Sian is a freelance writer living on the Gold Coast.
Published September 6th 2011
Reluctantly, I'm going to share one of my favourite places – Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area. Coombabah Lakelands is a remarkable place and seems to be relatively unknown even though it's surrounded on all sides by the suburbs of one of Australia's fastest growing cities.
This ecologically significant conservation area of the northern Gold Coast protects 1290 hectares of wetlands, endangered eucalypt forest, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps, and is home to more than 11 threatened or vulnerable species of fauna, including the painted snipe, powerful owl, wallum froglet, grey-headed flying fox, and square tailed kite. The area also accommodates one of the Gold Coast's largest koala populations.
Red-necked wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos are often seen grazing in the open grassed areas or sunning themselves as they watch visitors go by. Swamp wallabies inhabit the thicker vegetation in the wetter areas.
Kangaroos and wallabies watch passers by with a weary eye
Many kilometres of flat gravel, dirt, grass and boardwalk trails cover the area, with each one offering something different. Sometimes eucalypts with fern ground cover or fields of blue billygoat weed. On one track mangroves stretch into the distance with wading birds foraging for lunch, and along another melaleuca trees soak their feet in a bed of lime-green duckweed.
With names such as Koala track, Kookaburra track, Jabiru track, Slash Pine track, and Mangrove track visitors have a clue as to what they may find along the way. The tracks are sign posted with the track name and estimated walking time but there are no maps at the track junctions to show exactly where you are. I suggest a visit to the Gold Coast Parks website to download a hand held map. I also suggest cycling the tracks the first time to get an idea of the layout and length. You could cover as many or as few of the tracks as you choose as many tracks intersect, the choice is yours.
Depending on your reason to visit there are several places to set off from. The access road at Rain Tree Glen is the best place for cycling or walking. This is where the main tracks are and includes a boardwalk winding through melaleuca wetland, an easy five minute walk from the carpark.
There are several other boardwalks in the area but these cannot be accessed from the Rain Tree Glen entry. Across the creek from the boundary track keen eyes might spot Myola boardwalk. This is accessed from Myola Court a ten minute drive away.
Another short drive away along Shelter Road the 500 metre Mangrove boardwalk leads through open woodland to swamp oak wetland, past salt marshes and through mangrove forests. The boardwalk ends at a bird hide with a view out over Lake Coombabah. Bird watchers have long known about the lakeland's attractions and can often be seen here photographing local and migratory birds.
White egret at Coombabah Lake. Pelicans feed in the background
Arm yourself with some knowledge before you go or you might not know that the near-threatened eastern curlew you are looking at has possibly just flown 10,000 kilometres from Russia or China. Other birds frequenting the area include the red capped plover, pied oyster catcher, grey-tailed tattler, red-necked stint, white-bellied sea eagle, jabiru, spoonbill, and 100s of others foraging in the area.