Beach Meets Bush: a Gold Coast to Springbrook road trip

A woman goes down boardwalk stairs towards the ocean, Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, Queensland

You don’t need much time to see the best of both worlds. Sarah and Chris head to Queensland where its southeast corner is packed with adventure, even if you only have a few days to enjoy it all.

Nearly all my friends and family head to the Gold Coast when they’ve got a hankering for a week of sunshine. But few of them ever go further than Sea World, opting for days by the beach and nights exploring the excellent restaurant scene. Now, Chris and I are breaking the trend. We’ve flown into Gold Coast Airport and picked up our rental car from the Apex desk. Now it’s just a matter of heading into the hinterland.

Into the Hills: Coolangatta to Lamington NP

A women walks through a rainforest along a path past the buttress roots of huge trees, Springbrook National Park, Queensland

Our first stop is Lamington National Park, one of four parks protecting Gondwana Rainforests, some of the oldest in the world and home to rare and unique plant and animal species. Both of us are keen hikers and we’ve heard there are trails around here that will give us the wild workout we always hope for.

On the way we stop briefly at Best of All lookout. We can see Mount Warning to the south, the ocean in the distance and the incredible forest in between. There’s no time to waste though – it’s still early but we’ve got a big day ahead of us.

From the Binna Burra trailhead, we head out on the 17.4 kilometre Coomera circuit. It’s a grade four track, so we know it’s going to be a fairly tough day. We pass a few people who’re coming back on the shorter Coomera Falls walk, but soon we’re deep in the forest with just the crunch of the trail beneath our feet and the call of birds in the canopy. There are creek crossings where we have to step from boulder to boulder. Finally we get to the spectacular falls. We finally get back to the car seven hours later, exhausted but inspired by the incredible walk we’ve done.

Park Life: Lamington to Springbrook

Woman watching a waterfall in a cave, Natural Bridge, Springbrook, Gold Coast, Queensland

After stepping out in a big way yesterday, both Chris and I are keen to take it a bit easier today. Our first stop is Natural Bridge, an incredible rock formation. It’s an easy walk there on a trail that passes hoop pines, thought to be one of the oldest species of native trees in Australia. We even see a pademelon hopping away on the forest floor. It’s a really pretty spot, but unfortunately it’s neither warm enough nor wet enough for glow worms, which are usually seen during summer. Even though there are some beautiful pools of water here, you’re not allowed to swim, so we decide to go to Twin Falls.

It’s another easy walk, although we nearly have to give up right at the start. Chris, who I’ve always thought was brave, saw a carpet python just off the trail and freaked out. Sure, it was big, but they’re completely harmless. When I finally tempt him, it’s well worth the effort because the falls are divine. We climb behind the wall of crashing water then cool off briefly in the pools.

Towards the end of the day we stop by the Groom’s Cottage, a heritage building that’s been turned into a bar for bushwalkers. We order a cheese plate and a couple of pale ales from local company Scenic Rim Brewery and toast a great day.

Home of the Wave: Springbrook to Coolangatta

Close-up of six rainbow lorikeets sitting on a plate, Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, Gold Coast, Queensland

Back down the mountain and on the Goldie, I’m in my element. This was somewhere we holidayed when I was a kid, so I take Chris to guaranteed waves. Snapper Rocks is at the end of Greenmount Beach, and is now one of the best and most consistent breaks, not just on the Gold Coast but anywhere in the country. Out on our boards we vie with the crowd for a couple of hours. The waves are great fun, but this is one of the most heavily surfed breaks in the world.

Burleigh Heads is a spot almost unrecognisable, apart from the pine trees that line the foreshore, from the place I visited in the 1990s. We’ve lucked out on this Sunday and catch the arts and crafts market in beachfront Justins Park. But we’ve got a booking at one of the hottest restaurants in town, Rick Shores, so we have to hustle. It’s set right on the beach, with views of the waves, but even they don’t outshine the Asian fusion flavours. Be sure to try the Moreton Bay bug roll – it’s sensational.

One of my favourite places from my childhood trips is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. After lunch, we stroll around there, meeting kangaroos, koalas, Tassie devils and other Aussie critters. Then, at 4pm, we get ready for the bird feeding, which has taken place here for more than 70 years. The rainbow lorikeets are wild, but they descend here in number and perch on anyone to get something to eat. Chris ends up covered in brightly coloured new buddies, giggling hysterically. It’s the perfect way to end our Gold Coast road trip, and a reminder that what we loved as children never really gets old.