About Purling Brook Falls
Purling Brook Falls (I’ve also seen it spelled as Purlingbrook Falls) was perhaps the most reknown of the waterfalls in Springbrook National Park.
We knew from the pre-trip research (prior to our May 2008 visit) that this was one of Queensland’s taller waterfalls as it would dive some 100m off an escarpment into a well-forested base.
The cliff-diving aspect of the falls made this one really stand out as the falls pretty much didn’t make any contact to its cliffs throughout almost all of its entire plunge.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who looked forward to coming here because we noticed it seemed to get many visitors (both for our first time here in May 2008 and even more visitors during my early July 2022 visit).
I’d imagine that the close proximity of the Gold Coast Hinterland to the populated Gold Coast itself had a lot to do with Purling Brook Falls’ popularity.
Experiencing Purling Brook Falls
My experiences with Purling Brook Falls consisted of doing half of a 4km circuit track on our first visit in May 2008 and finishing the entire circuit track in early July 2022.
The reason why half the loop track was closed on our first visit was due to a rock slide that forced the authorities to stop allowing the route to go behind the waterfall and continue on the other side.
When I came back 14 years after that first visit, I learned that they re-routed the trail, which included a new suspension bridge traversing Purling Brook right in front of the waterfall.
So that re-enabled the ability to complete the 4km Purling Brook Circuit, which I took advantage of on my second time here, and I’ll describe in detail below.
Trail Description – Walking Along The Escarpment
From the car park by the Gwongorella Picnic Area (see directions below), I walked to the right towards the actual trailhead for the Purling Brook Circuit.
After about 100m, I reached a trail junction next to a sign translating a bunch of Aboriginal words into English.
This trail junction marked the start and end of the Purling Brook Circuit, and like the Natural Bridge Circuit, the authorities want you to do this circuit in a clockwise manner.
That way you’re less likely to run into other hikers going in the opposite direction, especially when it gets busier, and thus it feels like a less busier and more pleasurable hiking experience.
So keeping to the left to do the Purling Brook Circuit in the recommended clockwise direction, after another 100m the trail then arrived at an overlook of the Purling Brook Falls.
At this vantage point, I was able to watch the waterfall make its dramatic plunge over the tall escarpment that I was standing upon.
Unfortunately during my early July 2022 visit, there was some bad weather so the clouds quickly obscured the views after I had only a few minutes to enjoy it.
Beyond the lookout, the trail followed the cliffs away from the Purling Brook Falls and headed towards the Camp Creek (called Kuralboo Creek on another one of my maps).
At about 500m from the lookout, there was a bridge crossing Camp Creek just upstream from the brink of the Tanninaba Falls.
There was also a nice view of the expansive panorama overlooking the brink of the Tanninaba Falls towards the lush rainforest below.
This bridge pretty much marked the end of the relatively flat part of the walk along the escarpment edge as the next part would descend steeply into the gorge below.
Trail Description – Descending to the base of Purling Brook Falls
After crossing the bridge over Camp Creek above Tanninaba Falls, track continued to lead us away from the falls while eventually making its way deeper into the lush rainforest via a few switchbacks plus some steps.
As the track bent back towards the base of Purling Brook Falls, we then noticed the hidden Tanninaba Falls itself.
On our first visit in May 2008, we were able to hear the Tanninaba Falls, but we couldn’t really see it.
However, when I came back in early July 2022, there had been a lot of La Nina rains for the entire week so I was actually able to witness and even document the Tanninaba Falls with more impressive flow.
Continuing downhill beyond the Tanninaba Falls, the track eventually led us right to the base of the impressive Purling Brook Falls.
From here, I was able to see where the trail used to go behind the waterfall though it was now blocked off.
Meanwhile, I also noticed that like many of Australia’s waterfalls, there were hints of basalt columns suggesting the volcanic origins of the area.
While the waterfall had a light and wispy flow during our May 2008 visit (leading me to believe it might not perform well deep into the Dry Season), it had a much more rigorous flow during my early July 2022 visit.
