Weekly photo challenge: Tour Guide

Queensland’s Gold Coast, the choice of holiday destination for many Australian families. Theme parks, beaches and the shopping mall that is Surfers Paradise are usually what they come for however there is another side to the Gold Coast. Away from the roller coasters, the surf shops and beaches overshadowed by high rise buildings visitors will discover a beautiful natural environment set in the Gold Coast hinterland. The hinterland is my favourite place to explore and it is where I often taken family and friends when they visit. As your tour guide for this week’s photo challenge the hinterland is the destination that I want you to experience.

Springbrook National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest and home to spectacular waterfalls, subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest and a variety of wildlife. The Purlingbrook Falls walk is 4km in length, relatively easy on the legs and if you’re keen or wanting to go for a swim you can walk an extra 2km to Warringa Pools. My friend and I did the walk in September, it was a perfect Spring day and we took our time, stopping to admire the beauty of tiny blossoms and to watch a goanna dawdle through the undergrowth. Others use the track for physical training, running up and down the stairs, slipping past us in their fluorescent athletic wear but most appear to do the walk in a more leisurely manner.

Tamborine Mountain is popular with day trippers especially on the weekend, but most tend to stick to the shops and cafes on Gallery Walk. My preference is take one of the many rainforest walks on the mountain, they vary in length and tend to be less than 3km. The Curtis Falls track is not far from Gallery Walk in the Joalah Section of the Tamborine National Park, and is heavily visited by tourists and photographers. Curtis Falls looks its best after heavy rain although the track might get a little slippery so wear appropriate footwear. There is a viewing platform overlooking a large rock pool at the base of the Curtis Falls, swimming in the pool is prohibited and there is a restricted access area below the Falls in order to protect a colony of glow-worms. There is an extension to this walk which takes about an hour to do and if you look beyond the track you will see huge strangler fig trees as well as elk horns, stag horns and birds nest ferns.

Which ever walk you do, remember that you’re in the Australian bush so the chances of seeing a snake are pretty good. Always wear covered footwear.

For birdwatchers, animal lovers and people wanting to spend a long weekend in a cabin in the rainforest, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat set in the Lamington National Park is ideal. Early morning guided bird walks through a small section of the rainforest are a wonderful way to start the day. See, hear and learn about the Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robins and Bowerbirds before enjoying a hearty breakfast in the restaurant. At the end of the day I recommend taking the tour out to the Moonlight Crag Lookout where you can enjoy a glass of champagne, beer or wine whilst watching the sun set over the ranges.

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A walk in Springbrook National Park

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Springbrook National Park, Queensland

Springbrook National Park  is located in the Gold Coast hinterland, 45 minutes from the coast and not far from the border dividing Queensland from New South Wales. It is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and declared by UNESCO. The earliest humans to live in this area were the Yugambeh people, now acknowledged as the traditional owners. Throughout the park you will see signs written in English and in Yugambeh language.

Saturday was the perfect day for a walk in the Springbrook National Park, my friend and I choosing the Class 3 Purling Brook Falls circuit  which is 4 kilometres long and takes the average person 2-3 hours to complete. Add another 45 minutes if you want to visit Warringa Pools. If you’re keen on taking photographs, want to stop for a bite to eat or have a swim then add a bit longer. There are shorter and longer walking circuits plus a couple of lookouts if you just want to admire the view.

Temperatures can be cooler in the park, we wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt and felt comfortable for most of the walk although we did see plenty of people wearing gym gear but they were moving at a much faster pace than us. Wearing long sleeves and long trousers helps avoid ticks and leeches. I also recommend taking a bottle of water and a snack or two plus sunblock and insect repellant, you can still get sunburned walking through the forest and the mosquitoes can be vicious. There are a few locations that are fenced off from visitors, including the top of the Purling Brook Falls and the pool at the bottom for safety reasons and possibly to protect the immediate environment.

