Lace up your boots and head out on an adventure, big or small, with these Gold Coast bush walks.
The Gold Coast tends to conjure images of glitzy high rises, vibrant shopping centres, and an energising nightlife, but slip away from the golden beach towns and head west to uncover a whole new side to the region.
The Gold Coast Hinterland is home to two national parks from the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia area — Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park, as well as other scenic locations like Tamborine Mountain and Burleigh Head National Park.
Ready to explore by foot? Here are nine of the best Gold Coast hikes.
Easy hikes on the Gold Coast
If you’re craving a hit of fresh air and the opportunity to stretch your legs with a green backdrop, a short five-kilometre or less hike that can be completed in no more than an hour is for you.
O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk
Distance: 800 metres return
Time: 30 minutes
Nestled high above the World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is the free O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk where you can stroll through a canopy of trees and observe wildlife and birds in the rainforest at close range. Starting from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, the walk consists of nine suspension bridges up to 16 metres above ground. Experience at your own leisure.
Catch the sunrise at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. (Image: Destination Gold Coast)
Natural Bridge Circuit
Distance: One-kilometre return
Time: 30 minutes
In the Natural Bridge section of Springbrook National Park, you’ll find the Natural Bridge Circuit: a sealed track taking you through the forest, across Cave Creek, and into the picturesque rock cave formation to witness the waterfall falling from above. Hot tip: with long sets of stairs, it’s easier to walk this circuit in a clockwise direction.
Traverse the rocky trail at Springbrook National Park Rainforest. (Image: Destination Gold Coast)
Natural Bridge is very popular with walkers and bird lovers during the day. At night, the cave comes alive with the tiny green lights of thousands of nocturnal glow-worms, and the silent wings of microbats.
Dip your toes in the cold spring on the way. (Image: Destination Gold Coast)
Cougal Cascades in Currumbin Valley
Distance: 1.6-kilometre return
Time: One hour
No matter your age or ability, the walk to Cougal Cascades is an easy feat following a bitumen path alongside a series of rock pools and small waterfalls.
Starting from the car park, the route is sheltered by abundant greenery and even families with prams or assisted wheelchair users can access the falls and the beautiful rainforest walk that leads there. More agile visitors who are longing for a cooling dip can clamber down to the swimming hole where the Cougal Cascades fall; otherwise drink in the views from the wooden viewing platform.
Also part of Springbrook National Park, this subtropical rainforest is home to plenty of wildlife, including kookaburras, the eastern whipbird, and the land mullet (Australia’s largest skink). And those who choose to keep going past the cascades can survey the partially restored remains of a historic 1940s-era sawmill.
The walk to Cougal Cascades rewards.
Burleigh Head Rainforest Circuit in Burleigh Head National Park
Distance: 2.3-kilometre return
Time: One hour
Aside from one steep section in the middle, the Rainforest Circuit in Burleigh Head National Park isn’t too demanding. And with the incredible views this Gold Coast hiking trail promises, you’d be a fool to miss it.
The walk gives way to peeks of the shoreline. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
A lush green headland blanketed in tussock grassland, pandanus groves, eucalypt forest, and coastal heath, the dense greenery gives way to peeks of the sweeping sugar-white stretch of shoreline, lapped by turquoise waters, that seem to unfurl as far as the eye can see. And it’s not just the flora that’s a drawcard to this little pocket of coastline: look up and you might spy white-bellied sea eagles, or look out to the ocean and you may see whales splashing around offshore come winter or spring.
Bring your surfboards and ride on the waves. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Moderate hikes on the Gold Coast
Push yourself a little further on these slightly more challenging walking tracks between five and 10 kilometres that can be done in a half-day.
Distance: Seven-kilometre return
Time: 2.5 hours
For excellent views across the Darlington Range and down into Coomera Valley, hit the Caves Track in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park. From the Binna Burra lower day-use area, walk through the open eucalypt forest and stop at the seat commemorating the efforts of Robert Collins to protect this beautiful landscape. You might even see koalas sitting sleepily in the trees. Return to your starting point via the same track as returning via the bitumen road is not recommended.
Admire scenic mountain views on top of Binna Burra. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Box Forest Circuit
Distance: 10.9-kilometre return
Time: Four hours
Starting from the Border Track in Lamington National Park, branch off onto the Box Forest Circuit. Heading anticlockwise, pass through the lush subtropical rainforest along Canungra Creek and stop for lunch at Box Log Falls or Picnic Rock. Return the way you came or walk the whole circuit and be rewarded with views of many other majestic waterfalls such as Darragumai Falls and Yanbacoochie Falls.
Difficult hikes on the Gold Coast
For experienced hikers who want to spend a day or more out in nature and you’ve got the stamina to walk over 10 kilometres, add these epic long hikes to your to-do list.
Toolona Creek Circuit
Distance: 16.3-kilometre return
Time: Six hours
If you’re keen to expand on the moderate Box Forest Circuit, you can keep going along the beautiful loop trail to Toolona Creek passing many more waterfalls. After descending to Picnic Rock (where you should definitely enjoy a swim!) detour out to Elabana Falls for that perfect photo and continue hiking to Toolona Lookout, a must-stop location in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Plan to spend around six hours on this loop.
Distance: 35 kilometres
Time: 12 hours
Those with a sense of adventure will fall for the Stinson Walk which leads hikers through the thick of Lamington National Park’s subtropical rainforest. The track promises historical intrigue and challenging terrain in equal measure and traces the movements of one of the most famous rescue missions in Australia, featuring a plane crash site with wreckage. In 1937 a Stinson airliner crashed into the mountainside and was discovered by local man Bernard O’Reilly around a week later; he helped to locate the two remaining survivors, and the graves commemorating the four men who lost their lives remain here.
Beyond the walk’s morbid history there’s also plenty of fauna and flora to see here: walking stick palms festooned with pillar box red berries, towering ghost gums, and prickly lawyer vines. En route you may even chance upon bowerbirds, snakes, and, if you’re lucky, a red-necked pademelon.
Among the region’s lesser taken routes, this hike can be completed within one day if you set off before dawn, but it’s advisable to plan it as an overnighter if you can, setting up camp at one of the handfuls of clearings.
Throughout the year, the folks at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat organise guided walks of the Stinson Retrace; keep your eyes on its events page for further details of upcoming opportunities.
Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk
Distance: 54 kilometres one way
Time: Three days
Only the most committed hikers and bushwalkers need to apply for this multi-day hike. Starting at the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park and ending at The Settlement camping area in Springbrook National Park, this grade four track links two of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia via the Numinbah Valley and traverses a number of different habitats.
Be one with nature at Numinbah Valley. (Image: Destination Gold Coast)
Set aside at least three days to cover the distance and take in the beautiful scenery. You’ll weave through subtropical and temperate rainforests, spot wildflowers galore come spring, eye strangler figs wrapped around trees, and cross burbling streams.
Hike through the thick of Lamington National Park’s subtropical rainforest.
How to prepare for a bushwalk on the Gold Coast
To enjoy a safe and comfortable hike on the Gold Coast, keep in mind it can get extremely warm and humid here so make sure to pass the essentials – a hat, sunblock, and plenty of water. Other additions include something to eat, a basic first aid box, sturdy non-slip shoes, a spare pair of socks, comfortable clothing, and a waterproof jacket in case the weather changes.
It’s also important to tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to be back – just in case you get lost or injured.
These walks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hiking on the Gold Coast. Once you’ve got a taste for the outdoors here, you’ll be hooked.
Original article written by Chloe Cann with updates by Jemma Fletcher