Thursday, 15 December 2016
After the party: recharging in Queensland's Gold Coast Hinterland
Luckily, the Gold Coast has a calm, refreshing twin to its party-town hedonism: the Gold Coast Hinterland. Inland to the west, this region, which is centred on the heights of the McPherson Range, is a lofty repository of nature, and an easy drive from the urban outskirts.
A short drive away is the humbly named Best of All Lookout, a vantage point that allows a sweeping view to the ocean and into northern New South Wales. Perched on what was the crater wall of a long-eroded prehistoric shield volcano, the lookout is an ideal spot to sit and reflect on nature’s grandeur.
Other attractions within the park include the Purling Brook Falls, where a path gives access to a remarkable view of a waterfall dropping from a craggy cliff face. To turn your gaze upward, visit the Springbrook Research Observatory, which opens for star-gazing sessions when the skies are clear.
The most memorable cellar door experience in the area is to be had at Tamborine Mountain Distillery. This award-winning operation, situated in an oddly European setting of cottage-like facades and a statue-bedecked fountain, is owned by Michael and Alla Ward. Michael is an ever-lively figure in Hawaiian shirt and Santa-white beard, as colourful as the company’s products: macadamia nut liqueur, wattle toffee liqueur, and absinthe bearing a reclining kangaroo on the label (cheekily called 'Moulin Rooz').
Restaurants and cafes are dotted throughout the Hinterland, and many offer stunning views. Near Purling Brook Falls, Dancing Waters Cafe (dancingwaterscafe.com) is a popular place for a light lunch on its outdoor forest-side deck. Other great dining choices are St Bernards Hotel at Mt Tamborine and the Old Church Restaurant (www.theoldchurch.net/Restaurant.html) in North Tamborine.
The best meal, though, is likely to be the lunch you help cook at Tamborine Cooking School (www.tamborinecookingschool.com.au) in Mt Tamborine. Located within a large, light-filled house with views down the mountainside, the school hosts up to a dozen students at a time. They’re instructed by professional chef Terri Taylor, who utilises many local ingredients such as Moreton Bay bugs (a popular shellfish), wattle seed and lemon myrtle.
Although the Gold Coast Hinterland can be visited as a day trip from the coast, it’s more satisfying and relaxing to spend a few days in the region. There are some excellent upmarket accommodation options, including Peppers Ruffles Lodge and Spa (www.peppers.com.au/ruffles-lodge), with large luxurious rooms, a good restaurant and a pool with a view.
Comfortable mid-range lodgings include O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, a 90-year-old guesthouse with a lot of charm; and the self-contained accommodation of the Kidd Street Cottages. For budget accommodation in an attractive leafy setting, there’s Tamborine Mountain Caravan and Camping.
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