During the 6 weeks I lived on the Gold Coast, I made it my mission to try as many vegan options as I could find, not only all the ones on Happy Cow, but also several I found which weren’t listed on the app. With my body several pounds heavier and my bank account many many dollars lighter, I can safely say that I’m now somewhat of an expert, having tried almost all of the vegan food the Gold Coast has to offer!
In case you can’t be bothered scrolling through the (very long!) list, here’s a handy summary of my favourite vegan food on the Gold Coast:
Best coffee (soy cappuccino) = Providore, Brickworks (Southport)
The award for best coffee (and, if you’ve been paying attention, you should know by know that I’m very fussy about my coffee!) without doubt goes to Providore in the Brickworks retail outlet (it’s a chain so I think they have other locations but this was the only one I tried). Runners up would be Cafe Catalina, at Broadwater Parklands, and, of the vegan cafes, the best coffee is definitely Blendlove.
Best smoothie/acai bowl = the PBJ smoothie bowl from the Cardamom Pod, Brickworks (Southport)
Australia (well, the Gold Coast, at least) is craaaazy about acai/smoothie bowls – they are ubiquitous. Even totally traditional, non-vegan, cafes serve them (made with coconut milk/water). Having tried all the smoothie bowls in the veggie and vegan cafes, I can safely say that the most delicious of all was the PBJ smoothie bowl from the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks. Plus, their smoothie bowls are so beautiful – an artwork in themselves – almost too beautiful to eat (but not quite!).
Best pancakes = the banana walnut pancakes from the Cardamom Pod, Brickworks (Southport)
In general the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks have amazing breakfasts, but their banana walnut pancakes were to die for – you definitely would have no idea they were vegan, they tasted just like normal – super yummy – pancakes. Notable runners up were the lime and coconut pancakes from the Cardamom Pod at Broadbeach and the breakfast pancakes from Marie Anita’s (which are also gluten- and refined sugar-free).
Best French toast = Marie Anita’s (on the ‘specials’ menu)
On holiday I can’t resist carbs for breakfast (especially since I never normally make them myself), and French toast used to be one of my favourite breakfasts before I became vegan (a very long time ago!). Although the French toast from Blendlove was a close contender, Marie Anita’s wins because it’s also gluten- and refined-sugar free, so you can indulge as much as you like, knowing that it’s actually good for you!
Best smoothie = banoffee espresso or spiced almond butter smoothie from Blendlove
If you can’t face a smoothie bowl (the portions are huge on the Gold Coast), then the banoffee espresso and spiced almond butter smoothies from Blendlove were both delicious.
Best main meal = gnocchi in cashew cheeze sauce from the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks (Southport)
I love gnocchi, and this was possibly the best gnocchi I’ve ever had… however, the portion was a little small (for a change!) – I could have eaten double, it was so delicious – for that reason it was probably a little overpriced at $21.
Best savoury lunch = satay kale salad (with tempeh) from Marie Anita’s
Most of the vegan food on the Gold Coast is sweet and not always that healthy (smoothie bowls, donuts, pancakes, etc.), so Marie Anita’s is a welcome change, with all the food being gluten free and free from refined sugar. And the satay kale salad was so delicious and healthy, and the perfect portion size for a change (although I could have had more tempeh, if I’m being super fussy)!
Best health food shop = depends what you’re after…
In terms of the sheer quantity of choice, the best health food shop is probably Flannery’s Organic Supermarket in Benowa. They have a huge choice of dry, staple foods (like granola, pasta, etc.) as well as some toiletries and an organic greengrocers. However, it’s quite far from the tourist trail – from Southport (where I was based) you have to take 2 buses (the 747 then the 740) unless you wanna walk 45 minutes in the sweltering heat… Otherwise GoVita (also a chain) in Australia Fair shopping centre (Southport) has a lot for a small shop – loads of vegan and natural toiletries, chocolate (including raw) and a small fridge selection at the back of the store with some vegan cheese, kombucha, tempeh, etc. And they sell vegan donuts and raw cakes if you’re looking for snacks.
In terms of supermarkets, Coles has some vegan biscuits/snacks and some sugar-free ready-made sauces (including baked beans) in the ‘health’ aisle, as well as tempeh, tofu and vegan bacon in their fridge section… but, in general, Woolworths has a slightly better vegan choice, particularly for yoghurt, juices and iced coffee. The IGA at Broadbeach, although it’s tiny, also has an amazing range of vegan chocolate, biscuits, granola and kombucha – definitely worth checking out if you’re in that area. Finally, the deli supermarket in the Brickworks centre (the Standard Market Company) also has loads of coconut yoghurt, kombucha, some vegan cheeses and 4 types of vegan icecream in their gelato stand (the coffee one is amazing!).
