Monday, May 7, 2012

Gold Coast - Springbrook - Purling Brook Falls

If you really want to get rid of the concrete scenery, only half and hour west of Mudgeeraba in the center of the Gold Coast is the heritage listed Springbrook national park where you can enjoy the magnificent walks that surround the Purlingbrook Falls; the waterfall is the centerpiece for most visitors.  You can walk a few hundred meters to a viewing platform but by far the best views are had as you go along the walking track.

First view of the Purling Brook Falls waterfall along the walking track

The walks track along the valleys of the park and so are best done in comfortable walking shoes such as sandshoes.  The most popular walk is about 4km and is best taken in a clockwise direction.  You can walk right behind the waterfall.  If there has been a lot of rain, there may have been some rockslides that have closed sections of the walk but this is well signed at the top of the walk.  The beauty of this region is there are so many other choices; Natural Arch, Hinze Dam, Beechmont, Canungra, Best of all Lookout ...
Along the way. Water going over a waterfall.

Along the way. Vertical.

Monarch of the forest. Grand nature in Springbrook national park

To access this getaway, head to Mudgeeraba on the western fringe of the Gold Coast.  From here there are clear signs to Springbrook.  It is a scenic half an hour drive away; bitumen all the way.  There are all manner of cafes, museums and craft places along the route.  A large sign says you have reached Springbrook.  Once you reach the observatory, look to turn left.  There is ample parking, an area for the kids to run around a bit, barbecue and toilet facilities, and a cafe at the entrance. 

When you get out of the car you will notice the air is cooler than on the coast.  It feels fresh.  When you see the sign, go to the left path and follow the circuit.  Pace yourself.  It snakes along the valley, gradually working down and round to the base of the falls.  Sights and sounds along the way can disappear if you concentrate too much on the path, so make sure you stop to soak it all in.  It is awesome.  You can see the massive volcanic origins of this area all along the walk.  You wander amongst a staggering variety of vegetation and views; ancient plants, ancient geology.  When you reach the valley floor, you can extend the walk an extra 2km by taking the branch that leads out to the Waringa Pool and back.  Most just keep walking to the waterfall. 

Along the way.  Waterfalls, cliffs, rainforest

When the going is a bit steep, there are concrete steps, so footing is good all along the way.  There was no point where we felt we would slip over.  We saw kids in thongs doing the walk; even a fellow with bare feet.  Wouldn't recommend that footwear but there you go. 

A python enjoying a snooze in the sun

First glimpse of Purling Brook Falls

Nature's perfection

You can hear the falls long before you get there.  Then there it is; tumbling over 100m from a spot in the sky.  Down past trees, ferns and sheer volcanic cliffs; stunning.  Massively worth the walk.  More exciting is the walk behind the falls if the track is open; it usually is.  Rainbows appear and disappear at various points as you move around the base of the falls.

How's this for a magic scene?

Water falls from sky high cliffs at Purling Brook Falls

Enjoy being there.  Then head back up to the top.  We are not that fit and didn't have any trouble walking up to the top.  The track has been carefully planned so as many as possible can enjoy the experience.  There is a platform to take in the view from the top.  And ... you don't feel guilty indulging a bit at the cafe after burning up all that energy.  A wonderful, relaxing walk and beautiful destination. 

The hard bit about writing this story was choosing the photos to leave out.

The track behind the waterfall. Spectacular.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gold Coast - Burleigh - Headland Walk

Do you feel like a change of pace, slowing down a little, but still want to jump in the ocean or go shopping, even have a restaurant meal?  Head to Burleigh beach; easy to reach by bus or car. It lies in the middle of the Gold Coast beaches.  Beach safety is supported by a surf club at either end of the beach and a lifeguard tower in the middle.  A beachfront park with a concrete path wide enough for walkers, joggers, skaters, covers the entire distance.  Shady trees, shelters and barbecue facilities are dotted along the full strip. 

