Without a doubt, one of the most incredible natural phenomena to occur on the planet just so happens to take place right here in South East Queensland, Australia – the Gold Coast 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.
We have many glow worm caves scattered throughout Australia, with a majority of them resting within the Gold Coast Hinterland – more specifically, Springbrook National Park.
Keep reading to find out exactly where to find them, the best time of year to visit and where to stay to maximise your stay whilst visiting.
What Exactly Are Glow Worms?
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.
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 ancient rainforest, rocky structures and cave systems play host to the ideal conditions & natural habitat 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 – it’s the ideal glow worm habitat.
So how can you see these fascinating creatures for yourself? Let me explain in detail how you too, can witness this incredible spectacle, completely free and on your very own, self-guided glow worm tour.
It really is a magical experience.
Where to Find the Gold Coast Glow Worms
The Springbrook Natural Bridge cave boasts Australia’s largest population of glow worms. Springbrook National Park is located approximately 45 kilometers behind the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast, Australia.
If you’re travelling from the Gold Coast or Surfers Paradise, head towards Nerang. Travel via Nerang until it connects to Nerang-Murwillumbah Road. Follow Nerang-Muwillumbah Road until you see the sign to turn off into the natural bridge in the Numinbah Valley.
One of the largest clusters of bioluminescent larvae is located here, more specifically, at the Natural Bridge (arch) within Springbrook National Park. It’s also referred to as the natural bridge waterfall.
To most locals, it’s no secret the glow worm cave exists 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 glow worm larvae light up the caves and pathways.
Why Do Glow Worms Glow?
The luminescent glow you see from a glow worm is called bioluminescence.
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 glow worm larvae.
Gold Coast Glow Worm Tour
There are a fair few guided tour groups that now run through from 6pm-8:30pm to the Natural Bridge section of Springbrook National Park.
I’d recommend booking a tour with one of these glow worm tour operators:
If you’re planning on a self-guided glow worm tour, I’d highly suggest visiting after 8:30pm.
Self-Guided Glow Worm Cave Tour
As you journey from the Springbrook natural arch car park, down to the glow worm caves, glow worms’ light the track all the way 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 of the night sky.
Usually, I choose to walk the track in a clockwise direction when arriving at the natural bridge in Springbrook National Park.
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 glow worm cave and the section of track leading to the car park, you’ll notice thousands more tiny glow worms that illuminate the river downstream – 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.
What to Bring
The weather can change at any moment out this way, so be sure to arrive fully prepared.
I’d recommend bringing the following to cover a variety of conditions:
Respecting the Environment
I’ve added in the Queensland Parks & Forests 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:
- No flash photography.
- Shining any type of light directly onto the glow worms.
- Keeping noise to a minimum.
- Apply insect repellent well before hiking down to view the larvae.
- Do not litter! Carry out what you take in.
- Do not smoke!
When to Visit the Glow Worm Caves on the Gold Coast
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 visit the Natural Bridge glow worms and Springbrook National Park in the rainy season. 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 worm 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.
Where to Stay to See the Gold Coast Glow Worms
There are a few options to stay in Springbrook National Park – everything from camping to AirBnb. Personally, these are my favourites, particularly if you’re planning on a multi-day experience to see the hikes and waterfalls.
If you’re planning to stay in one of the many Gold Coast hotel options, these are some of my recommendations.
Other Locations to See Glow Worms in Australia & NZ
Lamington National Park, Oreilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Orielly’s rainforest retreat actually has an amazing glow worm colony of its own. You can choose to see it on a tour from Orielly’s Rainforest Retreat or brave the track in the dark on your own.
The track for this experience is accessible near the Oreilly’s Rainforest Retreat cabins. It’s a small, narrow track to the left of the main spas and view platforms behind the reception area.
The walk takes about 20-25 mins.
You’ll need to walk over the suspension bridge, continue on further, go under the hollowed-out tree trunk on the track and turn left.
This will bring to the stream that you can follow to a small, peaceful fern dell. There are a few wooden seats that are used for the tour group – that’s when you know you’ve reached the right area.
It’s best to scope this area out in the daytime, so you have a clear idea of where to go at night.
Alternatively, Oreilly’s offer a paid guided tour from the accommodation.
Tambourine Mountain (Mount Tamborine)
Mole Creek, Tasmania
New Zealand’s North Island
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.
Glow Worm Gold Coast Summary
All in all, visiting the Gold Coast glow worms is one of the BEST experiences you can do in the area. It’s the perfect activity 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.
For other incredible experiences in this area of Queensland, check out the articles below!
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