Nerang, Queensland: Travel guide and things to do

Located 72 km south of Brisbane, Nerang is a perfect example of what has happened on the Gold Coast as a result of population overspill from both Brisbane and the coastal settlements. Once a quiet little town, it now looks like a large slab of suburbia with wide roads, recent project home developments, modern shopping complexes and the usual features of a large centre of population and commerce.

The Nerang River was first surveyed in 1842, after the land around Moreton Bay had been opened up for settlement. Settlement occurred quickly and for a short time (1862-64) cotton was grown. It was replaced in 1865 by sugarcane, the year that the town was surveyed. The first town plots were sold the following year.

The 1870s saw the town grow rapidly. A hotel was built in 1872, a post office in 1874 and a school in 1876. The arrival of the railway in 1889 further cemented Nerang's existence.

Things to see

The Nerang River Mill
Located west of town, on the Nerang-Beaudesert Rd, Mt Nathan (just before the Mt Tamborine turnoff), is an historic mill which has been turned into a popular tourist attraction. It was built in 1910 and, at the time, was Australia's first arrowroot mill. Today it functions as a museum, with the old machinery intact. There is a good quality cafe and a small animal park where children can make the camel, donkeys, horses and deer very happy by feeding them.

Gold Coast War Museum
9 km south of Nerang along the Pacific Highway is Mudgeeraba where you will find the museum on Springbrook Rd, contact (07) 5530 5222. They have an array of memorabilia from the two world wars and the Vietnam War, including tanks, armoured vehicles, planes and posters.

Boat Ramps
There are two boat ramps on the river at Nerang: situated on either side of the bridge. The on eon the northern side is located within Arthur Earl Park, where there are also picnic and barbecue facilities.

Springbrook
From Mudgeeraba head due west on the road to Springbrook. About 21 km from Mudgeeraba are Purling Brook Falls. There are a number of lookouts in the area. The best of them all is undoubtedly the Best Of All Lookout. It lies at the end of Repeater Station Rd which heads off to the right about 24 km south-west of Mudgeeraba.

Paradise Country and Aussie Country
These tourist farms in the hinterland behind Nerang offer fairly action-packed tours of large properties. Aussie Country has bushtucker around the campfire, a kangaroo and koala enclosure, a horse demonstration and animal show with farm animals, a cattle muster with cattle dogs, sheep-shearing, animal feeding, cow milking, goldpanning, horse rides, a bushranger show, whip-cracking, hay-wagon rides, boomerang throwing, and lunch with participatory bush-band entertainment. They also cater to farm stays in the main house (a nice old Queenslander) on a small scale. They are located three minutes south of Canungra on the Lamington National Park Road, contact (07) 5543 5546. Paradise Country is a similar operation on Beaudesert Rd just 2 km out of Nerang. It also caters to private and corporate events such as conventions, wedding receptions and parties, contact (07) 5578 4077.

Lamington National Park and Binna Burra Mountain Lodge
Lamington National Park preserves over 20 000 ha of World Heritage listed subtropical rainforest just half an hour's drive from Surfers Paradise. It is part of the Eastern Rainforest Reserves which incorporate the world's largest section of subtropical rainforest, most of its warm temperate rainforest and almost all of its Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest. These trees are directly related to the trees which existed on Gondwanaland 55 million years ago.

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The park lies on the southern edge of a circle of mountains spanning from the Gold Coast hinterland to the area south of the state border. These denote the crater of an ancient and extinct volcano that first erupted over 20 million years ago. Consisting of thickly forested valleys and ranges rising to over 1100 metres, it features waterfalls, quiet streams, caves, fern gullies, cliffs, superb views and many kilometres of bushwalking tracks.

The park is divided into two sections: Binna Burra in the north-east and Green Mountains in the south-west, both of which have campgrounds and information centres. The centres provide guides and maps with details of walking tracks which range in length from 1 km to 20 km. Both campgrounds have toilets, showers, drinking water, picnic areas, a kiosk and walking tracks. Fires are not permitted in the park so either bring a fuel stove or use the electric barbecues provided in some of the picnic areas. Camping permits apply with a maximum of six people per campsite. Bush camping is also permitted in the Green Mountains section from February to November, although overnight bushwalkers must contact the Green Mountains ranger before setting off to obtain a bushcamping permit and to check on conditions. Be prepared for adverse conditions and sudden weather changes.

The Binna Burra section is 35 km from Nerang via sometimes narrow and winding bitumen roads. The information centre is on the right-hand side of the road with a small picnic area and toilets nearby. Here is the start of walks to the Caves, Gwongoorool and Illinbah. Another 500 metres along the road is the entrance to the Lower Bellbird Circuit. If one drives for another 1. 2 km there is a fork in the road. At this point more walking tracks depart from both sides of the road. A sharp right at this fork in the road leads to Binna Burra Lodge. As part of an all-inclusive tariff the lodge offers accommodation, meals, abseiling, interpretive bushwalking, a ride on the flying fox (a 160-m cable suspended in the air with a harness attached into which the participant is strapped and hurtled across a gorge over the park) and a range of other activities. They also cater to special interest groups focusing on photography, art, birdwatching etc, contact (07) 5533 3584. Unleaded petrol only is available at the Lodge.

