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Published April 16th 2016
The ideal micro break away
The Easter school holidays were nearly over. I had spent two weeks attending doctors appointments, organising tradesmen for various jobs that needed doing around the house, buying/repairing and replacing major electrical appliances etc. I wanted to feel like I had had some time off before heading back to work on Monday so my husband organised for Grandma and Grandad to come visit and we were off for two nights of child free grownup peace and quiet.
Springbrook is only a short drive from Brisbane. It took us about 1.5 hours in Friday evening traffic but I think if you weren't travelling in the peak hour you could get there in just over an hour. By 6.30pm we arrived at the cottage I had booked - Riverstone Cottage. It was right across the road from the Purling Brook Falls and walking distance from everything if we desired.
Now there are heaps of accommodation options all around the National Park - expensive retreats, couples romantic getaways, backpacker share accomodation and I think there are even some camp sites. Riverstone Cottage was just what I needed, reasonably priced and comfortable.
Lawn of Riverstone Cottage, Springbrook ((c) Clinton Aitkenhead 2016)
It was like walking into Grandma's cottage. The gardens were lovely and even though they weren't in full bloom they were still enjoyable to wander around. The cottage was like walking back in time a little with knick knacks on shelves and ducks flying along walls. The kitchen and bathroom were not modern but they were clean (best hot shower ever!). The kitchen even had the old wood burning stove (display only) and to make the stay more comfortable every appliance necessary to fry, grill, toast, bake and boil. Steve, our host, left us with some basic groceries like milk, cereals and some treats. The queen bed was comfy, although tightly squeezed into the little bedroom, that just added to the cosiness. With the groceries we brought with us, my knitting and my husband with his photography equipment and books we need not have left the cottage and its yard all weekend. There was even a piano if either of us knew how to tickle the ivories!
Had we decided not to be budget conscious and self cater there were a couple reasonably priced cafes that we could have walked to. The Dancing Waters Cafe was directly across the road and the Springbrook General Store and Cafe was 5 minutes walk around the corner. There is only the General Store in Springbrook and it carries the basics. The large supermarkets are in Nerang and Mudgeeraba.
What I love about staying in privately owned accomodation like BnBs etc is the personal touches to the experience that large chain hotel/motel don't often provide. Steve not only left us with ample provisions for our stay but little things like torches and lamps (it is very dark outside the cottage at night), games, books and magazines, a huge dvd collection and most importantly the hiking poles. I am not an experienced bushwalker but leaving those poles for my husband and I made walking the Purling Brook Falls an even more pleasurable experience.
The Purling Brook Falls are well worth the walk. I had injured my foot the day prior to our trip and I am by no means a fitness guru but I managed to walk (hobble at some points) around the track. It is a level 3 track but as I said my husband and I with our sore feet, arthritis and back problems made it around the 4 km circuit in 3.5 hours. It is estimated the course will take 2-3 hours. The hiking poles were fantastic, if you follow the course clockwise (recommended) you will walk down lots of stairs of varying quality both with and without railings (poles very useful). At the bottom you will get to see the falls up close and can even walk a further 2 kms to the Warringa Pool to have a swim. You can't swim at the bottom of the falls and remember if you walk to the Warringa Pool you are adding an extra 4 km and 1.5 -2hrs of walking to the circuit so bring enough water and snacks. After the waterfall there is a new bridge and a lot of dirt ramps taking you back to the top (again the poles very useful). Wear a very comfortable and sturdy pair of shoes for the walk. I would not recommend taking small children on the walk but older kids and teenagers would certainly make short work of it but with my near 20 years of teaching secondary students they would probably whinge the entire time and that defeats the purpose of going on the hike! Needless to say when my kids are a little older I will be taking them back to build their endurance!
Purling Brook Falls, Springbrook National Park ((C) Camille Newlands 2016)
Waterhole at the base of Purling Brook Falls ((c) Camille Newlands 2016)
When we made it back to the top my husband and I were amazed at how popular the falls were. When left in the morning, 8am, the car park had a couple of cars. At 11.30am the car park was full and people were parked out on the road leading to the falls. Interestingly you don't feel like there are that many people on the track but in retrospect we did get passed a few times. My injured foot had done about as much walking as possible for the weekend and we decided to do a drive to the different lookouts. I will tackle the Twin Falls circuit walk on our next visit.
A 5 minute drive out of the little Springbrook village you will find the different lookouts. The Best of All lookout (yes, that is its name) has a small walking track to the lookout but it was a little slippery. The views from this lookout are spectacular. There is also the Goomoolahra Falls Lookout and I would say it was the second best. It has a brook and some picnic areas and is really quite pretty. You still have to be careful with kids though as it is very easy to walk out onto the top of the waterfall. The Cannon Lookout is still not be missed and there is a small cafe across the road if you want to have a bit of a rest. We ended our day with some fudge from the Fudge Shop and a little shopping at a little art shop across the road. Presents for the kids and Grandma successfully purchased!
Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park ((c) Camille Newlands 2016)
Sunday we said out goodbyes to the Riverstone Cottage and headed south to the Natural Bridge. It took us about 1-1.5hrs to wander around taking photos and just enjoying the rainforest. I would definitely bring the kids back to this one sooner rather than later. It was an easy walk on mainly paved paths with a few sets of stairs. The car park was full but you didn't feel like their were hundreds of people in the forest with you. We then headed toward Murwillumbah with the plan of just taking in the countryside and the heading back to Brisbane. There was a small country market at Chillingham which gave us a chance to stretch our legs and get something to eat and drink as well as pick up some local produce to take home. The back on to the M1 and home we went.
Pathway at Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park ((c) Camille Newlands 2016)