As a Brisbane girl, born and bred, I’ve spent plenty of time exploring the nearby Gold Coast’s beautiful, can’t-be-beat sandy beaches all through my childhood, teenage years and early twenties. In recent years though I started to turn my attention inland to explore the other side of this naturally beautiful area.
I was surprised and awed again and again by what I found inland in the shadow of the famous Gold Coast beaches – jaw-droppingly tall waterfalls in cool, green valleys. Scrubby and vast mountain ranges barely touched by human development, secluded lakes fringed with quintessentially Australian trees and the most intriguing, unique natural ‘theme park’ I’ve ever encountered.
I’ve gone back to these spots again and again and I always recommend Gold Coast visitors make time to visit them alongside the more famous beaches, so read on and discover!
Twin Falls - Springbrook National Park, Queensland
You can find the towering waterfall of Twin Falls inside Springbrook National Park, where it’s a four-kilometre round trip to make your way down to the waterfall pools and back up again.
We visited on a stormy Tuesday, meaning we were completely on our own swimming in the pools at the base of this very tall waterfall. In truth, the water is very cold in these pools as they’re shaded by thick tree cover, out of range from the sun’s rays. We referred to a swim here as a ‘dip of courage’, taking turns to swim out and sit on the black rocks under the waterfall's icy needles, emerging refreshed and renewed each time.
We explored the surrounding area too, the mossy boulders and lush trees with a rainforest feel. We packed a picnic lunch of salads and bread which I would highly recommend doing as there’s no facilities or restaurants anywhere around here. Here it’s just you, the trees, the birds and insects and the thundering sound of the waterfall.
To find the start of the four kilometre Twin Falls hiking circuit, start at Tallanbana Picnic Area in Springbrook National Park.
Binna Burra - Lamington National Park, Queensland
The views of the surrounding valleys and mountains from the parking spot up high where all the walks at Binna Burra begin, are enough to make you feel like packing up and just leaving it at that before you even begin. But venture further into this World Heritage Site among the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia and you’ll witness more and more natural beauty.
You will see a variety of landscapes on your journey through Binna Burra, including passing giant boulders and scrubby bush unique to Australia. Stop at one of the rocky outlets up high to sit and eat your packed lunch and take in the view. Make your way back down the track and explore the giant waterfalls and clear rock pools, walking through cool rainforest sections where water hangs in the air before leaving.
There’s a feeling of the ancient here, I always think this place looks like a land before humans, where it’s impossible to see signs of modern development in any direction from Binna Burra, just nature.
Crystal Castle - Byron Bay, New South Wales
Up in the hills above Byron Bay, just one hour’s drive from the Gold Coast, there’s an intriguing, unique natural ‘theme park’ celebrating all things spiritual, more specifically, crystals. It’s no surprise to find a place like Crystal Castle
so close to Byron Bay – it is and has been for a long time, a magnet for spiritual people, practices and things.
On our visit here, we wandered through sprawling green gardens to find crystals the size of boulders dotted throughout the grounds, with awe-inspiring views out over the surrounding valleys too. You can get an aura reading photo here, walk a maze connected to a spiritual community on the other side of the world, make a wish at the wishing tree, walk through the bamboo forest and see the Buddhist monument blessed in-person by the Dalai Lama himself.
Nature is left to grow and flourish here alongside the giant crystals said to have healing powers. Whatever your beliefs, spending time here in the presence of beauty, peace and nature will mean you leave feeling better than when you arrived.
Tea Tree Lake - Byron Bay, New South Wales
While you’re in the Byron Bay
area try to also stop off at this natural lake fringed by tea trees, around late afternoon and sunset if you can. The lake’s waters are as black and smooth as tar on the surface. Swim in though and you’ll see the water change to a deep brown, coloured dark by the native tea trees framing the lake.
Tea tree oil is known as a something of a magical cure in Australia, we use it to boost the immune system and blood circulation, for relief from aches and pains and for opening up the skin's pores and healing skin problems in general. So taking a dip in these healing tea tree waters has to be good for you in one way or another!
This is a very secluded, quiet place hidden in behind Tallow Beach – we saw not one other soul here during our afternoon swim. So find a little inlet on the lake’s shores to leave your towel and things on land and dive in to feel the magic of this peaceful place. There are no signs to get here so feel your way, or ask for directions around Tallow Beach.
Mount Barney, Queensland
Less than two hours’ drive west of the Gold Coast, do some serious bushwalking on Mount Barney. Though there’s a range of hikes you can do here, many of the walks are rated as ‘difficult’, meaning be prepared for more than just a leisurely stroll.
We set out on the hottest, driest day of the year (oops!) with the sun beating down on us on a serious three-hour return hike through the dry bush from the Lower Portals.
At the end of the trail we took, we were generously rewarded for our efforts, where we emerged at a gorge with water running through, an oasis in the bush. We stripped down, swum and explored the waterfalls, creeks and streams at our leisure before braving the long, hot walk back later that day.
Check out our Gold Coast hotels before setting out on an adventure to these magical places! Stay on the beautiful Gold Coast beachfront during your trip, and take the time to explore all of the beautiful natural treasures here.
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