Best cake/dessert = salted caramel tart from Cardamom Pod Brickworks
For ‘proper’ cake, the chocolate caramel slice from the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks was unbelievable. If raw food’s your thing, then Marie Anita’s has a huge choice of raw vegan cake, but their coffee’s terrible (if you like your coffee and cake together, as I do!).
A word of advice about the Gold Coast for tourists: it can be difficult to get around without a car – most people drive everywhere, not only because the bus service isn’t great, but also because it’s just so darn hot and humid that walking or cycling very far becomes quickly unbearable. Things have gotten better since the tram line was installed, but if you want to get to places not near a tram stop (such as several of the cafes listed below) you need to be prepared to get taxis or google the bus stops/times. One thing that particularly shocked me coming to the Gold Coast was that a lot of places don’t have wifi – and even those that do (like Starbucks etc.) often only give you one hour (sometimes 30 minutes!) before you have to buy something else to get another code! Apparently they just don’t get strong wifi in Australia and if customers used it it would be even weaker. I don’t really understand how this can be possible, but that’s what I was told. Finally it was also strange to me, as a foreigner, that many cafes and restaurants don’t have their own toilet (I thought this was illegal in most countries). You often have to leave the restaurant and walk around the corner to access the building’s toilets, or across the road to a shared block of toilets (if it’s in an outdoors shopping precinct like Brickworks), or sometimes they just don’t have a toilet at all (this was the case with several places in Surfers Paradise). This seems very odd to me, and not very convenient if you’re by yourself (as you have to leave your stuff in the restaurant, which is often semi open/not totally enclosed). Anyway, apart from those oddities, I did really enjoy my time on the Gold Coast. A lot of people think of it as just somewhere to pass through, not really worth spending time there. And it’s true there’s not a lot to do other than shopping or lying on the beach. But the vegan food is really really good, and there’s so much choice – just for that reason alone I think it’s worth stopping by for a few days (Burleigh is probably the prettiest place to base yourself for any longer than that).
Now for the full low-down…
Not only is Giri Kana one of the few vegan cafes that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (during the week, at least), it’s also one of the few cafes that has free unlimited wifi for customers, so it quickly became one of my go-to places to work in the afternoon.
It’s also much more reasonably priced than the other veggie cafes (even though the portions are just as big), probably because the food is a little more ‘rustic’ and not as beautifully presented as at the Cardamom Pod and Blendlove, but still super tasty.
Breakfast is a set menu – I only tried the breakfast pancakes which were nice but not in the same league as Cardamom Pod, Blendlove or Marie Anita’s. Lunch and dinner is buffet style – you choose a plate size with either 2 or 3 dishes (even the medium size was huge!) – with hearty meals like lasagna and curry, as well as some cold salads (the curry, daal, and roast pumpkin with avocado were definite winners). Their cakes and coffees (apart from the chai latte which had a strange chemical taste) were also pretty good, but don’t go for the smoothies – their blender isn’t powerful enough to cope with greens!
Tap and Grind (inside Australia Fair)
Small cafe inside Australia Fair shopping centre that has really good coffee (soy cappuccino and soy mocha). They also have 2 kinds of raw vegan slices, including a raw Bounty bar.
VitaGo (inside Australia Fair)
Small healthfood shop inside Australia Fair shopping centre, which sells loads of raw vegan slices (tiramisu was my favourite) as well as several flavours of vegan donuts, which are delicious but sell out quickly so go early! At the back of the store they sell different types of gluten free and paleo bread, as well as kombucha and some vegan cheeses in the fridge section. It’s also a great place to stock up on natural cosmetics and toiletries, as well as vitamins and minerals (they even have a resident naturopath at the back of the store to offer advice).
I only went to this place once and didn’t manage to get a look at the menu, but their coffee (soy cap) was amazing – one of the best on the Gold Coast. It’s also a lovely place to sit, with gorgeous views of the water and a (much-needed) cool breeze. The staff are also super friendly… the only downside is that there’s no wifi for customers, which is a shame, otherwise it would be a lovely place to sit and work!
