The cave-like archway of Natural Bridge where water from the creek fall into it through a rock hole.
The base of waterfall inside the cave-like archway of Natural Bridge.
The view from the top of waterfall where the creek disappears into a rock hole and pours down inside the cave-like archway of Natural Bridge.
The lake is the centrepiece of Tamborine Mountain Botanic Garden.
The Canyon Lookout holds a view of ancient caldera with volcanic ridge and valley.
A secluded picnic table amongst ferns and some kind of aroid plants in Goolmoolhara Falls and Picnic Area.
A land mullet, a reptile of skink family, basking along the trail of Natural Bridge forest.
Giant strangler fig along the trail of Natural Bridge forest.

Leaving the touristy spots in Gold Coast, Rizauddin Ibrahim heads for the verdant, protected Gondwana Rainforest

AFTER a day of shopping and people watching in Gold Coast, my wife and I find the pace too frenetic.

When we find out about the Gold Coast Hinterland from a local, we quickly plan a trip there to escape from the tourist trap of Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast Hinterland is a forest that begins from the suburb area on the west of Gold Coast to the eastern part of McPherson Range. The protected forest here is part of Gondwana Rainforest, similar to the rainforest of Gondwana supercontinent millions years ago.

LUSH RAINFOREST SETTING

Our first stop is Springbrook, a 45- minute drive from the city. Due to its location in a mountainous region, the drive goes through plenty of sharp corners, narrow curved wooden bridges, and hairpins, especially in the last leg of the drive.

Springbook is on top of an ancient volcano and its forest wilderness has been formed by an eruption 23 million years ago.

Most part of the wilderness is Springbrook National Park and most of the attractions are easily reached.

We head for the Natural Bridge Section to go on a hiking trail. The information board at the starting point suggests that we walk in a clockwise direction as it will be much easier to go down the steps. The trail circuit is well-defined and paved with signages along the way.

The steps take us down to a lush rainforest. We walk pass a stream and creek as the walk takes us through a beautiful section covered with moss and funghi. The roar of a waterfall can be heard and soon we go down another flight of stairs that leads us into a dim, archway-like cave.

We are at the base of the waterfall, which is inside the archway. The water falls into this cave through the rock hole. Thanks to a wooden platform, we can view this unique natural formation without getting wet. We then go to the top of waterfall and see the creek disappear into rock hole.

Completing the circuit, we pass the giant strangler fig tree and encounter forest denizens, from a land mullet that basks along the trail and an Australian brush turkey, a wild turkey.

From the Natural Bridge, we drive along the Springbrook Circuit, a scenic road that connects popular spots in Springbook and provides the access to lookout points, picnic areas and waterfalls. Our first stop is Purling Brook Falls from its escarpment lookout. Then, we head for the end of the road circuit to a lookout point called The Best Of All Lookouts. The name alone excites us.

Once we get there, we quickly park our car and rush to the lookout point. Unfortunately, luck is not on our side; the weather is misty.

The vista, which is supposed to be a sweeping view of Mount Warning and an ancient caldera, with the coast and Pacific Ocean in the background, is covered by a whitish sea of mist. We wait for quite some time on the cliff edge platform but the mist persists.

Our excursion is still worth it. The trail to the lookout point is through the Antarctic Beech Forest, the same type that existed in Gondwana Land. Moss-laden trees, epiphytes and ferns make up the scene. The atmosphere is dreamy and we seem to be transported to another world. Slivers of light melt through the mist to reveal emerald leaves and mosses. We spend more time wandering in this forest. The highlight of the trail here is the 2,000-year-old Antarctic Beech trees. Their old age, marked by moss-covered bumps and gnarl of their trunk and buttress, is like something out of the Lord Of The Rings movie set.

Later, we stop at Goolmoolahra Falls and Picnic Area for our late lunch. It is charming forest with brooks and glades. We choose a secluded picnic table among ferns and some kind of aroid plants. The waterfalls is just a short stroll away and the viewing point is from a cantilever platform over a rock. This offers a view of a meandering mountain stream that cascades down the cliff.

Before we return to Gold Coast, the last lookout we check is Canyon Lookout that has a view of ancient caldera with volcanic ridge and valley.

HITTING THE TAMBORINE

The next day is our last day in Gold Coast. Since our flight back home is in the evening, we decide to have an early check-out, throw everything in the car and drive back off to the Hinterland.

This time, we go to Tamborine Mountain. Nothing to do with musical instrument, the name comes from an aboriginal word for a 28 sq km plateau.

Our first stop is Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens, located 500m above sea level, a 11ha property that’s home to exotic plants and native plants of Tamborine Mountain. It is developed and cared for by volunteers.

Entering the garden, we are greeted by picturesque vista of the lake, the garden’s centrepiece. Native giant ferns frame the lake. Next to the lake is a garden of bromeliad, a plant originated from South America that has caught my attention for the different colour tone of its long, broad leaves.

Exploring the garden, we can easily walk from one type of garden to another to view the many plants. A path from the lake takes us to rainforest boardwalk which perhaps is the introduction to botany world of Tamborine Mountain.

Crossing the old rock bridge over the lake leads us to theme gardens such as Japanese Garden and Rose Garden. We lose track of time and don’t realise we’ve been in the garden for hours.

We finally leave and head for Gallery Walk, which is actually a single road lined with colourful shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. This is the place to shop for local product of cheese and art and craft.

Our next stop is Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. This unique attraction is a man-made ingenuity where man can indulge in nature. The main attraction here is the 300m steel bridge that runs through forest canopy and a 40m cantilever bridge that soars 30m above the forest creek.

We begin our adventure at the centre of the facility. The Eco Gallery provides an insight into the nature of this rainforest. There are displays of local flora and fauna, butterflies and insect collection, and large freshwater aquarium.

We then slowly walk on the steel bridge that goes into the lush canopy above the verdant rainforest below. The song of birds can clearly be heard from the above the canopy. It gradually descends to the forest floor and we take a path that passes the rock pool, butterfly lookout and a hut, before ending at a cantilever bridge that offers a view of the creek and rainforest.

It is already evening when we finish exploring Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, with just enough time to head for Brisbane to catch our flight home.