8 Gold Coast hidden gems to visit on your next trip

It may thrive on its surf, sun and sand image, but there’s more to the Gold Coast than first meets the eye.

Look beyond the towering luxury apartments and hotels, the swimming pools and the ever-popular family theme parks and expect to uncover some hidden gems that, in some cases, have attracted high-profile celebrities.

Australia’s number one holiday spot has a concoction of treasured attractions worth sampling. Don’t let their unassuming addresses detract from their appeal. Here are eight such places to visit.

Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery
Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery © supplied

Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery

A great spot to visit within Miami’s industrial corner is a distillery that has its share of stories to tell. Granddad Jack’s is more than a distillery. It’s a perfect place to mingle with friends, enjoy a few snacks and sample the variety of gins and whiskies distilled on a property that was a car-wrecking yard in its previous life.

The founder is New Zealand-born David Ridden and the head distiller is his son Luke, a mechanic by trade who taught himself to become the youngest commercial distiller in Australia. It seems appropriate the business is a family affair as it’s named in honour of David’s late grandfather (David Goulding, aka Granddad Jack), a knock-about farmer who once fell on hard times, fought his way through the turmoil and, with such determination and love, lived until he was 93 years old. As David explained during a tasting of two of his popular gins – Greenhouse and Two Pencils – along with a warming whiskey, the distillery was designed to share those stories to recall “our very own” accounts. A large portrait of his grandfather is displayed both in the tasting room and behind the bar.

Several years on, the family has become much more than storytellers. They have created a business that has served more than 250,000 customers, won over 100 international awards and exports to at least 10 international markets. There is a second establishment in Brisbane with a bar in Newcastle, yet to many, Granddad Jack’s remains a hidden gem on the Gold Coast.

Miami Marketta
Miami Marketta © Mike Smith

Miami Marketta

It’s here in the back street of an industrial area, that director Baz Luhrmann filmed a commercial for a prominent gin maker and actor Russell Crowe sang to a captive audience. Yet, the Miami Marketta remains a hidden gem for most heading to the Gold Coast for a holiday.

By 7 pm on the Friday of our visit, the place was heaving with around 600 Mamma Mia fans, there to dance to the tunes from the ABBA musical as others scoured the dozen or more food stalls for a mouth-watering dish to satisfy their taste buds. Others sat back to listen and tap away to live music from a local artist near a large painting, aptly named Crying Nun.

It’s difficult to believe that this slice of industrial Miami was a narrow council lane lined with workshops for car mechanics among the trades. Behind a colourfully decorated entrance is a vibrant food market and entertainment venue where it’s easy to feel like a VIP, says Grant Trammell, the experience manager at Miami Marketta.

Despite its unassuming address, this venue has been around for almost 13 years and has hosted stars – and future stars. The brainchild behind the conversion was Emma Milikins, a humble creative director who had the vision to design and open a gin parlour and ultimately something more significant the holidaying playground urgently needed – a night street food and clothing market.

A roof was erected over the lane, and the sheds were converted to form 13 studios. Near the entrance is the appealing Mona Lisa Lair – a magnet for booked private parties and champagne tastings.

Even when nature calls, the toilets are a story in themselves – well, fans of The Beatles would agree. For many locals, Miami Marketta is a regular haunt on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night, and rightfully so judging by the vibe and the food alone, dishes are mostly under $18. Now that’s food for thought.

Miami Marketta Gold Coast hidden gem
The funky bathrooms at Miami Marketta © Mike Smith

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Precinct Brewing
Precinct Brewing © Mike Smith

Precinct Brewing

What do you get when you team up a surfer with an accountant or two, the owner of a shop fitting company and a “mad scientist”? A boutique brewery, of course.

Yet another business housed in a converted workshop of industrial Miami, Precinct Brewing boasts a bright and breezy decor and the tasting paddles of brew are as refreshing as they are labelled.

Sundays are particularly popular and relaxing, many of the guests there to dine on an antipasto dish or gourmet pizza while enjoying a pint while tapping away to the entertainment from local artists as singer/guitarist Maddy Breen.

Precinct Brewing Gold Coast
Tasting paddles and live music at Precinct Brewing © Mike Smith

At the taps to provide an insight into the 16 brews on offer, was Ryan Best, who did his best to point out different styles to suit individual palates. A pale ale, a Pacific ale, a hazy pale ale and a ginger beer were among the core range which are also sold in colourfully decorated cans for take-away.

Behind him in the tap house are the tanks of a full working brewery, which was the brainchild of Jeremy James, a self-confessed mad scientist who is said to live and breathe brewing having brewed with Stone & Wood for the past four years. Apparently, he and some of his partners began home brewing in their teens with the dream of one day opening their own brewery. That dream has come to fruition to the delight of those who venture to the tap house.

Black Hops Brewing
Black Hops Brewing © Mike Smith

Black Hops Brewery

Within the same industrial corner is a Burleigh Heads boutique brewery, Black Hops, where the tasting paddles provide a perfect solution to help decide which beer to order. The 16 brews on tap are as varied as the colours, from the popular pale ale to the eggnog stout – Christmas in a glass. There’s even a ginger cider worth sampling.

Black Hops Gold Coast hidden gem
Tasting paddles provide a perfect solution to help decide which beer to order © Mike Smith

Manning the taps during my visit was an informative and helpful Gold Coast local Ethan McGarry who outlined the various creations with tasting tips. The taproom is housed inside a converted former mechanics’ workshop, where guests are seated among barrels sipping on a range of core and limited releases, some dining on snacks to accompany the brews. It seemed appropriate that one was labelled G.O.A.T. The hazy Indian Pale Ale was my favourite but at 6% it was advisable to leave the car back at the hotel.