Springbrook provides the visitor the opportunity of seeing and hearing a variety of wildlife, we frequently heard the call of the Eastern Whipbird and Bush Turkeys are extremely common. When walking along one section of the park we heard the rustling of leaves as something moved slowly through the undergrowth. Patiently we waited and were rewarded with a glimpse of a goanna, eventually he decided that it was safe to come out of hiding so we watched him as he crossed the path and ventured up the hill and undercover. Lorikeets, kookaburras, wrens and robins are also common, but some of them are so small and move so quick that I didn’t stand a chance when it came to taking a photo. Seeing a pademelon flee from the verge and into the bush as we drove back from the ‘best of all’ lookout was a special treat, it is not often that we get to see this type of wallaby.

Having packed enough nut bars to feed a small school group, we grazed throughout the walk and rewarded our efforts at the end with a visit to The Fudge Shop. The coffee smelled too good to resist and we bought a chunk of lemon meringue and creme brûlée fudge for an extreme sugar hit. If fudge is not your thing they do serve ice cream and there is a small selection of local produce including arts and crafts for sale.

I imagine that Springbrook National Park is really popular in the warmer months, and that the creeks and waterholes fill up with day trippers and families camping nearby. At the Natural Bridge section of Springbrook you can see glow-worms after sunset, their environment is particularly sensitive so there are rules around visiting this location. The Natural Bridge is easily accessed and the walk through subtropical rainforest to see the naturally formed arch over the creek is well worth the effort.

Having been on the Gold Coast for 17 years, I cannot believe that I have not spent more time exploring such a spectacular part of Queensland. It definitely won’t be that long before I return to Springbrook, there are more walks to do and it is a wonderful way to get some exercise and experience nature.

A favourite place, Tamborine Mountain

In previous posts I have mentioned Tamborine Mountain as a lovely alternative to the beaches and high rise buildings of Surfers Paradise (Surfers for short). The drive is a long and winding one, once at the top there are views of the coast and the Surfers Paradise skyline, it is probably the best view of Surfers that you will get especially on a cloud free day and I imagine it is spectacular during a lightning storm.

Tamborine Mountain is popular with artists, foodies and if you like schnapps or cheese, some of the best in the region comes from local producers. The Tamborine Mountain Distillery produces and sells award winning liqueurs, schnapps and Vodkas, their Limoncello even won an International award a few years ago which is amazing considering that they were competing against the Italians. The schnapps is delicious but the Absinthe and Vodkas were a little too strong for my tastebuds. When I go to Mt Tamborine I make a point of going to the Witches Chase Cheese Company to try their homemade ice cream and buy some of their Triple Cream Brie or Washed Rind Cheese, the feta is also very tasty and if you’re lucky you can beat the crowds and spend time taste testing a variety of their products.

 

The Nardoo Lavendar farm
The Nardoo Lavendar Shop

Tamborine Mountain’s main street is known as Gallery Walk, it is very touristy and although there are some good cafes there I like to head to North Tamborine and grab a bit at a little cafe called the Spice of Life Cafe and Deli, fresh, tasty food can be purchased for a picnic or you can relax in the cafe with a paper and a good cup of coffee or gourmet sandwich. Not far from here is the Nardoo Lavendar Shop and Cedar Creek Estate, a winery and cafe popular with tourists but also for weddings, the surroundings are scenic and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see some of the local wildlife.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Friendly Water Monitor

Often I will visit Tamborine Mountain with a friend and rather than shop or dine at a cafe, we’ll go for a walk in one of the many parks in the area. The abundance of rain means that there are a number of small waterfalls to see and on a hot day in summer you can hear the laughter and splashing of the local kids as they swim in the creek. There are short walks that range from 30 to 90 minutes and longer walks that can take a few hours to complete, if there has been alot of rain some tracks will be closed because of small mudslides or trees that have been dislodged and judged ‘unsafe’.

There are many other things to do at Tamborine Mountain, you can go hang gliding, shop for organic produce, art and crafts at the local markets, take a walk through the Botanic Gardens or visit some of the art galleries that have popped up all over the area. It really is a wonderful part of the world and one of my favourite places to visit on any given day.

Echinacea flower
Echinacea flower, Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens
Bushwalking through National Park, Mt Tamborine
Bushwalking through National Park, Mt Tamborine