Sunshine Coast versus Gold Coast

Do You Prefer Sunshine or Gold?

The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland are favourite coastal destinations for Australian tourists and international travellers.

Both places are celebrated for their beautiful beaches and have names that evoke the image of golden beaches, sunny skies and relaxed lifestyles.

The 'Goldy' and 'Sunny' coasts are not only two of Australia's most popular holiday destinations - they have also gathered a reputation as two of the fastest growing regions attracting permanent residents. The Gold Coast is currently rated as having the fastest growing population in Australia.

Which of the two cities is better for you? What separates one region from the other? Which is the best place for a holiday? Which is the best city to live in permanently?

The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast both stretch out along the south-eastern coastline of Queensland, each bordered to the west by sub-tropical hinterlands and situated respectively, south and north of Brisbane.

The Gold Coast is a loose collection of suburbs blended together in a mix of dwellings and accommodation from single storey homes in fast growing inland suburbs to a few remaining beach houses scattered among coast-hugging highrise apartment and hotel towers along an extended stretch of 76 kilometres of beautiful coastline south to the NSW border.

Burleigh Headland To Hinterland

The Sunshine Coast, on the other hand, reflects its modern history as more of a series of towns with less densely populated areas in-between the 'towns' and fewer highrise towers along its coves, bays, islands, river mouths, estuaries, headlands and sandy beaches stretching 100 kilometres to the north.

The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast each lack a real CBD.

The Gold Coast is 78 km south of Queensland's capital city, Brisbane, while the Sunshine Coast is 102 km north of Brisbane. Both have major highways, freeways and heavy rail links connecting them to Brisbane.

They each have the allure of the beach and both experience temperate to sub-tropical climates.

Noosa To Hinterland

PART ONE - The Holiday Experience

In March 2020, Australia's national border was closed to international tourists coming to Australia and Australians wanting to travel overseas, due to community transmissions of the Covid-19 virus.

Australian families and individuals who might normally have travelled to Europe, Asia and the Americas for vacations were no longer permitted to do so. Hence, they turned their attention to travels within Australia with a strong focus on Queensland.

The Gold and Sunshine Coasts, in particular, became favoured Queensland destinations.

Here is how they stack up as comparative holiday destinations.

Weather

The conservative average for days of sunshine on the Gold Coast is 250 days per year.

On days where there is rainfall it typically occurs in the late afternoon/early evening after most of the days' outdoor activities are over.

Temperatures on the Gold Coast are considered ideal with the average yearly high 25.1°C (77.2°F) and an average low of a mild 17.2°C (63°F). Even winter days (June-August) are suitable for beach activities, especially when the sun is shining.

February receives the highest rainfall on average of any month at 177.3mm. September is the driest month at an average low of 43.6mm.

Summer can bring sudden storms with the accompanying heat and humidity. April-May and September-November are the best months to travel to the Gold Coast to avoid heat/humidity or days that may be too cool for beach-going.

Storm Approaching Gold Coast

The annual weather patterns of the Sunshine Coast similar to the Gold Coast.

The Sunshine Coast has one of the highest sunshine ratings in the world, averaging close to 300 days of sunshine per year.

The Sunshine Coast tends to be slightly windier than the Gold Coast with slightly lower humidity levels.

August is generally the windiest month, combined with colder air that may cause blustery conditions. March to May is considered the best period to visit the Sunshine Coast.

The average yearly high temperature on the Sunshine Coast is 25.2°C (77.4°F) with a yearly minimum average of 15.8°C (60.4°F).

Similar to the Gold Coast, rainfall on the Sunshine Coast occurs mostly over the more humid summer months and most often in the late afternoon and early evening.

Accommodation

The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast both offer a wide range of accommodation styles and prices. Depending on the season and national/school holiday dates (peak times), accommodation prices can vary greatly at different times of the year and in relation to their proximity to the beach, waterways or rainforests.

Tourist Parks/Cabins

The Sunshine Coast offers a wider range of options than the Gold Coast for grey nomads and car-based travellers wanting to camp overnight and for short stays in 'caravan parks/camping grounds' near the beach.

Backpackers/Hostels

The Gold Coast hosts more backpacker accommodation choices than the Sunshine Coast, with a concentration of hostels around the Gold Coast's nightlife area of Surfers Paradise.

Motels

The Gold Coast has retained a number of its older style and traditional motels compared to the Sunshine Coast. Overnight tariffs are also lower by 15-50% (($110 - $150 per night) than the Sunshine Coast ($130 - $300 per night).

