The visitor guide to Burleigh Head National Park calls it 'an island of green in an urban sea'. In fact, it's a bloody miracle. That these 27 hectares of littoral 'dry' rainforest have survived attempts by developers – and banana growers – to divvy up the Gold Coast's last green stand is a testimony to the foresight of those who fought, first to make it a Reserve for Public Purposes (as long ago as 1886), and then to declare it a National Park, in 1947.
Burly Head was named by an English surveyor, James Warner, in 1840 because of its appearance: it is massive, and today conspicuously green along this concrete coast. Thus he followed a tradition of Australian place naming – what you see is how you name. Sometime during the 1880s the spelling changed.
Unfortunately, very little of the wildlife that once inhabited the headland is still to be found. The Park is surrounded by big roads, domestic animals and far too many people. Koalas haven't been seen here for at least a couple of years. We only spotted one sea eagle. We did, however, see Brush Turkeys up a tree – a first – and many Eastern Water Dragons sunning themselves on basalt slabs.
The following natural wonders were photographed by my friend using his new, super-duper digital SLR camera. He now thinks his close-ups are better than mine: he may well be right.
Geologically, Burleigh Head is very interesting. Twenty-odd million years ago, molten lava from the erupting Mt Warning flowed to the sea. The slow cooling of the basalt resulted in it shrinking and cracking into hexagonal columns. Some slid or rolled further down to the sea as heavy rainfall destabilized the ground; others fell as underlying sedimentary rock was wave-eroded. The fallen columns form a barrier at the foot of the cliffs, helping to prevent erosion of the headland. Column remains can clearly be seen along both tracks through the Park.
We left Brisbane at 8 am. It's 90 kilometres to Burleigh Heads, where we stopped for a coffee before driving up Goodwin Terrace to the northern end of the Park. Lots of people were out and about in the hot sun.
Having found a coveted spot in the shade in the small car park, we took the high track along the dappled rainforest circuit. There's a Water Dragon in the bottom right-hand corner, below.
We soon reached the Tumgun lookout, which is a good vantage point during whale-watching season. As always, Surfers dominates views along this coastline.
At the southern end of the Park is Echo Beach on Tallebudgera Creek (don't forget your swimming gear). There's a sand bar at the entrance to the Creek, and we watched a small boat negotiating the tricky crossing. It was, however, not in the same class as that of Brunswick Heads.
The Gold Coast Highway is awfully close to the beach, but not a lot seems to spoil the Aussies' enjoyment.
We headed back along the Oceanview track. The vegetation here consists largely of Pandanus groves and a small pocket of coastal heath, which unfortunately had caught fire earlier that morning. Everything is very dry at the moment, and it only takes a glass bottle carelessly tossed from the path.
Burleigh Head National Park is an easy half-day excursion from Brisbane. The walk we did is barely three kilometres but there are lots of points of interest. Echo Beach offers plenty of shade for a picnic and water that is clear and inviting. Go see.