Northern Rivers and Gold Coast hinterland
"They took all the trees, Put 'em in a tree museum"*
Photos by D & J Palmer, Big Volcano Tourism
Brief descriptions of the national parks in the Northern Rivers, NSW, Gold Coast hinterland and Scenic Rim, QLD, region of Australia.
Due to severe storm damage in early 2013, a number of national parks in the region are closed or have restricted access.
To avoid disappointment, please check official notices before your visit.
Wollumbin (Mt Warning) National Park IS CLOSED until further notice due to storm damage.
Disappointed that the summit climb is closed?
Wondering what else is available?
Here are a few alternatives to climbing Mt Warning
ARAKWAL NATIONAL PARK (183 ha)
Stretching south along Tallow Beach from Cape Byron for nearly two kilometers, the creation of this coastal park is the result of the first indigenous land use agreement in Australia.
The area provides habitat for significant flora and fauna species, including wintering sites for nomadic and migratory birds and flying foxes and is also home to the Cibum Margil Swamp, a declared coastal wetland. Also highly significant to local indigenous people for thousands of years, it contains important Aboriginal mythological and burial sites and campsites.
Old four wheel drive tracks parallel the beach, and informal sand tracks for people on foot, meander through the coastal heath, which comes alive in Spring with native birds and animals feasting from a myriad native shrubs, bushes and grasses, in bloom.
The Arakwal Aboriginal people are the acknowledged custodians of the Byron Bay area and retain a strong role and interest in the maintenance, protection and management of Aboriginal cultural values.
BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK (30,508 ha)
Easy access to the rainforests is a feature of this spectacular World Heritage area.
Day use picnic areas, shelter sheds and spectacular views are available at Bar Mountain, Blackbutts Lookout and Antarctic Beech Picnic areas.
A large camping area is provided at Sheepstation Creek, with a smaller one at Forest Tops. Both areas provide (non drinking) water, shelter sheds, firewood and composting toilets.
There are a variety of walks in the park, ranging from 50 metre strolls to 10 kilometre hikes, most starting from day picnic or camping areas.
BROADWATER NATIONAL PARK (3,737 ha)
Covering 3800 hectares and located between the villages of Evans Head and Broadwater on the Pacific Highway, Broadwater National Park preserves one of the most outstanding areas of coastal heathland in New South Wales, where in Spring, wildflowers explode in a kaleidoscope of colours.
The park is home to paperbarks, bush pea, bush orchids, black sheoaks, roughbarked apple, red and yellow Christmas bells, swamp lily and brilliant flowering banksias. For the bird watcher, the three kilometre return walk at Salty Lagoon is worthwhile.
Picnic facilities are provided at Broadwater Beach and at the Broadwater Lookout area, where a high vantage point offers an uninterrupted view over a mosaic of heathland communities reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Entrance is via a sealed road from the Pacific Highway at Broadwater
BUNDJALUNG NATIONAL PARK (17,699 ha)
Located between the coastal villages of Evans Head and Iluka, Bundjalung National Park offers something for everybody - kilometres of unspoilt beaches, spectacular coastal heathland and one of the most pristine coastal river systems in New south Wales. The fishing is good too!
Modern camping and caravan facilities, including hot showers and a kiosk, are available at Woody Head. Bookings, especially during school holidays, are essential - ring (02) 666 6134 to secure a site. Elsewhere, 50 low key campsites are provided at the Black Rocks Rest Area in the centre of the park, just turn off south of Woodburn on the Pacific Highway.
Picnic areas for day visitors are provided at Shark Bay, Frasers Bluff and Back Beach. Gumma Garra picnic area, located adjacent to the fishing village of Evans Head, offer further opportunities for bushwalking, fishing or just spending a relaxing day with the family.
BURLEIGH HEAD NATIONAL PARK (27.6HA)
Burleigh headland is a prominent Gold Coast landmark, and was first set aside as a reserve for public purposes in 1886. Gazetted as a national park in 1947, it is now the only rocky headland on the Gold Coast that is substantially in its natural state.
Covering over 27.6ha., Burleigh Head National Park contains a variety of habitats including lowland rainforest, eucalypt forest, pandanus groves, tussock grassland, coastal heath, mangroves, creeks, rocky foreshore and beaches. It also contains interesting geological forms and is of important cultural heritage significance to the Kombumerri Aboriginal people.
