On the Queensland– New South Wales border 10km south of Currumbin, COOLANGATTA merges seamlessly with Tweed Heads (in New South Wales) along Boundary Street. With only a giant concrete plinth just off the main road marking the border, you'll probably make the crossing between states without realizing it. Unless it's New Year, when everyone takes advantage of the one-hour time difference between the states to celebrate twice, most travellers bypass Coolangatta completely; in doing so, they miss some of the best surf, least crowded beaches and the only place along the Gold Coast which can boast a real "local" community. Even the motel towers on Point Danger are well spaced, and the general ambience is that of a small seaside town.
Coolangatta is set out one block back from Greenmount Beach along Griffith Street, where you'll find banks, shops and little in the way of high-density development. Running parallel, and connected by a handful of short streets, Marine Parade fronts the shore, the view north over sand and sea ending with the jagged teeth of the skyscrapers on the horizon at Surfers Paradise.
At Point Danger, the Captain Cook Memorial Lighthouse forms a shrine where pillars enclose a large bronze globe detailing Cook's peregrinations around the southern hemisphere. Twenty-five metres below, surfers in their colourful wet suits make the most of Flagstaff Beach's swell – at weekends this area is very crowded.
Other good spots to surf include the area between Point Danger and Kirra Point, to the west (the latter was nominated by world surfing champion Kelly Slater as his favourite break); Greenmount, which is fairly reliable and a good beach for beginners; and Snapper Rocks and Point Danger, at the end of the peninsula, for the more dedicated – exactly where depends on the wind. For sun worshippers, Coolangatta Beach, just west of Greenmount, is right in town, but the six-kilometre stretch of sand further west, beyond Kirra Point, is wider and less crowded.