Glow Worms Springbrook National Park – Gold Coast.
Without a doubt, one of the most incredible natural phenomenon’s to occur on the planet just so happens to take place right here on the Gold Coast, Australia – The Springbrook National Park Glow Worms. In fact, this is one of only two countries in the world that you can observe such a large display of glow-worms in their natural environment, almost completely uninterrupted. Other than New Zealand, Australia is home to the largest colony of glow -worms in the world.
Known for our eight species of glow-worms, Australia remains the ideal location for such a beautiful and complex animal. The premise for this – our Gondwanan rainforests, rocky structures and cave systems play host to the ideal conditions in which glow-worms seem to favour. These areas are often wet and humid for a majority of the year, providing the glow-worm with a source of food in the form of small invertebrates and insects. Contrary to popular belief, glow-worms aren’t actually worms – they are the larvae of the fungus gnat – a mosquito like fly that thrives in humid and wet environments. So how can you see these incredible creatures for yourself? Let me explain in detail how you too, can witness this incredible spectacle, completely free and on your own private, self guided tour.
One of the largest clusters of bioluminescent larvae is located in the Gold Coast hinterland, more specifically, at the Natural Arch in Springbrook National Park. To most locals, it’s no secret that they exist out this way, yet most visitors aren’t aware of the natural phenomenon or have any clue how to get there or visit. As the glow-worms are completely inconspicuous during the day, it’s a visit at night that will certainly impress as a light spectacle of thousands of tiny larvae light up the caves and pathways. How is this bioluminescence created though? It’s a chemical reaction between the pigment and enzymes naturally occurring in the larvae’s body, coupled with the oxygen in the air. This then emits a ‘blue-green’ tinge, made visible through the translucent skin of the larvae.
There are a fair few tour groups that now run through from 6pm-8:30pm to the Natural Arch section of Springbrook National Park, so I’d heavily suggest visiting after 8:30pm or if you have that adventurous night owl spirit, even later to see it all to yourself. Bioluminescent ‘glow-worms’ light the track all the way down to the cave from the entrance at the Natural Arch – a true living constellation of some of nature’s most beautiful work. If you’ve never seen bioluminescent larvae before, you’d swear you were staring directly up at the stars on a clear night – a living version of the Milky Way.
It takes a little while for your eyes to adjust, but once they do, the walk back to the car park is certainly a sight to behold. If you stand on the bridge that connects the path to the cave and the section of track leading to the car park, you’ll notice thousands more tiny glow-worms that illuminate the river down stream – an added bonus of natural beauty that I personally wasn’t expecting to witness. If you look carefully, the journey through the winding track to the cave resembles a fairy-tale wonderland (a psychedelic fusion of Alice In Wonderland meets Avatar). You might also be lucky enough to spot some bioluminescent fungi.
Below you’ll find some helpful tips on getting to and from the Natural Arch, along with some guidelines for the correct way to enjoy the glow-worms (and yes, there’s a correct way). I’ve made the mistake before of ignoring the signs and what damage can be done to this very fragile ecosystem, so please be sure to follow these simple rules to get the most out of your adventure to see this incredible, natural lightshow.
How to get there:
Springbrook National Park is located approximately 45 kilometres behind the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast. Currently, to get there, you’ll need to detour via Nerang as the main winding Springbrook – Gold Coast Road is under maintenance for a landslip occurring in the last bout of heavy rain. If you’re travelling from the Gold Coast, head towards Nerang. Travel via Nerang until it connects to Nerang Muwillumbah Road. Follow Nerang Muwillumbah Road until you see the signs until you reach the Natural Arch turn off in the Numinbah Valley.
What to bring:
The weather can change at any moment out this way, so be sure to come fully prepared. I’d recommend bringing the following to cover a variety of conditions.
• Waterproof jacket
• Camera (do not use flash)
• Head lamps (dull coloured if possible, to reduce the light effects on the larvae)
• Sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
Respecting the environment:
I’ve added in the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) page on the glow-worms for everyone to read up on. This will give you the official guide to enjoying the spectacle whilst reducing the impact on the environment as much as possible.
Typically, avoid or act on the following:
• Shining any type of light directly onto the glow-worms.
• Keeping noise to a minimum.
• Apply insect repellent well before to hiking down to view the larvae.
• Do not litter! Carry out what you take in.
• Do not smoke!
When to go:
The glow-worms are best viewed during the warmer Australian summer months (November-March). This is typically when the humidity is at its highest, along with the occurring wet seasons. This provides the ideal environment that glow-worms typically thrive in. This also means this is when they are likely to be at their brightest luminosity. Personally, I like to enjoy Springbrook National Park in the rainy season as this allows for a multi day visit to experience the range of waterfalls you can also enjoy in the National Park. To avoid as many other tourists at the glow-worms caves as possible, I’d recommend travelling later in the night with a fellow companion or traveller. Drive carefully at night, as the road in is winding and narrow at times.
Other locations to see glow-worms:
As mentioned earlier, New Zealand is also home to the largest population of glow-worms in the world. The wetter conditions prove to be the ultimate hot spot to view these incredible creatures. For the ultimate experience, consider booking a private tour on the North Island of New Zealand. You will not be disappointed.
All in all, this is one of the BEST experiences you can do on the Gold Coast. It’s the perfect idea for families of all ages as the hike to the cave is a low degree in difficulty. It may get slippery during the wetter months, so please take care. If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience, that’s close to home, this has to be it. Enjoy, take care and remember to respect our environment.