The park provides a popular recreational and educational venue for local and international visitors and is one of the most heavily visited parks in the region. Visitors may glimpse humpback whales breaching in coastal waters during winter and spring, see white-bellied sea-eagles riding the ridge updrafts, or watch birdwing butterflies feeding on rainforest nectars in mid-summer.
DAVID FLEAY WILDLIFE PARK
Nestled in the heart of Burleigh Heads, David Fleay Wildlife Park offers visitors a unqie wildlife eperience. Stroll through rainforest, wetland and eucalypt forest, where you can safely view native Queensland wildlife displayed in natural habitats, from boardwalks specially constructed for wheelchair and stroller access.
See crocodiles, cassowaries and brolgas, with "hands-on" area in "Nature's "for children, and daily wildlife presentations including Crocodile Talk and Snakes Up Close!
A single entry Family ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children) is $46.35* with concession and annual prices available. Open daily, with souvenirs, educational toys and books, and cafe. Access from Gold Coast and Pacific Highway. Or take the scenic rim route from the Tweed Valley via Tomewin and Tallebudgera Valley. Enquiries: QLD PWS (07) 5576 2411. >> Web site.
*As at 3rd July 2012.
KOREELAH NATIONAL PARK
30 klm west of Woodenbong you can experience one of the State's western-most rainforest areas.
Pockets of World Heritage listed rainforest hug the steep slopes below Acacia Plateau and Mt Wilson, while a small grassy area beside Koreelah Creek provides a pleasant car based camping spot with BBQ, picnic and toilet facilities.
You might be lucky enough to see the endangered double-eyed fig parrot or black -striped wallaby.
The unsealed road is suitable for 2WD in dry weather. Ref.
LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK (20,200 ha)
Home of the largest preserved sub-tropical rainforest in Australia, this World Heritage declared park covers over 20,000 hectares, and features many natural wonders with its breathtaking views into deep valleys and cascading waterfalls over sheer mountain cliffs.
There are 170 species of rainforest plants and 38 varieties of animals, many found only in this part of Australia.
For the keen bushwalker, there is over 160 kilometres of graded walking tracks (trails), with easy access to many places of interest.
Rainforest TreeTop Walk photo © courtesy Mountain Trek Adventures.
Subtropical rainforest, magnificent views, waterfalls and colourful wildlife make this park one of the most popular in southern Queensland for day
Extensive walking track systems lead to many points of interest. Private lodges and kiosks are located at Green Mountains (O'Rielly's Guesthouse) and Binna Burra.
Green Mountains has a picnic area where you can meet the wildlife if you are patient. Campsites, $3.85 per person, are often full during weekends and holidays, so book well ahead.
Bring fuel stoves only and enough petrol for your return journey. Access via Canungra. Enquiries: Q. NPWS phone (07) 5544 0634 from 1pm to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.
Binna Burra is located in the east of Lamington. Walking tracks weave through a diverse range of open forest and rainforest. Picnic facilities afford spectacular views of the coast and hinterland. Access via Beechmont from Nerang or Canungra. Visit the Binna Burra Information Centre. Private camp ground. Enquiries: Q NPWS phone 13 74 68.
Mallanganee National Park
Created in January 1999 and covering an area of 1,144 hectares, Mallanganee National Park (formerly Mallanganee Nature Reserve) is located south of Mallanganee village.
The primary attraction is Mallanganee Lookout, which offers spectacular views over the Richmond Valley and to Mount Warning in the east. There are no facilities in the park.
MEBBIN NATIONAL PARK (3,760 ha)
Originally a state forest, Mebbin National Park shares an extensive western boundary with the Border Ranges National Park.
Comprised of mixed hardwood species with an unusual combination of Hoop pine and Ironbark, it was logged intensively for 30 years prior to its converting to national park in on January 1st 1999.
Mebbin Lagoon Flora Reserve, one of two former reserves (the other being Forty Spur Flora Reserve) are the inaccessible World Heritage areas within the park.
The Cutters Camp campground is limited to 15 camping sites, and due to the unsealed access road and the camping area layout, it is suitable for tents, small camper trailers and small campervans only, not for full sized caravans or motor homes.
Facilities include historic forestry huts, picnic shelters and tables, wood fireplaces (bring your own firewood), gas/electric barbecues and composting/non-flush toilets.
A significant portion of the park is dry eucalypt forest, with some rainforest and a small section of old growth forest. A walking track of about 450 metres leads from the campground to Byrrill Creek, meandering through a stand of ancient giant figs.
