Go green beyond the gold
It’s just on sunset, cold and damp with a wild wind at a lookout on top of a mountain called Springbrook. In the distance, late rays light up the line of towering apartment blocks where my day started at Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast.
You can just about see the breakers from Springbrook, at a cooler elevation of about 1000m and just over 20km away as the crow flies. Somewhere down there are boardriders waiting for perfect waves and volleyball players taking in the sun. Surfers Paradise seems like another world, and although it’s only a 45-minute drive, it really is.
I walk back along the boardwalk through a patch of primordial forest of hoop pines, tree ferns and rainforest species with their burdens of creepers and moss, to a cosy cottage where the slow-combustion stove glows. It’s time to cook dinner, play Scrabble and curl up in bed with a big duvet. I suspect not many tourists who go to the Gold Coast even know there’s a magical, World Heritage-listed hinterland just behind it.
I should explain I enjoy Surfers Paradise for exactly what it is — a hedonistic mix of fun, sun, beach, restaurants, bars and varyingly attractive levels of glitz.
But I like to fit in a visit to Springbrook because it’s the opposite of all that. It’s quiet, filled with nature and barely constitutes a village; it’s simply a scattering of homes, rental cottages, a tavern and couple of cafes across the mountaintop, just on the Queensland-NSW border.
The local tourism website calls it “a forest wilderness formed by the eruption of a volcano 23 million years ago”, and it’s the sort of place you’d set a sci-fi film about a planet with strange, rich forests, spectacular waterfalls and odd creatures.
Bush turkeys roam, as do small, cute wallabies. All sorts of birds dart about, and if you look closely there could be sightings of rare critters such as Pearson’s tree frog. Then there are strangler figs, epiphytes and glow-inthe-dark mushrooms, all part of what’s officially termed the Gondwana Rainforest.
Trails through the rainforest have varying degrees of