There's plenty more to the Gold Coast than theme parks and barrelling waves. Here’s six ways to enjoy this picture-perfect region. By Emily McAuliffe and Natascha Mirosch.

Saddle up in the countryside

Red Gum Riding’s arena in the leafy suburb of Mudgeeraba is an ideal spot to get acquainted with horse riding given the school’s specialised lessons for children and beginners. Confident riders can head further west for an adventure ride with Numinbah Valley Adventure Trails across its 1000-hectare cattle property, stopping for tea and damper (a traditional Australian bread).

Red Gum Riding; 533 Gold Coast Springbrook Road, Mudgeeraba
Numinbah Valley Adventure Trails; 2524 Nerang Murwillumbah Road, Numinbah Valley

See Australia’s most-loved wildlife

If you have kids in tow, a trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a must. As well as seeing Aussie favourites (kangaroos, koalas, dingoes and wombats), you can zip-line over crocodiles on a high-ropes course and watch vets at work in the on-site wildlife hospital.

28 Tomewin Street, Currumbin

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Take a swing on the green 

With a series of first-rate golf courses, the Gold Coast is the perfect place to tee off. Test your skill on the championship course at the Royal Pines Resort, book a night game at Emerald Lakes or head north to The Pines, where you’ll likely share the course with grazing kangaroos.

Royal Pines Resort; Ross Street, Benowa
Emerald Lakes Golf Club; Corner of Nerang Broadbeach Road and Alabaster Drive, Carrara
The Pines at Sanctuary Cove Golf & Country Club; The Parkway, Sanctuary Cove

Stroll to a world-famous surf break

The region is recognised by surfing greats the world over for its epic breaks. The most famous is Snapper Rocks, which hosts the annual Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro surf competitions. An easy walk around the Coolangatta headland to the picturesque vantage point will let you witness the best surf action.

Take a hike

The glamour of the Gold Coast’s northern beaches quickly fades when you enter the volcanic landscape of Springbrook National Park, a 45-minute drive from the coast. Trails of varying distances lead through subtropical rainforest – including a 350-metre track to the Best of All lookout. It lives up to its name.

Springbrook Road, Springbrook

Immerse yourself in the market buzz

The northern suburb of Helensvale burst onto the social scene in 2015 with its vibrant Friday and Saturday NightQuarter market within a “shipping container city”. There are several great markets on the coast, including Miami Marketta, which offers food stalls, boutique fashion and live music. At Gold Coast Chinatown, you’ll find cultural events and a monthly food market.

NightQuarter; 1 Town Centre Drive, Helensvale
Miami Marketta; 23 Hillcrest Parade, Miami
Gold Coast Chinatown; Young and Davenport streets, Southport

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