Green with envy – the other side of the Gold Coast that you really need to discover
When it’s time for a weekend escape, an overnighter or a day trip, the Gold Coast is generally one of the first spots that springs to mind. Hey, we don’t blame you – who doesn’t want to spend hours relaxing by the beach with a latte in hand, strolling along the coast, dining by the seaside and returning home with an enviable sun-kissed glow? We’re big fans of kicking it beachside and hitting the surf for our getaways, but (as with most things) we decided to delve a little deeper … into the other side of the Gold Coast – the hinterland. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about venturing into the depths of the bush where there’s no phone reception – lucky, because the hinterland is very Instagrammable. The magic is a lot closer than you think.
The untouched rainforests, waterfalls, village charm and near-perfect temperature of the Gold Coast hinterland will make you feel worlds away, but it all lies just a measly 20-minute drive from the coastline – and a picture-perfect drive at that. All you’ll need to leave home with is a tank of fuel and a thirst to explore your own backyard.
Our adventure began by making early-morning tracks up Tamborine Mountain – and we mean ‘make tracks’ quite literally. There are a few roads that lead up to the crest of Tamborine and into the village, but seeing as we like living on the edge, we let the fellas from Southern Cross Tours drive us straight up the side of the mountain in a fancy 4WD van. The sheer adrenaline from powering through seemingly near-vertical natural ascents and descents of the fire trail was ever-so-slightly moderated by a jovial and very well-versed tour guide armed with more one-liners than you could poke a gumtree stick at. Our heads frantically turned from left to right in the hope of being the first to spot a koala (we were baited with the promise of a mystery prize), but as we hit the crest and the trees cleared, our white knuckles regained colour and our gaze veered east … and there it was. That magical postcard view where the green meets the gold, which is really the only way to truly put the Gold Coast into perspective.
After a few photos and leg stretches out in the crisp air, our trusty 4WD made its way into Tamborine Village to The Manor, a heritage-style restaurant and motel that lies just up from the retail, arts, wine and food precinct known as Gallery Walk. We refuelled on fluffy scones with lashings of fresh cream and jam before venturing up a little further to the entrance to Tamborine National Park and Curtis Falls. A curtain of trees are slightly pruned to create a natural tunnel of greenery that marks the beginning of the walking track, which is an easy one-kilometre return route. Once we made our way through the tunnel, our eyes quickly began following the intricate roots and grand trunks of century-old trees before we found ourselves stopped in our tracks gazing straight up at the sky-high canopy.
A one-kilometre walk might not seem like much, but when you’re stopping every ten seconds in awe of exotic plants or eye-catching strangler figs, you’ll soon learn that this is far more than a casual weekend stroll. We took our time to soak up the magic of the lush rainforest, but the sound of the flowing waterfall (and possibly the look of a leering trapdoor spider) made us pick up the pace toward the end so we could get prime position on the viewing platform beneath the mesmerising Curtis Falls. We soaked up the falls in all of their glory, wondering why the heck we don’t come here more often, then made our way back through the lush rainforest with a little extra spring in our step and an ear-to-ear grin.
We pulled up stumps for a picnic lunch at Rotary Lookout to get a different perspective with western views toward the Great Diving Range. Unlike the morning’s off-road ascent, we headed back down Mount Tamborine on the bitumen – though the incredibly steep gradient of Henri Robert Drive still ignited a few flutters in our bellies. After about ten minutes’ drive from the base, we found ourselves in the Nerang National Park and State Forest – and we were ready to get dirty. While Nerang has always been a popular spot for local mountain bikers, a recent multi-million dollar facelift transformed the trails into a world-class natural arena, providing a technical, challenging and impressive course for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games men’s and women’s mountain biking events. Though it’s far from just a mountain biker’s haven – you’ll find everybody from runners to casual hikers, the local scouts club and even horses utilising these pristine trails.
For our day of adventure, we opted to explore bushland on two wheels under the trusted guard of Giant Nerang, on board some pretty impressive demo bikes. Helmets on, water bottles full and we were off. After just 100 metres along the newly manicured single track, we got the hang of things, weaving our way through the forest trying to temper our rising adrenaline and sweaty palms while keeping our eyes fixated on the track ahead. When we stopped, it was completely silent. Aside from some heavy breathing (our heart rates may have spiked slightly – that’s what we got for having that second scone), it was peaceful and our usually fast-paced minds were forced to slow down, with every ounce of concentration and coordination poured into staying upright. We felt like we were miles away, deep in the natural bushland – but we were quickly assured that we were, as the crow flies, just a few short minutes away from civilisation.
The fleet of bikes were (reluctantly) returned, a few high fives were slung around amid stories of less-than-elegant falls and near misses, and we immediately began planning our next mountain bike adventure – after all, Nerang’s natural wonderland is only 12 kilometres from the heart of Surfers Paradise, is just seconds from the M1 and is evidently a lot more fun than going to the gym. Safe to say that mountain air got us good.
This article was created in conjunction with our friends at Tourism and Events Queensland.
Images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.