Driving the Gold Coast Hinterland

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It’s less than an hour’s drive from the glitz and high rise of the Gold Coast, and few people realise a driving tour of the Hinterland is a perfect romantic getaway or weekend vacation.

Instead of sun, surf and sunscreen, the Gold Coast Hinterland has ancient rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, stunning natural rock formations, fantastic lookouts, wildlife, and top quality wineries and restaurants and this is one of those places which can take weeks to explore, even though most people do it as a romantic getaway or a weekend trip.

This is a world far removed from the gleaming skyscrapers and surfboards and sand “down below” on the Gold Cosast. Instead of designer shopping malls and pretty meter maids, there are quaint villages, tea rooms and craft galleries set among subtropical forests.

Getting There: 

Exploring the Hinterland is easily done in a day from the coast by car especially as a weekend vacation, and we picked up a Ford XR6 (plenty of power and a good road trip car) booked through DriveAway Holidays and Thrifty, and headed west from Broadbeach. Self-driving is the best way to get around the Hinterland and it’s multitude of natural attractions (roads are good and well sign posted).

The Hinterland is basically made up of three magnificent National Parks  - Springbrook, Lamington and Tamborine - and they overlook the Gold Coast from the west.

Springbrook & Lamington 

At the southern end of the Gold Coast, on the edge of the New South Wales border, are Springbrook and Lamington National Parks. They can be accessed from the Currumbin Valley turnoff, six kilometres north of Coolangatta, and from Mudgeeraba which is inland from Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads.

The drive itself is the perfect antidote to city life as the roads wind through forests of hoop pines, blackbutt, blue gums and ironbarks, and kookaburras, rosellas and lorikeets are easily spotted.

From either direction charming villages dot the trail and there are diversions every few kilometres like small waterfalls and creeks, roadside stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables and the occasional lookout.

Springbrook Village is in the heart of the National Park and is a collection of art and craft galleries and cafés, but it’s the local attractions which makes this place special.

Purlingbrook Falls is the region’s longest single-drop waterfall at 109 metres, and like most of the Hinterland’s National Parks there’s a seemingly endless series of bush walks that range from gentle 200 metre strolls through the forest to challenging 12 kilometre hikes through rugged terrain.

Of the several lookouts in the area, there’s one that grabs most of the attention thanks mainly to its name. Best of All Lookout, about four kilometres from Springbrook, is an invitation few visitors turn down and it lives up to its moniker.

Along the 350 metre walk to the Best of All Lookout is a cluster of Antarctic Beech Trees believed to be 2,000 years old and at the end of the track the outlook reveals itself in all its glory.

It’s a superb panorama over Byron Bay, the Tweed Valley, Mount Warning, Murwillumbah and the Cougal Mountains. There are loads of picnic areas and bush walks to be enjoyed in this area.

Natural Bridge: 

A 30 minute drive from the Springbrook Village is one of the area’s most amazing natural attractions - the Natural Bridge. Water and time have melded to create this formation deep in the heart of a dense rainforest.

Walking trails wind down to the Natural Bridge where a waterfall plunges through the roof of a cave and into a beautiful sun-dappled rainforest grotto.

The Natural Bridge also has glow worms, which can sometimes be seen at night, although viewing these fascinating creatures is limited to small numbers in tour groups because of the adverse effects of human interaction.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service advises visitors to refrain from using torches, candles, camera flash, smoking and wearing insect repellant.

Mount Tamborine: 

For food and wine lovers, Mount Tamborine and its National Park offers natural beauty with the added bonus of 10 wineries in the area, and this is a favourite detination for people who want a romantic getaway or weekend vacation.

This is a great day trip, or longer, for those interested in seeing great landscapes and wildlife, with a bit of wine tasting thrown in.

Like Springbrook and Lamington, there are also numerous outstanding walks in this area. The Tamborine Mountain Visitors Centre in the middle of town is a good place to pick up walking and winery maps and any other bits of local knowledge.

Most of the wineries are “cellar doors” for grapes grown in the Granite Belt, further to the west, although Witches Falls Winery is one of the few that makes wine on its premises.

Witches Falls also takes grapes from the Ballandeena area and the specialties are the verdelho and the cabernet sauvignon (which routinely sells out).

A visit to a couple of the wineries will confirm why this is one of the fastest growing wine regions. Thanks to the unique climate, verdelho, viognier, semillon, merlots, cabernets and shiraz are top quality and possess a character which separates them from the rest of the country.

Most of the wineries have been set up with the needs of visitors in mind and have charming restaurants, and Cedar Creek Estate has gone so far as to create its own glow worm cave.

Construction was completed in 2004 it started with 100 glow worms, and now more than 5,000 thrive in the realistic, man-made cave.

It’s an educational and interactive display and this is a good place to learn how glow worms evolve from egg to larva to pupa to adult, and why they glow in the dark.

To top it all off, this is just one place where you can sit in the sun and sample the local wines with beautiful gardens and a duck pond with a fountain which is why it’s one of  Queensland’s favourite romantic getaways. The only problem is that it’s very hard to leave and head back to “civilisation” on the coast.

DriveAway Holidays: 
Tel: 1300 723 972 (within Australia) or +61 (0)2 9900 9300
Visit: www.driveaway.com.au 

Thrifty Car Rental:
Tel: 1300 367 227
Visit: www.thrifty.com.au 

Where to stay: 

The Meriton Broadbeach
2669 Gold Coast Hwy (corner Elizabeth Avenue)
Broadbeach, Qld, 4218, Australia
Tel: +61 (0)7 5579 6200
Visit: www.meritonapartments.com.au

Ben Hall