The Gold Coast may be famous for its stretches of sandy beaches, but venture beyond the beach into the hinterland and you will find a hiker’s paradise. From rocky mountain peaks to lush rainforest tracks leading to waterfalls, there is a hike for all levels.
The unspoilt Gondwana Rainforests and the charming mountain villages are well worth the drive inland. The two main areas are Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park.
Lamington National Park is made up of the Green Mountains Section and the Binna Burra Section, both have walking trails and hikes through lush rainforests and ancient trees, waterfalls and creeks and an abundance of wildlife. It is about two hours drive from Brisbane and one-hour drive from the Gold Coast.
Springbrook National Park covers a massive 6,725 hectares and is divided into four eco-quadrants; Springbrook Plateau, Mount Cougal, Natural Bridge and Numinbah. Here you can find lush, moss-laden rainforests, cool cascading waterfalls and lots of wildlife. Springbrook National Park is about 2-hours south of Brisbane, or just 45-minutes from the Gold Coast.
A popular climb for sunrise (which means setting off in the dark of early morning) this climb is quite physical. The 8.8km return hike takes around five hours to complete and takes you through the rainforest before a steep climb to the summit. From here you can take in a breathtaking 360 degree view around the ancient caldera with coastal views stretching from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay.
What was once a tightly kept Canungra secret is now known to the masses thanks to the 1000’s of instagram photos. Killarney Glen is home to the now-iconic heart-shaped pool and falls, but 2.5km walk and its natural beauty has much more to offer. This area is owned by the Australian Defence Department with the property open to the public, but access may sometimes be restricted so do check before you go to see if it is open.
Apple Tree Park
Located at the top of the Springbrook range, onsider this spot base camp for the Springbrook area. It is the access point for a number of incredible hikes in the area, including the 54-kilometre, three-day Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk (which features once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as walking along the rim of an ancient volcano).
While this quaint little town on top of Tambourine Mountain is popular with tourists, you can venture out on one of nine hikes in the area that are less busy. The best hikes in the area are Curtis Falls Track, Witches Falls Circuit, Witches Chase Track to Witches Falls Circuit, Knoll Walking Track and Cameron Falls, Palm Grove Circuit to Jenyns Circuit Loop, Sandy Creek Circuit, Palm Grove Circuit and Witches Falls Lookout. You can spend a good day out here doing all the tracks.
Coomera Circuit, Binna Burra
Located in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park, this full-day walk is the star attraction of the area. Be prepared as it is a difficult 20.6 kilometre hike, but well worth it as it offers the amazing scenery and the chance to see wildlife. Trek out along the Border track to the rim of the Mt Warning caldera, before following the headwaters of the Coomera River as it winds its way towards the gorge, ending in a spectacular waterfall.
The stunningly visual and unusual geological feature of Natural Bridge was created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave. Now the cave and waterhole is off limits for swimming however there is a designated walkway where you can enter the cave. The cave is also home to an amazing colony of glow-worms, whose lights can be seen only after sunset. Natural Bridge Circuit is a short one-kilometre circuit walking trail through the subtropical rainforest where you can look out for skinks and lace monitors, beautiful rainforest birds and even pademelons.
Cedar Creek Falls and Rock Pools
Blink and you will miss these falls and they are discreetly tucked away behind the foliage. A very short 10 minutes’ walk and you come across the waterfalls, which are spectacular all year round and the gorge scenery is breathtaking. From Cedar Creek Falls lookout, descend through eucalypt forest and dry rainforest to the rock pools below. Take your swimmers and immerse yourself in the cold cleat water of any of the three pool. If you are swimming, please be aware that there are many hazards in natural waterways. Do not dive or jump into the pools.
Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area
This area protects more than 1200 hectares of wetland, with Eucalypt forest, saltmarsh and mangrove swamp habitat. It is a great spot short walks, bird watching, animal spotting and plant identification, just don’t forget the insect repellent.