The Green Behind The Gold

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With 40 kilometres of beautiful surf beaches, it’s no hardship to stroll down to the sand, spread the towel and go for a dip when you’re staying on the Gold Coast. It’s a ritual which defines the region, but some people don’t realise that less than 30 minutes away is a whole different world. Instead of sun, surf and sunscreen, the Gold Coast’s stunning hinterland is awash with ancient rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, stunning natural rock formations, fantastic lookouts, wildlife, and top quality wineries and restaurants. This is a world far removed from the gleaming skyscrapers and surfboards and sand “down below”. Instead of designer shopping malls and meter maids, there are quaint villages, tea rooms and craft galleries set among subtropical forests. Here’s what you need to know about the expansive green behind the gold.

Getting There 

Exploring the hinterland can be easily done in a day driving from the coast, whether you’re staying in Surfers Paradise or Burleigh Heads, but there’s also a wide range of accommodation in the mountains from cosy bed and breakfasts to luxury lodges and cottages which can really add something special to the experience of visiting. Many return visitors actually “do the Goldie” the other way around; they stay in the peace and tranquility of the mountains, and make the short trip down to the beaches during the day when the weather is right for a dip. Self-driving is the best way to get around the hinterland and its multitude of natural attractions, but there are also numerous tour operators running day trips from the coast, so you have the option of sitting back and letting someone else do all the work. 

Springbrook And Lamington 

The hinterland is made up of three magnificent National Parks  - Springbrook, Lamington and Tamborine - overlooking the Gold Coast from the west. 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; 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 from small waterfalls and creeks, to 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 cafes, 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, which is 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 plenty of picnic areas and bush walks to be enjoyed in this area. 

The 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. 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 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, complete with a full time entomologist to ensure the colony remains healthy. They 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; the only problem is that it’s very hard to leave and head back to “civilisation” on the coast.

Ben Hall