden Cafe
An unassuming little cafe on the main street of Coolie serving colourful fruit juices, Fresh Garden happens to be owned by Mick (three-times world surfing champ) Fanning’s mum, and is a popular stopover for travelling pro surfers such as Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Dane Reynolds. It’s a unique juice experience, where your cup is topped with thick slices of tropical fruit (such as watermelon, orange, kiwi fruit, pineapple, pawpaw), which are impaled onto your straw. Sip then eat. Sip then eat. It also serves generous sandwiches, acai bowls and pancakes. Vintage-style furniture, a green bike with fruit baskets and wall-mounted gardening tools add to its interesting charm.

100 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5599 2600

Bellakai Restaurant
If you’ve headed north with high-end dining requirements, swing past Bellakai. It does breakfast and lunch, but dinner is where it shines, with excellent local seafood, Italian-inspired meat dishes and attentive, knowledgeable service. The seating is intimate, so opt for an outside table and make the most of its location across the road from the beach.

82 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
(07) 5599 5116

DRINK

The Outcider
Across the road from Kirra Beach, this lounge bar is fast gaining a reputation for Sunday cider nights, which happen from 2pm–7pm. The ciders are made with fresh local and organic produce and there’s an all-day menu for relaxed, casual dining.

4/1 Douglas Street, Kirra
(07) 5599 4779
theoutcidercafe.com

Komune Bar
Sip cocktails around the lounge-pool area and watch the really ridiculously good-looking people having fun. There’s often some form of glam catwalk parade happening, whether it’s local fashion designers or bikini labels. It’s also a very popular bar for surf brands to host parties during the Quiksilver Pro in March.

144–146 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
(07) 5536 6764
komuneresorts.com/goldcoast

STAY

The Sebel Coolangatta
The Sebel Coolangatta has a timeless, classical look, and all apartments have ocean views overlooking Coolangatta Beach and Kirra Point. Enjoy a birds-eye view of the sunrise from your room, or have breakfast on the balcony while watching whales pass you by. The eighth floor and above have sweeping ocean views from your balcony, and from your front door inland views across the hinterland. The penthouse, has panoramic views, four bedrooms and four bathrooms. Located near the main shopping precinct with its movie theatre, The Sebel Coolangatta’s facilities include a gym, spa, heated pool (28 degrees) and barbeque area. The décor is modern, comfortable and all rooms are fitted with high-end finishes. The staff is friendly, always smiling and will point you in the direction of the best of the area.

3 McLean Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5589 0000
sebelcoolangatta.com.au

SEE/DO

Dive Kirra Reef
Until recently, Kirra Reef was buried under sand due to the Tweed River Entrance Bypassing Project. The aim of the project is to replenish beach with sand to the north of Coolie, after extensive rock walls at Tweed River limited south-to-north movement. Unfortunately, at times too much sand was pumped which choked Kirra point and the nearby reef. But in recent years, sand pumping has been less consistent, uncovering the rocky outcrop which houses soft coral, sea grass, ascidians and sponges. Current reports are that there are large numbers of morays, wobbegong sharks and macro life calling the reef home.

Swimming
Coolangatta is renowned for unique and beautiful beaches. The visibility in the water is exceptional all year round, and ocean temperatures range from 17 degrees in the depth of winter to 24 degrees in summer – so you can swim year-round. Coolangatta, Greenmount and Kirra beach are protected from prevailing south-east winds and catch the afternoon sun, making them great destinations for all-day beach hangs with family and friends. Rips and currents can be strong, so always swim between the flags.

Skydive
If you’re the action-sport type that digs jumping out of planes, then you can get your thrills in Coolangatta. Gold Coast Skydive operates year round and its the only tandem skydive operation in the area. It departs from Coolie airport and lands on Kirra Beach.

Gold Coast Skydive
78 Musgrave Street, Coolangatta
goldcoastskydive.com.au

Surfing
Say “Coolangatta” to any surfer and you’re guaranteed a reaction. Either their eyes will light up with visions of crystal-clear cylinders spinning down manicured sandy points or their hands will make gestures as they describe the punchy beach breaks. Either way Coolangatta is one of the most dynamic locations in the world to be a surfer. Coolangatta has waves that will suit beginners and experts and plenty of surf schools, so there’s no reason not to get amongst it.

Kirra Hill
A stay in Coolangatta is not complete without a hike (or drive, for the lazy) up Kirra Hill to the pavilion overlooking Kirra, Coolangatta, Greenmount beaches and Snapper Rocks. The view is shared with a five-metre sculpture of an iron eagle soaring in the wind, on the lookout for swell returning to Kirra Point. Speaking of swell, when one large enough is running, you’ll be sharing the lookout with families and excited middle-aged men catching a glimpse of the action in the water.

Coolangatta Heritage Walk
A self-guided walk through Coolangatta takes you along a beach-side trail followed by a border-town loop. Along the way you’ll discover heritage-listed sites such as the wreck of the Coolangatta (the ship the town is named after) and the Captain Cook Memorial and Lighthouse. Stop-off for a cheeky ale in the Queensland heat. In fact, it’s expected.

D’bah Gallery
Beautifully positioned on top of Point Lookout, D’bah Gallery showcases more than 40 artists from Byron Bay to Sunshine Coast. It has a wide selection of artworks from landscapes and edgy portraits to quirky, out-of-the-box pieces. It also has a large selection of homewares, clothing and gifts, and exhibit a new artist every month.

275 Boundary Street, Coolangatta
(07) 5536 2500
cafedbar.com.au

Ocean Art Gallery
As the name suggests, Ocean Art Gallery is inspired by the area’s excellent surf and the thriving number of local (and world-renowned) photographers. All imagery is available in a number of different sizes and mediums. Choose from acrylic, aluminum composite, anodised aluminum, fine art board or wallpaper. All images are UV cured, so they don’t age.

Shop 3, 110 Marine Parade, Reflections Tower Two, Coolangatta
(07) 5599 1150
oceanartgallery.com.au