Golden Memories of the Gold Coast
Journeying through the hinterland of Koalas, Kangaroos and Kaban
Lakshmi Sharath, 15-2-2022
The blob of light filtered through the tiny window of my aircraft cabin giving it a golden hue. The oceans below us glowed in the morning light. As we descended towards the shore to land, the golden orb blazing in the sky was my first introduction to the Gold Coast, the second-largest city in Queensland and the sixth in Australia. Known for its pristine blue beaches that dot the 60 km coastline, the Gold Coast got its name from soaring real estate prices and is thronged by tourists round the year.
Legends say that the British landed on the shores of an uninhabited island around the 18th century where they saw a small craft or a cutter on the silent shores. They called it the Mermaid Island after the little vessel. Today the city has outgrown the little island and is a bustling destination.
It was almost time for breakfast as we drove from the airport towards Coolangatta where we could see the border separating Queensland from New South Wales across the road at Tweed City. There was something about the languid, friendly Australian vibe that overwhelmed me the moment I stepped foot here. The turquoise waters of the Snapper Rocks greeted me as we stopped by to take in the scenery. Our first stop was at D Bar Cafe for breakfast, overlooking an aptly titled Point Danger. After a sumptuous meal, we were off to meet kangaroos and koalas.
There is always something special about a little tete a tete with wildlife. Cuddling a koala and feeding a kangaroo in Australia is more than just activities. To me, they are experiences that are so quintessentially Australian. We headed to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 27 hectares of rainforest. Starting out in 1947 as an aviary for lorikeets which were feeding on his plantations, Alex Griffith eventually developed it into a bird sanctuary. Slowly he started focussing on conservation and developed it into a wildlife park. While the show stoppers may be the koalas and the kangaroos, there are other Australian endemic species like the Tasmanian devil as well. But it was the birds that beckoned me. We were treated to a Free Flight Bird Show where a large wedge-tailed eagle gave us company along with the Australian pelican besides a barking owl and chirpy cockatoos.
We went to several beaches in Gold Coast but my favourite was the Currumbin Beach on Elephant’s Rock. Adding to the breath-taking view was the delicious lunch, as we lost ourselves in the gorgeous spread of blue skies and turquoise oceans painted by nature. But for those looking for a place to surf, it is the Surfer’s Paradise, which forms the very nerve centre of the Gold Coast. Standing on the shores of the beach and watching the sunset, I saw the skyline glittering in the evening light as we ended our first day in the Gold Coast.
Day two dawned with a little bit of dream and drama. After admiring the views of the city from the SkyPoint Observation Deck, we headed to Dreamworld, the largest amusement park in Gold Coast. It may be a dream come alive for kids, but it was the child in us that was more fascinated by this fantasy theme park. There are several theme parks in Gold Coast ranging from Seaworld, Movieworld and even a Wet N Wild World but we spent the entire day here, indulging ourselves in this dreamland. There are over 50 rides here but we were content to indulge in some fun rides and water sports. Wildlife greeted us here as well while characters from various Hollywood movies popped up around the corner. My favourite experience was a tour exploring the culture of the Aborigines or the Indigenous Australian people.
There was no dearth of adventure in the Gold Coast. From an adventurous jet boating ride across the Moreton Bay Marine Park to a fun-filled drive in a fire truck, every experience was packed with adrenalin. We shopped till we dropped at Pacific Fair, explored art at HOTA, relaxed at Greenhouse -The Bathhouse and spent the night wandering around the night market at Nightquarter in Helensvale.
But to me, the heart of the Gold Coast was in the hinterland. I had my first glimpse of the hinterland when I was up in the air, lost in the clouds, while the mist swept the landscape. I was floating along with the cotton candy clouds inside a comfortable hot air balloon ride. It was the wee hours of the morning and the sun had just risen. The entire landscape looked surreal as we floated around in a trance.
The rainforests of Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park came in and out of view while the giant trees were dwarfed beneath us. I was up in the skies but the earth beneath my feet looked dreamier than the clouds around me. Flying over mountains, forests and valleys, the whimsical winds just carried us along. It was just a special moment, watching the sun painting the landscape with its warmth. Lost in the dance of nature, it was one of the moments that I would never forget as kangaroos leapt around in the wilderness. We ended this dreamy ride in a vineyard having a sumptuous breakfast and celebrating with champagne.
But the journey in the afternoon was even more spectacular as we were driving through the dense Gondwana Rainforests. Formed over 23 million years ago the pristine rainforests were home to ancient giant Antarctic Beech trees. The Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Tamborine Mountain and the reserve around it are some of the destinations in the hinterland.
Our trails took us down under to some of these verdant patches tucked away in the mountains. During our day trip to the Springbrook National Park, which was formed by extinct volcano millions of years ago, we explored walking trails, breathtaking lookouts and hidden waterfalls.
Our first halt was the Natural Bridge. Walking through a dense forest, we arrived at the wild rock formation which seemed like a dark cave formed with basalt. The naturally formed arch was formed over Cave Creek and it was believed to have been created by the force of the waterfall that gushed through the cave. Standing there I was simply overwhelmed.
The rainforests seemed so enchanted that I lost myself in the dark and mysterious shadows, the entwined creepers and branches, the calls of the birds, the floating mist and clouds over the views and the lusty breeze sweeping me into another world. Mighty mountains and valleys, forests and waterfalls greeted us from different lookouts.
Springbrook National Park was once inhabited by the Yugambeh, the Indigenous Australian tribe of people who worshipped the “kaban” or rainforest as they called their terrain. To them, their home was more than just a living quarter. As I walked around the rainforest, the sun slowly closed in on us leaving us inside a dark, mysterious and hidden world. And for a moment, I could almost hear the entire forest whispering with voices which said, ‘Nyah-nyah ngalingah kurul kaban’ or ‘take care of our wilderness’. Standing there and mesmerised by the magical world, I realised that I could not have asked for a more poetic way to end this trip to the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast is the second-largest city in Queensland. From surfing to scuba diving, Queensland beckons travellers who are into adventure and water sports. It is also a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families as there are several national parks, wildlife reserves and amusement parks galore.
Lakshmi Sharath can be followed at www.lakshmisharath.com