Amazing Natural Bridge Circuit – Springbrook National Park

Springbrook is one of my favourite areas in south-east Queensland, as it’s such a stunningly beautiful area. A highlight of this region is the Natural Bridge circuit and its Eden-like waterfall, which has eroded the surrounding rock over eons of time to create a natural bridge inside a cave. Besides its waterfall, the natural bridge is home to lush foliage, a lively colony of bats, and glow-worms that light up the cave with their bioluminescence at night.

It had been roughly 10 years since I’d last been to this magical place. I used to explore the Springbrook area a lot before moving from the Northern Rivers to Brisbane. As I was recently in the area at the nearby Mouses House Rainforest Retreat, I decided to visit the Natural Bridge circuit again and enjoy its World Heritage national park.

Numinbah, on the Nerang Murwillumbah Road en route to the Natural Bridge circuit

How to Get to the Natural Bridge in Springbrook

If you’re coming from the Gold Coast, the Natural Bridge circuit is roughly 45-minutes’ drive and it’s roughly an hour and 20 minutes from Brisbane. The area often has road closures, but if you can, make your way to Advancetown and go from there. This will get you onto the Nerang Murwillumbah Road, which is a stunning way to enter the region.

From here you’ll drive past Advancetown Lake on the way in, which is a pretty spot, although it doesn’t offer much in the way of views unless you stop and make the effort. However, things start to get interesting when you drive into Numinbah, as the mountains and the meadows here are just gorgeous and it reminded me why Netflix films have been shot in and around the region.

The interesting scenery at Advancetown Lake

The road from Numinbah to the Natural Bridge circuit will have your jaw gaping and you’ll likely want to stop several times (I always do) before you arrive.

Walking the Natural Bridge Circuit

The car park at the Natural Bridge circuit and the walk itself are both well-shaded, although I still recommend bringing a hat as there are some exposed sections. The walk begins about 100 metres from the car park (depending on where you park) and is 1km long in total. The walk gently undulates, so unless you’re particularly unfit or you’re not able-bodied, you shouldn’t have any problems if you take your time. Unfortunately, the walk is not wheelchair friendly as it contains some stairs.

Nikki at the start of our walk

It’s recommended you walk the Natural Bridge circuit in a clockwise direction as it’s easier. We did this and encountered a few people doing it in reverse, so it’s totally up to you. Shortly after the car park, the walk crosses a boardwalk in the forest (see above), before you descend a few stairs and come to a wooden bridge that crosses a creek.

Stop and Enjoy Springbrook National Park

Stop here and take in this incredible forest, which is part of arguably the most preserved caldera in the world. The landscape was part of a shield volcano millions of years ago, as it’s been forged by fire, lava and explosions. Today it’s covered by the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area that includes hoop pines, which are ancestors of Jurassic conifers. The national park is also the traditional home of the Yugambeh people and has been for thousands of years.

Part of the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia World Heritage Area

Continue Along the Natural Bridge Circuit

Continue past the bridge and you’ll gradually head up towards the natural bridge and its cave. Don’t worry, it’s not too steep nor too far and after a few minutes you’ll see and hear the waterfall plummeting through the natural arch. On this return visit I was happy to see that not much had changed. There were no extra barricades, signs, or thankfully tourist shops!

The Natural Bridge waterfall

The forest on this walk is so green. Take your time to inhale your surroundings (quite literally), as your mind and lungs will thank you for it. Once you arrive at the natural bridge you can spy it from a few angles before you descend the steps into the cave for a closer look.

The Natural Bridge Glow Worm Cave

The waterfall looks enchanting beneath the cave, and perhaps you’ll have a newfound appreciation for its power once you discover it formed the hole in the rock over eons of time. The light shaft, accompanied by the plummeting water and its sound, makes the whole scene appear etheric, like something out of Lothlorien. The waterfall used to be accompanied by a large piece of wood for many years, which you can see on my other blog here, but the water gradually ate that away too.

