From the dramatic, volcanic coastline hugging Burleigh National Park to the cool rainforest walks of Tamborine Mountain and blue-green lights of thousands of glow-worms at Springbrook National Park, Gold Coast National Parks are superb. Whether you want to picnic beside a freshwater creek, tackle a challenging bushwalk or enjoy the country charm of an overnight stay, there is an adventure waiting for you.
Springbrook National Park
Springbrook National Park is great for nature lovers with terrific walking trails and a string of spectacular lookouts, each one making it feel like you’ve reached the world’s edge. The highest lookout on the plateau, ‘Best of All Lookout’, lives up to its name with impressive views to Mount Warning and the valleys below. A short drive down the road you’ll find the Goomoolahra Picnic Area, an ideal spot for a barbecue lunch accompanied by the sound of tumbling water.
From here it takes just five minutes to reach the lookouts perched atop 60m high Goomoolahra Falls, offering stunning views stretching to Stradbroke and Moreton islands and beyond. If you’re up for a slightly more challenging walk, don’t miss the Purling Brook Falls circuit which travels through open eucalyptus forest, passing by ancient cycads and nodding wildflowers, before reaching a gorge with a suspension bridge. From here you can feel the cooling spray of the falls as they plummet into the rock pools below.
Swirling mist blankets these mountains on chilly mornings, making Springbrook National Park the perfect spot for a Sunday morning lie-in at one of the area’s many B&Bs. When night falls you can relax in front of the fire with a hearty home-cooked meal, visit Springbrook Research Observatory for a spot of stargazing or watch glow-worms provide a magical experience inside the cave at Natural Bridge. Bring a torch for the walk there and, ideally, someone special to snuggle up to.
Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park has two sections—Green Mountains (O’Reilly) and Binna Burra — and two roads to choose from, both stunning in their own way. Narrow switchbacks offer white-knuckle thrills on the way to Green Mountain whereas the winding road to Binna Burra is more sedate with beautiful views. The best way to experience this historic World Heritage area is to stay overnight, either at a camping area or at one of the park’s historic lodges. Both parks offer unique experiences so why not visit both?
At Binna Burra, you can connect with the land’s traditional owners on the Caves Circuit, a 5km return walk which travels through the fire-blackened Kweebani Caves which were once used for shelter and cooking by the Yugambeh people. The shorter Rainforest Circuit is the perfect walk for spotting the distinctive plumage of the Albert’s lyrebird which is known for imitating sounds from its surroundings, from bird calls to human noises such as car horns, crying babies and musical instruments. Bowerbirds also nest in this area, filling the forest with their cries of ‘weeoo’.
At the top of Green Mountain, near the historic O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, you will find parrots in every colour of the rainbow, from the brilliant red and blue of crimson rosellas to the magnificent green and red of the Australian king-parrot. Allow time to bounce your way along the treetop canopy walk and – if you’re game – climb to the top of the 30 metre high observation deck where you can truly appreciate the grandeur of this ancient World Heritage-listed national park.
Tamborine National Park
Mount Tamborine is a pretty mountaintop community that is an easy 40 minute drive from the Gold Coast but feels like a world away. Walking tracks, wineries and providores are scattered throughout the area which means stumbling across yet another lovely place to stop is part of the fun. Galleries and restaurants line the picturesque main street known as Gallery Walk.
Queensland’s oldest national park, Tamborine Mountain National Park, offers stunning scenery and impressive views of the Pacific Ocean and Gold Coast’s distant high rise. Admire the gorge, waterfalls and rock pools on a walk to Cedar Creek Falls along the lookout track, a route that is suitable for strollers and assisted wheelchair access, or trace the footsteps of folklore on a walk at Witches Falls. As you zigzag down the mountain side, passing through a rainforest filled with giant strangler figs, it is not hard to imagine why local children once believed this forest was haunted by witches and giants.
Burleigh Head National Park
Escape the summer heat and crowds and retreat into cool rainforest at Burleigh Head National Park. Venture to the top of the headland and discover hexagonal-shaped basalt columns which are remnants of the ancient Tweed Valley lava flow. Wander the rocky coastal headland path where stunning Pacific Ocean views peek out from behind pandanus groves or walk to Tumgun lookout where you can spot humpback whales frolicking in sparkling waters during winter and spring.
Nearby you will find David Fleay Wildlife Park, Queensland’s only Government owned and operated wildlife park, where research, conservation and education remain at the heart of every visitor experience. Sit spellbound as a Park Ranger coaxes a shy ringtail possum to show her curly tail and demonstrates how a sugar glider flies during the Creatures of the Night Show, a captivating presentation which takes place, not at night, but in a darkened theatre.
Explore the park’s pram-friendly wooden boardwalks to discover rock wallabies, tree kangaroos, crocodiles, pademelons and curlews, and visit the Nocturnal House where a playful platypus likes using his waterfall as a water slide. Established in 1951, this wildlife park founded by renowned Australian scientist, Dr David Fleay, has inspired generations of Australians in their love for Australia’s unique wildlife.
Energy-boosting nibbles and plenty of water.
Sunscreen and a hat.
Bandaids and basic first-aid supplies.
Camera or GoPro to capture your adventure.
Swimsuits if there is a spot to take a dip.
Raincoat or waterproof jacket, just in case.
Mobile phone (although you might be out of range in many places).
Disclosure: The writer loves visiting the Gold Coast’s National Parks, especially in winter when it’s too cold to go swimming.
Looking for some Gold Coast accommodation? Read our reviews of the Hilton Surfers Paradise, Oaks Calypso Plaza, Surfers Paradise Marriott, The Star Gold Coast, voco Gold Coast, AVANI Broadbeach Gold Coast Residences, and the retro La Costa Motel. If you’re heading to the Gold Coast sometime soon, don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to the Gold Coast.