When most Australians think of Gold Coast attention jumps to the ostentatious area around Cavill Avenue where many teens form their first impressions of the notoriously wild, club-heavy area during Schoolies. That’s a pretty extreme first impression, and sadly it’s one many hold until they actually go back as adults and see Gold Coast for what it really is: one of the most picturesque and prototypical cities in the country.
It’s a city which is, right now, going through some major changes as the many different areas along the coast attempt to modernise and move away from tourist-trap businesses, towards local-friendly, hip hangs and lush restaurants that rival those further down the east coast in Sydney and Melbourne. Travel to the Gold Coast – both domestic and international – is becoming a much more attractive option with all this change going on, and it’s not just for the stunning weather and iconic beach culture anymore, as people begin to realise that the most memorable experiences on the Gold Coast aren’t only to be found in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach. Case in point: Burleigh Heads.
Burleigh Heads is likely somewhere the locals will want to keep secret, but as more independent businesses pop-up, complementing the laid-back, health-conscious lifestyle, it’s becoming a hot spot for the more adventurous visitor; surely they can share for at least a few days? Those in-the-know have been coming to Burleigh for years, picking a spot on top of necessary vantage point and national park Burleigh Hill to absorb all that picture-perfect slice of Australian surf culture has to offer, watching the increasingly popular past-time of paddle boarding in action as beautiful Burleigh Heads Beach fills up.
I recently had the opportunity to spend almost a full day in Burleigh for a quick zip around the area, exploring some of the touchstones that are placing this suburb as one of the most necessary places to visit while on the Gold Coast. Below you’ll find the highlights of my whirlwind time spent eating, drinking, and just being reminded of how lucky we are to live in such an exceptional country.
The dedicated breakfast and brunch culture in Burleigh Heads thrives on the sustainable and health-conscious vibe you get from pretty much every cafe dotted across the suburb. Hidden away on a residential street, Burleigh Social, is at the forefront of that scene with a very boutique, slightly rusted but charming look. It’s bright and vibrant with outdoor seating and astro turf; an endearingly funky breakfast spot that’s buzzing from the early hours with locals hitting the fresh juices, eggs, and acai bowls before the beach. The latter is what really sticks out here, presented as one of the most generous and full-flavoured acai bowls I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming, waking me up from my sleepy-eyed trance with a medley of fresh fruit and shredded coconut. They’ve really perfected the art of the acai bowl here.
Address: 2 Hibiscus Haven, Burleigh Heads
Burleigh Brewing Co.
There are but a handful of craft breweries up in Queensland, and Burleigh Brewing Co. are amongst the most promising, already fiercely adored by anyone who has the good fortune to come across their delicious, honest, and simple beers like the malty Duke Helles, the German style Hef, and the full-flavoured Bighead, which has zero carbs and only 88 calories per bottle.
The team recently moved to a bigger, open, and more efficient space that I’m told will mean more seamless productivity for them. It’s also a more welcoming and shinier space than many of the breweries I’ve been to, attractive with a fresh coat of paint on the massive communal tables that stand next to the bar, which harbours some of the crew’s brews that are kept exclusive to the property.
Located on Ern Harley Drive, the brewery is an essential visit for those looking to explore some of the expert brews that this team come up regularly. It’s also a good chance to get to know craft beer a bit better as the scene continues to grow and hopefully one day rival the vital scenes of Melbourne and Sydney.
Address: 2 Ern Harley Dr, Burleigh Heads
James Street is the dedicated strip of boutique fashion, wine bars, art galleries, cafes, and more for Burleigh Heads. The street isn’t too long but it’s jam packed with local businesses and off-shoot arcades that house essentials like Social Brew and pick-me-up purveyors like Canteen Coffee. You can easily spend a few hours exploring everything from clothes to furniture here and breaking that all up with fresh juices, strong coffee, or Australian wines and bespoke cocktails. This will be your base for any visit to Burleigh Heads so familiarising yourself with it should be at the top of the to-do list.
I know I mentioned that Burleigh Heads is a health-conscious community, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to live a little and indulge every once and awhile. Perhaps the most tempting guilty pleasure in the area is Ze Pickle, a humble store that has recently exploded into a nationally-famous burger brand, leading to stores in Brisbane and now Surry Hills. It’s “go hard or go home” here, the menu single-handedly erasing all those acai bowls and juices by piling on ridiculously large, but carefully crafted and delicious burgers. From the K F Ze (crispy fried chicken, smoked jalapeños, ipa beer cheeze sauce & mum’s slaw) to the Oak Wood Smoked Brisket Burger (12 hour smoked beef brisket and house made mac’n’cheeze), you won’t be leaving here feeling unsatisfied, but if possible you should definitely save room from some of the epic Ze Chips, which come topped with IPA beer cheeze sauce, maple smoked bacon, and ZP sauce. If you’re feeling really daring (and slightly masochistic) you can finish it all with a Oreogazm (deep fried oreos in doughnut batter with toffee caramel ice cream and liquid nutella). Eat responsibly and chase it all up with some craft beer, wine, or cocktails.
Address: Connor St, Burleigh Heads
Rick Shores is perhaps one of the most memorable dining experiences on the Gold Coast now that it’s up and running in a gorgeous building right on the beach. The view is unbeatable and the airy space is the perfect place to chill and tuck into some brilliant food which edges toward Asian-fusion with a focus on fresh seafood, influenced by flavour-rich cuisines like Thai and Vietnamese.
Executive Chef Ben Bertei has put together a beautiful menu with starters like Cuttlefish Popcorn served with miso, ash salt, and lime; Poached Prawn Laab Betel Leaf with roasted rice; and the must-order Fried Moreton Bay Bug Roll with hot and sour slaw and a soft, fluffy bun (you’ll want a few of these). There’s a raw bar with Oysters and Kingfish Sashimi, and mains include a Whole Market Fish of the Day; Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with five-spice, coriander, and fried chilli; and various curries.
The wine list focuses on fresh varities like rose, which sipping watching the beach culture unfold is pretty spectacular, and will have you wishing for an all-day stay. Finish up with some Daily Soft Serve or the great Honeycomb Waffle with white chocolate, tamarind, and milk crumb, horrendously presented, but that could be because the kitchen knows you are going to whip it all up into a mess anyway.
Address: 3/43 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads