An Indigenous local’s guide to Southern Gold Coast
When you’re born and bred on the Gold Coast’s southern beaches like me, it’s impossible not to feel a connection to the ocean. It’s always been a massive part of my life, which is why I’m never happier than when I can feel the sand between my toes.
Because I’m also a Yugambeh woman and seventh generation Traditional Owner, I have an even deeper connection to the land and sea, passed down through the generations along with the traditions and customs of my people. Yugambeh people have lived in the Gold Coast region for thousands of years, fishing the creeks and estuaries, making their homes in the rainforest and using the resources that the land provides.
If you visit the Gold Coast today, you can still find many traces of my ancestors – if you know where to look. That’s where I come in: as an Aboriginal guide at Jellurgal, I help to keep Yugambeh customs and stories alive by sharing them with visitors and giving them the chance to see the land through our eyes.
Let me show you ‘round my beautiful corner of the world – I think you’re going to like it.
Stand-up paddleboarding is the unofficial sport of the Southern Gold Coast – and my family’s no exception. Most weekends you’ll find us paddleboarding or kayaking along the calm, flat waters of Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks. You don’t have to be an expert to give it a go: rent a board (or kayak if you prefer) and spend an hour or two exploring the creeks and tributaries in and around Burleigh Heads and Currumbin.
Sometimes we swap our boards for rods and fish for whiting, flathead and bream in Tallebudgera (it means “good fish” in my language). One of my favourite Dreamtime stories is of the elder Gowanda, who died only to return as a dolphin. He taught the other dolphins how to round up the fish and drive them to shore for our people to catch, which could be why it’s still such a good fishing spot today!
When people think of the Gold Coast they usually think of the busy beaches and skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise, but here on the Southern end of the coast, it couldn’t be more different. I love wandering along the quiet, unspoilt beaches at Kirra, Greenmount and Coolangatta where it’s not unusual to have the entire beach to yourself.
Walking the headland at Burleigh Head National Park is top of my must-do list (the views out to the Pacific Ocean and north to Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach are spectacular). Hiking around the Dreaming Mountain – which we call Jellurgal – is where I feel most connected to my culture and country. I love teaching people about the region and sharing my people’s stories so that visitors see the land in a completely new light. When I take visitors around the headland they’re always amazed at how many ancient sites and sacred spaces there are – and yet, without an Aboriginal guide to show them, they’d have walked right past without even knowing.
Tip: Keep your camera handy because native wildlife-spotting is virtually guaranteed. Burleigh Head National Park is home to water dragons, tree snakes and a huge variety of birds from kookaburras to nesting sea eagles.
Just a 45-minute drive west is another one of my favourite places – Springbrook National Park in the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest. Yugambeh people have lived in this region for thousands of years and many places still bear their original Aboriginal names. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, tackling the 4km twin falls circuit is a great way to spend an afternoon (and take a break from the summer heat). The track takes you down into the canyon, across streams and through subtropical rainforest to reach two spectacular waterfalls. If you’ve got time afterwards, take a detour to the Natural Bridge for a nocturnal guided tour of the basalt cave famous for its glow-worm and microbat colonies (always a hit with the kids).
If the fish aren’t biting, you can still fill up at one of the Southern Gold Coast’s many amazing eateries. Personally, I’m a big fan of smaller cafes away from the hustle and bustle. Down 2 Earth Organics at Palm Beach is my local breakfast tip – their fresh fruit acai bowls are out-of-this-world. For amazing burgers, toasted sandwiches and locally brewed beer on tap, hit up The Boatshed, Currumbin (as an added bonus you can also hire paddle boards there). If you prefer your food to come with the best view in town, just head for the nearest Surf Club: Burleigh and Greenmount in Coolangatta are my go-to’s.
WHEN TO VISIT
Our hot summers and sunny, mild winters make the Southern Gold Coast a bit of an all-rounder. The water temperatures are still high enough to swim even in the coldest months.