A dam might seem like an unusual place to feature in a travel blog but many of the water catchment areas of South East Queensland also provide attractive natural spaces for recreation as well as habitat for our local wildlife. The Gold Coast has made a real effort to ensure that the Hinze dam not only provides the city with its water supply but also a stunning lakeside playground and educational facility.
The first time we saw the dam it was about 10 years ago near the lows of the drought, I can’t remember the exact level but I recall it was under 20% full and a daunting sight given the water restrictions that were already in place, the only solution was going to be some serious rain. When we were up there this month the dam was at 100% and spilling water over the wall and into the spillway which leads down to the Nerang River. Water was still flowing into the catchment area from the previous week’s rain which would also guarantee a good display at the Natural Bridge where we were headed later in the day.
The Dam was built in 1976 and the level was raised in the stage 2 upgrade in 1989. Then in 2011 after a massive upgrade stage three opened. It cost A$395m and doubled the capacity of the dam by raising the height by 15 metres. Hinze dam doesn’t have a gate to control the water level, when it reaches 100% it spills over the wall and flows out. This extra capacity provides two advantages to the Gold Coast, additional capacity to reduce the risk of running out of water supply in the future and also providing flood mitigation.
Stage 3 looks completely different to when we visited during stage 2. I normally have a reasonable recall and sense of direction but I felt quite disoriented trying to work out where we stood years before to observe the depleted dam. Later a woman in the information centre told me that the previous day use and picnic area was now encompassed within the dam and dam wall so it’s really no surprise that I was a bit confused trying to work it out.
Advancetown Lake behind the dam wall has a surface area of 970 hectares and for fishermen is well stocked with Mary River cod, silver perch, golden perch, southern saratoga, bass and spangled perch. You can kayak and sail on the lake but only electric-powered motorboats are allowed to prevent fuel contamination.
Normally cafes that are part of facilities and attractions aren’t particularly impressive but the View Cafe here really was an exception. Not only was the coffee and hot chocolate excellent but the home-baked apple strudel with warm vanilla creme anglaise was delicious. The views out over the lake and recreation area are beautiful and there are plenty of indoor and outdoor seating options to sit for a while and appreciate it.
While you’re in the area take a walk over the dam wall for a great outlook over the lake, at the far end you will find the Peter Hallinan mountain bike precinct. The good news is that these trails aren’t only for bikes but also walkers, hikers and bird watchers. The Trail Forks Mountain bike site provides this map of the trails just remember the rules that bikes give way to pedestrians and pedestrians be aware and don’t block access of bikers, and if you happen to see a horse they have right of way over everyone.
Not far from the information centre is a fabulous picnic and children’s play area. The barbeque facilities were super clean and the covered picnic tables provided effective shade from the midday sun. The area was in use by a couple of small family groups but could easily cater to a much larger gathering. The only disappointment is that the public space is behind the dam wall with no lake view.
Getting to Hinze Dam
Hinze Dam is an hours drive from Brisbane or 30 minutes from the beaches of the Gold Coast. An easy distance to explore this lakeside natural playground for boating (non-powered), fishing, hiking, mountain biking and family fun. The boat launching ramps are located on both the east and western side of the lake, there is no boat ramp at the day-use area.
It’s an easy well-sealed road to the lake, click on the map below to expand it and you can use the directions function to get driving times and routes from your location. If you are using an older paper map or GPS watch the signs as you get closer, the access is now via Advancetown Road, older maps may still show Gilston Road access which won’t work anymore.
The Hinze Dam is easily paired up with a visit to the Natural Bridge in the Springbrook National Park, an additional 25-minute drive, or one of the many other walks options in the Springbrook or Lamington National Parks nearby.
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