Going Gondwana in Queensland’s rainforests
Before humans, before the dinosaurs, even before Australia, there was Gondwanaland.
This supercontinent took up about one fifth of the earth’s surface and was covered in tropical rainforests. As the continent fragmented and Australia drifted away, the majority of these rainforests dried up and died.
Today, the remaining Gondwana Rainforests represent the last remnants of a story older than time, providing refuge to hundreds of species as the last custodians of an ancient ecosystem.
Located just a short drive south west of Brisbane, these world heritage listed rainforests are made up of over 50 reserves, and every inch is worth exploring.
Pack the aerogard and make a day of it, here’s everything you need to know about exploring the Gondwana.
There’s no better way to appreciate than to completely immerse yourself in the ancient history of the rainforest. To that end, Nightfall Wilderness Camp offers visitors a whole new side of glamping. More tactile than a cabin, but not as exposed as a tent, Nightfall strikes a delicate balance bringing you as comfortably close to nature as possible with permanent safari tents, stone bathtubs, and private views across the rainforest to ensure your stay among the ancient roots is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat offers an ideal base camp for daily adventures on the rainforest trails. Right in the middle of Lamington National Park, its eco-friendly cabins are surrounded by beautiful foliage. The retreat is famous for its Tree Top Walk, a series of footbridges suspended 15 metres into the literal treetops offering a close up view of the rainforest canopy and its wildlife.
Head to Binna Burra Lodge for either self-contained accommodation in one of their Sky Lodges, 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 its magic and be rejuvenated amidst the lush rainforest of the world heritage-listed Lamington National Park.
*Note: Binna Burra will re-open soon for the new year, but for now they are not taking bookings.
World Heritage Falls
First up, the hike to Queen Mary Falls. Just a 40-minute walk from the top of the falls to the creek below, this track not only puts you in among the rainforest, but also before some truly spectacular falls.
A short road trip from Brisbane, this 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.
After all that hard work, congratulate yourself with a well-earned coffee and a gorgeous view at Spring Creek Mountain Café just down the road.
Glow worm caves
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 until March). If you can’t get to Springbrook after dark, no need to fret. As the sunlight streams through the Natural Bridge it lights up the water, creating an equally magical experience.
With nine walking tracks, you will definitely need to remember your hiking boots to go exploring the rest of the national park.
Record of the rainforest
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 exceptional biological diversity. As you walk along any one of the 169km of 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. As for the Green Mountains, their densely-forested ranges are filled with ancient trees that conceal ancient volcanic origins.
For keen adventurers, cycling through the rainforest is a particularly rewarding way to appreciate the sheer expanse of the Gondwana region. Sure the rides are taxing, but they are the best way to see the most of the rainforest and get a real lay of the land.
There are a few tracks to choose from, but one of our favourites is the Canungra ride—a 70km loop winding all through the Gondwana Rainforest, along Lamington National Park Road and even past O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard, one of the best in the state. Best of all, there’s an exhilarating downhill ride at the end that will reward all your hard work.
Retreat into the mountains
There are heaps of ways to be active in the Gondwana Rainforests, but there’s also the opportunity to wind down.
If that’s what you’re after then head to Mount 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 looking out over the valley to the Gold Coast. Boasting award-winning fudge, wine tours and antique shops, this is country living at its best. There are also some easy, scenic walking tracks dotted around the town.