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.

Tamborine National Park Gold Coast
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.

Canungra Valley Vineyards
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.

Safari Tent at Nightfall Wilderness Camp.
Luxe camping in Lamington National Park. Image Credit: @nightfallcamp


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.

Woman relaxing in cabana at Palazzo Versace Gold Coast
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. 

Couple bar side at Miami Marketta Gold Coast
Couple barside at Miami Marketta. Image Credit: Destination Gold Coast


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.

Snorling with turtles Gold Coast
Snorkle with turtles on the Southern 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.

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