The Cardamom Pod probably deserves an entire post to itself… The pictures speak for themselves really: their food is designed to be instagrammed (seriously – a huge part of their philosophy is that we eat with our eyes first). Inside is fairly large, open and bright, with modern décor, and a huge choice – all entirely vegan! I have to say it’s probably the best quality in general of all the restaurants/cafes on the Gold Coast, although it’s reflected in the price – it’s super expensive, but on the other hand the portions are ridiculously huge, so you could easily share (bringing the cost down). The staff are super friendly, though not super attentive during busy times (in general it seems to always be busy, through 8am til close, but especially during the holidays when they will often run out of things by 10.30am) when there can be a long wait for food, the waiters often forget to bring things, and it can sometimes be impossible to get their attention.
Despite all that, it’s still probably my favourite vegan food on the Gold Coast (closely followed by Marie Anita’s and Blendlove), especially the PBJ smoothie bowl (all the smoothie bowls in fact), the banana walnut pancakes and the gnocchi in cashew cheeze sauce (probably the best gnocchi ever?!). The iced drinks are also ridiculously good (made with icecream) and the coffee’s not bad – they also have free unlimited wifi, though it’s not so comfy to sit for a long time (too busy). The only disappointing dishes were the waffles (not super fresh), the smoothies (mostly just boring/overpriced, apart from the yogini which tasted like feet , and all served in plastic cups with plastic straws, even for sitting in), and the cannelloni (too rich, oily, and really overpriced).
The Standard Market Company at Brickworks
Within the indoor market at Brickworks there are several cafes (including Providore which has the best coffee on the Gold Coast!), and the Standard Market Company, which comprises a small supermarket, deli, and an icecream stand that serves four types of vegan icecream: apple pie, sugar-free chocolate, coconut, and, my favourite, coffee flavour, which was yummy.
In between Southport and Brickworks, on Ferry Road, there’s a small complex with a gym, sushi restaurant, and Raw Espresso – a small cafe serving coffee (with a choice of coconut, almond and soy milk), breakfasts and cakes, including two raw vegan slices and several flavours of energy ball. I was intrigued to try their vegan version of a bulletproof coffee (made with coconut oil, MCT oil and espresso), but sadly it didn’t convince me to give up my cappuccino habit!
Situated away from the tourist trail – a 25 minute walk along the road from the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks – Blendlove is worth the short bus ride from Southport (or a longer bus journey from Pacific Fair), not only as it’s one of the few cafes to offer free unlimited wifi and a lovely place to sit and work, but also because the food is amazing (especially the French toast and breakfast pancakes!), and the coffee’s really good (but go for a large, the cups are very small!). Their smoothies are also delicious, especially the spiced almond butter and banoffee espresso – the only downside is that they serve them in takeaway cups even if you’re sitting in, which is not great environmentally, but then again the Gold Coast in general seems to be slow to catch on to the plastic-free message (Nude Sisters also serves smoothies in plastic cups with plastic straws even if you’re sitting in). the only slightly disappointing dishes I tried were the sweet potato fries with aioli (which were slightly burnt and not enough dip), and the smashed avo on sourdough toast, which was tasty, but not enough feta and the toast was overdone (too crispy and hard), so overall I felt it was overpriced.
Situated in a small shopping complex (like Brickworks) near Mermaid Beach, Nude Sisters is a good 20-25 minute walk from Pacific Fair shopping centre (which doesn’t sound like very far, but in the heat it feels like 40!). The staff there are super friendly though, and it’s a really nice place to sit and people-watch. Like many of the Gold Coast veggie cafes it’s not cheap, maybe even a little overpriced for what you get. Burger, muffins and smoothies weren’t great (a little boring), but the choc chip pancakes and brekkie bowl were both yummy, and the coffee’s pretty good too.
Chinese vegan restaurant next to Nude Sisters. I never actually made it here as there were so many other restaurants to try, but when I walked past it was always full with (predominantly) Chinese people so the food must be fairly authentic I think.
All time coffee co.
This place is listed on Happy Cow as having vegan options but when I went (having walked 40 minutes to find it!) there was no vegan food whatsoever! To be fair, the kitchen was being renovated but apparently (I was told by the Barista) they normally only sell vegan donuts anyway (which you can get in GoVita or elsewhere) so it’s really not worth effort, especially as their almond milk mocha was terrible!
