Purling Brook Falls (I’ve also seen it spelled as Purlingbrook Falls) was one of those waterfalls that Julie and I anticipated seeing prior to our visit. We knew from the pre-trip research 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, and this was probably due to the close proximity of the Gold Coast Hinterland to the populated Gold Coast itself.
Our experience with this waterfall consisted of doing half of a 4km circuit track. We started off by walking along the track following the cliff top to the top of Purling Brook Falls, where we managed to check out the falls from a lookout near its brink. From this vantage point, we were also able to look further downstream at the panorama of the lush rainforest below. This lookout was merely 200m from the car park.Then, we swung back towards the car park as we continued along the cliffs affording us more angled views of the entirety of the waterfall while also letting us examine the bare cliff giving rise to the falls. Clearly, the cliff was too precipitous to allow foliage to grow on it, despite getting some of the spray from the waterfall when it would bend with the wind. The track continued to lead us away from the falls while eventually making its way into the lush rainforest below over a lone switchback plus some steps. There was a bridge that crossed over a creek that ended up being the brink of Tanninaba Falls.
As the track bent back towards the base of Purling Brook Falls, we then noticed the hidden Tanninaba Falls, which we couldn’t see, but we were able to hear it loudly as its waters would crash within a crack in the cliffs that we couldn’t immediately see from the track. It certainly wasn’t a waterfall we could photograph, and we had to be content with its audible (as opposed to visual) presence.
Continuing downhill beyond the Tanninaba Falls, the track eventually led us right to the base of the impressive Purling Brook Falls. Like many of Australia’s waterfalls, we noticed hints of basalt columns suggesting the volcanic origins of the area. But given the waterfall’s somewhat light flow compared to some other photos I had seen in the literature (especially considering this area had a flood just a few months ago), I reckon this waterfall wouldn’t last completely through the Dry Season (and maybe not even another month after our May 2008 visit). Indeed, this waterfall would probably perform best during the summer months of the Wet when monsoonal downpours would give the Little Nerang Creek a lot of life.
We were able to walk behind the impressively tall plunging waterfall as the track took advantage of the overhanging cliff that gave rise to the plunging characteristic of the falls in the first place. This overhanging property definitely suggested that the falls had been in the advanced stages of its formation (and certainly prone to receding further back from its present position). In any case, we couldn’t proceed much further beyond the backside of the falls because there was a landslide that prevented further progress on the walking cicuit (undoubtedly caused by the flooding that occurred in the previous Summer just prior to our visit). Thus, we had to turn around and our hike went from a 4km walking loop into a 4km out-and-back return hike.
In our minds, the most straightforward route to get to Purling Brook Falls would be to start from the Gold Coast then work your way up to Springbrook National Park. Starting from Robina Towne Centre exit on the M1 (Pacific Motorway) in the Gold Coast, take the roundabout going right onto Regency Pl (note, I’m assuming you’re going south on the M1). Then, at the next roundabout, take the first exit left onto Hwy 99 (starting off as Railway St then becoming the Gold Coast-Springbrook Rd). Follow Hwy 99 for just under 25km before turning left onto Forestry Rd, where there was a signpost leading us to the car park for the falls. Overall, this 37km drive would take under an hour.
Julie and I actually came to this waterfall from the Natural Bridge (also part of Springbrook National Park). From there, we headed north on the Nerah-Murwillumbah Rd for 15km. Then, we turned right onto Pine Creek Rd and took it for about 7.2km before making another right onto Springbrook Rd. We then followed Springbrook Rd south for about 5km turning left onto Forestry Rd (there are signs here at this point). This turnoff led us to the proper car park.
For context, Gold Coast was 78km (about an hour drive) south of Brisbane and 94km (over an hour drive) north of Byron Bay. We actually stayed in Surfers Paradise, which was a resorty area by the beach within the Gold Coast.
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