Road Trip Highlights
– Enjoy great coffee and ocean inspired cuisine at beachfront restaurants
– Take an early morning balloon ride over the hinterland and meander through a gallery of cottage-industry shops
– Stop in at one of Queensland’s most historic pubs overlooking the sparkling green Brunswick River
Start your Gold Coast Airport car hire experience right with a visit to the Burleigh Heads Paddock Bakery, a rustic cottage-style café. The bakery is a local favourite with a waiting line often trailing to the garden alfresco dining area. Enjoy the revival of old breakfast favourites such as soft-boiled eggs and soldiers. There is a fully serviced bakery offering treats like hot crème brûlee doughnuts waiting to be washed down with a strong coffee. Follow breakfast with a drive to Burleigh Beach for a quick dip or a surf. Take a stroll around the headland for some amazing vistas from Surfers Paradise to Coolangatta. The walk wraps around to Tallebudgera Creek, a protected swimming area lined with pandanus trees and perfect for a day out with the kids. There is also the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre nestled at the base of the hill where visitors can learn about traditional Aboriginal life and bush tucker. From here there are plenty of attractions only a short drive away, including Seaworld, Wet n’ Wild, Dreamworld and Warner Bros. Movieworld. Keep the Sunday morning vibes rolling with a visit to The Village Markets, a boutique collection of stalls housed by local, up-and-coming designers selling their unique wares such as jewellery, fashion and crafts. The markets are bi-monthly from early morning until 1pm with ample parking available.
Extend your shopping experience longer with a drive to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre or Robina Town Centre. Both outlets offer premiere shopping and dining experiences with an expansive collection of luxury and iconic Australian and global brands. A big day of shopping calls for an indulgent late lunch. Get another taste of the beach with a drive down the coast to Burleigh Pavilion, one of the only absolute beachfront restaurants on the glitter strip serving an ocean inspired menu pared with tantalising cocktails. Try the aptly named ‘Five O’Clock Somewhere’ concoction (sober drivers only!). There is also the North Burleigh, Currumbin Beach and Southport Surf Life Saving Club for more beachside options. Make sure to leave enough time for a quick drive to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and hand-feed the Rainbow Lorikeets from 4pm daily for only a gold coin donation. Visit the Miami Marketta as the sun starts to set for delicious international street food and live music, or experience true blue Australia with dinner and a show at the Australian Outback Spectacular. If a hair-raising night out is on the menu, try Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant for an horrifyingly-good evening of entertainment.
Early risers can make the drive to the Nerang or Canungra pick up points for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Tamborine Mountain and The Scenic Rim followed by a champagne breakfast at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards. A leisurely drive to Tamborine Mountain is another option, but be sure to visit Terrarium in Oxenford, the starting point of your drive, for delicious brunch options like the Green Goddess Breakfast Bruschetta and flower-topped cakes. The Treehouse Cafe is definitely worth the wait, and the scenic mountain drive offers delectable locally sourced and plant-friendly brunch selections. Arriving at your destination, the Tamborine Mountain Gallery Walk is a collection of up to 70 shops lining the central street of Mt Tamborine and plying everything from fashion, jewellery and cottage industry arts and crafts, to wine tasting and locally made sweets. Try Fudge Heaven for melt-in-your-mouth fudge made from fresh butter and cream and the Tamborine Mountain Distillery for boutique Liqueurs and Schnapps made using native flora and presented in beautifully hand-painted bottles. From there, take a drive for lunch with a view over the Great Dividing Range at The Polish Place, where authentic comfort food is lovingly served among colourful Polish décor and antiquities. Try the Pork Hock, an immensely satisfying dish both for its flavours and size, or the signature Roast Duck for Two with Cherries. Finish your lunch with a stroll to the nearby grassy slope of the Tamborine Mountain Launch where hang gliders regularly take to the skies, weather permitting of course, or just sit and digest the morning activities and incredible vista.
The Scenic Rim offers many unique, hands-on experiences and a short drive to Thunderbird Park is a great afternoon excursion for couples or the whole family. Choose from horse riding through the hinterland on a 112-hectare rainforest property or hunt for your very own ancient Thunderegg: round, geode rock formations personally cut onsite as a souvenir for successful fossickers to take home. Take an alpaca for a picnic at Mountview Alpaca Farm for an hour or two and enjoy a gourmet hamper or stone baked pizza as an afternoon snack. Drive to Springbrook to stretch your legs on one of many rainforest hiking trails. There is the two-hour trek through the eucalyptus forest descending into the gorge of Purlingbrook Falls and Waringa Pool, or try the Twin Falls Circuit leading hikers through dense rainforest palms and ferns and behind two waterfalls on a two-hour round trip. Get an immersive rainforest experience minus the workout at the Best of All Lookout. Take the short walk through ancient Antarctic beech forest shrouded in mist for an exceptional view of the Tweed Valley, Mt Warning and all the way to Byron Bay. As the sun starts to set, take a drive to a nocturnal tour of Natural Bridge, an expansive arched rock formation with water plunging through the cave roof and illuminated by Glow Worms. Park and enjoy a cosy evening in front of the fireplace at the Mouses House Rainforest Retreat or go completely eco-friendly at the Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.
Take a drive to Wollumbin National Park for an early morning hike to the summit of Mt Warning and catch the sunrise. The five-hour trek is for the more adventurous with the steep and difficult terrain ending in a 100-metre vertical rock scramble to reach the pinnacle. The 360-degree views are worth it however, and the crisp mountain air an invigorating start to the day. Fill up on some fuel for the adventure at Mavis’s Kitchen nestled at the base of the mountain with a Breakfast Buddha Bowl or Turmeric Scrambled Eggs. Try Red Rattlers Gallery & Cafe for a unique high tea experience in beautifully restored train carriages nestled in the Northern Rivers countryside. There are plenty of culinary experiences to be enjoyed on the drive to Northern New South Wales and Tropical Fruit World just past Kingscliff ticks all the boxes. Part tourism attraction, part fully functioning commercial farm, Tropical Fruit World will keep the entire family entertained with guided tours and tastings of up to 500 species of fruit. Hire a rug and lawn chair for a picnic in the shady Avocado Grove with a hamper full of delights from the Plantation Café. The Freeman’s Organic Farm situated in the idyllic Currumbin Valley is also a great pitstop to stock up on vegetables and herbs grown in the rich, volcanic soil unique to the area or indulge in organic treats made fresh from farm ingredients. Wrap up the morning and relax over lunch in the small, unspoilt coastal village of Brunswick Heads, a 45-minute drive south. The iconic Brunswick Hotel serves up top notch Australian ‘pub grub’ in an expansive beer garden overlooking the sparkling green Brunswick River. Summer holidaymakers can often be spotted jumping from the Southern Arm Bridge connecting the town to the famed surfing coastline into the river below. Book a room for the night in the historic hotel pub overlooking the beer garden for an affordable, genuine country hospitality experience.
Detour approximately 15 minutes west, to the magical sanctuary of the Crystal Castle & Shambala Gardens. Home to some of the biggest and most beautiful crystals in the world nuzzled among 5 hectares of botanical gardens and rainforest, this is a place to unwind and get in touch with your inner psyche. Sit in an ancient amethyst cave, touch the World Peace Stupa blessed by the Dalai Lama himself or just pick up a favourite crystal in the gift shop and relax on the patio of the terrace café soaking up the views of the Byron Shire. Save some time for The Farm as you journey to Byron Bay, an 80-acre sustainable collection of farm based micro-businesses including a restaurant, bakery, produce store, florist and nursery. Kids can pat the heritage black pigs and chickens or take part in a workshop to learn where real food comes from while Mum and Dad enjoy a vino and charcuterie board on the green pastures. Nature-inspired activities are plentiful in Byron Bay and only a short drive away, including learning to surf at the famed Wategos Beach with Rusty Miller Surf, plunging from 14,000 feet above the beach with Skydive Australia, or sea kayaking among the dolphins with Go Sea Byron Bay Kayak. Park up and get ready for a brisk walk up the hill to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the perfect place to take in the sunset with breathtaking views from the most eastern point of Australia. Finish an adventurous day with fresh oysters swimming in a grapefruit granita and Spanner Crab Ravioli at Beach Byron Bay directly opposite the ocean, or our personal favourite, a basil infused Caribbean Garden martini, Grilled King Prawns and a spot of people-watching from Balcony Bar in the heart of Byron town.
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