HomeArticlesLifestyleYour ultimate guide to exploring the Gold Coast’s natural beauty
Coombabah Lakelands conservation area

Coombabah Lakelands conservation area

Your ultimate guide to exploring the Gold Coast’s natural beauty

Charntel Cleveland | November 2020

Immerse yourself in the thriving natural beauty of the Gold Coast this summer. Explore pristine parklands and waterways to find unique native wildlife and spectacular flora and fauna – right on your doorstep.

We’ve rounded up the best natural treasures in your neighbourhood to create weekend itineraries packed full of outdoor adventures that the whole family can enjoy this summer.

Northern Gold Coast

Friday evening: Seaside sunset

Enjoy a sunset stroll along through the Paradise Point Parklands, which boasts calming views of the Broadwater. Pack a night picnic or grab a bite from one of the many eateries along the Esplanade and soak up the sultry salt air of the seaside at dusk. Keep an eye out for the Broadwater’s resident birdlife including Australian pelicans, silver gulls and pied oystercatchers, as well as summer visitors such as whimbrel and bar-tailed godwit. You may also hear owls in the early evening and at dusk.

Saturday: Coombabah calls

Spend the day exploring the Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area, which spans more than 1000ha and is home to nearly 300 different animal species.

In the morning, bushwalk or bike ride across the area’s trails and experience a variety of natural habitats including melaleuca wetlands, eucalypt woodlands, saltmarshes, mangrove communities and casuarina forests. See if you can spot local kangaroos on the hop and don’t forget to look up—koalas also make their homes here.

In the afternoon, head across to the Mangrove Boardwalk for a spot of bird watching, keeping an eye out for species such as great egret and royal spoonbill at low tide on the shores. In the forested areas, you may encounter birdlife including Torresian and sacred kingfishers, grey fantails and leaden flycatchers. Just make sure you leave by 6pm when then park closes!

Sunday: Stroll, splash and cycle in nature

Take an early morning meander through the mangroves of Phil Hill Environmental Park at Paradise Point. The 330m boardwalk will take you out to the Coomera River, hovering safely above the water. Keep an eye out for crabs plus the various fish species that feed in the mangroves.

Afterwards, head across the road to Jabiru Island Park, where you can cool off in the heat of the day in the park’s swimming enclosure.

Spend the afternoon strolling or cycling at Pine Ridge Conservation Park at Hollywell, which features banksia woodland, bloodwood trees and paperbark swamp forests. The park also protects some of the last remnants of wallum heath on the Gold Coast. Take a stroll along the space’s sandy walking tracks or bike ride along the bordering bitumen trails. Keep an eye out for wildflower plants such as banksia and boronia, and bird species including kingfisher and rainbow bee-eater. Look up for koalas and scan the surrounds for bearded dragons—these reptiles love to bask in the summer sun.

Central Gold Coast

Friday evening: Moonlit by The Spit

Head to Federation Walk at The Spit for a hike, cycle or jog among the coastal dunes, which are rich in native flora and flora. In the forest areas, look and listen for fairywrens, lorikeets, brown quails and kingfishers. On the beaches, sandbanks and tidal flats, keep an eye out for curlews and oystercatchers.

Afterwards, relax on the beach and take in the sights and sounds of the sea. Stay for the candy-coloured sky at sunset and watch the moonrise over the ocean. This experience is especially beautiful during the full moon phase, with the waves below bestowed with an ethereal silver glow.

Saturday: Butterflies, botanicals and bird watching

Watch the sunrise from Surfers Paradise Beach foreshore or enjoy a breakfast picnic in Evandale park as the summer sun creeps over the city’s skyscrapers.

Afterwards, head to the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens at Benowa—an inner-city oasis where you can get up close with a wide variety of flora. Start with a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and around the tranquil lake before checking out local plants on the Mangroves to Mountain Walk. You can also sample the Queensland rainforest without even leaving the city; the park’s Closed Forest Gorge contains red and white cedars, quandongs, rosewood, peanut trees and satinash.

Head to the park’s Butterfly Garden around noon and you may be rewarded with watching these tiny winged beauties in action. Butterflies are most active in summer and some species you might encounter include the common crow, the blue tiger or the chequered swallowtail.

