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All attractions around the Gold Coast are accessible by car, and there are large parking lots at the theme parks and other attractions. Parking meters are found in the busiest streets of Surfers Paradise, Southport and Burleigh Heads, but free parking can be found a few street blocks away. There are paid parking areas in Surfers Paradise and Southport operated by shopping centres and the city council that charge about $1 per hour, the largest is the Bruce Bishop Car Park adjacent to the transit centre. The Gold Coast doesn’t suffer from the same congestion as Brisbane, largely because it has several business centres. The morning peak hour is 7 am to 8.30 am, while the afternoon peak is 3.30 pm to 5 pm. Roads to avoid at these times include Bundall Road, Southport-Nerang Road, The Gold Coast Highway at Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Motorway between Nerang and Palm Beach.
The Gold Coast is a large urban area with a population of 550,000 administered by the Gold Coast City Council (headquartered at Evandale in Surfers Paradise) and the Tweed Shire in NSW. It is a key part of Greater Brisbane, a conurbation of over 3 million people. The Gold Coast shares its infrastructure, facilities, services and labour market with Brisbane to the north. Workers commonly commute between the two by rail and road.
The Gold Coast that visitors are more familiar with stretches along the coastal suburbs from Paradise Point to Tweed Heads (about 35km). Surfers Paradise, towards the northern end, is the hub of the leisure activity.
The Gold Coast has a mild, sub-tropical climate, with consistent temperatures year-round, with an average high of 29 degrees C in January and 21 degrees in July. The winter months tend to have little rainfall, while the summer has frequent storms originating from the west.
There are well over 30 beaches stretching a total of 40km. Almost all are patrolled by volunteer and professional lifesavers. The patrolled areas are marked by red and yellow flags. Signs on the beaches will show you the closest patrolled beaches at any particular time of year.
Always swim between the flags. The flags have been lined up with the safest parts of the beach and are patrolled by lifesavers. If you do get into trouble or feel yourself being pulled out of your depth by a ‘rip’, don’t try to swim against the water. Swim parallel to the beach and raise your hand to attract the attention of a lifesaver.
The Gold Coast Hinterland is home to three national parks, numerous mountains, creeks, waterfalls, valleys, and natural rock formations. The area is mostly covered in sub-tropical rainforest, but sections have been cleared for dairy farm land and wineries. The Hinterland is best seen by car or on a bus tour as the roads wind through the mountains with various lookout points along the way and towering trees lining the roads – it is truly a beautiful drive.