Ahhh Burleigh Heads, or Burleigh as the locals call it, how I miss you already. The golden sweep of your beaches, the relaxed vibe of the locale, the taste of a cold sharp cider on the waterfront, the soft caress of frangipani flowers under my bare feet… all part of memories that I am loath to forget.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Burleigh, if this is the case I think it’s about time you became acquainted with this small beach town in the deep south of Queensland, Australia. For those that have, you’ll know that although Burleigh is only about a 30 minute drive out of Surfers Paradise, it might as well be a world away. The area boasts 360 degree jaw-dropping vistas, mouth-watering food, turquoise coloured waters, and so much more.
To be honest, I was a little dubious about how much there would be to do in Burleigh and whether I’d get bored of it soon enough. There was no need to worry; Burleigh has everything you need and more. The best part about it, it sits perfectly nestled in the Gold Coast, with easy access to the surrounding areas. Keep an eye out, I will be writing a follow up article on my blog about other hidden treasures in these surrounding areas.
But to start, Burleigh…
I was fortunate enough that my friend lives in this little bit of paradise. I highly recommend basing yourself in Burleigh if you decide to head to the GC. It has escaped the tourist driven feel of Byron Bay and boasts fantastic surfing conditions, paired with an authentic beach vibe. I have put together a list of my must-haves in Burleigh, just for you!
Get up at 5am!
Do it. Don’t argue, trust me. This is the time that most of the locals start their day and I have to admit I think they are onto something. I didn’t do it until my third day and I regret missing out two glorious Burleigh mornings.
Once you’ve dragged yourself out of bed and stopped cursing at the ridiculous hour of the morning, head to Justins Park and take a morning stroll down the Oceanway that meanders alongside the shore.
For such an early time of the morning the place is truly alive and a hub of activity – you will be regaled with the local beach scene of surfers hitting the early morning waves, people embarking on a run with their dogs, and others partaking in local bootcamps or yoga classes under the swaying palm trees. The air is the perfect temperature at this time, warm but lacking the intense heat of the day. Note: was informed that on Monday and Wednesday mornings the Council puts on FREE tai chi classes in the Park at 8.30am on Monday and Wednesday mornings!!
If early morning exercise isn’t your thing, join those who have chosen more relaxing endeavours – take a swim in the ocean, sit on the shore or at the beachfront café and enjoy the paradisiacal view. And by all that is mighty, that’s exactly what it is! As the sun climbs further above the crashing surf, the waves and sky are cast awash with a tapestry of warm golds and pale pinks. It’s at this moment, when you are watching the glorious spectacle unfold, that you have to admit (however begrudgingly) that 5am doesn’t seem so bad.
Places to eat
For such a small place, Burleigh boasts a fantastic array of local eateries and cafés. From the foreshore to James St and the adjoining alleys – you’ll have more than enough choice. The fare on offer is varied, ranging from the go-to burgers and gelato, to acai bowls and green smoothies, on to award-winning innovative cuisine. Unfortunately I didn’t try nearly enough of the eateries, but I’ve decided it just provides me with another excuse to go back.
For a better idea of places to eat, head to TripAdvisor or some of the below links for various recommendations.
If you’re looking for a few casual drinks and nibbles I highly recommend the local Surf Club, home of the BEST sweet potato fries I’ve ever had (kumara chips for us kiwis). It also has some pretty good beers and cider on tap. Across the street is the Burleigh Heads Hotel, the local watering hole. It can get pretty busy on Saturday nights; many people start here and then head to Justin Lane, which is a little more upmarket and serves some fantastic cocktails. I heard that they’re also renowned for their pizza, but I can’t personally attest to this. However, I did have the pleasure of tasting the pizza sensations served at Tom Ugly’s and my friend’s flatmate had to admit that she thought it was better than that offered by Justin’s (try both!). Tom Ugly’s also accompanies their pizza with some pretty affordable bottles of wine (my two favourite things!)
Burleigh Hill and Burleigh Head National Park
Burleigh is home to beautiful walks that take you through lush forests and past the local coastline. Justins Park boasts 2km of Oceanway, which is interspersed along the way with playgrounds. Off to the right of Justins Park is Burleigh Hill, where you can join a host of other people who settle down for one purpose – to enjoy the view of Burleigh beach which unfolds before them. Grab some fish and chips from BH Fishmongers (James St), and hunker down on a spare bit of grass. Passed this point you can head into Burleigh Head National Park, with paths taking you along the rocky foreshore or up into the rainforest, where you can stop for jaw-dropping views of the coastline. These walks aren’t long but they do take you passed mangroves, pandanus groves, grassland, and some incredible masses of hexagonal basalt columns.
Well, you’re in the Gold Coast, of course you want to swim! Another of the things I fell in love with about Burleigh, was its swimming holes. The Burleigh foreshore is an obvious one, it stretches with white sandy beaches down the coast, but the surf may be a little rough for some.
My favourite swimming hole was Echo Beach. If you take the walks aforementioned around the headland or through the forest, you’ll come across an idyllic beach on Tallebudgera Creek. It feels like a secret place, but it’s well known to the locals. This beach is better suited to families and those who prefer calmer waters. The water is stunningly clear and lacks the waves of Burleigh foreshore, which means the water is also warmer. However, be careful as in spots the current can be quite strong. Depending on the weather the track to the beach may be closed.
There is a local market on Saturday mornings at Burleigh school, where you can go to pick up trinkets, gifts, and of course local produce. As a Wellingtonian I am used to overpriced fruit and vegetables, so I was like a kid in a candy store at this market. All around crates overflowed with passionfruit, watermelon, lychee, rock melon, tomatoes, kale and for the first time ever I came across dragonfruit! Mountains of them! Everything was a fraction of the price that I was used to back home. There were also jars of local olives, freshly baked bread, homemade spreads, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, and so much more.
Sunday night fire-twirlers
If you are lucky enough to be in Burleigh on a Sunday night, I really recommend that you don’t miss this. As dusk settles, the entertainment on the waterfront begins. Listen as the first boom of the bongo drums echoes across Justins Park, accompanying the cacophony of sound provided by the hundreds of miner birds that flock every night to nest in the palm trees. These bongo drums will continue for hours to come. Soon afterwards the fire-twirlers come out. Feel free to settle on the grass to watch the entrancing sight. My friend informed me that all of this was relatively spontaneous, but that it has become a sort of tradition; usually only bad weather keeps it from happening.
Things I didn’t get time to do, but should be on your list
Burleigh Art and Craft Markets: These are hosted on the last Sunday of every month between 8am and 2.30pm in Justins Park, right beside the beach front.
Burleigh Brewing Company: This was one place that I was truly upset to miss, as an avid lover and consumer of craft beer, I always try to find a local brewery during my travels. Unfortunately they were moving premises whilst I was there and weren’t to reopen for another week (timing!!). Make sure to check them out though, with their new digs opening they’re looking at hosting a bunch of new events – including Sunday Crafternoons. They aren’t open every day, so ensure you double check opening hours.
David Fleay Wildlife Park: This can be found in Tallebudgera Creek. You have the option of going to one of the wildlife shows, hosted by a ranger, or just explore the park on you own to see the crocodiles, koalas, and kangaroos (just to name a few).
So there we go folks, Burleigh Heads. For a small place it certainly has a lot to do. With a little bit for everyone, whether you plan to travel solo, with your significant other, as part of a group, or with your family – you won’t be disappointed!
Relax, explore, eat, swim, and be merry!
If you are interested in reading more about things to do in the Gold Coast and surrounding areas, keep an eye out on my blog over the next few weeks.