Though often overshadowed by its glitzy sister at sea level, the Gold Coast Hinterland is a breath of fresh air for nature lovers.
Rising from the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast into the pristine World Heritage-listed Gold Coast Hinterland invokes a sensation that is difficult to define. Even winding your way through the suburban foothills of Mudgeeraba — where some of my family lives — is enough to get you excited.
My relatives discovered the highlands during the ‘70s while chasing the sun and surf, and quickly adopted the area as their own. When I was kid, no trip to Queensland was complete without the obligatory Hinterland guided tour.
When you are travelling through the Gold Coast Hinterland it’s important to understand that it isn’t just one destination, but rather a series of gullies and plateaus. You’ll find yourself occasionally backtracking, but the very thing that limits its accessibility is what makes it so spectacular.
The Natural Bridge is an hour or so out of the way, but is well worth the drive and best left to the end of the trip. Black volcanic rock cuts through the lush rainforest canopy, and waterfalls cut through the rock throughout Springbrook NP.
The route I’m suggesting starts with the windy 42km road from Mudgeeraba onto the Springbrook campsite for a two-night stay, and continues onto the bewildering Rainforest campsite at the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge via Beechmont at the top of Lamington National Park.
DAY ONE — CANYON SPRINGBROOK PLATEAU
The most direct route from Brissie to our first destination, Springbrook NP, is via Nerang Springbrook Road, but if you’re making good time and are confident towing through mountain terrain, the all-bitumen Gold Coast Springbrook Road ex-Mudgereeba is a pleasant drive.
Nicknamed The Old Goat Track, the route winds for about 20km or so and adds another half an hour to the drive.
Either way, Pine Creek Road will bring you to the Canyon-Springbrook Plateau section of the national park near the Settlement Campground.
Once you’ve checked out the visitors’ centre and unleashed the fourbie, head to the Tallanbana picnic area for a barbecue lunch. The spacious picnic area has an undercover dining area, and leads to an extensive network of walking tracks, stemming from the Twin Falls Circuit.
The Twin Falls Circuit is 4km long and provides views of the Twin and Rainbow Falls from a number of vantage points, including a climb to the Canyon Lookout. The knotty route undulates in sections, but is well worth the effort.
Weatherproof your hiking boots, wear a lightweight rain jacket, and enjoy the ice-crunching sensation as you walk through caves behind the falls.
DAY TWO — PURLING BROOK FALLS AND NATURAL BRIDGE
Although relatively new, the Settlement Campground has walking trail access to the delightful Purling Brook Falls but only four camper trailer-friendly campsites, so it’s wise to book ahead.
Having unclasped your hands from a warm cup of coffee, fight the temptation to head straight to the falls and instead ease into the day with a short drive to the Best of All lookout.
Early morning is a great time to visit, and the view of Mount Warning will set your heart racing for the rest of the day. The 700m boardwalk takes you under a canopy of ancient forest and is well signposted.
Once you’ve returned to camp, pack your bathers and morning tea, and head to the Purling Brook Falls circuit to spend a pleasant morning wading through the Warringa Pool — it’s about a 20-minute detour half way through the walk.
Once you’re done, bundle yourself into the car and visit the Natural Bridge via Pine Creek and Murwillumbah-Nerang Road, which will take you about an hour. Bochow Park has a lovely picnic area a few kilometres north of the bridge, so be sure to pack a picnic lunch.
After a day and a half of wandering beneath thundering waterfalls and pools, you will be astonished by how the Natural Bridge eclipses it all. Light pours sagely through the fragile cave structure set within the rainforest — a dangerously beautiful sight.
DAY THREE — BINNA BURRA MOUNTAIN LODGE
Returning to civilisation after a couple of days at Springbrook NP is just too great a shock, so an evening of luxury camping at the beautiful Binna Burra Mountain Lodge will provide a suitable adjustment.
There are many walks available from the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park, but if you are looking to enjoy the afternoon at a leisurely pace, the Rainforest (1km) and Cave (5km) circuits offer plenty of eye candy.
The good folk at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge also provide a fascinating evening rainforest tour. Sunrise over Lamington National Park is mandatory at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and a pre-dawn chorus will sweetly raise you from your slumber.