Known as “the green behind the gold”, Tamborine Mountain is a serene place to escape the summer holiday mayhem of the Gold Coast, writes Mitch Ziems


5 REASONS TO VISIT MT TAMBO NOW
1. You can enjoy the classic Gold Coast tourism scene without being caught up in the turbulence.
2. The silence. It’s a tranquil holiday destination where you can’t help but relax.
3. For the bushwalks, including the unique Skywalk.
4. Tamborine Mountain is the lost culture capital of the Gold Coast. Think markets, art galleries and award-winning vineyards.
5. For the awe-inspiring views.

Where is it?
Thirty kilometres from the Gold Coast and 70 kilometres from Brisbane, this idyllic hinterland plateau makes an ideal day trip – but if time permits allow yourself to really soak up the views and settle into the serenity with an overnight stay or two. Nestled into the majestic McPherson Range, Tamborine Mountain gives great view – it looks out over National Park to the high-rise silhouette of the Gold Coast shoreline.

How to get here
Interstaters can fly in to Brisbane or Coolangatta airports and rent a car. Take the Pacific Motorway south from Brisbane or north from Coolangatta. There are great scenic drives around this area so it’s advisable to have the freedom of your own transport. Alternatively, Tamborine Mountain Tours offers shuttle-bus transfers from the Gold Coast for $20 per person each way, as well as guided day tours from $120 per person, including lunch.

WHY IS TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN SO GREAT?
Affectionately known as ‘the Green Behind the Gold’, Tamborine Mountain has a wonderful mix of activity and relaxation. It offers seclusion rather than isolation, and comfort without the fear of boredom that you might expect from a cutesy mountain town. The appeal of Tamborine Mountain is that it is not a gimmicky tourist destination but an authentic hinterland community – Gold Coast and Brissie locals often take day trips here. This quality permeates the entire mountain. It’s modern, yet it feels like the forest has grown to embrace the town. Everything just chugs along quietly, but there’s always something to do. And best of all, visitors can enjoy the experience on any budget.

TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN: THEN

Queensland’s first National Park was established here in 1907. Which sounds impressive until you discover why: the area
was deemed “unfit for any other purpose”. Apparently the natural assets of the region weren’t as valued then as they are now. Volcanic plateaus cover 28 square kilometres, featuring a plethora of unique flora and fauna, native bush, waterfalls, rock pools and other gems (literally, in the case of thunder eggs). Fortunately, the residents didn’t share the same view as the government, and while agriculture expanded into surrounding regions, great tracts of forest were left unspoilt.

TAMBORINE  MOUNTAIN: NOW
Recently the untainted rainforests around here have attracted special visitors. The pilot episode and some of the first season of Terra Nova, Steven Spielberg’s new television miniseries, was filmed here. It’s the perfect location, as the show is set in prehistoric times. While the production has been riddled with setbacks, such as departing writers and pushed-back premier dates, it looks set to hit TV screens in the US this October (Australia to follow). Go to ten.com/terranova for more info, or go to youtube.com to check out the trailer.

Things to do
• BUSHWALK:
Tamborine National Park has many short walking tracks, from gentle strolls to scenic lookouts to moderate hikes. The Macdonald Rainforest Circuit is a relatively flat, easy 30-minute walk through beautiful tall trees thick with strangler figs, starting at the Wongawallan Rd carpark. The 3.1-kilometre-long Witches Falls Circuit starts in the picnic area on Main Western Rd and takes a steep path down into the forest, past lagoons and on to the Falls. Please note the falls only exist after rain – so bad weather can be a blessing here! The picnic area has electric barbecues, so bring a bag of snags. For more info on walking tracks, as well as where to stay and what to do in the area, go to tamborinemtncc.org.au

• SKY WALK:
For something special, one of the best walking experiences on the mountain takes place 30 metres above the forest floor. Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is the mountain’s equivalent of standing on the top floor of the Gold Coast’s Q1 building. Though tickets are certainly on the expensive side, this serene and unique experience is worth the price for those who want to see the natural beauty of the area but prefer the feel of metal rather than dirt under their feet. $18.50 per adult; family tickets $47 (two adults, two kids). 333 Geissmann Dr, North Tamborine, Qld. (07) 5545 2222; rainforestskywalk.com.au

• GARDEN WALK:
If the natural glory of native forest isn’t enough to satisfy your inner nature lover, mix it up a bit by having a wander through 11 hectares of exotic plantings tended by volunteers at Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens. From mid-October, the Cherry Tree Walk is blooming and wisteria is dripping from the pagoda.
Forsythia Dr, Mt Tamborine. tmbotanicgardens.org.au.

