We recently moved to the Gold Coast and spent a fun day riding the HOPO ferry to get more familiar with this beautiful city.

Though we quickly became familiar with public transport on the Gold Coast when we first moved, we only just found out about the HOPO (hop on hop off) ferry over the radio.

We decided to give HOPO a try and find out what we could see around the Gold Coast from the different stops in a single day.

More about HOPO

The HOTA is operated by the Tour Collective on behalf of the City of Gold Coast. The Tour Collective are the same organisation that operate SeaWorld’s Whale Watching Cruises so you know you are in good hands.

HOPO Gold Coast Ferry at HOTA
HOPO Gold Coast Ferry at HOTA

The HOPO has two ferry’s operating between five major stops across the Gold Coast including: 

  • Surfer’s Paradise
  • HOTA
  • Marina Mirage
  • Broadwater Parklands
  • Seaworld and the Spit

It takes about an hour to go through all the stops in one direction. The first HOPO ferry departs Surfer’s Paradise at 9am and the last one at 4pm. They operate 7 days per week.


With a one way ticket starting at $4 and an adult all day pass at $25, HOPO is an affordable and relaxing way to get around. Compare this to a $15-25 Uber fare one way to go from Surfer’s Paradise to Sea World.

Deal: HOPO has a 20% discount on the website at the moment. This means you can get the same all day ticket for $20.


HOPO has stops located near some of the popular hotel precincts on the Gold Coast. The HOPO Appel Park stop at Surfer’s Paradise is only a short walk from major hotels like the Mantra Towers and Vibe Hotels. This makes HOPO an attractive option if you are staying in the area without a vehicle.

As local residents though, we were looking for a place to park and ride. Initially we planned to start our HOPO adventure at Broadwater Parklands. Because most of the parking around there is paid, we decided to head to the Spit and park for free. If you plan to do this, keep in mind that traffic to the Spit can get pretty busy later in the morning. I would recommend going early.

Onboard the HOPO Gold Coast Ferry
Onboard the HOPO Gold Coast Ferry

What can you do?

There are plenty of things to do in the Gold Coast. Here are five you can accomplish in a day by riding the HOPO:

1. Shopping at the Marina Mirage

As we parked at the Spit, we started our day at the Marina Mirage, a high end, open air mall featuring boutique stores, cafes and restaurants. With its iconic sails fashioned by the same designer as the Sydney Opera House, the Marina Mirage is visible from areas right around the northern end of the Gold Coast. On Saturdays the Marina Mirage hosts a Farmer’s Market so you can pick up some fresh produce as well.

Breakfast at Cafe La Province
Breakfast at Cafe La Province

We walked from our car along the beach to the Marina Mirage and ordered some breakfast at Cafe La Province. Danielle ordered the Vegetarian Omelette and I got the bacon and egg roll. A great way to get some energy for our big day ahead. We do hope to go back and try some of the other great restaurants they have on offer. Once we had eaten and posted our latest vlog, it was an easy walk to the HOPO stop to board the ferry.

The staff onboard were super friendly and gave interesting commentary as we travelled along, pointing out a floating chapel and some interesting facts about the Marina Mirage and it’s iconic sales. As we crossed the Nerang River to Broadwater Parklands, they even pointed out dolphins playing in the water.

2. Take a Stroll/Run/Ride around Broadwater Parklands

The Broadwater Parklands are a long strip of green spaces that extend along the Broadwater foreshore. There are walking paths where you can take a stroll, go for a run or even take out the roller blades or scooter for a spin. We saw plenty of families enjoying a BBQ, and playing sports on the grass. The Rockpools are a free water park where kids can cool off. Further to the South, there is another playground which has a cool bike/train that Danielle wanted to ride, but couldn’t bring herself to jump on ahead of all the kids in line.

Broadwater Parklands HOPO stop
Broadwater Parklands HOPO stop

In the area you’ll also find the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre perfect for swimming a couple of laps. There is also the GC Aqua Park – a floating, bouncy fun park for the more adventurous. Across the road you will also find the Australia Fair Shopping Centre.

After our walk, we headed back to the HOPO stop to look for dolphins while we waited for the ferry.

3. Visit Sea World or go to the Beach

From Broadwater Parklands, the final HOPO stop to the North is Sea World Marine Park. From this stop, you can enjoy a day at Sea World, or take one of the Sea World dining or Whale Watching cruises. You can also head across the road to the beach or take a walk to the northern end of the Spit to Doug Jennings Park. Here you can take in views of South Stradbroke Island, Southport, or out to the Pacific Ocean. We particularly like the beach along the Spit because there are some great waves and it is generally quieter than beaches around Surfer’s Paradise. We hope to revisit this stop in the future to enjoy a day at Sea World.

4. Visit the Gold Coast Home Of The Arts

From the HOPO Sea World stop, it is about a 30 minute journey back down to the Gold Coast Home of the Arts (HOTA). You’ll stop again at the Broadwater Parklands and Marina Mirage along the way. We really enjoyed the ride and commentary, especially about some of the fascinating mansions that line the water way. When you arrive at HOTA, it is worth just taking a walk around the parklands, which have been beautifully landscaped and dotted with sculptures. It is worth planning ahead as HOTA hosts numerous events, exhibits and activities throughout the week.

On Sunday mornings there is a fairly large Farmer’s Market boasting plenty of fresh produce and delicious food stalls. We tried a Mio Crispy Wrap and it was simply delicious. We also visited the Gaia Exhibit which was a spectacular installation on HOTA’s outdoor stage of planet Earth.

The Gaia Exhibit at HOTA
The Gaia Exhibit at HOTA

The UK artist, Luke Jerram wanted to give viewers an impression of what it is like to see the Earth from an astronauts perspective. It is only available until October 11, 2020, but there are always new exhibits visiting HOTA. You can also catch a movie in their indoor theatre. 

5. Grab some lunch at Surfer’s Paradise

From HOTA it is only about a 5 minute ride to the Appel Park HOPO stop in Surfer’s Paradise. There is plenty to do around Surfer’s Paradise from the worlds largest Timezone to relaxing by the beach or enjoying one of the many eateries. 

The view inside Longboard's Bar
The view inside Longboard’s Bar

We went for a walk along the beach to Longboard’s Laidback Eatery & Bar for a late lunch. Longboard’s boasts a large range of burgers to choose from. Danielle went for the Calimari Salad while I got this  Hiesenburger – filled with fried buttermilk chicken goodness. We sat by the pool and enjoyed a beverage while we waited for our food. We loved the atmosphere and they even gave us a place to recharge our devices while we refilled our stomachs. They have a $5 happy hour from 3-5pm where you can get a drink or five wings. The food here was so very good.

A burger from Longboard's in Surfer's Paradise
A burger from Longboard’s in Surfer’s Paradise

Once we were completely full we rolled back down the hill to the HOPO stop to ride the afternoon away. We just enjoyed an afternoon touring all the stops without getting off. They have a fully stocked fridge onboard with a selection of alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Danielle enjoyed a Chardonnay while we watched the sunset and reflected on such a wonderful day. 

Danielle enjoying a wine at sunset
Danielle enjoying a wine at sunset

Though there are two ferries that run throughout the day, we ended up with the same crew each time. Our skipper, Paul, was very informative and accommodating, taking time to point out the different sites and photo opportunities. We loved our time onboard the HOPO Gold Coast Ferry and can’t wait to ride again! 

Order tickets or learn more about the HOPO Gold Coast Ferry.

Watching the sunset from HOPO
Watching the sunset from HOPO

***We may have received discounted or free services to assist us in writing this post.