O’Reilly’s Rainforest Magic

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Moran’s Falls, Lamington National Park

This Easter, Kenn and I spent a couple of days at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park.  You’ll find this wonderful national park and resort  in the Gold Coast Hinterland.   Just a couple of hours away from Byron Bay,  O’Reilly’s  is  one of our favourite places to visit and chill out. As we have been making the trek up the mountain since our children were very young, this piece of World Heritage listed rainforest holds many special memories.  Who could ever forget Christian’s look of amazement at his first bird feeding session? He carefully measured out the bird seed he had purchased from the cafe onto his hands and  before he could catch his breath, he was covered in rosellas. They were perched up and down his arms, on his palms, on his shoulders and even on his head.  They tickled and they nibbled as they made themselves comfortable. This was all so cool until he realised that the bird on his head had left a deposit on his brand new hat! Ah what fun!

This time, we were meeting up with our daughter Lyndsay, who was down from Darwin and her Finnish  exchange student Lila.  We booked directly with O’Reilly’s. They had a great autumn special which included accommodation in a mountain view room, daily buffet breakfast, morning and afternoon tea, a 4WD tour through the rainforest and welcome drinks. A bargain!  You can check out their webpage here  We arrived around Midday and luckily our room was ready and a lovely afternoon walk beckoned.

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View from our balcony
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Our room was lovely. So peaceful and quiet. The timber finishes really complemented the natural surroundings.

Lyndsay and Lila had arrived a day before us and decided to walk the Tooloona Creek circuit. We had walked this track awhile back. If you’re interested in seeing more of this track,  See previous post here  

 We definitely didn’t have time to walk 20kms this time,  so decided to walk along the Border Track until we caught up with them on their way home.  This involved a gentle uphill climb to the Antarctic Beech Forest.

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These trees are relics from Gondwana times. Only the trees not Kenn!

As the track winds between mossy and ferny boulders, I always feel as if I’m in a Tolkien novel and Gandalf  is going to come round the bend.

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About five kms along the track, we met up with Lyndsay and Lila and returned to the resort in time for afternoon tea and a dip in the sauna and hot tub.

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Thoroughly relaxed, we enjoyed a wonderful sunset with pre-dinner drinks in the Rainforest Bar.

The next day dawned cloudy and showery. Grabbing our rain jackets, we met Lila who was joining us on 4WD tour.  A little bit of misty weather can enhance your outdoor experience if you let it. The tour took us on roads we had never traversed.

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This was a fun way to see more of the area

And our guide was very informative.

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This is glow in the dark fungus! Only glows for two or three days apparently. 

Highlights included the short walk to Moran’s Falls and the visit to Luke’s farm.

 

After lunch, Kenn and I walked down to Elabana Falls. This time we didn’t make it past Picnic Rock as there was so much water and every time I put my hand down to balance myself on the slippery rocks to cross over, the leeches attacked! And I hate leeches. Despite the leeches, it felt great to stretch our legs and we didn’t get very wet as the canopy of the rainforest acted as a natural umbrella.

There really is so much to see and do at O’Reilly’s. Usually, we spend our time on completing one of the big day treks but this time we got to explore two of the short walks for the first time. They were to Mick’s tower and the Wishing Tree.

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The track winds down a fern encrusted gully
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to Mick’s tower, where the intrepid can climb five platforms to the top for a view of the canopy
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And then onto the Wishing Tree where you can sit on a log and make a wish in the hollow of the tree.

But all good things must come to an end and all too soon we were winding our way down the mountain again. Instead of taking the highway home, we decided to show Lila Natural Bridge which is part of the Springbrook National Park.  The road from Nerang to Murwillumbah is beautiful. Much to our surprise, much has changed at Natural Bridge since we last visited several years ago.  While the rock pool and cavern are as lovely as ever, you can no longer swim there. To compensate, a new circuit has been built that follows the creek and explores more of the surroundings.

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The water was thundering down
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Just beautiful! 
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This was a quaint cafe just a couple of kms from Natural Bridge. Very enjoyable lunch.

By late afternoon, we were home and taking Lila for her first lighthouse walk. We are so lucky to be able to journey from the forest to the sea in a matter of hours. I hope if you haven’t already experienced the deep serenity of the Australian rainforest, that you get the opportunity very, very soon.

 

Rainforest magic

Would you love to walk down a rain forest path shaded by tree ferns and ancient antarctic beech trees? Follow a cascading mountain steam to uncover a myriad of  unique waterfalls?  Reach a lookout where you can see the forest meet the sea?  If so, then the Tooloona Creek Circuit at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park, is the walk for you!

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Water cascading over rocks near Elabana Falls

Although our family has visited the Lamington National Park regularly over the past 20 years, we had never  undertaken this particular walk.  I had huffed and puffed my way around the 11km Box Tree Circuit, dragged myself achingly, slowly, one step at a time up the mountain from Stairway Falls  and nearly had a snake induced heart attack at Python Rock,  but I had baulked at the 18 kms  Toolona Creek Circuit!  It’s not that I’m against exercise per se, but the thought of climbing 1000 metres from  Elabana Falls to the ridge line, with a further 9 kms to walk home seemed, well,  a trifle excessive.

 But Kenn and I are off to the south island of New Zealand in December to walk the Queen Charlotte Track and I knew that some serious training was needed.

Lyndsay leading the way

So armed with my shiny, new walking boots, I tackled this walk accompanied by Kenn,  my daughter, Lyndsay and her fiance  Reece. I’m great at walking down hills so the first six kms were easy, We cruised down to Elabana Falls passing beautiful  stands of tree ferns and listening to birdsong. We stopped for morning tea at the aptly named Picnic rock and refreshed, were ready to tackle the Toolona Creek section of the walk.

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Cascades running over river rocks

Initially, we followed the creek and were delighted by fern encrusted cascades of water rippling over mossy rocks. Then, a couple of creek crossings later,  we started to climb.  To my surprise, this was much easier than I thought it would be. The track was quite rocky and damp, so we had to be careful and go slow. This suited me perfectly. I certainly haven’t inherited any mountain goat genes!

Around every second bend we encountered a new part of the creek cascading down a unique waterfall. Each one was different, each one was lovely! We counted 17 different waterfalls in total along this section ranging from cascades to the spectacular Toolona Falls.

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This is so pretty!
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Like a veil, covering the rocks.
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What a drop!
Tooloona Falls reworked by google photos!
Tooloona Falls. photo by me, reworked by google photos! Nice…I think.

Not only were the waterfalls wonderful but the rain forest itself was spectacular. Along this section there were ferny tree gardens growing in the canopy. But all good things come to an end and before we knew it we were on the Border Track.

Near to the intersection of the Tooloona Creek and Border tracks, there is a wonderful lookout with a spectacular view, where we stopped for a well earned lunch.

View from the Border track to Mount Warning and the Pacific Ocean.
View from the Border track to Mount Warning and the Pacific Ocean.

Although we still had to walk 9 kms to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, this was quite easy as it was mainly downhill. About halfway home, we encountered the Antarctic Beeches. These are amazing trees, remnants of when Australia was part of Gondwana! This is a wonderful part of the rain forest, so dark and so deep. All too soon, we were back. Ready to enjoy Happy Hour and watch the sun set over the ranges.

Sunset over the ranges
Sunset over the ranges

The Toolona Creek circuit is located in the Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, about two and a half hours drive from Byron Bay. We stayed at O’Reilly’s Guest House in a Rainforest Villa which was a wonderful experience in itself. We didn’t have time luxuriate in the Lost World Spa, one of the many amenities at the resort, but next time it’s definitely on our list of things to do. Maybe you would like to join us some time?