Secret Spots Locals Love On The Gold Coast

Secret Spots Locals Love On The Gold Coast

30 Oct 2019

There’s a hand-painted wooden sign nailed to a tree on the road leading from Canungra to Lamington National Park, which encourages motorists to simply “keep going”.  And how apt this message is.

From the lush, tranquil hinterland to bustling coastal suburbs; the Seaway and everything in-between that spans from North to South, we welcome you to unveil the following hidden gems loved by locals…


The Gold Coast is full of hidden secrets if you know where to look, and none more so than in the hinterland, that green behind the gold for which this region is renowned. Head west from the coast and drive through charming Canungra with its iconic hotel and the Outpost Café popular with motorcycle riders seeking their morning latte.

This journey winds around the Green Mountain past Dunns Ghost Gums, Hoop Pines and Fig Trees. There’s a parade of pademelons (small wallaby-like marsupials) on the side of the road to greet you as you pass over rickety cattle grills and the odd cow paddy. Authenticity? They have it in spades up here. Yes, the Gold Coast skyline is well and truly in the distance as you glide through emerald tree canopies and enter the must-see 23 million-year-old World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest.

Nestled in the Gondwana Rainforest, lies Tamborine National Park. Image Credit: @montanamincher


Want to know another secret? The air is about 5 degrees cooler up here, all the better for taking one of many self-guided walks – one of the most popular of which is the 10.6km return, Box Forest Circuit. Trek clockwise, take a picnic lunch break at Elabana Falls and follow the track as it winds through Brush Box and Piccabeen Palms towards Canungra Creek in the valley below. The pretty Darraboola Falls, Picnic Rock and Box Log area are also along this route.

Picnic at O’Reilly’s Vineyard. Image Credit: @canungravalleyvineyards


The popular (and free) Treetop Walk here is the first in Australia as is the new World Heritage-listed wheelchair path. And at O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat Lost World Spa, their vinotherapy uses a spa bath full of wine from the family’s vineyard in the Canungra Valley in a healing technique believed to be the first of its type in Australia. Come nightfall, join resort staff and walk to a secret galaxy of glow worms accidentally discovered by one of the O’Reilly nieces. These glow worms are in a rare overhang, as opposed to a cave, and so vivid are these “stars” of the O’Reilly experience, you’ll swear you are staring at the Milky Way.

Glow worms are also on the agenda at nearby Tamborine Mountain and Springbrook National Park – both beautiful destinations home to a myriad of walks and waterfalls which are the trademarks of a Gold Coast hinterland adventure. Want a glow of a different kind? Head to Nightfall Wilderness Camp in Lamington National Park for a spot of glamping where you’ll drink fine wine and feast on organic food by the campfire before collapsing in your luxury safari tent.



For those who like to gain their glow closer to the beach, the opulent Palazzo Versace in Main Beach boasts Australia’s only Water Salon. Tucked behind the sheer curtains of your cabana, sip on champagne and take in the pool and wider marina views while you relish this secret haven in the heart of luxury.

Relax poolside at Palazzo Versace. Image Credit: @hitton28


The music lovers crowd will also adore Studio 56, a new music and events space at Miami Marketta which comes alive several times a week with fresh food, bars and street art. Other hidden precincts which are the epitome of cool these days on the Gold Coast are 19 Karen Contemporary Art Space and Dust Temple at Currumbin.

For an award-winning local brew, Burleigh Brewing sells its beer all around the coast, or you can head out to the brewery itself west of Burleigh. Try the 28 Pale Ale, My Wife’s Bitter, and FIGJAM IPA among other drops. Professional surfers Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and their marketing mate Stirling Howland are also owners of another local favourite, Balter Brewing Company at Currumbin. It’s retrofit with cool vibes and cool brews, and brewery tours are also on offer. 

Miami Marketta



If your idea of making a splash on your Gold Coast holiday is back in the water, head to Watersports Guru right over the border where local Tim Adams and his crew will take you on a 15-minute boat ride out to some of the secret spots off Cook Island. Here, you can snorkel with the resident population of green turtles and the odd clownfish or two.

Snorkel with turtles on the Southern end of the Gold Coast. Image Credit: Destination Gold Coast


As you’ve read above, the Gold Coast is full of surprises and local secrets at every corner. The trick, as the sign on that tree leading up to Lamington National Park suggests, is to simply keep going.

Like this article? You may also like these 6 Gold Coast Gems

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Christine Retschlag
Christine Retschlag

Christine Retschlag is an award-winning Australian journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines and online for the past 25 years in Australia, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. In 2006, she won the Australian Travel Writer of the Year award for Best Trade Story as well as the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Travel Writing Excellence. In 2007 she won Best Australian Story over 1000 words and in 2014 won Best Food Travel Story. She is also the author and architect of the successful travel blog: The Global Goddess.


Destination Gold Coast acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. 
We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout Southeast Queensland.