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Gold Coast Scenic Drives

The Gold Coast hinterland has some of the best scenic drives in the country, right up there with the Great Ocean Road, Snowy Mountains Highway, Tasmanian west coast and Adelaide Hills.

Road to Binna Burra Lodge
If you like the view of the world from behind a windscreen or you appreciate the wavy mountain roads then you simply must go on a road trip around the Gold Coast. If you're really keen to spend a whole day behind the wheel and see some of the sights then you will definitely be rewarded with fantastic views, natiral wonders, wineries and secret mountain top cafes. If your time is limited there are plenty of short scenic routes to keep you occupied for half an hour or half a day. To give you an idea of the best scenic routes on the Gold Coast we've put together a guide and route map for a full day trip, starting at 9am and finishing at 6pm.

If you don't want to drive for that long you can of course leave as many sections out as you like - if you've got the time to do it all then you'll see more of the Coast than a lot of locals and you'll have an absolute ball.

Route 1: The ultimate Gold Coast scenic drive in a round trip

9am-12pm Surfers Paradise to Mount Tamborine

Make your way to the Gold Coast Highway, head north and you'll be taken through glamorous Main Beach and along the edge of the magnificent Broadwater through Southport, Labrador and Runaway Bay. Watch the yachts cruise and the seagulls glide, sit back and enjoy the ride. There'll be a bit of traffic if you leave on a Saturday morning, but nothing that would compare to a major city. Once you get past Runaway Bay you'll see signs to Sanctuary Cove - head there and have a look around - it's a prestige Golf Course development and a boutique shopping Village and well worth a look we think.

Once you're done, follow the signs to the Pacific Highway and Brisbane - when you're on the Pacific Highway look out for the left hand exit to Mount Tamborine when you get past Dreamworld and then take it. This will lead you out past an area of acreage properties and then up the mountain to Tamborine Village where you'll probably want to spend some time. Head over to North Tamborine and you'll see signs pointing to various bushwalks and National Parks, there are plenty of short strolls around the mountain into gorgeous rainforests. If you're hungry grab some morning tea at a coffee house and then head over to Eagle Heights and back down the Mountain to Nerang, you should arrive in Nerang at about midday.

12pm-3.30pm Nerang to Murwillumbah via Springbrook and Natural Arch

Once you're in Nerang find the Pacific Highway and head south until you see the turnoff to Mudgeeraba. Head through Mudgeeraba and follow the signs to Springbrook. Apart from the green signs telling you the distance to places, you'll also see a lot of yellow signs with curvy lines on them telling you there are plenty of sharp corners, narrow curved wooden bridges, and hairpins. The road up the mountain to Springbrook is safe, but it's not for the faint-hearted, so if you are uneasy just take it slow. If you are a confident driver and have a bit of horsepower under the bonnet you will think you're in heaven.

Once you get to the top head into Springbrook Village there are plenty of lookouts and little shops to keep you interested. When you've looked out to your heart's content head back the way you came, go through the section where the road splits in two and then take the next left. After another five or ten minutes of curves you'll end up at a T intersection, turn left and head towards Numinbah Valley and Natural Arch. It'll be lunch time by now, and there are a few tea houses scattered through the beautiful Numinbah Valley, so grab something to eat.

Stopping to take in the view
Springbrook Waterfall
Natural Bridge

Once you've refuelled yourself (and any other people travelling with you) keep heading south through the valley and then take the right hand turn to Natural Arch. There's a short bushwalk here to the arch itself, and it's well worth a look.

When you've finished the walk head back to the road that goes through the valley, turn left and follow the signs to Murwillumbah. You'll cross the NSW/Qld border at a mountain pass about five or ten minutes down the road and the view is fantastic. Keep on the same road all the way to Murwillumbah (a decent sized country town on the banks of the Tweed River) and you'll be treated to some amazing changing scenery which begins in temperate rainforest and heads down through farmland, quaint valleys, cute towns and ends up in the sugar cane fields. Follow the signs to the center of Murwillumbah itself and find a pub, you'll need a cold beverage by now.

3.30pm-5pm Murwillumbah to Coolangatta

When you've downed a drink (ensuring you don't exceed the legal driving limit of 0.05) you've got two options to get back to the Gold Coast, which one you take depends on time and how sick of winding roads you are. If you are out of time follow the signs to the freeway and cruise back to Coolangatta at 110km/h along a new and fairly scenic motorway. If you still have plenty of time on your hands and feel like another exhilarating drive (which we highly recommend), head back out the way you came into Murwillumbah, go across the bridge to where you would have turned right after coming through from the Numinbah Valley and keep going straight ahead, following the signs to Currumbin. The road continues through cane fields for about ten minutes and then heads back up into, and over the mountains on the border through banana plantations and rainforest, with some fantastic views across the Tweed Valley all the way to Mount Warning. Keep following the winding road for about 15-25 mins until you get to Currumbin Creek road, turn right and follow the creek all the way back to the traffic lights at the Pacific Highway, turn right and follow the signs to the airport and Coolangatta.

5pm-6pm Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise

Coastal Drive
Coolangatta shares the state border with Tweed Heads and is a great place for an afternoon ice cream. If you follow the road along the coastline you'll go past some of the most famous surf breaks in the world in the space of about 15mins including Kirra Beach, Snapper Rocks, Greenmount and Duranbah

Coolangatta sits on a gorgeous blue bay (Rainbow Bay) and if the conditions are right you can ride the same wave for five minutes as it travels the length of the town. Up on the hill you'll cross the border (again) and see the NSW coastline stretch down to Byron Bay and if it's clear you'll see the entire high-rise metropolis of the Gold Coast stretched out before you. When you've finished looking jump back into the car and follow the signs and the Gold Coast highway back up the Coastline to Surfers Paradise, past the famous beachside suburbs of Currumbin, Burleigh, Miami and Broadbeach, eventually ending up where you started.

