You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would I want to go to somewhere called Thunderbird Park? Unless you are 12, in which case Thunderbird Park sounds like the dream destination. But could it be a great place for a trip with the girls? A bit of pre wedding bonding filled with giggles, but also a little bit different? I went to find out.
Nestled at Tamborine Mountain, about 45km northwest of the Gold Coast, the Thunderbird Park & Cedar Creek resort manages that unique feat of offering all things to all sorts of people – retreat and relaxation, a visit to nature and luxury, activities and exhertion. Sort of easy adventure in a nice environment. If you really want to you can certainly partake in more adrenalin fuelled adventures, or tough trails into nature. Sure there are more luxurious resorts available and ‘typical’ hen party spots (I didn’t see one penis straw in my time), but for something that lets you dabble in both relaxation and activity and will please a group of ladies with different interests and ideas, you can’t go far wrong.
Part of the McPherson Range, which stretches back to North South Wales, Tamborine Mountain stands 525 metres above sea level. The remnants of the Mount Warning volcano, the mountain is 28 square kilometres plateau in the Scenic Rim of the Gold Coast Hinterland, south-east Queensland, Australia. The high altitude and cooler climate means that its a place of diverse flora and fauna, and the 112 hectare flourishing rainforest in which Thunderbird Park sits is typical of this thickly wooded region. It’s something of antidote to the glitz of say Surfer’s Paradise, hence the attraction.
The location makes it perfect for adventure activities, which are always a bonding experience – especially when verging on the right side of challenge. The Treetop Challenge is one of those, and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. Formed of 85 ‘games’ the trail is divided into sections of difficulty, and includes wobbling bridges, high wires and zip lines. It’s great fun watching each other, offering encouraging shouts across the trail, and everyone will surprise themselves.
Even me. I don’t really have a problem with heights, but this course worried me – because it moves. Stable ground is my motto. So when I find that there’s at least 20m of open space beneath me, and despite the fact that I am hooked on, I quiver a little. The toy koalas back at the entry lodge look happy enough climbing, but treetops are their natural habitats – mine is with with a cup of tea and a good book. They have managed to do such a good job of building the experience within the forest and working with the trees that it is difficult to tell where the trails end, something which is both good and bad for the motivation and nerves. I make it half way through the final and toughest black stage, before retreating back to my lodge for some tea and biscuits.
There are camp spots and shared lodges available, but for some girls glamour, the Cedar Creek Lodges are a necessity. I stayed in one of the top row spa lodges, the big roomy beds, neat little kitchens, leather sofas and vast bubbling jacuzzi baths being a treat for my tired body post treetop. Want good abs before the good day? Dangle from a tree, that’s my tip. It also does wonders for the arms, essential in those nice bridesmaid dresses.
The verandah seating outside is great for a wine and giggle with the girls, and the views over to the rainforest spectacular, especially as the rays of sunlight descend into the evening. The lodges can be booked out for parties of varying size, so whether it’s a night with close friends or a bigger party, everyone can laze back in luxury.
For something a little more sedate than the afternoon’s activities, a pre dinner game of mini golf seems in order. The short course down by the lake is one of many sports on offer, with volleyball, basketball and tennis courts all on site. Again it brings out that competitive spirit without too much stress, and it’s good to get the pulse rate up before dinner.
Dinner is in the Rainforest Lounge & Grill, which features a strong menu of modern Australian cuisine, international dishes and sumptuous sweets, and an extensive (mostly Australian) wine list – essential for any trip. Contemporary design creates a chic and stylish atmosphere, the ambient lighting enough to be scene setting, but not to dull the twinkling stars that can be seen from its open arches. If you’re interested, I recommend the wild barramundi, crisp potato fried and garlic alioli, and sticky date pudding swathed in rich butterscotch sauce. The Redgate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Western Australia’s Margaret River region isn’t bad either.
The next morning I’m up early for a guided walk through the bush on one of the many trails. Tamborine Mountain is home to 10 different types of forest including subtropical rainforest, wet eucalypt and open eucalypt forest. Between them the forests contain more than 900 different species of plants representing 65 per cent of all the plant species found in the Gold Coast area. So we spot gum trees, bloodwoods and iron barks, we see tumbling bright blue climbers and delicate orchids. A haven for animals, bush turkeys, kangaroos, lizards and butterflies clamber in and amongst the plants. You may find yourself sharing a walk with ornithologists – feathered friends include Albert’s Lyrebird, bowerbirds, butcher birds, wedge tailed eagles, and the bright and beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets. The Cedar Creek circuit is widely known as one of the best walks in the area, and takes in rock pools, tumbling waterfalls, and open and dry rainforests.
An alternative way to discover the wildlife is on horseback, and post (delicious) breakfast, that is what I do. The riding school offer rides of varying length and complexity through the rainforest, and a gentle hour long trek is a great way to see the landscape. Trotting along up and down the trails, the feeling is almost meditative, breathing in fresh dewy air whilst the horse keeps at a gentle rhythm. The thick gum trees that line the way still startle me with their ghostly bark, and the lush rustling leaves are lovely to listen to. The horses are curious creatures, and when we meander past the Laser Skirmish site, one of the other activities on offer, although one that this time I didn’t take part in, they can’t help but stop and stare at the giggling rush of gamers. All little girls loved the idea of horses, so it seems a lovely way to hang out with girls on this occasion too.
Cooling off post ride, I don my togs and bathe in the natural rock pools on site. Blue, calming and soothing. The salt water pool is a bit bigger and more suited for swimming, but sometimes you just want to kick back and take it all in right? Especially on a special trip with special ladies before a special day. All too soon and it’s back to reality, driving home (although with a stop off or two at the local Tamborine Mountain distillery, having sampled their whisky the night before).
Who would have thought it – a girls weekend at Thunderbird Park…. And for something less pink and sparkles, more fun memories and bonding, why not?
Images via Thunderbird Park
Ms Gingham says: Yep. This is my kind of pre wedding bash! Just be sure to plan it well before your wedding… you’d hate to sprain an ankle and be hobbling down the aisle!
About Francesca: Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, wine, crazy events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings here and follow her on twitter.