At the southern end of the beach, you will find why Burleigh is so popular with locals and why they would prefer it to remain off the tourist map.  Enjoy shopping in stores that are less touristy and lie in a couple of blocks of laid back village atmosphere, few high rises blot the horizon here.  But this story is about the walk around the headland.   Shops and beach will come later.   The beach has a beautiful national park headland.  Sit on the hill and watch the surf or take the peaceful, level stroll around the headland; over the top if you are feeling more energetic.  The whole walk takes a leisurely 35-40 minutes, no rush.

The best way to do the walk from the headland is to start by walking down the hill, turning left at the traffic lights and walking along the highway.   This first bit along the highway I always find the best section to get over first because the rest of the walk is a peaceful, easy walk along a bitumen pathway through trees alongside a creek and then beside the ocean.   Along the highway you reach Tallebudgera Creek, another popular spot with locals, especially for those with younger children.   To walk around the headland, turn left just before you cross the creek.

Turn left past the old movie theatre arcade. Main
 Burleigh shops straight across road at traffic lights
Tallebudgera Creek. Popular swimming spot on
opposite side to Headland walk. Caravan park to right.

The trail is easy to follow.  Just a short way in you will see the track that leads over the top of the headland.  It is not too steep but the one around the creek is just about level all the way and so very easy to do.  You can hear the chatter of birds all along the path.  It is cool and shaded, relaxing. 

View from pathway

The path is easy to walk, shady and cool

Mouth of creek and ocean
View to ocean

At the end of the path, you come out to the most stunning views along the Gold Coast and the world famous surfing beach of Burleigh Heads.  You will just want to sit and take it all in; ocean, beaches, the highrise Surfers Paradise, people fishing, surfers, joggers.  It is a fantastic spot.  At the bottom of the hill is a coffee shop.  Take away coffees and a seat on the hill is one of the most refreshing activities and one of life's pleasures; makes you feel good with the world.

Shady park and walkways. Surfers Paradise in background

Beach, cafe, reading under a shady tree.  Serenity
It is easy to cruise through the hours and totally unwind.  The walk through the National Park surely helps that.  Follow up with all manner of calming persuits from dawn to dusk.

Stunning sunrise
First light at the headland

Moonrise over ocean
Moonrise over seagull :)

A definite for those whose holiday is speeding too much.  Easy trip to Burleigh to get your spirits back together and ease the pace.  Buses drop you off right next to the beach so access is no trouble; even leave the car back at your hotel.  Fish and chips on the Headland; what a treat.

Views around the Headland

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gold Coast - Hinze Dam -Beechmont

Hinze Dam is the major water supply source for the Gold Coast.  It is a short drive, fewer than 30 km away.  It is easy to find the route via Mudgeeraba on the cental coast.  This is a great picnic spot, found so close to the Gold Coast strip.  It is a point of interest to visit along the way on a pleasant drive through the mountains.  There are many others.  We stopped at Hinze Dam for a look around and continued up along the ridge of Beechmont, towards  Canungra and looping back to the highway.  

On the way up to the dam you pass through forested scenery along the route with an occasional spring fed cascade splashing next to the bitumen.  A backdrop, refreshing and cool to drive in.  The way to the Dam is clearly signposted. 

Shady seat to look out over the lake

Spillway of Hinze Dam

Spillway with dam at 86%

Picnic spots, centre left and top right, below spillway

Observation area. Drinks and snacks available
On the way out from the Dam take the route to Beechmont.  It is magic scenery all along the way.  It ranges from closely treed mountains to open rolling pasture, green and lush.  You will pass higher up the range and drive past outlooks where you look down over the Dam.  Cruising along the ridge, we stopped to watch a couple of people fly model gliders.  We were amazed at how far and high the models could go.

A typical valley view near Beechmont

Pasture we drove past at Beechmont

Centre right is the silver streak of Purling Brook falls

Nature and plastic. Top left, eagle in flight, one of a pair; centre, model plane

This turned out to be an awesome Sunday Drive, somewhat unplanned as we had intended to go to the Dam and back.  The choice to go further via Beechmont was a bonus.  A good Sunday Drive turned great.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gold Coast - Brunswick Heads

Today Sunday Drive will take you on a trip down into northern New South Wales and the small, laid-back town of Brunswick Heads. Here you can go fishing, surfing, swim in a protected inlet, hire a canoe for a paddle on the river, have lunch at the local hotel, or get some take away and sit on the edge of the river to munch away while the kids play in the playground.

