Go green be­yond the gold

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - EAN HIG­GINS

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

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