You would be hard pressed to call the Burleigh Heads National Park a major bushwalk. The park is only 27.6 hectares in area, with an elevation of 80m above sea level and roughly 5km of walking tracks. Although I have seen the odd person walking these tracks in hiking boots my footwear of choice is usually 3 pluggers. I have enjoyed hundreds of walks here in every type of weather and have never tired of its changing beauty through the different seasons. This is a place that almost anyone with a moderate fitness level can enjoy and I encourage you to take a look if you are ever on the Gold Coast.
The Burleigh headland itself was formed around 23 to 25 million years ago from the molten basalt lava flow of the Tweed Volcano. The aboriginal people lived as hunter gatherers in this sub-tropical paradise for 23,000 years and used dingos and (apparently) even dolphins to help them hunt and fish. This all changed very dramatically with white settlement in the 1800’s but in a remarkable act of foresight the headland was set aside as a reserve for public purposes. It managed to survive numerous subdivision attempts in 1916, 1929 and 1941 and was set aside as a national park in 1947. Today the park is visited and enjoyed by 100’s of visitors nearly every day. The large amount of people that use the park, its vicinity to residential property and typically underfunded National Parks means that some of the parks areas are infested with weeds but this generally does not detract from its natural beauty and the fact that it is the jewel in the crown of Burleigh Heads, arguably the Gold Coast.
The park is bordered by the beautiful Tallebudgera Creek to the south, (which is a rather large tidal creek with sandy beaches) and Burleigh beach to the north (popular protected beach surrounded by Surf clubs, pubs and cafes) and is a playground for every sort of leisure activity from surfing to beer drinking. The Park has 2 distinct tracks and an offset track that take you through very different forests but intersect at the northern and southern end of the park so you can take a track in one direction and another on the way back and mix it up over a few different walks. I will take you through these tracks separately.
Track 1: (Coastal walk from Burleigh Heads carpark south to Tallebudgera creek). The track begins at a gate at the Burleigh Heads car park, but don’t actually expect to find a car park here as it is usually packed with people viewing this very popular surfing break. During the first 100m of this walk you will, most likely, be buffeted by surfers that launch themselves from the rocky point. This allows the surfer to be instantly amongst the big waves, either to enjoy their surf or (for the less experienced) smashed to pieces back on the rocks. The Pandanas lined track winds its way through another gate and begins to gradually head south, particularly beautiful in the morning with the sun rising. This gate and a gate at the southern end are locked at night or bad weather due to the instability of the cliffs and the danger of rock slides. The next 500m or so is quite open with spectacular views of the Pacific ocean and then suddenly (on the more protected side) returns to thick forest. The track runs along the side of the Tallebudgera creek and finishes back at the Gold Coast Hwy. As I mentioned earlier though, before it gets to the highway it intersects with the other lookout track and another short track down to the beautiful and popular Echo beach, but more about that later.
Track 2: (from Burleigh Heads carpark rainforest circuit and lookout and back to Burleigh Heads carpark or south to Tallebudgera creek). This track begins in the same place as the coastal track but instantly heads south up into a dry rainforest environment. The first 100m of this walk are straight up some quite steep stairs which can be challenging if you are unfit. The rest of the track winds its way up through magnificent rainforest where it intersects with the circuit track. If you take the left track you soon get to the Tumgun lookout that gives you spectacular views south and easterly out to the Pacific Ocean. From here you can often see seabirds and large birds of pry riding the winds. If you are here in the winter time and spring this lookout is a good spot to watch the migration of Humpback whales. From here the track winds its way downhill giving you glimpses of the ocean as you go down. You will most likely see Australian Bush turkeys building their nests through this section. Their nests are hard to miss considering their size and the fact that they are often built out onto the track itself. You may also see water dragons that sit quietly (almost camouflaged) on the rocks until you disturb them and they shoot off into the bush.
There is a beautiful little grove of cabbage tree palms Livistona australis in this section of the walk. The track opens up shortly after this to eucalyptus forest and the track forks giving you the choice of continuing back down to the Tallebudgera creek or continue back around the western side of the headland. The western side of the headland returns to very deep rainforest again and if you couldn’t hear the Gold Coast Hwy in the background you could easily be in the middle of the jungle. This track rejoins with the lookout walk.
The other track heads back down towards the Tallebudgera creek with views of the sparkling blue water filtering through the eucalypts as you walk. Always reminded me of those Corn Flake ads when you were a kid (you know the one with the perfect family, in the perfect house, in the perfect bush setting, over looking the perfect beach on the perfect day). The track gently winds its way down to join with the coast track at a beautiful junction shaded by a forest of Hibiscus tiliaceus. From here it is only a hop, skip and jump to Echo Beach where you can be far away in time.
Well I hope you enjoyed this weeks edition. I took these photos over a couple of different days so now you understand why in some pictures it seems overcast and some sunny, because it actually was. It is definitely a wonderful spot to visit made more obvious by how many people use the area just to breath and remember nature again. The Burleigh Heads National park is surrounded by three other parks that boarder the Tallebudgera creek with many tracks and boardwalks that run through remnant mangrove swamps and forest making this place even more special. See you next week on My Walkabout Plants.