Gold Coast Airport (IATA: OOL/ICAO: YBCG) is an international airport situated at the southern end of the city of Gold Coast, Queensland and approximately 90km south of the Brisbane CBD. Although nearly all of the airport facilities are situated in the Queensland suburb of Bilinga, the end of runways 32 and 35, taxiway Delta, taxiway Kilo, taxiway Lima and the southern ends of taxiway Charlie and Echo are all technically in the New South Wales suburb of Tweed Heads. Despite this, all of the airport remains on Queensland time and does not conform to daylight savings, which occurs in New South Wales from October to April.
Gold Coast Airport welcomed approximately 6.5 million passengers in the 2017 calendar year, making it the sixth busiest airport in Australia, and continues to increase in passenger numbers and aircraft movements. Heavy construction works are being completed for the brand new passenger terminal and Rydges hotel, located south of the existing terminal.
The airport is serviced by most Australian carriers and is largely used by Virgin Australia and Jetstar Australia, with various other domestic routes operated by Qantas and Tigerair Australia. Seair Pacific also operates selected routes with their C208s and DHC-6s from the GA apron. International routes are also operated by Jetstar Australia, Virgin Australia, AirAsia X, Scoot and Air New Zealand which are all vital in maintaining the Gold Coast as an international tourist hub. Three flight schools; Air Gold Coast, Airways Aviation and Australian Wings Academy also operate out of Gold Coast Airport. This heavily increases daily GA movements with flight lessons occurring virtually always. Air Gold Coast also manage all major Cirrus maintenance, deliveries and logistics in the country. Private jets are also frequent visitors, with VIP visits ranging from a Cessna Citation to a private Boeing 787, most of which are handled by Global Jet International and Platinum Business Aviation Centre (PBAC).
The airport consists of a single passenger terminal, which has a dedicated international departures and arrivals section at the Northern end. Qantas Freight, Virgin Australia Cargo and Coast Cargo also have freight handling facilities at the airport, with all freight being transported in passenger aircraft, so you have no real chance of seeing cargo aircraft at the airport, unfortunately. In 2009, a desalination plant was also built directly next to the airport’s north-west perimeter. The control tower is open between 6am-11pm and thus there are no RPT movements outside of these times. Sunscreen is always highly recommended.
Written by Ben Long (local spotter) and Brock Little, Matt Coughran (Spot 6) and Brodie Lawson (Spot 7). Last update March 2021.
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|14/32||2342 x 45 meters (7685 x 148 feet) – Asphalt|
|17/35||582 x 18 meters (1909 x 59 feet) – Asphalt|
|Terminal 1||Currently the only terminal at the airport and handles all international and domestic RPT traffic.|
|Terminal 2||Under construction.|
|Ladder||You can get away without one, however, a ladder is highly recommended for locations 3 and 5 if you are seeking daytime shots of moving aircraft. For photographing static aircraft, the fence is generally low enough to hold your camera up and shoot through a gap in the barbed wire.|
|Car/Public Transport||A car is very necessary for spot 6, however, it is possible to use public transport to get to most other locations, given the fact that the airport is amongst some major suburbs. In general, a car is much more convenient.|
|Restrooms||There are restrooms at the skatepark near spotting spots 1, 2 and 3 and the airport terminal also has good facilities. Alternatively, you could use some of the local fast food restaurants.|
|Drinks/Food||You will easily find food inside the airport or in the surrounding suburbs of Billinga, Tugun and Coolangatta.|
|Hotels||Gold Coast is a holiday destination thus you should have no problem finding accommodation. You can easily find some cheap motels and holiday apartments around the airport. However, most popular hotels are located in tourist-prone suburbs such as Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise. Despite this, the newly built tramline and no. 777 bus route makes travelling to the airport much easier.|
|Season||Spotting at Gold Coast is great year-round. Movements are consistent throughout the year and weather is normally nice however the warmer months (October-March) can be exceedingly hot and humid, with strong heat haze being an unfortunate byproduct of this. Winter days are some of the shortest, however, often provide nicer skies and beautiful sunrise/sunset light. The temperature is never overly cold thus winter may be the most comfortable time of year for spotting. Regardless, always check the weather before heading out.|
|14/32||The main runway, used by nearly all traffic from international aircraft to most GA. Runway 14 is used significantly more than runway 32 and is also the only runway with an ILS, making it the airport’s preferred runway.|
|17/35||Used by very few light GA aircraft, generally no bigger than a C172, although C208s have been known to use it. Regardless, almost all GA aircraft will use runway 14/32 and 17/35 is generally only given to aircraft by request. Due to this, there are no spotting locations for this runway.|
|Spot #1 – Tugun Leagues Club – 14/32 arrivals and departures|
|WHERE||This spot is at the large sports fields just next to Betty Diamond Sporting Complex. You can park your car at Betty Diamond or alternatively you could find a park in the club carpark. It is highly recommended that you go to the blue and white building (sports shed) south of the playing fields and take advantage of the shade. Rugby games are frequent on the field, too. In general, it is highly recommended that you do not enter the club’s field (clearly marked by a fence and viewing stands) but instead the areas around it, for instance, closer to the airport perimeter fence for 14 arrivals or near the club carpark/desalination plant entrance for 32 departures (see map).
