Burleigh Head National Park is my favourite place to walk. It's also my favourite place to take visitors. The area was gazetted as a national park in 1947 and it's the only Gold Coast headland that remains in a substantively natural state. The very best of the Gold Coast is there on show: a variety of wildlife and habitats, including beaches, rainforest, and a creek, as well as breathtaking views. On a clear day you can glimpse the Stradbroke islands to the north and Coolangatta to the south.
The formation of the headland began around 24 million years ago, during a period of volcanic activity in northern New South Wales. Visit the Information Centre at the southern entrance to learn about the history of the headland, including the area's cultural significance to the Kombumerri people.
There are two walking tracks within the national park: The ocean-view walk (1.2 km one way) and the rainforest circuit (2.3 km return). Neither track is strenuous, though steep sections on the rainforest circuit will increase your heart rate. Take a look at the Burleigh Head National Park map to plan your route.
Pandanus grove and black boulders along the ocean-view walk
I usually enter the national park from the north, perhaps out of habit more than anything, though nearby this entrance there are cafes, bars, and restaurants, convenient for pre- or post-walk nourishment and hydration.
Immediately upon entering the northern gate you're faced with a choice: up, right to the rainforest circuit, or down, left along the ocean-view walk. Your prevailing energy levels are likely to determine your course. The safest bet is to start along the ocean-view walk. If you're feeling good, then take the path near the southern entrance up to the rainforest circuit; if you're not, then backtrack. Either way, you're guaranteed superb views as you stroll through the lowland rainforest, eucalypt forest, pandanus grove, tussock grassland, and mangroves.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled along the way. Apparently echidnas, carpet pythons, possums, and koalas live in the national park, though I haven't seen any of these animals there. Ever. On a recent visit, my daughter and I saw two beaded dragons, three brush turkeys, a spider, and a gigantic butterfly.
Even a two year old appreciates the magic of seeing animals in nature (as compared with in an enclosure at a zoo or the like). So please take care of the national park when you visit. There are signs along the walking tracks that remind you how.