The Gold Coast is not only about swimming and surfing. There is more to explore in its beautiful hinterland’s varied landscape. If you love walking in nature and want to break the hassle and bustle of the busy city life, here are my picks for a road trip itinerary to the Gold Coast hinterland.
A 3-Day Gold Coast Road Trip Itinerary to the Hinterland
The big pro is that all main destinations are within a one-hour drive, which is a benefit and means you don’t have to drive long hours. A self-drive road trip is the best way to explore the hinterland. I did hire a car for three days.
How to pick self-driving trips from the Gold Coast
Choosing the places for my self-guided trip to the Gold Coast Hinterland was not easy. I short-listed many things and places, including walking tracks in the national parks. I first browsed the internet, checked the Lamington National Park, and downloaded the Binna Burra Map to get an idea of the type and length of the walks. I then asked friends for suggestions. In the end, I picked fantastic Gold Coast walks, which I am wrapping up for you in this blog post.
TIP: Hire a car for your road trips. Also, prefer weekdays for a day road trip as these place gets jam-packed over weekends.
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Things to do in the Gold Coast hinterland for active people
Getting around the Gold Coast by car is not difficult, but it’s pretty easy to miss a turn and go in the wrong direction, and heavy traffic is not fun. It happened to me a couple of times. I recommend getting a digital Gold Coast Map. I love the one from Google Maps that you can download onto your Phone and use offline too. They are such a great help when there is no internet.
On all my solo road trips around Australia, I use Google Maps as a navigation system, which works well.
A Road Trip to Tamborine Mountain National Park from the Gold Coast
This is probably the most known destination of the Gold Coast hinterland. Tamborine Mountain is a popular destination for a day trip for locals and travellers alike. It’s about one hour drive from the Gold Coast Surfers Paradise. It offers short to long walks in the Tamborine National Park and the possibility of hang-gliding from the launch site between Tamborine Mountain and Tamborine North.
Stop at the hang-gliding launch site
This overlooks the magnificent valley of Fred Bucholz Par. If you are more into food explorations, you can taste local produce at distilleries, wineries, and fruit and veggie plantations, go to the glow worms caves, and visit art galleries. Some day-trip tours take you to Tamborine North.
Do some of the Mt Tamborine Walks
There are many walks you can take from Tamborine Mountain. I did two short walks to Curtis Falls and Cedar Creek Falls. Cedar Creek Falls are located on the outskirts of North Tamborine on the way to the Forest SkyWalk. They are short walks, and you can do both within a couple of hours. Witches Falls and the Knoll are two more exciting places worth checking out.
Take in the views from Knoll Lookout and visit the botanical Garden
I only had time to take in the view from the Knoll Lookout. From the Knoll, there is some beautiful day walks too. Late afternoon I went to the Botanical Gardens, a very peaceful place. Sunset is the best time to stroll along the lush garden alleys and take photos with beautiful light reflections.
Do the Binna Burra Walks in Lamington National Park
For my second day of Gold Coast Hinterland explorations, I was undecided between the Mount Warning Hike (which had been on my list for four years) and the Green Mountain Section of the Lamington National Park with O’Reilly.
I picked a third option, the Binna Burra section, the more accessible part of the Lamington National Park. It’s a shorter drive (about an hour), a more relaxed route, and the scenic drive is breathtaking (the photo below is just one of the many vantage points). The Binna Burra section also offers various walks in the National Parks with many lookouts.
The Daves Creek Walk in the Binna Burra Section
The walk starts where the cafe is, at the very end of the road, about 2 km from the ranger’s station. This is one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done in Australia! So easy to walk in such a varied landscape. The first 3 km skirt the deep forest alongside the Border Track.
The Border Track Walk
The Border Track is a popular walk among serious local hikers, one of the most extended hikes that connect the Binna Burra Section to the Green Mountains Section.
The Daves Creek route meanders through the Woggunba Valley, alongside creeks, changing vegetation with various trees, from fig trees and strangle trees to blue gums and all kinds of spinifex and palms. And the wildflowers are unique; we saw many Banksia trees and more. I bet this walk will be stunning in spring, with all wildflowers blooming.
The Daves Creek Circuit leads to a couple of lookouts; the view from Numinbah Lookout is fantastic. I spent 50 minutes there, taking in the peacefulness and the beautiful green panorama. Being alone, I was happy to find time to play with my camera and experiment with my new tripod. Beware of the terrain, which in some spots can be slippery.
Day 3: The Currumbin Valley
You don’t have to drive for an hour to see some of the best spots of Gold Coast Hinterland. Just a 20-minute drive west of Currumbin, you can take short walks in the national park. Take the Currumbin Creek Road from off the Gold Coast Highway and keep driving to the very end of the road, to the entrance to Mount Cougal Waterfalls. The short walk on a paved track takes you to the old sawmill through beautiful re-grown forests. I learnt that the area in the 30ies was a vast banana plantation, and the timber was used to build banana boxes.
The cascade-shaped waterfalls are pretty and ideal for hiding from the heat in summer for a refreshing dip. Beware, though, cause there are submerged rocks, and you shall pay attention where you swim or dive. It is not allowed, so beware
What to know for planning a Coast Hinterland Trip
Start your road trip early
One basic rule: the earlier you leave, the better. I planned to leave by 7.00 in the morning, but I only got out of the house by 8.00 am and got to Binna Burra later than 9.00 am as I stopped along the way. So no chance to get started with the 17 km walk I had planned.
Choose a sunny day with no wind
No cars were parked at the info point on my arrival, so I was cheering as this was a good sign predicting a very calm day. Indeed it was so peaceful (I bumped into five people in 5 hours). The weather was perfect: a deep blue sky with a light breeze and plenty of sunshine.
Pick the right walking trail
I was happy to catch up with a park ranger and ask for advice on which walk to choose. The clock was ticking by 9.15 am. He suggested the Daves Creek Circuit Walk, my day’s walk.
Where to stay in the Gold Coast Hinterland
If you plan to stay overnight, stay in Tamborine Mountain or nearby. Here below our picks:
Best Places For Staying:
If you plan to visit the Gold Coast, check out these posts for more info about:
Post published in 2019, last updated in Jan 2023
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