The Gold Coast Hinterland is my kind of playground: Scenic drives, amazing hikes to waterfalls and lookouts, volcanic plateaus, and lush vegetation all around. Over the years, we’ve spent a fair bit of time exploring the region but there’s just so much to see and do that I feel like I’ve hardly seen anything yet!
If you haven’t got a lot of time, Springbrook National Park is a great option for a day out hiking and chasing waterfalls.
It’s relatively compact and not far from the Gold Coast (or Brisbane). I also love that most of the waterfalls are easily accessible, but that, of course, brings crowds with it…
So come prepared with the right attitude. 😉
We first visited Springbrook years ago when we were still living in Melbourne and on holidays on the Gold Coast (and I think it was much quieter back then). We chased waterfalls along one of the walking tracks and visited a couple of lookouts but beyond that, I barely remember it.
Fortunately, we spent a long weekend camping at Springbrook earlier this year, and so I got to refresh my memory and add a couple more walks. Unfortunately, I also ended up with a nasty cold that weekend and had to give a couple of other walks a miss. Instead, I got to lie in the tent and read my book – that was kind of nice too.
How to Get to Springbrook National Park
As I said, Springbrook National Park is easily accessible from the Gold Coast or Brisbane, provided you have a car.
It’s located about 50km from the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise) or 100km if you’re driving from Brisbane. Unfortunately, there is no viable public transport out there so a car is a must.
Access to the Springbrook plateau is via Highway 97 (Nerang-Murwillumbah Road) only. The Gold Coast-Springbrook Road remains closed further up the hill after extensive landslide damage following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
As there’s lots of housing in the Numinbah Valley and also on the Springbrook plateau, you just need a conventional car. All roads are sealed as far as I can remember.
Springbrook National Park has four separate sections: the Numinbah section (no walking trails), the Springbrook Plateau section, the Mount Cougal section, and the Natural Bridge section.
Stay on the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road until you hit the turnoff if you want to explore Natural Bridge.
For walks up on the Springbrook Plateau, take Pine Creek Road and slowly wind your way up the plateau. It’s quite a picturesque drive.
The Mount Cougal section is in the Currumbin Valley and not accessible from the plateau even though it looks oh-so-close!
To get there, one option is to head back to the Pacific Motorway, and then take Tallebudgera Connection Road and Currumbin Creek Road to the end.
The other option is to continue on the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road past Natural Bridge and head into New South Wales. From there, turn north on Numinbah Road and then Tomewin-Mountain Road to go back into Queensland. Take the Bairns Road turnoff, which connects you back to Currumbin Creek Road.
This latter option means an 80km drive from the plateau. You could actually make a nice loop if you then returned to the plateau via the Pacific Motorway option (though that’s a lot of driving, too).
Chasing Waterfalls: Springbrook Walks in a Nutshell
Springbrook National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Together these national parks and reserves cover a massive rainforest area in Queensland and New South Wales.
We’ve been to a few of these rainforest national parks now, and the hiking is usually pretty spectacular.
Except for Warrie Circuit (17km) and the part of the Gold Coast Great Walk that passes through Springbrook, the walks at Springbrook are all short. In fact, they are so short that you could easily do them in a day, especially if it’s not too hot and you’re in a reasonable state of health.
That said, there are also a fair few steps involved for some of them, and if your knees are as bad as mine, you might want to space out the walks over a couple of days. You’ve also got a few lookouts to get to so I’d definitely recommend spending at least a couple of days at Springbrook.
Remember that Springbrook has four sections: except for Numinbah, you can find walks, waterfalls and rock pools at each of them.
If you want to camp in the national park, you’ll have to stay on the plateau at the Settlement camping area.
1. Purling Brook Falls Circuit | Plateau section
Basic trail info
Distance: 4km loop
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Trailhead: Multiple, e.g. Springbrook campground (Settlement), Settlement day-use area or start at the Gwongorella picnic area
The Purling Brook Falls loop takes you from lookouts at the top of the falls down to the base, and back up again.
Start either at the Gwongorella picnic area (down Forestry Road) or at the Settlement day-use area (off Springbrook Road). Or better still, camp at Settlement campground, then you don’t have to drive anywhere. Come early or you’ll have some fun trying to find a car park.
Unless you prefer to climb stairs, do the hike clockwise.
The 100m drop of the falls is quite something but this also means that you’ve got a steep walk down to the base and the rock pools. For most of it, you walk through rainforest so at least it’s nice and shady (and humid, yay).
