An hour drive into the the Gold Coast’s hinterland and you might as well be a million miles away.
Forget coffee shops, and servo stations. This land is untouched and straight out of a tropical fairy tale!
I was on my way to Springbrook National Park to visit the Natural Bridge; I expected it would be stunning because it’s a highly photographed and every photo is absolutely gorgeous. (More to come on that later) What I didn't expect is how utterly breathtaking the drive there and back would be.
I left from Burleigh, not even 10 minutes into my hour long drive the flat beach land started turning into rolling lush hills. I noticed I was driving like a granny with my face as close to the windscreen as possible; I just couldn't see enough; I wanted to drive faster and have bigger eyes.
I want to go ahead and say, THE PICTURES DON'T DO IT JUSTICE!
The hills twisted and turned over open acreage dotted with small farms for about 20 minutes. As the farms disappeared in the rearview the woods got thicker and bodies of water peaked through the trees.
I saw a sign for Hinze Dam and decided to stop. Aside from the abundant waterfowl the place was silent and still.
The large open waterway was approved for boating, fishing, and kayaking, but in that moment it was serene as serene can be. I’m sure the dam has more activity on the weekends because it’s too beautiful not to, but on this day, it was just me, the birds, and the breeze.
As I drove on from Hinze Dam the woods thinned out and we were back to lush green hills.
The drive was as relaxing as they come. The mountains towered behind the open land where livestock dawdled and signs of human life almost all but ceased to exist.
The closer I got to Springbrook National Park signs of life did pick up.
The first place I saw to stop off was a picnic area situated next to the Nerang River. There were a few people there having a BBQ and relaxing. The most memorable thing about that picnic area was the noise. As soon as I opened my car door I could hear the bugs screaming in the trees. It was incredible, I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life! After having a chat with the BBQ’ers I headed down to the river. The trail kept you away from the water, but had stunning views.
I headed down the road and came across Natural Arch Cafe Restaurant.
It’s closed on Monday so I didn't go inside, but from my google search, it seems like a great place to grab a coffee or burger.
What I could tell from outside is that the views are amazing!
Also, there isn’t really anywhere else to grab a bite, so if you are hungry be prepared to stop in, or pack a picnic for this day trip.
And don't forget to bring your water! (Rookie mistake I made)
I finally arrived at the Natural Arch trail. I parked my car and headed down the path.
Made of mostly stairs and small landings, the trail cascaded down through the dense rainforest.
Over the river and through the woods (literally) there it was, the Natural Bridge.
As I walked into the cave to get a better look at the waterfall pouring through a gaping hole in the caves ceiling, the feeling I got was reminiscent of pirates finding a treasure cave. It’s what I had been waiting for, and it was spectacular.
The cave was dark and little bats flew overhead; the hole in the caves roof allowed the sunshine to illuminate the waterfall in the most glamorous photoshoot worthy of ways, and the arch allowing a peak to the Nerang River outside the cave was just plain cool.
In caveman hospitality, this would be the honeymoon suite!
I made my way out of the cave and back onto the trail. it took me back up the mountain where I got a top view of the waterfall. It was a lot larger than I had thought. The way the river fell over the cliff and down into the caves ceiling was a gentle reminder of just how powerful nature is and whats possible if you allow it time.
On my way home I decided to finish my loop on Highway 97 instead of back tracking. The road took me into NSW where picturesque scenery continued for miles and miles.
As I made my way back into Queensland I came across Freeman's Organic Farm. What a gem!
Fruit and veg being sold for incredible prices was piled high in wicker baskets and antique bowls. The honour system was the law of the land and you place the money for your produce in a thick metal money box.
Strawberries, pineapples. bananas, kale, tomatoes, lettuce, coffee beans, squash, zucchini, sunflowers, and beet root were just a FEW of the things growing there.
The farm sat on a ridge and had views that sweep across the valley all the way to the ocean.
On Saturday’s they sell freshly made coffee and have plenty of places you can sit and relax, eat your fresh fruit, drink your coffee, and enjoy the views. If that isn't enough to get you there, it’s only about a 25 minute drive from the southern Gold Coast!
I’ve had a lot of lovely days living on the Gold Coast, but this one is a favourite.
I can't recommend this half day trip enough. You wont regret it!
Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, Springbrook
By Marleigh Kelly