Initially I wasn’t going to try Marie Anita’s (having seen it on Happy Cow), as it’s quite far away from everything, and not on the tram line, but I’m sooooo glad I made the effort in the end, and, in fact, it’s only 2 minutes on the bus from Pacific Fair shopping centre (bus no. 700) and the buses leave frequently. The whole menu is (refined) sugar-free and gluten-free… not totally veggie, but still a great choice for vegans. It’s also one of the few places that has it’s own toilet (although the lock didn’t work!)!. Breakfast is served all day, with lunch from 12.30-2.30 (they stop serving all food at 2.30pm but continue selling cake and coffee until 4pm).
The first day I ordered the Big Bowl (on the lunch menu), which smelled amazing and looked like huge portion, but actually almost half of it was just rocket… so really it wasn’t a lot of food for the price. The sweet potato was good, and I felt super healthy eating it, but I could have done with more dressing on the salad, and the tahini dip wasn’t amazing (or enough). And since it was super expensive (at $23), it probably wasn’t worth it.
Luckily I went back the next day to try the vegan French toast (on the specials board), which was amazing! Probably the best French toast of the Gold Coast (as good as Blendlove, but it’s also gluten- and sugar-free so extra bonus points!). You get a choice of bread with it – I had it with the fruit bread, and it was so yummy, and a huge portion (as usual!).
Pancakes are probably one of my favourite ever breakfasts, and the ones from Marie Anita’s didn’t disappoint… they were super yummy, you definitely wouldn’t be able to tell they’re gluten- and sugar-free. The portion was way too big though, I couldn’t finish it, and I still felt quite sick after!
After so many smoothie bowls, pancakes and French toasts, I was seriously craving some savoury food, especially greens, so the kale salad from Marie Anita’s was exactly what I needed… super healthy and fresh, and (most importantly!) absolutely delicious. It was also the perfect portion size for a change, although I could maybe have had more tempeh since you have to pay extra for it anyway.
Marie Anita’s also has a huge selection of raw vegan cakes by the counter… the only problem (if you like your cake with coffee, like me!) is that their coffee’s really bad – I actually had to return my cashew milk cappuccino, it was completely undrinkable – the milk was separated, the cacao powder too bitter, and the coffee tasted burnt. The soy cap that I switched it for wasn’t any better – it tasted like she had burnt the milk again, or maybe that’s just how their coffee tastes. Definitely avoid it! Probably best to stay away from the smoothies too – quite bland and way too filling to go with a meal.
Inside Pacific Fair shopping centre
Small (pop-up style) cafe located inside Pacific Fair shopping centre (don’t ask me where – it’s a maze in there!), which serves a vegan breakfast, as well as a vegan date and walnut loaf, and coffee with nondairy milk.
Cafe attached to the bookstore, near one of the entrances to Pacific Fair (coming from the tram stop), which sells three kinds of raw vegan slices and some energy balls (the raw snickers was pretty good). Their coffee is also pretty good, with a choice of nondairy milk (almond and soy).
Vegan Chinese/Asian restaurant in the downstairs food court of Pacific Fair (next to Coles supermarket). Most of the food is buffet style (rice with 2-3 dishes) – the sweet and sour pork was delicious though very chewy; the satay chicken was ok, not amazing – or they also have a menu with noodle dishes if you prefer, as well as a few pre-made sushi rolls to takeaway. Quite cheap compared to most vegan cafes, but they only have a few seats and it also closes at 5pm daily.
Really nice, trendy bar just across the road from the beach (there’s no commercialisation allowed on the beaches in Queensland) – lovely place to sit with a beer and watch the sunset. There’s no wifi though, so not so good as a place to work during the daytime. As well as several cold-pressed juices and smoothies, they have a few vegan smoothie bowls on the breakfast menu, and one vegan option for lunch – a veganised poke bowl – which I didn’t get around to trying but it sounded really good. They also serve ‘Loving Earth’ vegan hot chocolate/mocha, with three types of nondairy milk (almond, coconut and soy).
5 dogs is a hole-in-the-wall takeaway place in Surfers Paradise serving hotdogs (not veggie!) with two different vegan hotdogs on the menu. The sausage itself wasn’t amazing, kind of strange tasting, and the fries with gravy and vegan cheese was also pretty disappointing – the cheese tasted like plastic and not enough gravy for the portion size. All in all not worth trying (go to Lord of the Fries if you want a vegan hotdog!).
Lord of the Fries is a completely vegetarian fast food chain (the veggie version of Burger King) in Australia and New Zealand.
