The cool, green Gold Coast hinterland is only a half-hour drive from the coast, but it's a world away from the neon lights, theme parks, and crowds. Up here, at an altitude of 500 to 1,000m (1,640-3,280 ft.), the tree ferns drip moisture, the air is crisp, and the pace is slow.

Mount Tamborine shelters several villages known for their crafts shops, galleries, cafes, and B&Bs. Easy walking trails wander from the streets through rainforest and eucalyptus woodland.

The impressive 20,200-hectare (49,895-acre) Lamington National Park is south of Mount Tamborine. The park, at around 1,000m (3,328 ft.) above sea level, is a eucalyptus and rainforest wilderness crisscrossed with walking trails. It's famous for its colorful bird life, wallabies, possums, and other wildlife. The road to the park is full of twists and turns, and as you wind higher and higher, tangled vines and dense eucalyptus and ferns make a canopy across the road -- it's so dark you need headlights. The park is about 90 minutes from the coast.