The terrain gradually elevates between the fence and the sports shed thus you should be able to get clear 14 departure and 32 arrival shots.
|WHAT||Runway 14 and 32 arrivals and departures.|
|TIME||Afternoons, 1pm onwards.|
|MISC.||There are restrooms at the skatepark and also at the Hungry Jacks around the corner, where you can also get food/drink. A ladder is not essential but handy if you are seeking shots of runway 14 departures as it will elevate even further above the airport perimeter fenceline (if positioned at the sports shed).|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Arrival: A320=80mm; Departures: 789=120mm; Ground: 717=180mm|
|Spot #2 – Green box – 14/32 arrivals and departures|
|WHERE||This spot is located at the northern end of Adina Ave, where you will be able to easily park your car. You should see a large green electrical box; climbing this is not recommended due to safety concerns. Instead, you can easily walk into the open field behind it. There is a creek lined with trees dividing this side of the park from spots 1 and 2 and it may take a while to walk from one side to another.|
|WHAT||Runway 14 and 32 arrivals and departures.|
|TIME||Morning, before 11am|
|MISC.||Depending on where you are, trees may interfere with your shot thus it is best to move around and find a good clearing. Be careful of mosquitoes near the river. Your best bet to find food/drinks/restrooms will be in the terminal.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Arrival and Departure: 788=60mm; Ground: A333=110mm|
|Spot #3 – Adina Ave – 14/32 arrivals and departures, taxiway C|
|WHERE||Adina Ave is one of the most versatile areas for morning spotting at Gold Coast Airport. The best location is just north of the T-hangars at the junction of Adina and Loongana Ave, where the perimeter fence runs along the road with a few meters of grass between. You should have no problem parking along here. It is best to position for the type of shot that you want.|
|WHAT||Runway 14 and 32 arrivals and departures. The area near the junction of Adina and Loongana Ave (where the road runs along the fenceline) is the most popular, as it allows you to get rather close to aircraft taxiing on Charlie, either exiting the runway 32 (almost all RPT aircraft will vacate at the end of the runway) or taxiing for runway 14. If you are looking for side-on touchdown shots on runway 14 it would probably be best to move down the road and set up just before the first T-hangar (see map).|
|TIME||Morning, before 11am.|
|MISC.||A ladder is recommended and you should have no problem using one.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||As wide as 40mm for some aircraft (like an A330) taxiing on Charlie and up to 250mm for RPT aircraft using the runway. For GA aircraft you will need up to 400mm.|
|Spot #4 – Tower Rd – ramp|
|WHERE||This spot is located at Tower Rd; the main airside and control tower access road at the airport. Do not park your car on or drive your car down Tower Rd, instead, you should park your car next to the Qantas Freight facility.