Beach Houses/Shacks

Holiday houses and shacks by the beach are a rarity on the Gold Coast and can cost $2000-$3000 per night if you can find one to rent. The Sunshine Coast offers a wider selection with prices in the $950-$1500 per night range.

Apartments/Villas

On the Gold Coast, apartments (highrise and resorts) are the main go-to accommodation for families. They range from $125 - $1600 per night depending on the number of rooms, proximity to the beach and luxury star rating.

Similarly, the Sunshine Coast has a wide range of apartments near the beach but far less in the highrise category. The price range on the Sunshine Coast is far less extreme than the Gold Coast at $140 - $440 per night.

The Sunshine Coast has a bigger range of vacation villas and in more locations than the Gold Coast.

Luxury Hotels/Resorts

Both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast host luxury hotels and resorts with overnight charges ranging from $125 - $400 per night, depending on the season/time of year and the luxury star rating. The Gold Coast has a greater number of luxury hotels and resorts and consequently offers a wider choice.

Shopping

Fashion Design Concept

The Gold Coast offers an impressive and ever increasing choice of shopping opportunities.

There are several major shopping centres including Robina Town Centre, Pacific Fair & Australia Fair, plus a range of smaller retail hubs scattered throughout the Gold Coast, in addition to outlet-style shops at locations like Harbour Town.

Deisigner Handbags

Shopping on the Sunshine Coast is relatively limited compared to the Gold Coast as there is only one major shopping centre, Sunshine Plaza, in Maroochydore.

Nightlife and Culture

The Gold Coast remains one of Australia's nightlife capitals with its variety of bars, strip clubs and a casino.

The Gold Coast is typical of any city with a nightclub precinct. The party culture and 'schoolies festivals' have attracted negative media attention for the drama and violence it sometimes attracts, including exposure on reality TV police shows.

Nightclubs on the Gold Coast have extended trading hours through to 5:00am closing times with government-enforced 3.00am lockouts to ensure you're inside a chosen venue before 3.00am.

The Gold Coast has recently invested in development of its performing arts centre with the newly named, HOTA (Home of the Arts), providing live music, theatre, comedy and dance productions and the opening of a new modern art gallery.

The Gold Coast is also home to public outdoor festivals such as the beachside Swell Sculpture Festival; Broadbeach Blues Festival and Cooly Rocks On Festival - rock'n'roll & nostalgia festival. And Miami Marketta is a laneway dining experience with food vendors of all nationalities in the one space and live music every Wed-Fri-Sat.

Hire a boat on the Gold Coast

The Sunshine Coast offers far fewer nightlife options than the Gold Coast. Even on weekends many entertainment establishments close by 9pm. These early closures include restaurants in Sunshine Coast suburbs that tend to close early, even on Saturday nights.

The Sunshine Coast does not boast a major performing arts centre or gallery; however, it does host a number of smaller regional art galleries and 'creative spaces' for performers and artists.

These regional spaces host art exhibitions and touring comedy and music-theatre/cabaret shows. Kings Beach Amphitheatre hosts the annual Caloundra Music Festival.

The NightQuarter (recently relocated from the Gold Coast) is a breath of fresh air as the Sunshine Coast's newest entertainment precinct with ticketed concerts and special events featuring 'major touring artists and signature shows'.

Noosa on the northern Sunshine Coast is home to some world-class restaurants and has several quality bars concentrated around the central dining hub of Hastings Street. Many of these bars stay open after the surrounding restaurants have closed.

The Sunshine Coast's nightlife offerings are fairly mellow and limited compared with the Gold Coast's vibrant nightlife that has become an integral part of its identity and culture.

Catering for Children

Family Enjoying Theme Park
Family Enjoying Theme Park

The Gold Coast leads most other destinations in Australia for attracting families and catering for children of all ages.

There are a huge number of tourist attractions catering specifically for families and children with many free activities on offer.

Theme parks such as Dream World, Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild, Movie World, Australian Outback Spectacular and White-Water World; Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary; Infinity in Surfers Paradise; children's swimming enclosures and playgrounds at Broadwater Parklands; the more natural settings of Doug Jennings Park, Federation Walk Coastal Reserve and The Spit beaches, all provide a myriad of child friendly opportunities. Some are free and others require paid tickets for entry.

Aerial View Sea World Gold Coast
Sea World Gold Coast Spit

Ocean beaches on the Gold Coast are well-patrolled. And there are calm, shallow and sheltered spots for swimming, such as Tallebudgera Creek and Currumbin Creek estuaries and the Marine Stadium on The Spit.

