If you feel like escaping the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast for day, I suggest renting a car and discovering South East Queensland for yourself. One thing the tourists always seem to miss are the real beauties the Gold Coast has to offer besides the sun, surf and sand.
One place I definitely recommend taking a day trip to is Natural Arch which is only 40 minutes drive from the Gold Coast. Also known as Natural Bridge, this place is a subtropical rainforest nestled within the scenic Numinbah Valley. As one of my all time favourite places to go, Natural Bridge has more then just greeny surroundings on offer. Get in and discover the ancient rock formations, rock waterfalls, the vast range of flora and fauna and the infamous glow worms which light up the caves in which they hide in.
If you do get a chance to get out here I suggest bringing something warm to throw on as it is usually refreshingly cooler then the coastal areas during the day.
If you do fall in love with this place as much as I do, consider coming at night. With the bright glow worms to light up the darkened sky this place is much alive at night as it is during the day.
If you have the chance to make a day of it, why not bring along a picnic or try the local Natural Arch Cafe.
Natural Arch Cafe details are as follows:
Natural Bridge QLD 4213
PH: +61 (07) 5533-6140
Natural Bridge is located on the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, about four kilometres north of the border gate. From the Pacific Highway, you can turn off at Nerang (30 kilometres to the park) or at Mudgeeraba (42 kilometres to the park via Springbrook plateau). The scenic access roads are winding and should be travelled with care. Mini-bus tours run to the park from the Gold Coast and Murwillumbah.
The Hinze Dam is located about 15kms from Nerang on the Gold Coast.
Since I first wrote this tip a lot has changed at the Dam.
The Hinze Dam was originally constructed in 1976, then in 1989, work began on raising the wall another 15 metres, doubling the dam's capacity and providing increased water security and flood mitigation for the Gold Coast and its water supply.
This is the first time I have been here again since opening to the public after the raising of the wall. Now, there is only one entry road, and that is the Advancetown road. We followed the road and entered the gates and drove into the first viewing area. From the carpark, there was a short walk for a view of the spillway which was roaring with the massive amount of water going over the spillway. What a sight! I noticed that there was a disabled car - park up at the viewing platform.
From here, a short drive took us to the new, modern Information & Interpretive Centre which also includes a Cafe and free toilets. This is where you walk to the lakeside parks, do walking and Bird watching, mountain bike riding and horse trail riding. There are plenty of areas for a picnic or a barbeque.
Even though it was a wet day, I headed across the Dam wall. What a view of the tumbling water I had as I leant over the railing, fantastic!
New additions are two new boat ramps...... The Western Boat Ramp (Nerang Murwillumbah Road) and Eastern Boat Ramp (Little Nerang / Range roads) are now open for use. You are allowed to go canoeing & Kayaking and sailing. If you want to go fishing, you have to buy a permit, and if you wish to use a Boat, it must be electric or a manual powered boat.
Nice at any time, but extra good when the water is pouring over the spillway.
From Nerang, take road to Advancetown, follow signs to Dam.
Now we get down to the parts of the Gold Coast I find the most interesting, the ranges inland. Much of these are included in the extensive Springbrook National Park. You could spend weeks walking on the National Park trails and still not see all the sights. Here you will find waterfalls, cliffs, thick sub-tropical rainforest dripping with moisture, and ancient Antarctic Beech trees which are relics of Gondwanaland.
The most direct route from the Gold Coast is to head inland from the Pacific Motorway via Mudgeeraba (exit 79 from the north, exit 80 from the south), then follow the Gold Coast – Springbrook Road. The road gradually narrows and there are some quite blind corners, finally culminating in a section of one-way road, so take care. The drive from Mudgeeraba is not long, I’d say about 30-40 km. We had only a few hours to drive in, make a short visit, then drive out – and had no trouble fitting it into the time available. We even stopped for a very pleasant lunch at the former Post Office in the little settlement of Springbrook.
On our way up, we stopped to take in the views back to Surfers Paradise from the Wunburra Lookout. I had forgotten how good the purple ‘morning glory’ flowers can look, as they are too tropical for my part of Australia. For interest sake I’m including the second photo – I could never repeat it, but of all things I stopped a dragonfly dead centre in the frame!
For those interested in ‘collecting’ World Heritage Sites’, the rainforests in these National Parks are part of the World Heritage site ”Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves.
These 110 metre falls are one of the real highlights of this section of Springbrook National Park. A short and easy walking track from the carpark at the Gwongorella Picnic Area makes them accessible to just about anyone. Gwongorella also is easy to find: just following the road from the Coast will almost take you there, but fortunately the good people of National Parks have provided large maps to guide you in various places – Gowngorella is marked with the red box saying ‘you are here’ (which may be difficult to read on screen), however I have marked the route with red dots.
If you have a hire car you can head up into the hinterland and follow the signs to the Hinze Dam. This is the water supply for the area but also a nice place for a BBQ or a picnic. You can fish here but you must buy a permit.
There are sail boats and boats with electric motors. There are no power boats allowed on the dam.
Off to the northern end of the ranges you will find Mt Tamborine and the associated Tamborine National Park. To reach it from the Coast, head toward Brisbane on the Pacific Highway and 36km from Southport turn onto the the Oxenford-Tamborine Road. The mountain section is another relatively narrow winding road requiring care, but the rewards are worth it when you find rainforest such as in the heading photo.