From the Gold Coast, this is an easy drive through some rolling open countryside. By going south on the Pacific Motorway (M1) which is quick to access, running along the western edge of the Gold Coast, you quickly leave the dense view of concrete and enter some open, green vistas and rolling hills, backed by an ancient volcanic rim. The trip is along dual highway for almost the entire journey.

Brunswick Hotel. Great atmosphere here.

Looking towards the riverside playground. Shops on right.
There are two bridges across the river.  One is footbridge only and runs to path down to surf club.  The other takes cars too.  It is on the northern end of the park.  People often fish from these bridges. 

View north from the footbridge. Park and playground on left. Beach to right.

View across river from park. Sheltered inlet just behind cars on far bank.
The river is shallow, especially at low tide.  At the beach end of the bridge in the background, you can find a sheltered inlet.  This is particularly good if it is windy on the beach or if the surf is too big for the kids.

Sheltered inlet, away from surf at Brunswick Heads.

Brunswick Heads surf beach. Patrol and flagged area in distance.

There is lots to do here.  You and the kids can spend time in the water with an easy break for lunch.  It is a relatively short drive down to Brunswick Heads and offers a beach environment different from that on the Gold Coast.

Well worth the drive down.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gold Coast - Brisbane - South Bank

Want to have a look at more than ocean beaches?  Queensland's capital city, Brisbane, is barely an hour's drive away.  Today we will drive up to Southbank; a centrepiece of culture, outdoor fun, a massive swimming lagoon, picnic facilities, entertainment, wining and dining.  All this moulded along the south bank of the Brisbane River, directly opposite the CBD.  Drive north along the M1 Pacific Motorway or take the train which stops right in the middle of the South Bank action.  Use a Go Card for all public transport travel.  Parking under the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition centre is $15 all day, cheaper than the parking right in South Bank.  It is a one block walk away.

Fun and interest for all the family at South Bank

There are two areas in the park.  At one end there is a cultural hub.  You could spend days exploring the Art Gallery, Museum, Gallery of Modern Art, the Science Centre and the State Library.  Free entry to all, except the Science Centre.  Some special exhibitions may entail a charge.  They are all modern constructions, with fabulous displays inside huge collections.  They are accessed directly from the South Bank rail station or via boardwalk along the river.

Entrance to Art Gallery

Museum at South Bank

A riverside playground

State Library at South Bank on Brisbane River

Fun on the Brisbane River at South Bank

The Brisbane Wheel and boardwalk. Brisbane River on left

Wander along the boardwalk from this cultural feast designed to suit all curiosities of an arty, historic, scientific, or literary nature.  Hmmm smell the learning.

Anyway, off to the outdoor entertainment.  Central is the huge series of swimming lagoons.  Sandy beaches, water fountains and streams with lifeguards on duty.  There are shady trees and shrubs throughout.  Excellent for all the family to cool off on a hot day. Toilets have lots of showers and a large change area for drying off after a swim.  Mum and dad can share a cold drink and watch the kids from the comfort of a cafe seat, if they wish.  When the tribe is hungry, the choice is endless.   BYO to cook on several barbecues, a cool drink or ice cream from one of many mobile carts, traditional fish and chips, cafe, through to fine riverside restaurant dining.

Some of the fountains in the lagoon area at South Bank
A cool drink

Part of the huge lagoon area
Lots of choice for food and drink

Shady walkway at South Bank along the banks of the Brisbane River

The kids can find all manner of activities: playgrounds, parkland, long cycle paths along the river and the fun lagoon area.  It's easy to fill a whole day.  Shops line the side of the park.  For the serious shopper in you, walk across one of two pedestrian bridges straight into the CBD and shopping malls. 

South Bank is much too large to fit into one story.  There are days of fun you could line up, so you can rest assured that you and the kids will have a fun-filled day.