The Gold Coast has several weekend markets at Carrara, Palm Beach-Currumbin and Evandale, often with free live entertainment, arts and crafts, face painting, fresh food and snacks.

A short car trip away to Tamborine Mountain and the Rainforest Treetop Walk at O'Reilly's provide family wildlife and nature experiences.

Gold Coast accommodation options include those that specifically cater to families including children's play equipment, clubs and activities.

The Sunshine Coast also provides paid-ticket attractions and unique activities like the Ginger Factory, Top Shots Fun Park and the Big Kart Track for go-karting.

The Sunshine Coast also hosts the highly popular and world famous, Australia Zoo - Crocodile Hunter, established by the late-Steve Irwin and currently managed by Terri Irwin and her children, Bindy and Robert.

Caloundra, Mooloolaba and Noosa all offer sheltered swimming beaches suitable for young children.

The Sunshine Coast also has well equipped children's playgrounds and wide areas of parkland for family picnics and free-play including at Kings Beach, Caloundra; and Cotton Tree Park on the Maroochydore River.

The Gold Coast will probably remain the first choice for those with children due to the volume of activities on offer, while children's attractions on the Sunshine Coast are generally cheaper and equally high in quality as the Gold Coast.

Nature and Recreational Activities

The Gold Coast region boasts around 70km of beaches broken up by natural forms such as Burleigh Heads (National Park) and Greenmount Hill. These beaches provide excellent and often world-class surf break conditions all year around.

However, a plethora of highrise buildings that have been permitted to be constructed on the Gold Coast beachfront negate the remaining natural settings when looking back to shore from the water. These monolithic buildings also cast large shadows over some of the most popular beaches by early afternoon each day.

The Gold Coast is built on one of the world's most extensive river and canal systems that are hosts to numerous recreational and nature-based activities.

They include the best inshore dive and snorkelling site of any city in Australia at the Southport Seaway; and sailing, boating, fishing, jet-skiing, stand-up paddle (SUP); sea-kayaking; kite and wind-surfing; picnics/BBQs; cycling, walking, running; and bird & whale watching activities on The Southport Spit.

The Gold Coast Hinterland is within easy reach by car or tour bus for most visitors. The Natural Bridge walk at Springbrook is popular and a tour conducted at night under torchlight, leads down to a waterfall and cave containing a colony of glow worms.

The Sunshine Coast region maintains a better balance than the Gold Coast between its natural settings of beaches, coastal parks and nearby subtropical rainforests along its rivers and in the hinterland.

Surfing-Tea-Tree-Bay-Noosa-National-Park
Surfing Tea Tree Bay Noosa National Park

The Sunshine Coast's beaches are equal in quality to the Gold Coast but less crowded and with fewer highrises.

The Sunshine Coast beaches aren't has highly reputed for their wave quality or as consistent as Gold Coast surf-breaks; however, when the several bays at Noosa National Park start to pump, surfers (especially long-boarders) come from near and far to experience the lengthy walls in a totally natural setting.

The Sunshine Coast has very few highrise buildings in comparison to the Gold Coast. This creates a more relaxed, natural and open atmosphere on the Sunshine Coast beachfront. The Sunshine Coast also has an extensive canal system that provides similar boating, paddling and fishing opportunities as the Gold Coast.

Taking into account the Glass House Mountains, many regard the Sunshine Coast's hinterland as more striking than the Gold Coast's.

Glasshouse Mountains Sunshine Coast

The natural attractions of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, featuring their beautiful beaches, are almost equal. The Sunshine Coast probably pips the Gold Coast with its more untouched natural settings and less-developed and built-up highrise areas.

The Gold Coast's size and its offering of a wider range of activities for adults and children than the Sunshine Coast may contribute to the Gold Coast being slightly more popular as a holiday destination.

Also, the range and number of airlines, domestic and international flights, routes and discounted airfares on offer to fly directly to the Gold Coast, may give it an advantage as a holiday destination over the more limited flight options to the Sunshine Coast.

The Verdict

Experience Oz, an Australian-owned and operated tour and activity booking site, lists the key features that led to the following ratings assessment of the Gold Coast compared to the Sunshine Coast as holiday destinations within Australia.

Gold Coast: 56/70

  • Beaches
  • Weather
  • Theme Parks
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping
  • Number of activities
  • Things to do for kids

Sunshine Coast: 52/70

  • Beaches
  • Weather
  • Natural Highlights
  • Less crowded
  • Relaxation
  • Safety
  • Less commercialised

How much enjoyment you get out of a visit to the Gold Coast versus Sunshine Coast will largely depend on the purpose of your holiday.