Cap off the afternoon by getting up close with birdlife in another of the city’s inner-city oases—Cascade Gardens at Broadbeach—which contains an enclosed sanctuary for water birds. The park’s picnic areas also afford picturesque views of the Nerang River.

Sunday: Take a dive

Summer is an ideal time to go diving and the Gold Coast has a number of dive sites to explore. The Seaway Dive Site at Southport is popular among locals and tourists, with depths of up to 17m and a plethora of marine life to discover. Keep an eye out for stingrays, moray eels, pineapplefish and leatherjackets as well as wobbegongs and scorpionfish. Some of the more unusual species you might encounter include sea horses, cuttlefish and nudibranchs plus dragonets and velvetfish.

Another popular diving spot is The Scottish Prince—a historic shipwreck that lies 800m from The Spit. The wreckage is encrusted with algae and corals, and attracts an array of marine life including pufferfish, morwongs, wrasse, porcupinefish, angelfish and butterflyfish plus wobbegongs, octopus and a variety of rays.

Southern Gold Coast

Friday evening: Southern sunset

Watch the sunset from Pat Fagan Park, which looks out over Coolangatta Beach. Aim to be there around 6:30pm to make the most of the summer dusk setting. Similarly, Kirra Hill lookout offers breathtaking views of the Gold Coast and setting sun. Rainbow Bay is also ideal for an evening coastal stroll.

Saturday: Burleigh brilliance   

Make your way to Burleigh headland—a 27ha national park rich in a variety of natural landscapes including eucalypt forest, pandanus groves, creeks, rainforest, rocky foreshore and beaches. Keep an eye out for birdlife including white-bellied sea-eagles soaring overhead and brush-turkeys in the leafy mounds. Other creatures you may encounter include Richmond birdwing butterflies, and reptiles such as carpet pythons and bearded dragons.

Afterwards, cool off in the waves of Burleigh Heads beach or the calmer waters of the nearby Tall­ebudgera Creek—a perfect place for a dip as well as kayaking or standup paddle boarding.

Sunday: Make a splash at Currumbin

Start the day with an early stroll along Currumbin Beach, making your way to the platform of Elephant Rock for the sunrise as well as views of the Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise cityscapes. This large, unusual rock formation—which resembles an elephant—is actually the remnants of natural volcanic activity in the area from millions of years ago.

Afterwards, head to the nearby Currumbin Rock Pools—a swimming hole comprising small ponds of calm mountain streams amid large, smooth boulders. The pools are ideal for all ages and range in depth.

Gold Coast Hinterland

Friday evening: Glow worms at Natural Bridge

Take a torch and a short bushwalk to Natural Bridge after dark, where you’ll see one of Australia’s largest populations of glow worms in their natural habitat. The cave at Natural Bridge lights up like stars with the glow worms’ blue-green bioluminescence, which is their way of attracting prey such as midges. Glow worms love the heat and humidity, so summer is a top time to see them shine.

Saturday: Bushwalking at Springbrook

Get set for a day bushwalking at Springbook National Park, where you can complete one or two of the park’s smaller walks or opt for the epic 17km Warrie Circuit. Either way, you will be rewarded with lush rainforest, eucalypt bushland and gorgeous waterfalls. The journeys start and end at Canyon Lookout, which boasts beautiful views of the valley below and the ocean beyond. These views have been millions of years in the making and are the culmination of volcanic activity, erosion, landslides and weathering. If you fancy a dip, head to the park’s Twin Falls where you can cool off in rock pools below. Creatures to keep an eye out for include small forest wallabies and birds such as the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, rosellas, bowerbirds and yellow robins.

Sunday: Horse riding or mountain-bike riding in the bush

Spend the day exploring Nerang State Forest, which comprises open eucalypt forests of grey and blue gum trees as well as rainforest remnants in the area’s gullies. The trails of this national park are shared among walkers, horse riders and mountain-bike riders, so you can choose how you’d like to explore this vast bushland. There are also extra trails for mountain bikes only and the park is a hotspot for cyclists on weekends. On your journey, keep an eye out for black cockatoos, koalas, echidnas and be vigilant of snakes.

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