So I’d imagine that Purling Brook Falls tends to have its highest flow during the Wet Season likely between January and March.
Trail Description – Completing The Purling Brook Circuit
When Julie and I first came to the Purling Brook Falls in May 2008, we were actually able to go beneath the large overhang giving rise to the waterfall’s plunging characteristic.
In fact, we were even able to pretty much go behind the towering waterfall though we couldn’t go all the way to the other side due to a landslide.
When I came back to do this hike in early July 2022, the track was re-routed to a viewpoint in front of the foot of the Purling Brook Falls while also presenting a junction with the Warringa Pool Track.
However, there was also a newly-built suspension bridge that went over Purling Brook to the other side so I could continue doing the 4km Purling Brook Circuit.
This bridge was officially opened in March 10, 2015, and it was named the John Stacey Suspension Bridge in memory of the late ranger who was a builder and lived in the Springbrook Plateau.
Once on the other side of the suspension bridge, the track promptly ascended steeply up stone steps and past the other side of the old trail that is now blocked off.
The circuit track would continue climbing up a series of switchbacks in lush rainforest scenery for pretty much the next 2km.
Most of this portion of the walk didn’t yield any more views of the Purling Brook Falls.
So it made sense why doing the walk in a clockwise manner pretty much made this ascent at the end when you’re already a bit scenery fatigued, I reckon.
Eventually, the Purling Brook Circuit Track reached a signed trail junction near a bridge by Purling Brook.
At this point, I took the path on the right to go right to the brink of the Purling Brook Falls where there was a commanding view of the panorama of the lush rainforest below.
This would be the last view of the waterfall on the Purling Brook Circuit Walk, and I pretty much followed the remainder of the circuit track 250m to the familiar trail junction where I had started the circuit.
Overall, the Purling Brook Circuit Walk took me a little over 2 hours, including all the pauses and picture-taking along the way.
Purling Brook Falls resides in the Springbrook National Park near the Gold Coast, Queensland. It is administered by the State of Queensland Department of Environment and Science. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Since we tend to do our Gold Coast Hinterland excursions while basing ourselves in Surfers Paradise, I’ll just describe the route from there.
Now there are actually many ways you can go to get to this waterfall from the general Gold Coast area, but I’m going to describe the way we tend to do it since the other ones may be closed (as it was when I did my visit in July 2022).
Starting from the Esplanade in Surfer’s Paradise, we’d drive north 750m on the Esplanade before turning left onto Ocean Ave then making a right turn onto Gold Coast Hwy (State Route 2) 220m later.
Next, we’d follow the Gold Coast Hwy for about 2.5km before turning left onto Queen Street (State Route 20).
From there, we’d drive on State Route 20 for about 13.4km going through the suburb of Nerang, where the route will eventually become the State Route 90 before splitting off with State Route 97.
Keeping left to stay on State Route 97 (Nerang-Murwillumbah Road), we’d then drive another 26km before turning left onto Pine Creek Road.
After another 7km on Pine Creek Road, it will reach a three-way junction where we’d then turn right onto Springbrook Road (State Route 99).
Then, in about 5km, we’d turn left onto Forestry Road (there should be a sign pointing the way to Purling Brook Falls here).
After about 400m, the looping car park for Purling Brook Falls will be up ahead (again, it’s well-signposted).
By the way, if you’re coming from the nearby Natural Bridge (also part of Springbrook National Park), you’ll want to backtrack on the Nerah-Murwillumbah Road (State Route 97) for about 15km to the Pine Creek Road turnoff.
Then, you can follow the directions as above to get to the Purling Brook Falls car park.
This 28km drive would take about a half-hour.
For context, Gold Coast was 78km (about an hour drive) south of Brisbane and 94km (over an hour drive) north of Byron Bay.
Something worth reiterating is that given how much real estate the Gold Coast covers, perhaps the best accommodations for tourists would be at Surfers Paradise, which is a touristy area by the beach.
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