Hiking in Australia
The most important thing you can find is an adventure buddy

Living on the Gold Coast is a lot like living in an upbeat, summer paradise. There are more than enough night clubs and restaurants to keep each warm night buzzing, and a dangerous amount of clothing stores to distract you during the day. The busy people, big buildings, and bright lights are catalysts for a non-stop energy supply. Yet, 300 steps to the east is the ocean and the horizon in the west is shaped by a misty mountain range – tranquility and adventure is not far off.  But when your senses are pulled in every possible direction, how do you begin to see it all? Easy. Grab a friend and get lost.

It worked out that fellow TEAN friend, Natalie, and I have no class on Wednesday, so, we cracked open the maps set off to forge our own adventures; adventures filled with wild turkeys, ocean pools, and having to ask for directions. A lot. The weekly question soon became, “…where are we?”

Burleigh Heads NP
Sunlight fights its way through the trees at Burleigh Heads National Park

Our first official “Where are we, Wednesday?” landed us at Burleigh Heads National Park, about a 20 minute bus ride from Broadbeach.  Unsure of what to expect but anticipating intensity, we went equipped with hiking shoes and an entirely too sufficient water supply. What we found was a small national park nestled in a cliff above the ocean. The paths were relatively tame – they were paved – but we were still met with warnings to “watch out for deadly falling rock avalanches when wet;” (I’m paraphrasing.) We didn’t repel down any mountains or have to learn to survive on only bugs and berries, but we did experience an unanticipated adventure instead. We got away. We explored a captivating forest that felt like we were much farther than a matter of kilometres from home. We watched daredevils brave the weather and surf by the black rocks below. Natalie faced her fear of birds by challenging a family of wild turkeys head–on. And we began to realize that this area we live in has so much more to offer.

Coolangatta Beach
Coolangatta Beach is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen so far

Another noteworthy Wednesday adventure drew us to Coolangatta Beach, only a bit further down than Burleigh Heads. No matter how many times I go to the beach or see another, they never fail to take my breath away. Coolangatta is a vast expanse of white sands and clear, tropical water with more of a local feel. In a mission to find the perfect spot (we elected to not sit by the washed-up jellyfish the size of a small child), Natalie and I came across a series of ocean pools. Formed by the over-time breakdown of rocks and stone walls, what exists now is a shallow and closed-off saltwater oasis. Here is where we spent our Wednesday afternoon, absorbing the sun and eventually absorbing a massive downpour that had us flee directly into the most amazing burger place I’ve ever been to. Maybe it was the built-up hunger from a strenuous day at the beach…

Ocean pool
Treating the ocean like our own private pool

So far in Australia, Wednesday’s have taught us an immeasurable lesson – to never underestimate the power of a day trip, and to find the beauty in not quite knowing where you are.

Kierstin Darragh is a student at the University of Maryland and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Kierstin is currently studying abroad with TEAN on the Gold Coast, Australia.