I was lured to Cougal Cascades in Queensland’s Springbrook National Park because of its heritage sawmill, which dates to the 1940s and lies a short walk above the falls. Little did I know, however, this part of Currumbin Creek also hosts lush forests, cool mountain rock pools and arguably the finest Gold Coast waterfalls I’ve flopped about in.
Arriving at midday on a Saturday, I discovered Cougal Cascades gets pretty crowed. However, that’s not really a problem given there’s numerous pockets along Currumbin Creek where you can enjoy your very own slice of paradise.
The elderly, incapacitated and just plain lazy might also like to know the trail from the car park to the old sawmill, which is the furthest point on the path, is less than a kilometre long. It’s also graded and is pram and wheelchair friendly.
However, the path and surrounds are still relatively wild, as Springbrook National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia World Heritage Area. I encountered an innocuous tree snake and a fairly large lace monitor lizard shortly after setting off. The place is also home to the world’s largest skink – the land mullet – and you’ll likely attract a leech or two after a bit of rain.
Located about half way between the car park and the old sawmill, Cougal Cascades is a waterfall that plunges down a short cliff face into a small jade pool before it splits and continues into a larger pool. Here people sit along the rock face in droves while adventurers slide down the first section. It’s a superbly pretty place and a top spot to cool off and experience this unique forest world.
The large pool at the bottom of the falls is great for swimming and there’s a ledge where people jump from. However it’s not recommended to jump or dive here, as there’s been a few spinal injuries due to water level fluctuations and logs moving after rain. Of course people do anyway. Your call.
If you find this spot a bit crowded, head back to the path, continue further up and you’ll come to another access point where there’s a small pool and waterfall that’s much quieter. From here to the sawmill and back to the main falls, Currumbin Creek offers oodles of places to explore and relax. The forest, even though it’s relatively young following intense logging, is very beautiful.
The old mill and some history
At the top of the path lies the old sawmill, which operated from 1945 until 1951. During its day, the mill was used to increase timber production during the post war housing boom. A bench saw and V8 diesel engine were used at the mill, which closed due to a spate of flooding and cyclonic weather.
Up until 1983, the Dolan family owned the land around the falls. Instead of offering it up for development, Tom Dolan proposed the land be added to the national park, as he “didn’t want to see the big trees go”. In 1986, the mill was partially restored and preserved with it.
I wandered around the sawmill and explored the surrounding forest before returning to Cougal Cascades. This entire section of Currumbin Creek is a great place for a family day out, as you can choose your own adventure, big or small. Back at Cougal Cascades, I sat and watched some leapers and sliders while soaking up the bushland oasis.
If you get to Cougal Cascades (and you should), make sure you sit in one of the small cascade-churned pools, breath in the fresh air and tune in to your surroundings.
You’ll love it.
A few facts
- There are “environmentally friendly hybrid toilets” located at these Gold Coast waterfalls, which don’t use water.
- There are no bins. Bring all your rubbish with you.
- Cougal Cascades is the traditional home of the Yugambeh people.
- There are picnic facilities adjacent to the car park.
- Cougal Cascades is located roughly 30 minutes drive from the Gold Coast, at the end of Currumbin Valley Road.