• ROCK WALK:
Take a half-day guided tour with geologist John Jackson, aka ‘The Rock Doctor’. His half-day Tamborine Geotour departs from Mt Tamborine Information Centre and winds through 75 kilometres of interesting geological formations, such as lava columns and tsunami rocks dated at up to 400 million years old. For more details, go to therockdoctor.com.au

• TOWN STROLLS:
If local culture is more your thing, take a walk down Long Rd – particularly the section known as Gallery Walk. You’ll meander past Fudge Heaven (130 Long Rd), PJ Art Gallery (136), and the German Cuckoo Clock Nest (143). Keep going and eventually you’ll hit some of the best markets in Queensland, held every Sunday on Main Western Rd. For activities and events, go to tamborinemtncc.org.au

SCENIC DRIVES:
There are a number of beautiful short drives in the area, perfect for DIY exploration. Mt Tamborine is situated along the 650-kilometre drive route known as the Rainforest Way. Part of this is the Tamborine Circuit, a day drive that starts in Nerang on the Gold Coast and passes through a section of rainforest thick with walking trails at Binna Burra before continuing to Canungra (where you can stop to visit the glow worm caves and try the 15-metre-high O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk) before proceeding to Mt Tamborine National Park. Download a touring map from rainforestway.com.au

Where TO EAT
Long Rd is home to some of the best places to eat on the mountain, which offer casual eats through to more sophisticated dining experiences. For a lighter meal and a great coffee, visit Café Montano (Gallery Walk), which is a local favourite. Just across the road is D’Luscious, where a gourmet experience is provided by culinary master Chris Manning. Elsewhere on the mountain you’ll find The Polish Place (333 Main Western Rd), a quaint and stylish eatery where the hospitality of the staff and spectacle of copious rainbow lorikeets highlight the appeal of the town. Other foreign flavours in the area include Italian at Brunelli’s (499 Main Western Rd), French from Jacques Manor Restaurant (160 Long Rd) or a classic European approach at Belvedere on Main (43 Main St). For a more casual dinner, locals recommend Pinnacle Pizza (13 Main St) or the fish and chips from Tamborine Takeaway (9 Main Western Rd). Mt Tamborine Coffee Plantation is also worth a visit to enjoy a locally grown coffee in its on-site café and art gallery (64 Alpine Terrace).

Where to DRINK
The fertile volcanic soil on which the town is founded produces some great Australian wine. Mt Tamborine Winery & Homestead was the very first winery established on the Gold Coast Hinterland’s food and wine trail, and is still considered one of the best. Its 2008 Shiraz Cabernet won gold at the 2010 Stanthorpe Small Winemakers Awards – this and more of their award-winning wines can be sampled at their cellar door on Gallery Walk (128 Long Rd). If you have a few hours to spare, visit Cedar Creek Estate (104-144 Hartley Rd), which features winery tours and an art gallery. As part of the Queensland Wine Centre, it also offers wine from 14 of Queensland’s premier wineries. Take a look around and you’ll find plenty of cellar-door sales. If beer is more to your fancy, Historic St Bernard’s Hotel (101 Alpine Tce) or Fox & Hounds Country Inn just out of town (cnr Oxenford-Tamborine Rd and Elevation Dr) are choice destinations, with distinctive views and friendly locals providing a great atmosphere.

Where to STAY

It’s a special place indeed that makes you not want to leave your accommodation. Tamborine Mountain has some great stays in spectacular scenic settings. These are just some of them:
MT TAMBORINE MOTEL: At the most affordable end of the budget spectrum is this family-owned motel, which is a little dated but comfortable and set in a quiet, picturesque location. Rates from $135 per double room per night. (07) 5545 0088; mttamborinemotel.com.au
HILLTOP ON TAMBORINE: This gorgeous romantic getaway is also a popular local wedding venue thanks to its cute timber peak-roofed chapel. From $150 per night per queen room. 1525 Tamborine-Oxenford Rd, Wongawallan. (07) 5545 1424; hilltopontamborine.net.au.
THE POLISH PLACE: Chalet-style accommodation with timber-clad walls, folksy furnishings, plenty of native wildlife and those awesome Mt Tamborine views. From $229 per night for two adults. Package rates available. 333 Main Western Rd. (07) 5545 1603; polishplace.com.au.
WITCHES FALLS COTTAGES: An AT fave, these private cottages are scattered among native trees, are cute as a button, and come with plush robes and brekkie hampers.
There is currently a “stay four nights and pay for three” special from $179 per cottage per night (valid until December 22). Cnr Main Western Rd and Hartley Rd, North Tamborine. (07) 5545 4411; witchesfallscottages.com.au
SONGBIRDS: The epitome of luxury on Tamborine Mountain is the multi-award-winning Songbirds Rainforest Retreat. The villas here are spellbinding thanks to huge decks that jut out among the treetops, and the restaurant is sensational too, using locally sourced organic produce wherever possible. It’s a great choice for those who want to soak in a spa as they soak up the stunning surroundings in this beautiful place. Lot 10, Tamborine Mountain Rd. (07) 5545 2563; songbirds.com.au

What’s ON?
October 14-16, 2011: The Tamborine Mountain Scarecrow Festival is held over this weekend. As well as the creative scarecrow displays around town, there will be loads of free street entertainment. Print out a map of the scarecrow trail at tamborinemtncc.org.au or check out their Facebook page: facebook.com/scarecrowfestival

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