Want to relax and get away from it all and not fussed about night time entertainment or having days full of activities? Choose the Sunshine Coast.

Looking for a destination full of things to do at all hours of the day that might be more crowded... or mainly concerned with keeping the kids entertained? The Gold Coast is for you.
From: https://www.experienceoz.com.au/en/gold-coast-vs-sunshine-coast

PART TWO - Permanent Living

Queensland has always been popular with Victorians as a holiday destination. However, since March 2020 over 30,000 Victorians have left Victoria permanently to relocate to other States.

This movement by Victorians follows a series of long and arduous Covid-19 virus quarantine lockdowns in Melbourne and regional Victoria during the winter and spring of 2020.

Consequently, large numbers of Victorians (and a fair number of Sydneysiders) decided to relocate permanently to Queensland where the weather is more friendly and where Covid-19 infections and lockdowns were far fewer, more localised and shorter in duration than in the southern States.

A substantial focus for this transmigration of interstate residents has been on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. This has driven property and rental prices to historic high levels.

The Cost of Living and Property/Rental Prices on the Sunshine Coast are generally lower than the Gold Coast in most categories as seen in the following figures:

Property Prices

The Price to Income Ratio is the basic measure for property purchase affordability. It is calculated as the ratio of median property prices to median familial disposable income, expressed as years of income. The lower the ratio, the better.

Price to Income Ratio
Sunshine Coast 4.45
Gold Coast 9.66
Mortgage as Percentage of Income
Sunshine Coast 33.89%
Gold Coast 70.80%
Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre
Sunshine Coast $4,333.33 -56.90 %
Gold Coast $10,053.41
Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre
Sunshine Coast $4,166.67 -49.28 %
Gold Coast $8,215.06

Rent Prices per Month

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre
Sunshine Coast $1,443.33 -20.37 %
Gold Coast $1,812.50
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre
Sunshine Coast $1,163.33 -13.83 %
Gold Coast $1,350.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre
Sunshine Coast $2,116.67 -27.84 %
Gold Coast $2,933.12
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre
Sunshine Coast $1,718.33 -22.73 %
Gold Coast $2,223.75

Rent Prices on the Sunshine Coast are 22.57% lower than on the Gold Coast.

Check Sunshine Coast Real Estate and Gold Coast based agents in Southport for great local information.

Salaries & Financing

Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax)
Sunshine Coast $4,776.67 +1.00 %
Gold Coast $4,729.18
Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate
Sunshine Coast 4.54% +10.91 %
Gold Coast 4.09%

Consumer Prices

Sunshine Coast Local Purchasing Power is 6.39% higher than the Gold Coast.

Sunshine Coast Restaurant Prices are 12.92% lower than the Gold Coast.

Sunshine Coast Grocery Prices are 7.16% higher than the Gold Coast.

Childcare

Childcare Gold Coast Vs Sunshine Coast

Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child
Sunshine Coast $1450.00 -31.28 %
Gold Coast $2110.00

From: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&city1=Gold+Coast&country2=Australia&city2=Sunshine+Coast

Crime & Safety Comparison

Breaking in Crime

While Crime and Safety on both the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast are perceived as 'Low' by World standards, the Gold Coast is perceived as being less safe and having more crime than the Sunshine Coast, especially regarding problems with people 'using or dealing drugs'.

Indices

The value 0 is perceived as very low.
The value 100 is perceived as very high.

Crime Index
Sunshine Coast 22.59
Gold Coast 42.75
Safety Scale
Sunshine Coast 77.41
Gold Coast 57.25

Crime Sunshine Coast Gold Coast
Level of crime: Very Low 18.26 Moderate 45.62
Crime increasing in the past 3 years Moderate 52.66 High 63.30
Worries home broken and things stolen Low 21.41 Moderate 40.96
Worries being mugged or robbed Very Low 15.16 Low 36.98
Worries car stolen Very Low 17.67 Low 33.57
Worries things from car stolen Low 24.22 Moderate 42.90
Worries attacked Low 20.05 Low 39.97
Worries being insulted Low 20.73 Moderate 40.10
Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin, gender or religion Very Low 10.98 Low 25.17
Problem people using or dealing drugs Low 33.75 High 60.07
Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft Low 28.38 Moderate 52.74
Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery Very Low 19.45 Moderate 42.40
Problem corruption and bribery Very Low 18.90 Low 32.91
Safety Sunshine Coast Gold Coast
Safety walking alone during daylight Very High 86.75 High 76.38
Safety walking alone during night High 67.43 Moderate 44.81
Last Update: June 2021 May 2021

From: https://www.numbeo.com/crime/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Australia&city1=Sunshine+Coast&city2=Gold+Coast&tracking=getDispatchComparison

Health Care

Confidence in Health Care Systems on both the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast are predominantly 'Very High'.

