The Springbrook National Park covers a large expanse of rugged country to the east of the road, on the Queensland (northern) side of the state border. It probably deserves a VT page in its own right but for the moment let’s just focus on the western public entrance to it, a short distance after you cross into Queensland. Here, a short walk takes you to an interesting formation which I’d always known as Natural Arch, but which in some publications now is called Natural Bridge. Same place.
Here the creek (sadly, now much reduced by the drought) has carved a cavern in the basalt rock behind a waterfall. Then, it has found a way to drill a hole through the roof of the cavern, so the creek now has a waterfall heading into a small cave. Interesting and different!
Photo 1 shows the overall scene, with the waterfall seen inside the cavern. Photo 2 is a close-up (you can enter the cave), while Photo 3 shows the creek making its subterranean leap. What a pity there wasn’t more water!
Back to route instructions. Once you leave the National Park, the road is well signposted to Nerang, where you rejoin the freeway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Still in the Springbrook National Park, you will see many large trees such as this one. With its strangely convoluted trunk, not to mention a butressed base, it looks somewhat like the arboreal version of a gothic cathedral -well, I think so, anyway!
The reality is equally unlikely. It is a strangler fig, of which there are several species in Australian rainforests. Birds deposit the seeds of the fig high in the branches of another tree, which becomes the host. Then the fig sends down roots which eventually envelope the host tree and strangle it. Later the host tree dies and rots away, leaving only the large strangler fig in its place. In the second photo you see a tree in the early stages of being strangled.
In the main photo, you might care to note the staghorns which, in turn, have parasitised the strangler fig.
This little fellow is an Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii if you must be formal). Despite the impressive appearance they are harmless. Their main defence is to sit motionless and blend into the background ….well, that’s the theory! This one was surrounded by a group of walkers with cameras, who hadn’t followed the same script. They live on insects, fruit, frogs, berries, flowers and just about anything edible it seems! They are quite common in south-eastern Queensland, particularly in the forested areas near waterways, with a range extending along the east coast of Australia from southern NSW to north Queensland.
It's another 11km from Chillingham to the Queensland border, with the road winding through increasingly forested country and climbing up the range. The border is on the top of the crater lip of the former volcano.
This is not a road for rushing, if you are in a hurry you should have stayed on the main freeway through the Gold Coast! I'm not suggesting you need to travel slowly for safety reasons, just that the scenery is too good to pass by without enjoying it to the maximum: you'll see plenty of photo opportunities.
Photo 1 Looking toward the ranges forming the ancient crater rim.
Photo 2 The road winding through heavily forested country.
Photo 3 Looking south from the Queensland border.
Photo 4 Looking east along the border, showing the lava cap on the top of the range.
16 km from Murwillumbah, on the road to the Queensland border, you find the little hamlet of Chillingham. If I tell you that this tip includes all the main buildings, you’ll get the idea of its size. It started off, as did so many similar places, with timber-getting. Dairying also followed, but as the road to Murwillumbah improved there was less need for the town. Now there is a shop, the community hall, and some galleries.
The most interesting building is “The Old Butcher Shop” Photo 1, dating from 1923. It long has ceased its original role, but now houses a gallery of local pottery – not to mention some very interesting period photographs from the district.
Photo 2 shows the Community Hall, dating from 1910. By country standards, this is quite a substantial building. I found myself musing about the events which must have been held here over the past century – family gatherings such as wedding receptions, community dances, politicians giving speeches, celebrations of major events. If only the walls could speak! On the subject of speaking, that public phone box outside is rapidly becoming an endangered species.
If you feel an urge to have a break in this idyllic area, Photo 3 might well be the place. This is the local store, apparently a popular stopping point for the bicycle racers (separate tip), not to mention motorcyclists and many other travellers. Here you can cool off with a beer or an ice cream while you watch the world go by from the verandah.