There’s a couple of nice lookouts before the track winds around switchbacks down to the base.
It’s a really popular hike so be prepared to wait for people passing at every corner. If you want to avoid that, come during the week, come early and don’t come over the summer. The rock pools will be teeming with people otherwise…
Once you’re at the base, you can extend your walk by heading to Warringa Pool (2km return) or simply cross the suspension bridge to head back up to the plateau.
The suspension bridge at the base is probably my favourite spot for viewing Purling Brook Falls. I love the perspective from here as you gaze up the sheer rock walls of the gorge.
Tropical Cyclone Debbie caused extensive damage in the Gold Coast Hinterland in March 2017. And even a year on, when we were last at Springbrook, only half of the Purling Brook Falls Circuit was actually open.
You could cross the suspension bridge but the rest of the path was blocked off.
The good news is that the complete loop appears to be open again so you won’t need to climb the hundreds of steps back up. Instead, you’ll just have to walk uphill on the other side once you’ve been down to the base of the falls.
2. Warringa Pool | Plateau section
Basic trail info
Distance: 2km return
Time: 30-40 min
Trailhead: Off the Purling Brook Falls loop
The track to Warringa Pool is an extension of the Purling Brook Falls loop. It’s actually part of the Gold Coast Great Walk but you could just hike it as far as the rock pool and then return to the base of Purling Brook Falls.
The 1km trail takes you along Little Nerang Creek to a spot where you can jump into a nice, big rock pool in the creek.
The husband jumped into the pool to cool off but it didn’t take long for him to be all hot and sweaty again (given high humidity in summer and the climb back onto the plateau).
3. Twin Falls Circuit | Plateau section
Basic trail info
Distance: 4km loop
Time: 2 hours
Trailhead: Tallanbana picnic area or Canyon Lookout
The Twin Falls loop is another 4km lush rainforest circuit that you can easily do in a couple of hours.
From Purling Brook Falls, continue on Springbrook Road and park either at the Tallanbana picnic area or Canyon Lookout (be aware there are only very few parking spots at the latter).
If you start at Tallanbana, you’ll be at the first lookout of Twin Falls in no time.
Like Purling Brook Falls, this Springbrook hike starts on the plateau and then winds down to the base of Twin Falls before climbing back up again.
The cool thing with this walk is that the path takes you behind the waterfalls and you can cool down just by stepping behind the falls. During summer and at the end of the wet season, I’d expect you’d get quite wet from the experience.
If climbing down and up again sounds a bit too much, you can just enjoy the views from either Canyon Lookout (see below) or the first lookout as you come from the picnic area. That way you actually get views of Twin Falls cascading down the cliffs.
We did this hike years and years ago. It was fairly quiet but we were there mid-week in August so didn’t have to contend with summer crowds. That said, I reckon these days this short walk at Springbrook would be busy at any time of the year so get there early and avoid weekends.
I’d love to go back to Springbrook next year, do the Twin Falls circuit and then extend it by doing the longer (17km) Warrie Circuit. There’s another seven or so waterfalls along this track!
4. Natural Bridge Circuit | Natural Bridge section
Basic trail info
Distance: 1km loop
Time: 30 min
Trailhead: Natural Bridge car park
To get to Natural Bridge and see the glow worm cave, you’ll have to leave the Springbrook plateau and head into the Numinbah Valley.
Take the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, and just before you hit the border into New South Wales, take the left turnoff to the Natural Bridge section.
The Natural Bridge walk is quite short but we spent ages there being mesmerised by the gorgeous plunging waterfall and the blue-green lights of the glow worms in the cave.
It’s a fairly easy, sealed walk, involving some stairs down to Cave Creek and then back up again in a loop around the natural rock bridge. Some of it is on boardwalks (yay!), and the highlight is no doubt the arched cave with the waterfall.
The trail meanders along and across Cave Creek, and is best done clockwise.
Pretty much the entire creek area is off-limits for swimming to protect the fragile ecosystem and the glow worms. Don’t be that person who jumps in here. Practise leave no trace principles and go to nearby Bochow Park if you want to cool down and have a swim.
Expect it to be relatively busy at night as people wait for the glow worms to light up the roof of the cave after sunset.
Don’t forget to bring a torch if you come late in the day or at night. Just make sure you don’t shine the torch light (or any other light) directly onto the glow worms as they’ll actually stop glowing then. This includes not using a flash when taking photos!
