While the Gold Coast lives up to its eponymous precious metal, the true value is in the natural world and the sheer range of memorable experiences.
Australia is an amazing country, but there’s one serious downside: It’s impossible to see everything in one trip! Planning a vacation Down Under means picking a few must-sees, which can be a daunting task. But when one of my friends in Brisbane sang the praises of the Gold Coast, I knew that this region of Queensland would be perfect for my next getaway.
The Gold Coast lives up to its shiny name with world-famous beaches — like the aptly named Surfers Paradise — plus tons of great shops and delicious restaurants. And while I love digging into local cuisine and retail options, I’m also a get-out-and-explore kind of girl. Lucky for me, the Gold Coast hinterland is just as “green” as it is “gold.” With expansive national parks and cute little towns to explore, it’s a great destination for nature lovers and offers a leafy counterpoint to the pristine coastline.
Trek through Rainforest at Lamington National Park.
Located near the Gold Coast, Lamington National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world. The park offers 100 miles of walking trails along the McPherson range to explore, including a rainforest canopy tour that stretches almost 50 feet above the ground.
I spent a full day wandering around here, snapping way too many pictures of waterfalls! Although I didn’t make it to the Caves circuit, which has sweeping views of Coomera valley, or have time for the 13-mile Border Track, they looked like spectacular options for delving deeper into the rainforest.
Looking for an even longer trek? The Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk is a 33.5-mile walk that takes you deep into the Gondwana Rainforest and into Springbrook National Park.
Discover Greenery and Glow Worms at Mt. Tamborine.
The area known as the “green behind the Gold,” Mt. Tamborine has plenty of natural beauty to keep you occupied. Twelve walking tracks wind through the rainforest, which is located in the third oldest National Park in the world. The trails are about two miles long, so I was able to pick and choose how much strolling I felt capable of that day.
Not-to-miss destinations are Curtis Falls and Witches Falls; for an underground adventure, the Glow Worm Caves is a unique option. It’s more of an overhang than a cave, but you’ll be sure to see the glow worms that hang like living constellations in the dark. The park also includes the remnants of the former Mt. Warning volcano; the lookouts were a particular pleasure and provided great spots for taking photos.
Wrap up your day with a trip to the wineries, distilleries or craft breweries of Mount Tamborine. Sampling is encouraged, and it’s nice to share a “cheers” after a day of exploring.
Delve Into the Gold Coast’s Waters.
Of course, no trip to the Gold Coast is complete without checking out the beaches. I tried my hand at surfing at Burleigh Heads and decided that although it was fun playing in the waves, I much preferred exploring under them.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore the Gold Coast Seaway, which is famous for the sheer number and diversity of fish sightings. My group spotted several species of rays, pipefish, barracuda and schools of bigeye trevally. We even got lucky and swam next to a sea turtle!
The best time to visit the Gold Coast is during April and May. You’ll get the sun you’re craving, but without the extreme heat and rainfall.
Where to Stay:
Marriott Vacation Club® at Surfers Paradise, Australia