Overall Health Care System Index
Sunshine Coast 88.19
Gold Coast 86.04

Health Care System Index Sunshine Coast Gold Coast
Skill and competency of medical staff Very High 93.75 Very High 91.67
Speed in completing examination and reports Very High 90.62 Very High 84.26
Equipment for modern diagnosis and treatment Very High 96.88 Very High 92.31
Accuracy and completeness in filling out reports Very High 87.50 Very High 89.81
Friendliness and courtesy of the staff Very High 81.25 Very High 85.19
Responsiveness (waiting) in medical institutions High 75.00 High 70.19
Satisfaction with Cost to you Very High 90.62 Very High 84.62

From: https://www.numbeo.com/health-care/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Australia&city1=Sunshine+Coast&city2=Gold+Coast&tracking=getDispatchComparison

Health Retreats

Both Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast have extensive health facilities. The natural environment can help create the ultimate wellness retreats. A Mental Health Retreat (Noosa Sanctuary) on the Sunshine Coast combines an impressive array of therapies across many locations-:

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Supportive psychotherapy
  • Mindfulness training
  • EAGALA – Equine assisted psychotherapy
  • Hypnotherapy

Body and Mind Therapies-:

  • Dietitian
  • Personalised Physical Exercise Plan
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation
  • Physical Pampering
  • Beach Walks, Noosa Headlands Hike, Whale Watching and more

Pollution

By World standards both Coasts are 'Low' to 'Very Low' in relation to pollution with the Gold Coast being slightly lower than the Sunshine Coast in some categories.

Pollution Index Sunshine Coast Gold Coast
Air Pollution Low 21.59 Very Low 18.01
Drinking Water Pollution and Inaccessibility Very Low 15.22 Very Low 16.54
Dissatisfaction with Garbage Disposal Low 28.26 Low 27.57
Dirty and Untidy Low 32.61 Low 36.03
Noise and Light Pollution Low 30.68 Low 38.60
Water Pollution Low 28.41 Low 33.46
Dissatisfaction to Spend Time in the City Low 21.88 Very Low 18.01
Dissatisfaction with Green Space/ Parks in the City Low 23.86 Very Low 19.70
Last Update: June 2021 May 2021

From: https://www.numbeo.com/pollution/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Australia&city1=Sunshine+Coast&city2=Gold+Coast&tracking=getDispatchComparison

Conclusion

Your desire may simply be to have a relaxing vacation in a safe place with suitable accommodation, lots of sunshine, beautiful beaches and blue unpolluted skies. Both the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast offer these things and much more, depending on your particular interests and family situation.

And a permanent move to the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast from other parts of Australia or even other parts of Queensland has the potential to greatly improve your work - life balance.

However, other parameters such as one's Work Skills, Qualifications, Professional Experience and Local Job Availability/Demand have a strong bearing on how successful and happy a permanent move might be in relation to finding suitable accommodation that is affordable and gaining employment on either the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast.

In April 2021, the unemployment rate on the Gold Coast was 7.0% (National average 9.0%) with youth unemployment at 12.0%. In April 2021, unemployment on the Sunshine Coast was 8.5% with youth unemployment at 16.1% (Qld average 14%).

It would be a valuable exercise to conduct some due diligence with locally based Real Estate Agents and Property Managers before making a decision to permanently relocate to either the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast, in addition to enquiring about employment possibilities.

Also we have not fully examined or compared in detail other important elements such as access to Schools & Universities; Transportation; Traffic; Cost of Utilities (electricity, gas etc); and we have only barely touched on the costs and access to Sports, Leisure, Clubs, Recreation and Entertainment activities.

Demand for housing and work on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast and the potentially wonderful life style they offer is coming under ever increasing pressure from the rapid population increases due to Covid & post-Covid interstate migration.

And as the Australia's Covid vaccination roll-out nears completion in mid-2022 and our National border restrictions are further eased, one can only imagine that Australians returning from overseas will put further pressure on the demand for accommodation, employment and the natural assets offered by the 'Sunny' and 'Goldy' and the consequent price increases.

Hopefully, you are now armed with more information regarding whether the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast is the better choice for you and/or your family as Vacation destinations or as Permanent Residents.

Whichever you prefer
Sunshine or Gold
Enjoy!

Researched, Compiled, Composed, Written & Edited by Dr Steve Gration - June 2021

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