If one ignores the right turn to the Lodge and continues along the main road, it leads to the main picnic area where the main track entrance is located. Nearby is a private camground with kiosk and telephone. To contact the Binna Burra ranger ring on weekdays between 1.00 p.m. and 3.30 p.m., tel: (07) 5533 3584. The Binna Burra section also contains Coomera and Toolona Falls, as well as Wagawn and Mt Merino.

Access to Green Mountains is via Canungra where petrol and supplies should be purchased. Canungra is 25 km west of Nerang or 20 km south of Tamborine. From Canungra the south-bound access road is sealed but it is narrow, winding and unsuitable for caravans and no provision is made for caravans at the campground. Campsites must be booked and paid for in advance: six to eight weeks during school and public holidays, and three to four weeks at other times. Further details on rules are posted at the entrance to the campground. Registration is conducted at the information centre, or via self-registration forms if the centre is unattended. There are three ellectric barbecues at the main picnic area which are operated by means of $1 coins. A public phone is available at the bus turnaround. Walking tracks lead through rainforest to lookouts, waterfalls and gorges. Two popular shorter walks are those to Python Rocks and Moran Falls. To contact the Green Mountains ranger ring on weekdays between 1.00 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. or, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9.00 a.m. and 11.00 a.m., tel: (07) 5544 0634.

Nearby is O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse which has offered accommodation in the area for 80 years. They also offer a program of activities, including 4WD tours, bushwalks, inspections of glow worm caves, night wldlife tours, historic narratives and bush dances,. A kiosk sells some basic supplies and meals, tel: (07) 5544 0644 or (1800) 688 722. Darraboola Falls, Echo Falls, Elabana Falls and Chalahn Falls are nearby.

Winter visitors (May to October) to the Park should be aware that temperatures can be quite cool in the day (12 degrees Celsius), approaching freezing at night. In summer storms can strike suddenly, dramatically decreasing temperatures and making tracks slippery. The Park is most busy during school holidays and at weekends.

Hinze Dam and Advancetown Lake
8 km south-west of Nerang this is a good spot for swimming and sailing. The dam is named after the huge Russ Hinze who was a minister in the Bjelke-Petersen government.

The Natural Bridge and Springbrook National Park
About 35 km south of Nerang, just off the road to Murwillimbah, is the Natural Bridge. Located in 2954-ha Springbrook National Park, the 'arch' was essentially formed by lava from Mount Warning which has solidified into a cavern. However, erosion from the creek above has caused a huge hole to form in the roof of the cavern so that the water falls through the hole into a water pool below.

The access road leads to a carpark in a delightful shady rainforest grove full of birdlife (eastern yellow robins, whipbirds, catbirds, wompoo pigeons and brush turkeys) and the burbling of the stream as it passes through the valley below. There is a clearly signposted circuit walk which leads through the rainforest to a lookout overlooking the falls and the hole in the cavern roof. It crosses the creek, passes another elevated viewing area, then moves down to creek level, where it is possible to enter the cavern where forest light shafts down through the opening, illuminating the base of the falls. The path then crosses the creek again and climbs back up to the parking lot. An information board at the start of the walk provides information about the park and its wildlife.

The most distinctive timber in the area are the hoop pines which abound. There are vines in the trees and staghorns as well as huge trees rotting on the forest floor. At night-time bandicoots, sugar gliders and brush-tail possums become active and the evening is a good time to spotlight possums, frogs and spiders.

The principal nocturnal activity concerns the glow-worms which can be seen in their thousands, adorning the cavern roof. These insects are the larvae of a fungus fly and they glow to attract insects to their webs. Access is via a viewing platform. However, the glow-worms are frail and while visitors can use a torch to get to the viewing platform, they must not shine the torch on them. Candles and other flames, flash photographs, smoking and insect repellant are also forbidden and excessive noise should be avoided.

There are toilets, picnic facilities and electric, coin-operated barbecues in the picnic areas (but no bins so take your rubbish with you). However, it can be very crowded with visitors so it is advisable to bring a portable table and gas barbecue. Mini bus tours operate from the Gold Coast and Murwillumbah. Be warned that the Bridge receives a great deal of rain in the hot, humid summer.

Brush turkeys and goannas are often seen around the picnic areas, pademelons feed at the edge of the rianforest and eastern yellow robins and whipbirds can be seen in the lower levels of the forest, while catbirds, koels and wompoo fruit doves can be heard amid the canopy. Lorikeets are common in spring and summer while, as night approaches, noturnal animals such as bandicoots, brushtail possums and sugar gliders emerge.

The 'Bridge' is located in Springbrook National Park, in an area once occupied by indigenous tribes but settled, from the 1870s, by Europeans who first entered the area to collect timber. Indeed a large portion of a giant red cedar taken from a spot near the Natural Bridge in 1893 was displayed at the Paris World Fair. The remnant rainforest in the Park, which grew from the rich volcanic soils, gives some idea of the environment which once characterised the entire Numinbah Valley before colonisation. The Natural Bridge was first declared a Scenic and Recreation Reserve in 1922, by which time much of the valley had been cleared and dairy farms were being established.

No camping is permitted in the Park. For more details check out:http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/springbrook/index.html

To get there head west of Nerang for 4 km, ignoring the Mt Tamborine turnoff and heading instead towards Beechmont. After a further 4 km the the Murwillimbah turnoff. 4 km before you come to the tick gate at the state border, there is a narrow, winding side road signposted for the 'Natural Arch'. En route is the beautiful scenery of the Numinbah Valley. The access road is narrow and winding.

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