I had been to one in Melbourne and the food was ridiculously good… but I was a little disappointed by the quality of the Parma burger in Surfers Paradise – it was good but not amazing. The sweet potato fries were yummy though, and their vegan aioli is amazing!! You might not get a seat during public holidays/weekends as it’s crazy busy so be prepared to order takeaway and eat on the beach.
Surprisingly, the Cardamom Pod at Brickworks and the Cardamom Pod at Broadbeach share little in common apart from the name. Unlike at Brickworks, the Broadbeach venue operates a buffet style service (like Giri Kana), where you choose a plate size with either 2 or 3 dishes and complementary rice. I tried their vegan moussaka and a satay curry with cardamom rice – the moussaka was quite nice but the curry was too spicy and the rice had waaaay too much cardamom (and big seeds that I kept having to spit out!), totally overpowering. On the other hand, it’s open in the evening (while Brickworks closes around 4pm) so it’s a good place for dinner, rather than lunch.
Although I initially didn’t like the interior as much as Brickworks, it’s actually a nicer place to sit and work (they also have free unlimited wifi) as there’s more space… But, then again, the coffee’s not quite as good as Brickworks (apart from their soy chai latte which was really good), and, although they have a huge selection of cakes and sweet things next to the till, the ones I tried were quite disappointing – I actually had to return the vegan donut I ordered as it was stale! And then ordered the pumpkin cheesecake… only to discover after a few bites that it was veggie and not vegan! So take note: it’s not 100% vegan!!!! The only one I would recommend is their fudge brownie, which, considering I’m not a fan of brownies normally, was actually really good.
During the week they open at 11.30am, but at the weekend they open at 7.30am for breakfast, and it’s a set menu – different to Brickworks. Of the four breakfasts I tried, the lime and coconut pancakes were definitely the best (in fact, they almost rivalled the banana walnut pancakes from Brickworks!). The mermaid smoothie bowl was good but not in the same league as the smoothie bowls from Brickworks (though the portion size was more reasonable). And the gluten free protein crepe was super disappointing – there was no avocado (though it was in the description), only one piece of beetroot and the teensiest bit of almond feta, so essentially it was just crepe and tempeh. Definitely not worth the money.
The only other point in its favour (compared to Brickworks) is the icecream stand, where you can make your own sundae, icecream sandwich (with vegan caramel stroopwafels!) or just icecream in a cone. Delish!
Feed the Earthlings is a kind of vegan fast-food diner, serving pizza burgers and vegan fish and chips (the latter only occasionally), along the road from the Cardamom Pod at Broadbeach, and exactly across the road from the Broadbeach North tram stop. Although there are a few tables for sitting in, they’re really not comfortable, and it can be busy, so it’s more of a takeaway place. Don’t expect gourmet quality, it’s more like home style cooking, and huge portions again.
The ‘burger with the lot’ was tasty enough but a bit disappointing, especially the fries… as was the chicken and pineapple pizza. But the pumpkin veggie pizza was really good (maybe I had lower expectations?!), especially the cheeze topping.
SeraBar is an all vegan cafe in Burleigh Heads, serving breakfast and lunches, which include bagels, wraps, and smoothie bowls. It’s not the nicest place to sit in (it was a little dirty the day I visited), and although the quality of the food isn’t amazing (or at least the BLT toasted bagel that I tried), it is fairly cheap compared to other options.
HHBF is a healthfood shop in Burleigh, selling goods in bulk/unpackaged, such as grains, cereals, nuts, and chocolate. They also had some vegan/natural toiletries and a small fridge section. Note that it’s not totally veggie. Next door they have a cafe – serving (predominantly) juices, smoothies, a raw vegan wrap, acai bowls, coconut soft-serve icecream (with various toppings) and some raw vegan desserts – but it was quite chaotic inside, and with a really strange layout. I had to wait ages for the juice I ordered (golden hour – it was really good though) as the staff were really slow (and seemed pretty out of their depth) but friendly. It was also really difficult to understand the drinks menu, which was a build-your-own kind of affair. I would definitely go back to try the icecream but probably not at the weekend or during holidays – I don’t think they can cope with too many customers at once!
Kiss the Berry
Kiss the Berry is a chain of acai bars in Queensland, serving acai bowls and some raw vegan cakes. I didn’t go into the one in Burleigh but I went to one in Brisbane a few times… it’s not all vegan so be careful with what you order. In general the food was good but really overpriced.
As I was getting back on the bus to leave Burleigh, I also noticed that the Mediterranean cafe next to Kiss the Berry had several vegan options on the menu which sounded really nice. If you’ve been there please let me know in the comments below!