Hard Fizz
The drinks on tap at Hard Fizz © Mike Smith

Hard Fizz

When there’s “fresh fizz on tap”, we soon learn there’s a difference between this brewery and the other boutique establishments in the aptly billed Miami Block. Check out the drinks on tap and prepare for a fruity tasting paddle that includes watermelon and berry, cherry and vanilla, pina colado and an extra strength Firetruck. Those feeling peckish can order a nachos dish, perhaps arancini or buffalo wings that won’t burn a hole in the pocket.

At the taproom to assist with the tastings, Sienna Staunton spoke of the sweet fruitful tastes and the Hard Fizz team’s passion to create the brews befitting the Gold Coast.

This hidden gem is a colourful addition to a boutique Brisbane brewery, founded in 2020 by a motley crew including liquor business manager Wade Tiller, DJ Paul Fisher, former Nine Network cameraman Joel Scott, and American executive creative director Justin Heit. Together, the four recruited DJs Tigerlily and Brooke Evers, and professional surfer Laura Enever, who last year set the Guinness World Record for challenging the largest wave paddled into by a woman. Fae Swim founders Adam and Bianca Bennetts and TV chef Hayden Quinn also formed the Hard Fizz team.

It’s appropriate that in a decorated corner of the converted warehouse would stand a large cardboard cutout of Fisher alongside a surfboard with achievements from the Nic Angelucci Tag Team surfing event. In the words of Fisher: “They say you can choose your friends but can’t choose your family. Now this is a family you want to be a part of.”

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk
Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk © supplied

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk

The pace along the 1.5km skywalk is a far cry from the adrenalin-charged motor racing track, yet the late Sir Jack Brabham took a liking to this pocket of privately owned rainforest.

So entranced and at peace in the rainforest, the former Grand Prix champion paid regular visits which, after he died in 2014, led to his wife Lady Margaret scattering his ashes there.

All is revealed on a small plaque along the eco-adventure walk, which includes 300 metres of high-tech steel bridges and a 40-metre cantilever bridge.

It’s here that we are rewarded with a stunning view of the valley of canopies and a free-flowing creek 30 metres below.

Before taking the relatively easy walk, it’s almost mandatory to wander through the Eco Gallery to find out more about the animals and plants that call the rainforest home. Adjacent to the gift shop is a display of paintings by talented local artist Trish Price who uses the gallery corner to paint her works.

A one-hour drive from the coast, the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk – owned and managed by Ian and Jennifer Moore, passionate about preserving the forest – was officially opened in 2009, and yet remains another hidden gem. It’s a tranquil option to the surf, sun and sand, and is a sanctuary to a host of native birds and flora, mammals, and a glow worm colony. It is also a breeding ground for the endangered Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. Among the protected flora is the Jambreen (famous for its wild limes) from which Tamborine was named.

Witches Falls Winery
Tasting plate and wines on offer at Witches Falls Winery © Mike Smith

Witches Falls Winery

A short drive from Tamborine and its ever-popular gallery walk is a winery you wouldn’t expect to find. Yet its hidden charm is well known among the locals seeking a day out for lunch and wine tasting, alfresco style, under umbrellas and among the vines.

Although grapes are grown here, most of the fruit hails from Queensland’s high-altitude Granite Belt as well as the Riverlands in South Australia, and is then produced and bottled on-site at the Witches Falls Winery.

The winery also produces its own apple and ginger cider as well as sparkling water, sourced from a spring beneath the vines. On hand to assist with the personalised $20-a-head wine tasting – complemented by a cheese, salami and olives plate (at extra cost) – is Julia Boulton who introduces an interesting selection, including an orange-coloured wine, with a hint of orange but made from grapes.

Vermentino, Fiano, Albarino were among the fascinating whites while Carmenere attracted interest among a host of the reds that included the better-known merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.

The winery may have been around for 20 years – it was opened by former Hunter Valley winemaker Jon Heslop and his wife Kim – but it remains a hidden gem among many holidaymakers to the Gold Coast.

HOTA (Home of the Arts)
HOTA (Home of the Arts) © supplied

HOTA (Home of the Arts)

As Australia’s largest regional art gallery, HOTA lives up to the title, the towering figure standing out across the waters from Surfers Paradise.

The colourful architectural design is said to reflect the bold and brash personality of the Gold Coast with as much emphasis on the rainforest as the coast itself. The good news is that it’s free to explore this hidden gem.

The gallery is part of an expansive cultural precinct with a theatre, two cinemas, function rooms, a chapel and small performance spaces.

Step inside the art gallery and prepare to wander from floor to floor of changing exhibits. One recently focused on the vibrant clothing trends of the Gold Coast in the 1950s and 1960s.

Emphasis centered on six women, including pioneering bikini shop owner Paula Stafford, who brought fashion to the Gold Coast. Together the women converted Surfers Paradise into a fashion centre for its bikinis, colourful resort wear and evening clothes befitting the poolside cocktail parties of the era.

Time the visit when there’s a special international exhibition and expect a longer stay than previously planned.

There is an admission charge for these events but as I found during the gallery’s hosting of the enthralling Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition, it is worth every cent – a room rimmed with changing images of famous artwork of the time supported by classical music.

It’s also advisable to take the elevator to the top floor for a coffee, perhaps a glass of wine with a meal inside or on the balcony. Here guests are rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the Surfers Paradise skyline.

To start planning your Gold Coast holiday, visit the Destination Gold Coast website here.

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