Tower Rd has two major airside access gates located on it, one for GA and one for RPT/control tower. Gold Coast Airport’s airside operations/security is operated from a booth at the end of the road and the airport’s two major fuel towers are also positioned along this road. Due to this, security is very tight so the further you can stay from the access gate at the end of the road, the less likely you are to be told off. Large fuel trucks and airside vehicles also use this road frequently so it is important to remember to stay off the road and remain only on the grass strips along the side. Although a ladder would be handy, it is best not to attract the unwanted attention thus it will be easier to just either shoot through the fence or hold your camera through a gap in the barbed wire at the top of the fence.
|WHAT||Aircraft parked at GA/PBAC (private jets) on the Northern side of the road and aircraft parked on 30 bays (aircraft gone tech, NSW Ambulance/RFDS King Airs, select VIP aircraft needing customs clearance). Some aircraft parked on the northern stands and their pushback will also be visible.|
|TIME||Morning is best for aircraft parked at GA but any time of day should be fine for aircraft parked at RPT stands. This is also a popular location for night shots.|
|MISC.||Tower Rd is a private Gold Coast Airport road and the control tower have been known to alert Airport Operations of people “loitering”. If Airside Operations or Australian Federal Police personnel tell you to move on, do what they say. If you have a current ASIC card, it is recommended you wear it here.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||The private jets parked at GA are very close to the fence, in some instances you may need as wide as 10mm to fit the whole aircraft in. For large aircraft parked on the 30 bays, you may only need 20mm, and for all other RPT action, 55-250mm should be fine but something like an 18-55mm would also work.|
|Spot #5 – Qantas Freight carpark – ramp, 32 movements|
|WHERE||Located just next to spot 4, this could be the place to go if you want to get shots of aircraft on the 30 bays, or even at select RPT bays without any hassle. You can easily park your car in the parking spaces to the right of the Qantas Freight building, most of the other parks in the area are reserved.|
|WHAT||Aircraft parked on the 30 bays and on the 1 and 2 international bays, and aircraft taxiing to/from the gates via Charlie. Runway 32 rolling departures and arrivals are also possible.|
|TIME||Morning, before 11am.|
|MISC.||Unfortunately, ramp staff occasionally choose to park ramp equipment (catering trucks, stairs, etc) in front of the fence next to the Qantas Freight building, obstructing the view and making clear shots impossible, albeit this does not happen often. A ladder is recommended however Swissport employees often walk through this carpark at the beginning and end of their shift and they are instructed to tell anyone near the airport fence that they must be at least 3 meters away. This is never a problem for Airside Operations at locations like this. Swissport employees have also been known to tell people photographing aircraft that what they are doing is illegal. Despite the fact that they often don’t know what they are talking about, it is best to do what they say to keep the peace.|
|Spot #6 – Singh Park – 14 arrivals|
|WHERE||This is a novelty spot, for those who have explored all previous spotting locations and are seeking something more. The spot is located on Tugun Hill, so don’t even try getting there without a car. It is best to use Google Maps (or equivalent) to find your way here (coordinates 28°08’50.4″S 153°29’17.9″E if you are having a problem searching for it) and you should just park your car where you can along the street (not on a yellow line). Again, using a navigation service is virtually essential as the park is hard to find, although there is a sign the entrance is almost that of an alleyway between two houses, secluded by trees. Once you’re in the park, however, the view is brilliant.|
|WHAT||Runway 14 arrivals on final, this location provides a beautiful compressed background of the coastline. If you are not looking for an artistic shot, you’re best to try one of the other locations.|
|TIME||Afternoon, 1pm onwards.|
|MISC.||There is a bench you can sit on in the park, or you can choose to sit on the grass. This is probably one of the most difficult spots to shoot at as you will be relying mostly on flight tracking services such as Flightradar24 to determine the whereabouts of the next arrival. Trees may also obstruct your view so you should find a good clearing to shoot through. Remember to be respectful of the park and to local residents, always clean up after yourself (strictly no litter) and be friendly. For safety reasons, do not travel down the grassy face of the hill.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||300mm minimum|
|Spot #7 – Sugarwood Dr – 32 arrivals|
|WHERE||There is a footpath located along Sugarwood Drive where you can catch the 32 arrivals. Parking is located down the road on Parkes Drive. Parkes drive can be found by following the Gold Coast Highway southbound all the way to the end, which is the turn into Parkes Drive. Then walk back to Sugarwood Dr and walk to the top till the traffic lights where you have a perfect side over the treetop.|
|WHAT||Runway 32 arrivals on final.|
|TIME||Morning, before 11am|
|MISC.||This location is rather remote compared to the others, the options listed on the map are most likely the closest to this location.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||737s shot at 180-200mm. Both Cessnas are shot at 400mm|