Before we get to exploring, I should probably explain what the hell a hinterland is, because despite sounding like a rather magical and mysterious place you might dream up during the first hour of a vivid acid trip, hinterland isn’t a word I ever previously encountered in my 29 years of life. Nor are the approximately 178 other words used on a daily basis in Australia, but we’ll save that for another post.
Back to the hinterland.
A general word meaning ‘remote area’ or backwoods, the hinterland, as far as the Gold Coast is concerned, is accurate in that it’s both remote and full of wood. Spot on, definers! But what does one do in a hinterland, you might ask? Whatever the hell you like, of course! Alright, I’ll stop writing like that. But really, there’s lots to do. Go forth and hinter that land, my friends.
Aussie Hinterland: The Gold Coast Edition
Though it technically covers a ginormous expanse of land north, south and west of the Gold Coast’s major tourist areas, assume that anyone referring to the hinterland is talking about Mount Tamborine, Springbrook National Park or Lamington National Park, all located conveniently within an hour(ish) drive of the Gold Coast.
Home to the ancient Tweed Volcano, rainforest hiking up Mount Warning, waterfalls, streams, campgrounds, lookout points, caves, platypus, wallabies, bandicoots, pygmy possums, koalas, kangaroos, freshwater eels, bush turkeys, a fuck ton of birds, wineries, a distillery, a brewery, fruit stands, restaurants, art galleries, boutique shops, charming B&Bs, cabins, inns and a mixture of lush rainforest, mountainous valleys and open land, the hinterland is generally a gold mine of Australia’s natural awesomeness.
What to See
Curtis Falls – Located in Mount Tamborine, Curtis Falls is a stunning little waterfall easily reached within a 5 to 10 minute walk along a clearly marked trail. While swimming is apparently not allowed due to the possible disturbance of the local platypus community (though I’d gladly let a platypus share my float, if they asked), it’s a hinterland must and offers longer walking trails through rainforest-y pathways of wonder.
Purling Brook Falls – After taking the winding roads up to the World Heritage listed Springbrook National Park, passing scenic lookout points and massive Eucalyptus trees, be sure to stop at this 109 meter (357 foot) cascading waterfall just off of Springbrook Road. While I have yet to walk the 4km (2.5 mile) descending track to the base, the view from the top is mighty fine indeed.
The Best of All Lookout – I think the name says it all, right? Located only a short drive from Purling Brook Falls at the end of Repeater Station Road, the superbly named ‘Best of All Lookout’ tops out at 970 meters (3,180 feet) and includes a 10-15 minute walk through the Gondwana Rainforest, offering absolutely kickass views of the entire Gold Coast and further south into New South Wales, including Mount Warning and Byron Bay.
Natural Bridge – Located more inland in an area of Springbrook National Park off of Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, the Natural Bridge is a natural rock formation with a picturesque waterfall flowing down through the middle. Home to rare animal species like the sooty owl, cascade tree frog, koalas and microbats, this is one of the Gold Coast’s most popular hinterland locations for a reason.
What to Do
Take a Dip in Cedar Creek Falls – Not to be confused with the other Cedar Creek Falls near the Whitsundays (you know a country is massive when they run out of unique names for waterfalls), Mount Tamborine’s Cedar Creek Falls are the only real swimming hole in the mountains, and thus, nearly always fairly crowded. If sharing a natural pool with teenagers doesn’t offend your sense of adventure, however, then I highly suggest making the short walk for a quick dip, picnic, or relaxing lounge in the sunshine.
Tour the Glow Worm Caves – While glow worms sound intriguing slash gross, I can assure you they’re actually pretty badass, though tinier than you’d imagine. Found only in Australia and New Zealand, you have two options for seeing them near the Gold Coast – 1) at Mount Tamborine’s Glow Worm Cave Tour, or 2) during the after-dark Natural Bridge Glow Worm Tour in Springbrook National Park. Since we happened to be in Mount Tamborine, we opted for the first option for $12 per person. Though the tour is somewhat cheesy, it’s also an admittedly rad experience. Bonus: If you want to drop your kids/friends/significant others off to do this, the Cedar Creek Estate Winery is on the same property. Heyo!
Enjoy the Drive & Scenery – If you’re still not having a glorious time, stop being a pouty turd and look out the window. On our most recent adventure to the hinterland, we stopped just in time to see a mama and baby koala walking across a fence and up a tree (!!!), and another time, witnessed a huge group of wallabies grazing in someone’s front yard. Amazing! Bonus: There’s also paragliding, hot air balloon rides, rainforest skywalks, treetop challenges, spas, cooking classes and more.
What to Drink
First off, let’s have a quick ‘hallelujah’ in honor of all the designated drivers out there, ’cause it truly stinks to be you.
Witches Falls Winery – Mount Tamborine has several excellent wineries to choose from, but Witches Falls is located on a gorgeous little property and their wine is undoubtedly delicious… even perhaps moreso than the multitude of other brands of wine I drink on the regular. Mmm, wine. It’s just so damn tasty.
O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards – Located in a serene section of Lamington National Park, Canungra Valley Vineyards is the winery to hit if you want to spread out and enjoy a righteous arvo of picnicking, drinking and lounging with your homies. While the bartender on our visit knew approximately zero things about wine, or drinking wine (and also prounounced it ‘tempraniLLo’ – for shame), we did enjoy feeding bread to the terrifyingly massive freshwater eels in the nearby creek, sampling some fine red wine, and soaking up the scenery.
Fortitude Brewing Company – Also in Mount Tamborine, Fortitude Brewery is definitely among the newest kids on the hinterland block. With the adjacent Witches Chase Cheese Company, beer tasting paddles, outdoor seating and a stellar Belgian Witbier, this makes for a sublime stop after a swim at Cedar Creek Falls. It could be a little more poppin’ (they close at 4pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends, and a good playlist could go a long way), but it’s new. Give it time.
Dubbed ‘the green behind the gold,’ exploring the Gold Coast hinterland is definitely a must on a sunny (or not so sunny) arvo, at the very least. Hell, if you own a vehicle or plan to rent one while you’re here, I’ll even take you myself! Though you’ll have to drive on the way back… remember what I said about DDs. Happy hinterlanding, y’all.