Although situated on the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads is predominantly residential. In 2001 tourists and visitors were estimated at 21% of its census count. Burleigh Waters to the west is entirely residential, and includes the Burleigh Town Shopping Centre (1981 discount department store, supermarkets and about 60 shops) along with a primary school and Marymount Catholic College (1967). Burleigh Heads primary school is near the beach, on the Gold Coast Highway, along with two churches. In addition to the National Park there is a foreshore reserve, Burleigh Ridge Park and the Tallebudgera Creek Environmental Park. Burleigh Waters has less open space, unless the canals and lakes are counted. Big Burleigh still stands out in the landscape, but the eye is drawn to the apartment blocks: the first, Goodwin Terrace, was built in 1967. Other blocks soon followed, and in the 1980s some 20-storey blocks were added, overlooking the camping ground.
The iconic beach break at Burleigh Heads was dedicated as a national surfing reserve in 2012. The Burleigh Beach Pavillion built on public beachfront land, received an upgrade in 2015.
A large fire in December 2014 caused significant damage to the Burleigh Heads National Park.
Burleigh Heads had a low proportion of children under 14 years at the 2011 census and nearly one-fifth of its population was aged 65 or more.