There were also a fair few (small) bats flying in and out of the cave when we were there. They don’t really bother you but if that’s not your thing, maybe come during the day.
ps: Did you know that glow worms are actually not worms but larvae of a fly?? And the bio-luminescent light they give off is to attract prey. What sneaky little critters!
Springbook walks still on my list
- The 17km long Warrie Circuit day hike: From the plateau, you hike down into the canyon gorge and through the mossy rainforest that offers one waterfall after another.
- The 1.6km return Cascades track: It’s short, offers scenic cascades and an old sawmill. Plus I’ve never been to the Mount Cougal part of Springbrook National Park.
Best Views at Springbrook: Lookouts on the Plateau
Apart from the lookouts along the walking trails at Springbrook, there are a few other vantage points that are worth getting out of your car for. Well, some more than others, to be honest.
All of these are on the plateau because down in the valleys, you’re probably not going to get amazing views.
1. Wunburra Lookout
Wunburra Lookout is upon you just as you’ve climbed up the Springbrook plateau on Pine Creek Road. It’s pretty much at the start of Springbrook Road, and you haven’t even made it to the national park yet.
You’ll get some views into the Purling Brook Valley and down to Little Nerang Dam but I obviously wasn’t that impressed because I don’t have a single photo of the lookout.
Like with anything at Springbrook, the earlier you come the better, especially on weekends. There’s only a small carpark here, and I’d imagine this gets really busy on weekends.
2. Best of All Lookout (700m return)
Alright, so Queenslanders like to exaggerate a bit. There are so many best of in Queensland, it becomes quite hilarious.
Best of All Lookout is definitely worth trekking to but I’d probably not stretch things as far as saying ‘best of all’… That’s a rather bold claim to make, even if you just consider this to mean ‘best of all Springbrook lookouts’.
That said, Best of All Lookout does offer some splendid views into northern NSW, the Scenic Rim country and Mount Warning.
This lookout is at the end of Repeater Station Road. You can’t really miss it, there are signs everywhere up on the plateau.
At the end of the road, there’s a giant carpark and an even giant-er radio tower station so even on busy days, you should be able to find a parking spot.
The short walk to the lookout (700m return) is also quite pleasant as it takes you through a small pocket of ancient Antarctic beech trees.
3. Lookout at the Information Centre
I have no idea what this lookout might be called but there’s a very short boardwalk leading to a couple of lookouts at the (closed?) information centre on Springbrook Road.
The views aren’t awesome but if it’s not too hazy it’s probably worth a quick stop. The first lookout is fairly overgrown (or was the last time we were there). The second one makes up for it a bit with views of the Gold Coast skyline in the far distance.
4. Canyon Lookout
Canyon Lookout is at the start of the Twin Falls hike, and it’s super easy to find just off Springbrook Road.
You almost don’t have to get out of your car to enjoy the view but it does get slightly better if you do. You literally walk 5m if you’re lucky enough to score a car park (otherwise, park on the side of the road like so many people do).
Depending on how much rain there’s been, you should be able to see Twin Falls and also Rainbow Falls plunging down the plateau rim.
5. Goomoolahra Falls
Continue on Springbrook Road to the end and you’ll get to the Goomoolahra picnic area. It’s very shady around there and not a bad spot for a picnic. There’s also a café there but we didn’t try it – might be a nice spot to stop.
The lookout to Goomoolahra Falls (60m high) is only 100m away, and probably best viewed early in the morning before the valley is cast into shadow. My guess is that sunrise would be great time for visiting this lookout.
You can apparently see as far as Moreton Island on clear days – I expect this would mean visiting in winter as the humidity makes clear days impossible throughout summer.
So, that’s it!
There’s waterfalls, rock pools, creeks, whitewashed cliffs and lookouts galore in Springbrook National Park. You’ll probably also see a fair bit of wildlife, from a gazillion birds, goannas, kangas to the very occasional carpet python.
If you visit in summer, leeches can be a bit of a pain. I haven’t tried it but I’ve read that if you put insect repellent on your socks, they stay away. If you’re concerned, don’t visit after heavy rainfall, that’s when they come out in force.
More posts on what to do in the Gold Coast Hinterland
If you want to camp at Springbrook, here’s what you need to know about the Settlement camping area.
The Scenic Rim is a stunning part in southeast Queensland and taking a scenic drive along the Falls Drive is a great way to explore this region.
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