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Travel Diary

Top 5 Things to Do in Burleigh Heads

© Kara Rosenlund

Burleigh Heads, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, is one of my favourite quick escapes down the highway from Brisbane. About an hour from home, I love how this coastal stretch has visual remains from a different era.

Much of the former charm of the Gold Coast is a homage to the golden age of Americana, from the glittering suburb names like Mermaid Beach and Surfers Paradise, to the suntan oiled tourists on the beach, the nostalgia is everywhere.

Above left: exterior details of the classic seaside architecture at Burleigh Headland / Above right: Italian tourists on holidays, both shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

I head to the Gold Coast regularly on editorial assignments to shoot stories for travel magazines and also for pleasure visits, escaping to the beach. Each time I visit I can’t believe the quality of the restaurant and bar scene and how much great food is on offer. It really is on the rise.

If you’re visiting the Gold Coast for summer, here are the top 5 things you can’t miss while you are there….. and even if you aren’t heading there for any time soon, keep these tips up your sleeve for when you are next in the seaside hood.


1. Eat Breakfast at Commune

This bustling little café is tucked away on a slip lane off the Gold Coast Highway. I love looking out for the old low-fi surf shacks while finding a park in the back streets. Lots of friendly staff and vintage vibes here.

Everything tastes great from the menu, if you are after something healthy, yet hearty, order the green bowl of avocado and eggs, with a side of bacon for your pre-swim sustenance.

Above left: Commune Café at Burleigh Heads with their sunshine yellow and white awning / Above right: the Healthy Green Bowl, both shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

2. Go For a Swim at The Beach

Head to the beach first thing in the morning while the surf is still calm and the beach isn’t too packed.

Afterwards, duck into the Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club beach kiosk on the sand and grab a cool drink.  I always support this incredible organisation and give over any loose change I may have on me. And remember, be beach safe and always swim between the flags!

Above left: Burleigh Beach, shot on assignment for DestinAsian Magazine / Above right: Surf Life Saving buggy, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

Above left: Burleigh Heads Beach, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

3. Go to Rick Shores and Order a Moreton Bay Bug Roll with a Cold Glass of Rosé

 I love this restaurant and always try to arrive for 12pm when they open their doors. This hive of activity fills up fast, as the food is fantastic and the beach views from each table makes this restaurant a local icon.

Above left: Rick’s Moreton Bay Bug Roll with a cold glass of rosé on an outdoor table / Above right: the exterior of Rick Shores with table views out to the ocean, both shot on assignment for DestinAsian Magazine.

I always grab a table outside as they are usually available. You can sit in the sunshine, hear the waves and people watch with the sand between your toes. Otherwise, make sure you book well beforehand if you would like to sit inside. The place goes off most days.

Hot tip, one bug roll is never enough, they are so addictive! A soft brioche roll with a crispy battered Moreton Bay Bug, gem lettuce and sriracha, heaven, with a cold glass of rosé.

Above left: the interior at Rick Shores at Burleigh Heads / Above right: the local kingfish dish, both shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

 4. Coastal walk up Burleigh Headland

After you’ve had lunch at Rick Shores, you will need to walk all those bug rolls off, so head up to the beachside path of the Burleigh Headland, a wild and natural headland in the heart of Burleigh.

Take in the rolling blue waves in between the iconic pandanas and the black rocky foreshore. You can sometimes see migrating whales in spring.

Above: the iconic pandanus lining the coastal walk, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine. Also available as a photographic print in my shop

Above left: a surfer about to take the leap into the ocean off the rocky headland, shot on assignment for DestinAsian Magazine / Above right: the wild and raw headland, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

5. Stay at An Old-School Motel for a Dose of Nostalgia or Go Luxury and Stay at Bon Sol

You can go high or you can go low. Either way the accommodation offerings at Burleigh are in close proximity to the beach.

Sometimes it’s fun to go low-fi and stir fond memories of family holidays in daggy motels. Or, go high and stay at bon Sol, a luxury beachfront apartment with interiors by Anna Spiro Design.

Above left: an interior from bon Sol’s beachfront apartment, shot on assignment for bon Sol / Above right: an old-school motel at Mermaid Beach, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

Above left: bon Sol’s classic beach set up / Above right: interior detail of bon Sol, both shot on assignment for bon Sol.

Above: the glowing light through the iconic pandanus, shot on assignment for Qantas Magazine.

I have just introduced this new ‘Travel Tips’  section to my blog. It’s totally unsponsored and something just for you. I’m sharing what I love to see and do and what not to miss.

Time is so precious when you go away on a holiday, so knowing you have some hot tips to help you through is always reassuring – so you can get into the vibe and start having a great time straight up!

If you liked this one and would like me to do more, then let me know!

K x

p.s If you would like to check out my updated photographic portfolio, click here.



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13 Comments to “Top 5 Things to Do in Burleigh Heads”

  1. Love this idea. Travel, food, great places to stay, the full package all wrapped up in fantastic photography.
    The Italian guys just made me smile!!

  2. Thanks for the tips on Burleigh – we might actually explore after the Games are over. Looks yummy and affordable.
    We are taking a cheap flight to Newcastle in Sept. – any tips?

  3. I love the Burleigh travel tips, thank you.
    Any chance you can do one for a Byron Bay??? Cheeky I know but would be awesome

  4. I love Burleigh too!! Though I love seeing it through your lens. My in-laws still own one of the original bungalows up on the headland!! I think one of your prints would be perfect there!!

  5. Kara I love your work and your photo-stories are literally like a walk through my childhood. At my grandparents huge old fibro family beach house at Miami every weekend – it was like my second home. (I always wanted to stay at the little motels in the highway because they had kidney shaped pools, even slippery slides into them)
    The beaches there and Burleigh are still beautiful and you capture their color and feel so well!

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