Going Gondwana in Queensland’s rainforests
In ancient times, Australasia, Africa and South America were connected under the southern super continent Gondwanaland, which was covered in temperate rainforest. As the continent broke up and Australia drifted away, the majority of these rainforests dried up and died.
Today, the remaining Gondwana Rainforests straddle the Queensland and New South Wales border and are the world’s most extensive sub-tropical rainforest. They have provided refuge to species for millions of years and continue to protect the ancient lineages of flowering plants, songbirds and other rare or threatened animals that live there.
With over 50 reserves making up the world heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests, there’s plenty to see and explore. Only a short drive south west from Brisbane or west from the Gold Coast, the Gondwana Rainforests cover 366,000 hectares, of which 59,000 are in Queensland. Each square metre offers something to be discovered.
Glamping takes on a whole new level of meaning at the Nightfall Wilderness Camp. Permanent safari tents, stone bath tubs and private views across the rainforest are only some of the facilities that make Nightfall so special.
O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat is a true nature paradise. Sitting smack bang in the middle of Lamington National Park, it is visited by many species of birds and is surrounded by beautiful foliage. The retreat is famous for its Tree Top Walk, which offers a close up view of the rainforest canopy and its wildlife. Or, pamper yourself at O’Reillys’ Lost World Spa, a haven for rejuvenation and relaxation.
Head to Binna Burra Lodge for either self-contained accommodation or to pitch a tent at the camping ground. Locals say that there is a spirit dwelling in this area, which has captivated thousands of people from all over the world. Let nature weave it’s magic and be rejuvenated amidst the lush rainforest of world heritage listed Lamington National Park.
WORLD HERITAGE WATERFALLS
First up, hike to Queen Mary Falls. Not only can you get in and amongst the rainforest but the falls are truly spectacular. It’s about a 40-minute walk from the top of the falls to the creek below. The waterfall is part of the headwaters of one of Australia’s longest river systems, the Murray-Darling, before it continues along the valley floor to join the Condamine River. Keep an eye out for the trees that are endemic to the Gondwana Rainforest such as the Great Strangler Fig and the Antarctic Beech, some which are around 3000 years old!
Congratulate yourself on your hard work with a well-earned coffee and a gorgeous view at Spring Creek Mountain Café just down the road.
AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A GLOW WORM PARTY
Perched high in the Gold Coast hinterland is Springbrook National Park, which is dominated by spectacular waterfalls, cascades and tumbling creeks.
One of the main hotspots in the park, and a favourite for photographers, is the Natural Bridge Rock formation.
The Natural Bridge section is known for the small, brilliant blue-green light seen at night that decorate the ceiling and rocky overhangs of the one kilometre circuit. These lights are emitted by tiny glow worms, which rely on the dense canopy and rainfall of the Gondwana Rainforests to survive. With only eight species of glow worms in Australia, and each colony restricted to a particular region, these babies help make the World Heritage title sparkle. The glow worms can only be seen after sunset, with the best bioluminescence displays seen during the warmer, wetter months of the year (December-March).
If you can’t get to Springbrook after dark, no need to fret. As the sunlight streams through the Natural Bridge, it’ll light up the water, creating an almost equally magical experience. Either way, this venture will bring you instant Instagram fame. #winning
With lookouts aplenty and nine walking tracks, you will definitely need to remember your walking boots.
THE RECORD OF THE RAINFOREST
The Green Mountains have densely-forested ranges filled with ancient trees that conceal the area’s ancient volcanic origins. For an area to be World Heritage listed, it must be an outstanding example of the major stages of Earth’s evolutionary history. Gondwana has this in spades along with the exceptional biological diversity. As you walk along the 169km of walking trails in the Binna Burra section, you will learn about the ancient plant and animal lineages that flourish around you, many of which survive only in the Gondwana reserves.
HAVE A WHEELIE GOOD GONDWANA TIME
For the keen cyclists, take a bike ride through the rainforest. These rides are taxing, however, with many a hill to contend with.
There are a few to choose from but one of our favourites is the Canungra ride—a 70km route starting and ending at Canungra. With a winding trail through Gondwana Rainforest, you’ll ride along Lamington National Park Road and pass O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard. How convenient!
Best of all, there’s an exhilarating ride downhill that will literally sweep the sweat off your skin.
LIVE THE *HIGH* LIFE
There are heaps of ways to be active in the Gondwana Rainforests, but what about a leisurely lifestyle?
If that’s what you’re after then head to Mt Tamborine. With crisp mountain air and thick green trees on either side of the town, you’ll feel miles away from the rest of the world as you look out over the valley to the Gold Coast. With award-winning fudge, wine tours and antique shops this is country living at its best. And, if you’re really desperate to be active, there are some very easy walking tracks dotted around the town.
Explore before you go – watch our video on the World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforest.