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Escape Trails: Queensland and Northern NSW

Courtney Carr

With temperatures plummeting, it might just be the perfect time to escape Canberra’s cold and have one last hurrah in the sunshine.

If you’re keen to check out Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the northern New South Wales areas, here are a few things to get you inspired enough to leave the Canberra cold behind.

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Image: instagram.com/alexiacov

Image: instagram.com/alexiacov

Byron Bay Rainforest Retreat, Byron Bay

Set inside a lush rainforest and tea tree wetlands within Byron Bay comes this gorgeous and tranquil Rainforest Retreat. Ideally suited to couples and families looking for a relaxing and peaceful break, this retreat will be your home away from home and move you away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Byron Bay streets.

With access to white sandy beaches and a wonderful walking track around a nearby lake, the Byron Bay Rainforest Retreat is also well catered for those with fur babies as well, and its guest cottages are perfect to feel like you are in the middle of the nowhere.

For more information on cottages or booking the retreat, check out the Byron Bay Rainforest Retreat website.

The Settlement Camping Area, Springbrook National Park

While we were travelling around Brisbane and the Gold Coast, my husband and I rented a campervan to take us to some out of the way places, and the one night we spent at The Settlement Camping Area in the Springbrook National Park is regarded as one of our favourite nights of our whole holiday. It was stormy yet peaceful, and in a great location to access some of the hikes that Springbrook National Park have to offer.

The Settlement is the only camping area in the National Park and easy to get to from Coolangatta. The sites are all very private and perfect for tents, campervans and even camping trailers. There is access to toilets and even a cooking shelter with free electric barbeques. Bookings are definitely required during peak seasons, so make sure to check out the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing website to find out how you can book.

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Springbrook National Park. Image: instagram.com/georgebowden

Springbrook National Park. Image: instagram.com/georgebowden

Warner Brothers Movie World, Helensvale

I flipping love Movie World! Where else within a day trip radius from Brisbane and the Gold Coast can you dance in the street to funky old-school jazz tunes, take photos with characters dressed up as Batman, the Joker, Marilyn Monroe and Bugs Bunny in one place, and also be totally accepted if wearing bunny ears? Movie World is a fun day out for all the family, but it’s also a great place to visit to relive your childhood delights as a fully grown adult.

You can sail through an old Western town right out of Westworld, watch a (more painful than a rollercoaster) 4D movie in the glittering Roxy theatre, battle villains from the Batman universe and ride fun themed rollercoasters that pay tribute to Warner Brother’s favourites including Scooby Doo, the Green Lantern, Superman and the Joker.

The best ride has to be the Superman Rollercoaster, which is a fast-moving Metropolis themed ride that takes you on an exciting journey before you even go upside down, and leaves you wanting to thank Superman for saving you. It’s worth the long line up and the minute long ride because they just set it up super well, and it’s super fun to boot!

Top Tip: For more information and to purchase tickets you can go on the Movie World website, however if you buy your tickets on the day it will cost you an extra $20 at the gate – but that extra $20 also gets you entry into one of the other theme parks, such as Wet and Wild Waterworld.

Springbrook National Park, Gold Coast

45 minutes outside of the Gold Coast is the Springbrook National Park, a beautiful area in the hinterland that has so much to offer. One of the best walks in the area has to be the Purling Brooks Falls Circuit, which is about 4km return and a roughly three-hour walk from a lovely picnic area down into a rainforest filled with palm trees and waterfalls. As you further your way down the gorge you can visit the Warringa rock pool for a quick dip before walking across a suspension bridge with the best view of the waterfall. It’s a pretty easy walk if you are fit, and a beautiful one that is worth doing.

If you are on the other end of the National Park it’s worth stopping at the Natural Bridge as well. This easy walk winds down into rainforest before taking you to the bottom of the bridge, which provides an excellent peek into the cave below. In this cave there are hundreds of glow-worms hanging from the rock ceiling (though only visible at night) as well as a colony of rare bat-wing bats that call the Natural Bridge their home. It’s a beautiful walk and worth exploring if you are in the area.

Top Tip: For more information you can check out the Explore Springbrook website, but be aware that if you are descending into the Purling Brooks Fall Circuit there will be leeches in the wetter areas, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear and bring some salt!

Tropical Fruit World, Duranbah

Image: instagram.com/tropicalfruitworld

Image: instagram.com/tropicalfruitworld

Tropical Fruit World is a little lesser known than some of the heavy hitters that dot the highways between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but it is a fruit lover/healthy eater/vegan’s dream! Situated on volcanic soil not far outside of Tweed Heads, Tropical Fruit World is a HUGE farming area and tourist park that harvests and sells unique fruit, including well-known items such as Soursop, Longans and Durians, but also little delights such as sweet red dragonfruit, a type of melon that actually takes like champagne, Rollinia (which looks like a custard apple but tastes like lemon meringue pie) and Abiu which looks like a plum on the inside but tastes like burnt toffee.

And I kid you not, Abiu’s DO TASTE LIKE TOFFEE. It was amazing, and I don’t understand how we all don’t know about Abiu’s or eat them regularly. The world needs MORE Abiu.

But interesting tropical fruit is not all that Tropical Fruit World has to offer. It is a huge plantation with heaps to do, including a plantation “safari”, fruit tasting, a wildlife boat cruise and miniature train, and even an island complete with mini pitch and putt and flying fox rides.

Top Tip: Entrance to Tropical Fruit World itself is pretty hefty at about $45 a person, but visiting the café, unique fruit shop, and doing a short walk amongst the fruit trees is free, so my top tip is to spend that $45 on all the Apiu in the world and walk away feeling might fine!

For more information, check out the Tropical Fruit World website.

Eat and Drink

Image: instagram.com/elixiba_official

Image: instagram.com/elixiba_official

Elixiba, Byron Bay

There are heaps of different cute cafes and restaurants along the Byron Bay main streets that are vying for tourist’s attention, but one that is worth stopping and eating at has to be Elixiba. Elixiba is a plant-based restaurant and bar (and surprisingly one of the only ones in Byron Bay) that approaches food as healthy and delicious concoctions with organic produce, good vibes and herbal elixirs that wouldn’t be out of place in a sorcerer’s lab.

The drinks and tonics are spectacular, with added extras such as chlorophyll, blooming flowers and other active botanicals. The food is delicious with sliders, samosas, shredded coconut calamari, delightful burgers, raw enchiladas and desserts such as the Pumpkin Pie Samosas and Elixiba’s infamous Raspberry Fields raw cheesecake. It’s a vegan’s idea of heaven, but it’s also perfect for anyone looking for a healthy, delicious and unique meal.

Check out the Elixiba website for more information.

Steampunk, Surfer’s Paradise

Image: instagram.com/steampunksurfersparadise

Image: instagram.com/steampunksurfersparadise

Steampunk is hard to miss. It’s an upstairs venue in the heart of Surfers Paradise that adheres to the Victorian-era retro-futuristic theme, mixing gadgets and steam-powered inventions with cogs, trinkets, water and gas pipes, and trains. Think Back to the Future Part Three and you will have the right idea of what to expect at Steampunk.

Boasting live music, delicious cocktails and works of art that encompass the steampunk genre, Steampunk is a fairly new restaurant that has only just opened, but the talk around it is huge! If you are heading to the Surfers Paradise area make sure you put Steampunk on your must visit list.

For more information, check out the Steampunk Facebook page.

Dandy’s Rooftop Bar, Brisbane

Image: instagram.com/thefoxhotel

Image: instagram.com/thefoxhotel

At the top of The Fox hotel in Southbank comes a rooftop bar so kitschy and cute it promises to be the go-to place in Brisbane for playground style fun. With funky streamers hanging from the ceiling, colourful tables to sit around, and a tropical trap kind of atmosphere, Dandy’s Rooftop Bar is the best place to go as the sun begins to set and a night of debauchery kicks in.

With pizzas available, cocktails buzzing with eccentric delight, and many colourful function spaces available, make sure you hit Dandy’s when you’re gearing up for a night out.

For more information, check out The Fox Hotel website.

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Courtney Carr

Courtney Carr is the author of the science fiction horror novel Cosmic Decay: Contamination, and the eBook Secrets of a Party Planner. She is also the writer and creator of the party planning blog The Party Connection, and is one-half of the travel blog Wild Pineapples. She is a vegan gym junkie who often drinks too much wine, and loves coffee, writing, travelling, dogs and Instagram. More about the Author

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