How to do the Gold Coast Hinterland
It’s hard to believe that just 45 minutes’ drive from Surfers Paradise is one of Australia’s most pristine regions – home to national parks of Gondwana Rainforest and 100-metre-high waterfalls.
And that just 30 minutes or so drive away from the Gold Coast’s world-renowned theme parks, you’ll find some of Australia’s rarest animals and secret villages, all balanced along the rim of an ancient volcano where temperatures drop by as much as 10 degrees from the coast.
It’s easy to get to the Gold Coast Hinterland – just turn off the Pacific Motorway running south from Brisbane and head west into the mountain ranges you’ll clearly see from the roadway. The Hinterland begins just a few minutes drive off the Pacific Highway.
Though many might already be familiar with bustling arts and craft centre, Mt Tamborine – located just a 45-minute drive from Brisbane – it’s only the beginning of what’s on offer. There’s some of Australia’s best eco-resorts, bushwalks through the largest remaining tracts of sub-tropical rainforest left in Australia, there’s wineries and cheese factories and you’ll find some of Australia’s best rainforest cafes and restaurants
Here’s how to plan your hinterland escape, no matter what type of traveller you are.
Where to stay:
Sleep within the largest remaining sub-tropical rainforest in the world at a retreat run by the same family for over 90 years.
O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat is built right inside the World-Heritage-listed Lamington National Park and there’s over 160kms of walking trails in there alone – it’s two hours south of Brisbane and one-and-a-half hours south-west of Surfers Paradise.
There’s no better place in Australia for bushwalkers than the Hinterland – with trails cut through national parks that are home to one of the most diverse offering of flora and fauna left in Australia (there’s over 200 species of birds alone up here).
There are campsites sprinkled throughout, or there’s eco-resorts and lodges built at the conclusion of bushwalk trails – so you can get as down and dirty as you feel you should!
The ultimate for any outdoor adventurer is the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk – a 54km trail connecting two plateaus that will take at least three days to complete.
Where to stay:
There’s a bathtub with views right out across the valleys so you can luxuriate all afternoon; although there are hundreds of kilometres of walking trails right outside, and paddy melons will pay you a visit each morning and night.
Sunset drinks and dinner are held at Binna Burra Lodge, just next door
If wine tasting’s your fancy, the Hinterland is now home to Queensland’s fastest-growing wine region. There’s picturesque wineries with award-winning restaurants attached, mostly nearby Mt Tamborine. One of the best has to be Cedar Creek Estate whose restaurant looks out over a lake that’s home to platypus.
Try lesser-known varieties that grow best in the Hinterland, such as Chambourcin and Verdelho. Though showing how much this area offers visitors, couples can finish off lunch with a walk to a secret waterfall tucked away behind greenery at the end of Cedar Creek Falls Road which offer views right over the gorge.
The Hinterland is perfect for couples because there are secret spots sprinkled throughout the region. If you stay at Binna Burra, there are 16 walks all within 10 minutes of your room, and on most, you won’t see another hiker all day. Try a short walk such as Bellbird Lookout, a 2km-return walk with views right out over a sheer cliff.
Though to totally escape into the forest with not a care in the world, nothing beats a stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, located in the Tallebudgera Valley, just 20 minutes from Gold Coast Airport.
Where to stay:
Stay close to Thunderbird Park and all the kid-friendly attractions of Mt Tamborine at Eagle Heights Mountain Resort.
There’s so many secret spots to take the whole family to in the Gold Coast Hinterland. You’ll find waterfalls and swimming holes perfect for all ages sprinkled throughout the region – some require a walk in, such as Purling Brook Falls or Twin Falls, while others are easier to access, such as the Cedar Creek Falls (near Mt Tamborine).
There are picnic tables throughout so family excursions on the cheap are easy here. Though kids can’t go beyond Thunderbird Park where they can collect one of the thousands of thundereggs in a hidden valley – inside rocks they’ll find gleaming crystals millions of years old. It’s also home to the Tree Top Challenge – the highest and longest ropes course in Australia, with 11 flying foxes 11 metres up to test the whole family.
Food And Wine Lovers
Where to stay:
Stay in one of the Hinterland’s true hidden gems, The Mouse’s House, stolen away in one of 13 chalets right in the middle of the National Park. From your retreat you’re a hop, skip and a jump from Mudgeeraba’s food markets or the town of Springbrook and its cute cafes where you can dine al fresco amongst tree-lined streets.
You guys are in for a treat! There’s food markets in out-of-the-way villages every weekend offering the best local produce. You don’t even have to detour far off the motorway to try one of the best ones.
Every Friday night from October, you can taste everything from paella to pastries at the Mudgeeraba Sunset Markets from 5 to 8pm. Or go year-round to the Mudgeeraba Country Markets every Saturday morning (115 Mudgeeraba Road, Mudgeeraba).
There’s wineries, distilleries, cheese factories and some of the most under-rated eateries in Queensland also up here – check out O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard for a secret winery lunch away from day-trippers.