The white sandy beaches are the number-one attraction on the Gold Coast. No fewer than 35 patrolled beaches stretch almost uninterrupted from the Spit north of Surfers Paradise to Rainbow Bay, south of Coolangatta. The most popular beaches are Main Beach, Surfers North, Elkhorn Avenue, Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Beach, Burleigh Heads, Coolangatta, and Greenmount. All are patrolled 365 days a year.

The Theme Parks

First, there are the "big three" -- Dreamworld, Sea World, and Warner Bros. Movie World. You might also like to check out the Australian Outback Spectacular, also owned by Warner Bros.

Sea World is the only major theme park in the center of town. The others are in northern bushland on the Pacific Highway, about 15 to 20 minutes away from Surfers Paradise. Ride to the theme parks on the Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle or on Surfside Buslines (tel. 13 12 30 in Queensland) buses. Take bus no. TX1, TX2, or TX5 to Dreamworld, Movie World, and Wet 'n' Wild, and bus no. 750 from Surfers Paradise or no. 715 from Southport to get to Sea World.

By car, take the M1 Pacific Motorway for about 15 to 20 minutes north of the Gold Coast or 40 minutes south of Brisbane for Wet 'n' Wild, Warner Bros. Movie World, and Dreamworld. The parks have huge free parking lots.

Trains (tel. 13 12 30) run to Coomera and Helensvale on the Brisbane-Gold Coast line.

Money-Saving Theme Park Passes -- Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World, and Wet 'n' Wild sell a Fun Pass that gives you 1 day's entry to each park over a 5-day period. It costs A$150 for adults and A$96 for kids 4 to 13. A Super Pass gives unlimited entry to all three for 14 days and costs A$190 adults and A$130 for kids. You can buy passes at the parks, online, from a travel agency, or at most Gold Coast hotels, apartments, and tour desks. Dreamworld and WhiteWater World have 2-day passes to both for A$109 adults or A$75 kids ages 3 to 13.

Getting Wet ('n' Wild!) -- Long-established water park Wet 'n' Wild Water World (tel. 07/5556 1610 or 07/5573 2255 for 24-hr. recorded info; has got competition across the street. WhiteWater World by Dreamworld (tel. 1800/073 300 in Australia, or 07/5588 1111; also has some terrifying turns and waves, and is themed around Australian surf culture.

The water at both parks is heated May to September, there are lifeguards on duty, you can rent towels and lockers, and you can use showers. Both parks are open every day, except Christmas Day (Dec 25) and the morning of Anzac Day (Apr 25). WhiteWater World's hours are 10am to 5pm every day of the year (but may be extended during summer). Wet 'n' Wild opens at 10am daily but closes at 4pm May to August, 5pm September 1 to December 26 and January 26 to April 30, and stays open until 9pm December 27 to January 22 and on Dive 'n' Movie nights in summer. Entry to WhiteWater World is slightly cheaper at A$46 adults, A$32 kids age 4 to 13 and A$133 for a family of 4; Wet 'n' Wild costs A$55 adults, A$35 kids.

On Top of the World

The Gold Coast's newest, tallest building is Q1, a gleaming steel-and-glass tower inspired by the Sydney 2000 Olympic torch. It's a stunner. Entry is on Surfers Paradise Boulevard, where you take the superfast elevator for just 43 seconds to reach the Skypoint Observation Deck (tel. 1300/473 325 in Australia or 07/5582 2700;, 230m (754 ft.) above the ground on levels 77 and 78 of the building. From there, you can gaze down on all the Gold Coast has to offer, with 360-degree views, or take a walk around the exterior of the building on the new Skywalk, which climbs from the roof to the peak of Q1, 250m (820 ft.) above sea level. A small theater in the Skyline Room shows a short film on the history of the Gold Coast, or you can stop in at the cafe for a piece of Q1-shaped cake and a coffee. Better still, head up there before sunset for a cocktail in the Skybar. Skypoint is open 9am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and until midnight Friday and Saturday. Entry costs A$21 adults, A$13 children ages 5 to 14, and A$55 families of four. A day/night ticket, which allows you to visit during the day and return after 6pm, costs A$29 adults, A$20 seniors and students, and A$17 children. Last tickets are sold 45 minutes prior to closing time.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.