Backcountry Travel – Numinbah to the Natural Bridge

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost.

The Natural Bridge
The road through Numinbah, Gold Coast Hinterland

Secrets everywhere.

It amazes me to find astonishing places near my home, near major cities, which I’ve never heard of. Numinbah is such a place. Just last week, I was putting along the Gold Coast Hinterland towards Murwillumbah (heading south), when the land suddenly began to bulge and soar, become greener, wilder, softer. Pushed for time, I almost drove home along the highway, but decided at the last minute to take the long way, through backcountry roads (which I often do), and I’m glad I did.

Along my journey an old man shuffled across the road, causing me to almost stop my car. He, like the land about him, was in a world of his own and seemed to demand respect. Further along I saw a sign saying “the Natural Bridge”, realising, quite by accident, that this was the stunning formation I’d seen so many pictures of. I turned off the road that wound through forested mountains – which loomed like frozen sentinels guarding some secret Eden – and drove into Springbrook National Park.

The Natural Bridge

The Walk

About a kilometre off the road lies the carpark of the Natural Bridge – a waterfall that streams into a cave and joins another river. From the carpark, the waterfall is another kilometre walk, which heads down some stairs, along a path and through ancient subtropical rainforest. This entire area is part of arguably the most preserved caldera in the world. Deft explosions, fire, lava and molten rock forged this landscape, years ago, which is now covered by the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.

Things to See

Breathing here feels like a unique privilege, it’s as if you’re inhaling a wondrous concoction of ancient herbs. Walk past hoop pines – ancestors of Jurassic conifers – and birds such as the eastern yellow robin, paradise riflebird and green catbird. Other locals include the rare fletcher’s frog and a horde of adventurous eels, the latter swimming from as far as Tasmania to reach these rivers. The area is also home to the indigenous Yugambeh people and has been for thousands of years.

The Natural Bridge

The natural bridge itself is a marvel to look at, although there’s no longer swimming allowed beneath its light-filled tunnel, as it’s become a threat to another tribe of locals – glow worms. These cave dwellers radiate vividly, bringing the dark, scabrous ceiling to life. Tours can be arranged to see them in action at night, a time when you’re likely to hear the haunting shrill of the boobook owl.

The bridge’s emerald pool and celestial-looking waterfall lend it a divine beauty – it’s as if you’re immersed in the tranquil twists and turns of Lothlórien. It’s a good place to just sit, drop your guard and let your senses take over. Standing beneath the bridge, it’s wonderful seeing the light beam onto the waterfall, gradually disappear into the depths of the cave and fall brilliantly outside, all at once.

The Natural Bridge
From inside the cave at the Natural Bridge – Springbrook National Park

I sat and thought about how the waterfall pounded against the roof of the cave, patiently, unremittingly, for many years until the bridge formed. Driving home, these thoughts soon expired as I headed south across the Queensland border into NSW, as the scenery once again demanded my attention.

The Natural Bridge
The hinterland at the QLD/NSW border

Getting There

The Natural Bridge lies just one hour drive from the Gold Coast, an hour and a half from Byron Bay and an hour and forty-five minutes south of Brisbane. About a kilometre from the Natural Bridge there’s the Two Pines Cafe, where you can revitalise with some lunch and chat to the local kookaburras. There’s also numerous signs to retreats littered along the roadside (none of which I’ve yet stayed at) if you’re up for a lengthier visit.

Numinbah and the Natural Bridge are both wonderful places. I highly recommend a visit.

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