See & do

Top bushwalking trails on the Gold Coast

Emily Toxward | December 25, 2018

Walking should be Jill Callcott’s middle name because she lives and breathes it.

She moved to the Gold Coast from the UK when she was 12 and attended Burleigh Heads State School back when it was okay to go to school barefoot. Her love of walking grew over the years but deepened as her work took her overseas and she frequently ate takeaway meals late at night. She was always looking for ways to walk it off and over the years noticed many people taking their morning or afternoon walk through corridors of hotels.

Ms Callcott wanted locals and visitors to the Gold Coast to be able to explore the city on foot so she started a website, Walking The Gold Coast, where she records her walking activity and provides maps, photos and a running commentary of her adventures.

“It is truly only by walking an area that you can get the essence of it, and compared to other parts of the world this is still a very safe area to enjoy nature through walking. The reality is there are some great bushwalks right here on the Gold Coast where you can soak up the tranquility of the bush and hear and see wildlife,” she says.

“You don’t have to travel to the hinterland to enjoy it; most can be accessed by public transport and a short walk. In Burleigh alone you can criss cross from Burleigh Headland to Burleigh Ridge and on to Tallebudgera Conservation Park and back to Burleigh Village for lunch across 26km including back tracking, all while never being too far from a coffee.”

Ms Callcott says Federation Walk was another example of a fabulous track where walkers travelled more than 8km to the Seaway and back through bushland. The popular walk gave walkers the chance to soak up the local birdlife and stand on sand dunes while looking at a deserted and windswept beach.

“Scanning the surround you’ll see the high rises of Surfers Paradise and behind the tops of high rises in Main Beach. After your bushwalk, take yourself off to Tedder Avenue for a refresh and relax. One thing we should remember is that bush walking quite often involves urban walking too, and this too can be rewarding, just getting out into another area away from your patch is good for you,” she says.

The Coombabah Wetlands
Purlingbrook Falls in Springbrook
Purlingbrook Falls in Springbrook

Top 5 short bushwalking trails on the Gold Coast as picked by Jill.

1. Tallebudgera Conservation Park

On the Burleigh Heads side you can view the pristine waters of Tallebudgera Creek; it’s also very quiet and full of birdlife particularly in the early morning.

2. Palm Beach Parklands

There are two walks here, the first is Beree Badalla Boardwalk along Currumbin Creek and it’s best to do this during high tide to get the feeling you are walking on water. The next is Tarrabora Reserve; a small pocket of bushland right in the middle of the Gold Coast, wedged between the Gold Coast Highway and Currumbin Estuary at Palm Beach.

3. Coombabah Lakelands – Shelter Road

Insect repellent is a must and there is a short bushwalk before the boardwalk; which is a bright burnt orange colour and such a contrast to the surrounding mangroves. At the end of the boardwalk is a bird hide and the only sound is water lapping against the timber piers.

4. Cougal Cascades – Currumbin Valley

This is part of the Gold Coast Hinterland just a few kilometres up Currumbin Creek Road. A scenic winding road full of photo opportunities which finishes at the Springbrook National Park. The  Mount Cougal Section is a short bushwalk with cascading waterfalls and cool mountain air, a hidden gem that few Gold Coasters visit.

5. Burleigh Headland – upper or lower track

A short climb to Tumgun Lookout is worth the effort, views of the southern Gold Coast as far as the eye can see and the lookout on the north side is equally picturesque.

It is truly only by walking an area that you can get the essence of it.

Top 5 long bushwalking trails on the Gold Coast as picked by Jill

1. Cougal Hiking Trail (10km)

Mount Cougal borders QLD and NSW and the only guide is the barbed wire fence that separates the states. The terrain is diverse, so a hiking pole is recommended and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Check with National Parks before embarking on this trail because storms can impact on the area and make sure the forecast is for a clear day.

2. Federation Walk (7km)

Federation (Bush) Walk features headlands and windswept dunes, winding trails through groves of Macaranga trees and She-Oaks. The trail ends directly opposite south Stradbroke Island, which is only a short distance across the Seaway.

3. South Stradbroke Island

You can walk right around South Stradbroke Island and while you’re totally isolated you’re only minutes from a refreshing beverage. The downside is the lack of transport access. The Island is 21km in length and 2.5km wide.

4. Coombabah Lakelands

Only a stone’s throw from Harbour Town Shopping Centre, Coombabah Lakelands track is full of wildlife, bush and wetlands. Kangaroos are prolific, swamp wallabies are around and there are plenty of koalas to see. With over 1000 hectares of land you can choose how far to hike. It has an amazing diversity of bird and plant life and is arguably the best place to view koala and kangaroos in the region.

5. Nerang State Forest

Nerang National Park and Nerang State Forest is 12km from Surfers Paradise, on the north-west outskirts of Nerang. Here you can explore dry rainforest and open eucalyptus forests on a scenic bushwalk, horse ride, or you can cycle along one of the designated mountain-bike tracks. There are various tracks and distances to choose from.

Where are the waterfalls?

Perhaps the city’s most spectacular natural asset is the collection of waterfalls that cascade down cliff faces and fall into word-heritage listed rainforest. We’ve created a guide where the best waterfalls are in the city and how you can get to them.


One of the many waterfalls you can find in Springbrook National Park


Walking tips for newbies

  • Hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, correct walking shoes and water are a must.
  • If you are not a walker start by picking an area that is flat and provides shade in the warmer weather.
  • Go early in the morning before the sun gets too hot.
  • If taking strollers or wheelchairs check ahead of time for accessibility or take a companion to help with steps.
  • Always check the weather forecast and let friends or family know your intended destination.

*Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. Bushwalking is a potentially dangerous activity which may expose you to hazards and risks that could lead to injury, illness or death or to loss of or damage to your property. Ensure you are properly prepared before embarking on any bushwalk.