It’s common knowledge that the Gold Coast is paradise for surfers, but did you know it’s also heaven for hiking enthusiasts? Yep, that’s right – there are close to 700km of hiking trails round here that weave through 35,000 hectares of beautiful bushland reserves, conservation areas and national parks. We’ve got long hikes through the hinterland complete with waterfalls, wilderness and steep, calf-cramping ascensions, or slightly more sedate, shorter hikes close to our stunning coastline. So pack your hiking boots with your swimmers – here are five of the best (and toughest) Gold Coast hikes you should try on your next holiday.
THE GOLD COAST HINTERLAND GREAT WALK
Hike time: 3-5 days
This one’s the big daddy of them all – that’s why they call it the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. Lace up your hiking boots on and prepare your leg muscles for a challenge. You’ll embark on a 54km hike along the rim of an ancient volcano through the most extensive areas of sub-tropical rainforest left on Planet Earth (and as biology buffs will tell you, what little is left of Australia’s remaining Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest too). It’s best you go from west to east. Start with an overnight stay at one of the country’s oldest eco-lodges, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, then get an early start and head east to Springbrook National Park. Stay the first night of your hike at another historic Australian eco-lodge – Binna Burra. Soldier on through Gondwana rainforest, down some sharp declines and steep ascensions, sleeping at tiny campgrounds beneath massive strangler figs. The finish line’s at Springbrook – reward yourself with a stay in a cosy rainforest retreat, and a big lunch on the deck of Dancing Waters Café. A challenging but very rewarding hike with some jaw-dropping views along the way.
TALLEBUDGERA CREEK TRACK
Distance: 8km return
Hike time: 3 hours
Take this stunning nature walk through the region’s best mangroves and coastal bushland – not the hardest Gold Coast hike you’ll ever go on, but certainly very scenic with swim stops along the way. Begin at Burleigh by fueling up with breakfast at a café in its trendy downtown precinct. Head for Burleigh Headland and take the paved Oceanview track, which weaves through Burleigh Heads National Park offering views down to the surf below. Walk to Tumgum lookout and reflect on how it must’ve been for the Kombumerri people who lived here for thousands of years, or better still, stop at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre for a guided tour. If it’s a hot day, stop for a quick dip in the clear waters of Tallebudgera Creek. From there, stay on the path under the traffic bridge and up Awoonga Ave, following the route along Elanora Drive, Pindari Avenue and then up hill to Ocean Parade. Just before Vantage Point Drive, you’ll find the start of a narrow bitumen track that takes you through bushland on the banks of the creek and onto boardwalks that meander through the Gold Coast’s largest tract of mangroves. The track ends at David Fleay Wildlife Park, where you can see some Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos and platypus in tranquil, natural habitats. Treat yourself to a cold drink from the onsite café before setting off on your return journey.
THE WARRIE CIRCUIT
Hike time: 6 hours
“Warrie” is the local Indigenous word for rushing water and a fitting name for this trail, where the noise of waterfalls creates a soothing soundtrack for much of the trek. The Warrie Circuit starts at the Canyon Lookout in Springbrook National Park. Start out early to catch the best misty valley vistas. While the trail’s not particularly arduous, you need to be on your game. There are sheer cliffs and natural creek crossings and at one point, you’ll have to tip-toe across a concrete bridge over a waterway. But the rewards are worth it – this isn’t regarded as one of south-east Queensland’s best day walks for nothing. The subtropical scenery is stunning and around every corner another waterfall waits. Since most visitors stick to the shorter walks, you’ll mostly have it all to yourself. Bring your swimmers because there’s picturesque swimming spots along the way and you’ll certainly work up a sweat.
THE STINSON WALK
Hike time: 12 hours
Adventurous types will leap at the chance to have a go at this Gold Coast hike. Not only does it go through some of the most rugged Gondwana rainforest in Australia (within World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park), you’ll also retrace the footsteps of Gold Coast Hinterland icon, Bernard O’Reilly. In 1937 a Stinson plane carrying seven passengers left Brisbane in stormy conditions but never arrived at its destination. While investigators thought it had crashed in the sea, Bernard had another theory. He suspected it went down in the McPherson Range near his property. With his well-honed bush skills he set out on a perilous and exhausting search through thousands of acres of bushland. His hunch was right and he found the crash site and two survivors, 10 days after they’d disappeared. Twice a year, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat runs a guided hike to the wreck of the Stinson plane. You’ve got to be ready for it though: this is a 37 kilometre, 12-hour bash through thick rainforest, climbing 1040m, and descending 1590m. Stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat the night before and the night after. After you make it to the crash site (there’s still wreckage and graves to commemorate the five people who perished in the crash), you’ll get celebratory drinks and snacks on completion, and more importantly, a transfer to O’Reilly’s so you don’t have to walk 12 hours back. This experience is very popular and numbers are limited so enquire well in advance if you’re keen.
THE BORDER TRACK
Distance: 16km return (although you can further)
Hike time: 4 hours
This walk is right on our doorstep yet so few people know about it. That’s the beauty of The Border Track. It starts out in a residential suburb but gets wild in a matter of minutes. Enjoy breakfast on the creek at waterside restaurant, Saltwater at Currumbin, then drive to Currumbin Waters, where you can park on a residential street at Border Drive North. The trail starts at the end of this street and as you set out, suburbia changes in the blink of an eye. Soon you’re hiking fire trails and dirt tracks on land that acts as a buffer zone between Queensland and NSW. Stick to the fence and it’s hard to get lost, though you’ll feel like it’s possible as paved streets give way to rainforest, with views out over the beaches beyond. You’ll have trail runners and mountain bikers for company. The trail continues up the mountains of Currumbin Valley where you could arrange to be picked up on Tomewin Mountain Road or Piggabeen Road. But if you’ve still got a spring in your step, retrace the route on your return journey. Reward yourself afterwards with a meal outside on the patio overlooking the creek at nearby Currumbin RSL.
If you enjoyed this story you might also like Walk on the Wild Side: 5 Easy Nature Walks on the Gold Coast.
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