Tips and hints

  • If you complete the drive as outlined above you'll see about as much as you can of the Gold Coast on one tank of fuel, but you can of course do individual sections of the route if you don't want to drive all day.
  • Make sure you take water with you in summer as you might get thirsty - you'll never be more than ten minutes away from a town on any part of the route, but it pays to be prepared in case you break down.
  • Mobile phones won't work on parts of the route in the mountains around the NSW border and Mount Tamborine.
  • You won't find much traffic on the backroads, but look out for cars and motorbikes speeding around corners, the route is a popular scenic drive.

Route 2: O'Reilly's and Lamington National Park via Canungra

Windy Hinterland Road
If you're after a shorter drive and want to see some more historic areas of the Gold Coast and take in the beautiful Lamington National Park, this is it. There are some hairy mountain corners for the last 40km, but it's a good road so you can take it as slow (or as fast, within the speed limit) as you like.

Starting off in Surfers Paradise, follow the signs to Nerang, and then follow the signs to Hinze Dam. You'll get about 5 minutes out of Nerang before you see a turn-off to Mt Tamborine and Canungra on the right hand side, follow it. The road stretches along to a historic river mill on your right hand side and then the turn-off to Henri Roberts Drive which leads up Mount Tamborine on your right. Don't take this turn (unless you want to go up the mountain, which is kind of nice), just follow the road and the signs to Canungra and you'll keep going southwest.

The road leads you along hills and dales and past a few rivers and wineries, all of which are quite scenic. After a few minutes you'll be driving through a more rugged hilly section which makes up the Canungra Army base military training area. There are big signs everywhere saying don't go bushwalking off the road or you might get shot, they're worth heeding. After about ten minutes you'll go past the Canungra army barracks, which are at an intersection, turn right and keep following the signs to Canungra itself, which is a few kilometres further west. Just before you get to the town you'll see signs for a historic tunnel, which looks like a hole in a hill and isn't really worth getting out of the car (or off the bike) for.

Once you're in town it's worth a look around, there are some cute cafes, a small park and a large Tudor style pub which is popular with bikers (that's bikers, the enthusiasts who like the windy roads out this way, not bikies). Don't be scared of the pub (even if there are a few dozen large motorcycles parked outside) it's really quite lovely, especially in winter with the fire going.

Bushwalking Trail Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park views
Stream at Lamington National Park

When you've had enough of a look around, follow the road that the pub is on (it's a left hand turn off the road into Canungra) — you'll see the signs to O'Reilly's, which is a guesthouse at the top of the mountains in Lamington National Park. After about 15 minutes of heading through a pleasant little valley, you'll start driving over cattle grids and you'll quickly find yourself on one of the best drivers' (as in people who go driving for the sake of it) roads in southeast Queensland — it's 50km long, windy, smooth, full of single-lane hairpin bends and blind corners and there are magnificent views over the side. If you're fainthearted you might find the road a little daunting, but there's no real danger unless you drive with your eyes closed.

Once you get to the top you'll be in a totally different climate and landscape to the rest of the Gold Coast, the air is greener, the trees are taller; it's a rainforest. O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat has accommodation and is the epicentre for the dozens of amazing bushwalks that head off into the park (including one in the treetops). You can either stay the night, or just re-trace your way back to the Gold Coast. The whole round trip takes about 3 hours if you don't stop, but you'll want to stop. A map of the route appears below (courtesy of O'Reilly's).

Map to O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat

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Hire a car on the Gold Coast

Hiring a rental car is one of the best ways to get around the Gold Coast if you are here on holiday (in the Hinterland especially).

Find the cheapest price guaranteed (see Vrooms Price Promise) with no booking or cancellation fee, with cars available from virtually any airport in Australia. Vroom's suppliers also provide a 24 hour a day emergency breakdown service with many last minute deals. One-way bookings are also welcomed. 

To start your search, type in your location below. You can also pick up your rental car from a number of locations on the Gold Coast - see our list of car rental depots below. 

Scenic Tours

Don't feel like driving? No problem. Learn some interesting facts about the Gold Coast on your tour from informative guides and see the best of what our beautiful region has to offer, including the breathtaking hinterland. Browse a range of different sightseeing tours below and book online with the provider!

These Gold Coast hinterland tours will let you experience this untouched gem that provides a refreshing, natural break from the normal expectations of glitz and glamour that is just waiting to be explored! Behind the Gold Coast's amazing beaches, city skyline and meandering waterways lies an impressive range of rolling hills, temperate rainforests and hinterland mountains. Check out our list of picks of Hinterland Tours.

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A short drive from the Gold Coast through Numinbah Valley with its high cliffs and green country pastures leads us to the World Heritage-listed Springbrook National Park. Explore the ancient Gondwana rainforest with Antarctic beech trees dating back over 3000 years. Visit the stunning Natural Arch waterfall on a fully guided walk led by your local guide. View waterfalls and breathtaking views from the Best of all Lookout.

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Explore the highlights of the Gold Coast hinterland and discover the natural beauty of Lamington National Park, O'Reilly's and Canungra on this guided experience. Experience a guided subtropical rainforest and treetop canopy walk with expert commentary. Then see stunning 300-degree views at Kamarun lookout. Visit the township of Canungra and enjoy a glass of sparkling wine at Canungra Valley Vineyard.

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Images courtesy Tourism & Events Queensland, Tourism Australia, Destination Gold Coast & Getty Images

Things to do and seeOn the Gold Coast in Queensland

Theme Parks

Combo passes & packages

Free things to do

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary


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