Gold Coast dreaming

Jellurgal Journey gives a tiny national park big meaning.

Our guide, Jade, is standing under a pandanus tree as he tells us the story of the giant named Jabreen. Featured in a Dreamtime legend of the indigenous Yugambeh people of Queensland's Gold Coast, Jabreen is said to have swum in the ocean off Burleigh Heads after feasting on wild honey.

After his swim, he lay down to rest on Burleigh Mountain (Jellurgal), which grew around the giant as he slept and captured him. He woke and tried to break free, but Jellurgal won out.

"And now," says Jade, pointing up the steep slope above our tour group, "You can see him up there."

We turn and crane our necks, laughing in surprise as we see a rock formation sticking out towards the Pacific, looking uncannily like the fingers of an immense hand.

Run daily by the indigenous Jellurgal Cultural Centre, the Jellurgal Journey tour brings to life the activities and folklore of the local Aboriginal people before European settlement.

The tour starts at the centre's attractive building on the edge of the 27-hectare Burleigh Head National Park, its pleasant cool interior containing a simulated bush environment that explains how the Yugambeh used local plants and animals.

After an audiovisual introduction, we're treated to some lively traditional dance and didgeridoo playing from a trio of performers. The commentary from the troupe's leader is friendly and inclusive. He invites the audience to join him and learn some of the movements.

Then we're outside, stepping through a smoking ceremony with an ochre mark of welcome on our hands, and into the bushland.

As we file along the walking trail that skirts the mountain, Jade points out items of interest - a midden of shells where the locals once enjoyed oysters and pipis caught in the adjacent waters; a complex pile of sticks that's the nest of a bush turkey; and the pandanus, which was used by the Yugambeh in a variety of ways, providing both food and material for weaving.


His description of indigenous activity on and around the mountain paints a vivid picture of a way of life which continued for millennia.

In picturing it, my imagination is aided by the beauty of our surrounds. From every point on our walk there are stunning views of small attractive beaches, lush greenery and the aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Considering the Gold Coast's reputation as a place for urban pleasures including lively nightlife, plentiful shopping and theme park thrills, it's a delight to find this tiny national park wedged between highway and sea - a fragment of the original landscape brought to life by the stories of its first inhabitants.


Fly: Virgin Australia (136789, flies from Melbourne to Gold Coast from $200 return.
Tour: The Jellurgal Journey tour happens 11am daily at Hellurgal Cultural Centre, 1711 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads. Fee $39 adult, $29 chld, see
Stay: Vibe Hotel Gold Coast, 42 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradise, From $120 a night.
Palazzo Versace, 94 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, From $340 a night.
Eat: George's Paragon, 1705 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads, Greek cuisine right next to the cultural centre.

Tim Richards was hosted by Vibe Hotel Gold Coast.