The top of Mt Tamborine is outside the National Park and relatively well developed with tourist facilities, such as restaurants and tourist-related shops. You can read more about Mt Tamborine and the giant ancient volcano which formed all these ranges (photo 2 shows model) in my Mt Tamborine VT webpage.
If you have developed a taste for the scenic ranges behind the Coast by now, you probably will enjoy this somewhat longer trip. I’d allow a day for it. Head down to Murwillumbah in NSW (probably the shortest and fastest route is on the main road, the most scenic would be via Springbrook).
Murwillumbah is an old agricultural centre for the dairying and sugar industries, alongside the Tweed River. Unlike the coastal communities, life here moves at a more relaxed pace. I have a VT page on it and on the subsequent drive I’d suggest you take through Chillingham and back into the ranges to visit Numinbah Valley. From there you can continue on to the main roads and Brisbane or Southport, or alternatively head back via Springbrook on the scenic route to the Coast. Either way, I’m sure you’ll have a great day’s outing.
Of course, if you’re feeling suitably fit at Murwillumbah, you could climb Mt Warning which is National Park and which more or less dominates the area.
Located about 70km west of the Gold Coast within Lamington National Park is a spot called O'Reilly's Guesthouse, which has a spectactular tree-top walk using suspension bridges 20-30 meters above the rainforest canopy.
There are some beautiful views to be seen here, and although my fear of heights kept me from going to the top, Sarah ventured further up one of the lookout posts, to get some great photos of the treetops!
The suspension bridges support up to 6 people per span, so for those people like me that are afraid of heights, please respect this... otherwise I may throw you off!
Nimbin is about 40min out of Murwillumbah - south-west of Gold Coast. Nimbin is a real cultural experience. We lived on a community (share land) for a while and enjoyed the natural lifestyle. The scenery is beautiful. Check out when the markets are on - it's a nice way to spend the day.
Since Sarah and I took our trip during the middle of winter, we did not spend as much time at the beach, but rather out in the Hinterland, which is chock full of beautiful National Parks.
Binna Burra is full of great bushwalks, and has many guides who are trained naturalists, to show you the part from their perspective. There are 160Kms worth of walking tracks, so bring your hiking boots and get started!
We only enjoyed the views from the lodge, but with more time, we would have enjoyed even more!
If you love bushwalking, then Mt. Warning should definately be on your 'must do' list!!! It's about a 5hr bushwalk (from memory?) and the scenery is terrific!!! They have dawn walks too and a lot of people do the walk on new year's eve because Mt. Warning is supposed to be the first point that get hit by the sun in Australia.
While you are driving throughout Queensland's Gold Coast, remind yourself to stop off and take a few pictures. There are plenty of turn offs in the road, so you should feel safe.
This shot is from the roadside between O'Reilly's Guesthouse and Binna Burra in Lamington National Park. In the background you can really see the blue haze that is caused by the Eucalyptus trees. Luckily for us, the Koala Bears are doing a great job eating as much Eucalyptus as possible before this blue air starts affecting us too greatly.
Thank you Koalas!
If you've never heard of a Piccabeen Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) and would like to see one then have I got a place for you.
Joalah is just outside of Tamborine Mountain and is a lovely bushwalk that includes Curtis Falls. If you did the whole walk slowly it still wouldn't take up 2 hours and it is relatively flat.
Initially it starts up the side of a gully and winds its way down to the watercourse. You might see land mullets (the largest skink in Australia), occasional bird life, fruit bats and dragonflies as well if you keep your eyes open.
Access is via Eagle Heights Road
Holidaying on the "Coast" is full of fun, sand & surf and nightlife.
Perhaps one day, you may feel like a change of scenery, if so, a drive to the hinterland in a hire car, or with a tour company is an excellent days outing.
This is a drive I have often done. It begins at Nerang (exit 69) off the Pacific highway. The drive is past lush green countryside, Dairy Farms, fresh crystal clear creeks, and all with the cliffs, and maybe some waterfalls as the backdrop.
As you follow this road through the Numinbah valley, you will see a Prison farm where low risk prisoner's are kept. These are ones that may have refused to pay a fine, etc. etc.
Make sure you take time to call into Natural Arch and have a look before continuing about another 4kms to the New South Wales border.
Just over the border, be ready to pull off and stop at the valley lookout [pull-off]. Views are far reaching.
A good stop for lunch is the "green village" of Chillingham. Just a quiet country town, that gets busy on the weekends!
All the way the scenery is nice, if like us, coming after a good rain, then you will see waterfalls plummeting down the cliff faces, and more waterfalls and cascades in the creek, like we did, ones I had never seen before. Also, the grass was green, green!!
This drive is also a chance to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the roadside stalls, and at the little town of Uki, they hold a Sunday market in the hall.
Not long after here, you are back at the gold coast, away from the peace & quiet of the Gold Coast hinterland!
Fill up with petrol before you leave, and either take something for a bbq or picnic or buy something from the village. There are lots of nice picnic places, and most have Toilets.
If you want to really challenge yourself with a bush walk, head to Binna Burra and try some of the loop tracks there. Some are about 16km long, one is an overnighter but only for very experienced walkers.
Binna Burra is part of the world heritage eastern rainforest corridor and includes Nightcap Ranges and Lamington NP as well.
If you are looking for a place to get away from the tourist crowds and see why the Coast is so special, you gotta head here. They also have a camping ground and a limited number of rooms in the lodge. It is rugged terrain and can get extremely cold in winter.