The cave is home to microbats that flutter in and around the cave while you’re there, but won’t harm or pester you. Other, more famous residents inside the natural bridge are the ‘glow worms’. These bioluminescent larvae only appear at night, and the best way to see them is on a natural bridge night tour when you’re also likely to hear the resident boobook owl.

As the sign at the entrance to the Natural Bridge circuit will tell you, the glow worms are not actually worms, but the final stage of a small fly only found in Australia and New Zealand. Chemicals within this larvae’s body interact with each other to create the light you’ll see at night.

Can You Swim at the Natural Bridge?

The ‘glow worms’ are very sensitive to their environment and while in the past you were able to swim here, swimming has been banned for some time to help preserve this rare species. So, don’t swim at the Natural Bridge and if you’re caught, you’ll likely receive a hefty fine.

Exploring the Top of the Natural Bridge Circuit

After you’ve had your fill of the marvellous cave and its inhabitants, you can explore the top of the cave as your walk continues. Here you can see the water plummeting into its self-made hole from above while taking in the surrounding landscape. The final part of the walk ascends gradually back to the car park and the path provides options for further views of the top of the falls and the forest.

The top of the Natural Bridge

Not far past this point, you’ll be back where you started, as the Natural Bridge Circuit is only 1km long.  

Wildlife on the Natural Bridge Circuit

Apart from the glow worms, microbats and boobook owls, which I’ve mentioned, there are a number of birds that inhabit the forest around the natural bridge. Some of these include the paradise riflebird, eastern robin and green catbird. Other residents include the rare Fletcher’s frog and you might even spot eels swimming in the creek that have travelled from as far as Tasmania!

Can you spot any wildlife?

Facilities at the Natural Bridge Circuit

Besides the car park, which has ample space, there is a picnic area and public toilets at the Natural Bridge circuit. There are also information plaques as well as shelter should you find yourself here in the rain. Additionally, a map of the natural bridge circuit is displayed at the start of the trail to help you find your bearings.

Cafes Near the Natural Bridge

There are a few places to eat near the Natural Bridge but only one nearby, which is the Two Pines Café – also called the Natural Arch Café – which is about a kilometre back down the road towards Numinbah. I’ve stopped here a few times before and I’ve chatted to the co-owner Judy Diamond, although the place is currently closed for renovations.

A little further past Numinbah is the Sawmill Café, which sits in pleasant pastoral surrounds and looked pretty busy when I drove past. There’s also the Dancing Waters Café, which I did eat at recently, about half an hour’s drive away near the town of Springbrook. Here the café is in a pretty spot, the staff are lovely and the food is simple but tasty. The service is a little slow but it’s worth a visit.

Things to Do Near the Natural Bridge Circuit

  • The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat – which I highly recommend. You can read about that in more detail here.
  • Pure Vibrations – a crystal shop that has an excellent collection of gems, rocks, fossils and an interesting owner. There’s also a small café here frequented by rosellas and pademelons in numbers on the lawn out front.
  • Purlingbrook Falls is another big attraction that I haven’t tried. The launch for this is right at the Dancing Waters Café, so you could combine the two.
  • For something a little more off the beaten track, you could hike up to Bushrangers Cave, which is an adventure in itself. It’s been some time since I’ve been there, but you can read more about that on my other blog here.
  • There’s also the short hike to the Best of All Lookout, which is near the Mouses House Rainforest Retreat. We were going to do that, but as I was short on time I decided to return to this wonderful place instead.

Plenty to go back for!

Nikki enjoying the spa at the Mouses House Rainforest Retreat in Springbrook

Final Thoughts

The Natural Bridge circuit is a must-visit if you’re in the Gold Coast area. It’s one of those rare natural phenomena that’s uber-pretty and good for the soul and the mind. It also offers plenty in terms of exercise and things to see, such as a glow worm tour at night and you can become acquainted with one of the most wonderful natural and geological parts of the world. There’s also so much to do around Springbrook so combine this with a weekend (or longer) visit.


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