The park ideally lends itself to leisurely strolls and bicycle riding along the unsealed through road. Just keep an eye out for 4WD and motorcycle riders.
MT BARNEY NATIONAL PARK
Rugged mountain peaks rise above the surrounding landscape in this wild, beautiful, World Heritage-listed park, popular with bushwalkers and home to many rare animals, plant species and communities.
The unique qualities of this rugged area were recognised in 1947 and again in the 1950s, when a number of the separate peaks in the area were declared national parks. In 1980 these were combined to form Mount Barney National Park which, as part of the [then Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia] Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, was World Heritage listed in 1994.
The distinctive peaks of Mount Barney, Mount Maroon, Mount May, Mount Lindesay, Mount Ernest, Mount Ballow and Mount Clunie make up Mount Barney National Park. These rugged peaks are the remains of the ancient Focal Peak Shield Volcano which erupted 24 million years ago. Mount Barney is the second highest peak in south-east Queensland.
The park has extremely varied vegetation with open forests around the foothills of the peaks, subtropical rainforest above 600 m and montane heath shrublands towards the summits. The summit of Mount Ballow is cool temperate rainforest, and on Mount Maroon it is mallee eucalypt shrublands.
Many rare and unusual plant species grow in the park including the endangered Maroon wattle Acacia saxicola, the rare mallee ash Eucalyptus codonocarpa, Mount Barney bush pea Pultenaea whiteana and Eucalyptus michaeliana.
Camping Car-based camping is not available in Mount Barney National Park but is permitted nearby at Mount May Reserve (no facilities) and at three privately run campgrounds just outside the park. The private campgrounds have toilets, showers and barbecues. Mount Barney Lodge campground is near Yellow Pinch Reserve. Bigriggen and Flanagans reserves are closer to the Boonah - Rathdowney Road.
Walk-in bush camping is permitted at several sites in the park. There are no facilities at any of these sites and there are limits (subject to change) on the number of people who may camp at each campsite. Campsites may be closed from time to time to allow for regeneration or during periods of high fire danger.
To camp in the national park you will need to buy a camping permit well in advance; it is recommended that you book 6 to 8 weeks in advance for public holidays. To camp at all other locations in the national park it is essential to buy a camping permit 3 to 6 weeks in advance.
Bush campers should expect rugged conditions with no facilities, and are requested to read and follow the guidelines for staying safe and for minimal impact bushwalking. Ref.
MOUNT JERUSALEM NATIONAL PARK
Strictly limited access to this area which is rich in conservation values. This park contains areas of unique coral lichen and a number of nationally listed rare and endangered plants, as well as a rich diversity of tree dwelling animal and bird species.
WOLLUMBIN (MOUNT WARNING) NATIONAL PARK (2,380 ha)
Wollumbin National Park IS CLOSED until further notice due to storm damage.
Disappointed that the summit climb is closed? Wondering what else is available?
Here are a few alternatives to climbing Mt Warning
Named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770, as a warning to seafarers of the numerous treacherous reefs along the coast, to the Bundjalung people for many miles around, the mountain is also called Wollumbin by some, and remains an important sacred site*.
The walk is, on average, a five hour trip with the last section being very steep. There are no facilities on the summit - camping and fires are not permitted here or in any other area of the park.
For those less inclined to attempt the climb, the Lyre Bird Walk is a 500 metre stroll from the parking area to an elevated viewing platform looking out over the rainforest and Breakfast Creek. An information board on the park is situated near the stairs at the start of the summit walking track.
NIGHTCAP NATIONAL PARK (4,945 ha)
Located on the southern flanks of the Mt. Warning shield volcano, Nightcap National Park is a bushwalkers paradise.
A focal point for visitors is the Terania Creek picnic area which includes a short 1.4km return walk to the breathtaking and spectacular Protesters Falls. A variety of other walks also start from the Mount Nardi picnic area, reached via a sealed road from the colourful village of Nimbin.
Electric BBQ's are also provided at Mount Nardi. Please note that swimming is no longer permitted in the pool below the Protestors Falls, due to the negative impact of sunscreens and insect repellents on native inhabitants!
RICHMOND RANGE NATIONAL PARK
Co-managed with the Githabul People, Richmond Range National Park and World Heritage listed Cambridge Plateau is renowed for the rare Richmond Range spotted gum and extensive old-growth forest supporting a huge variety of native fauna, including many rare and endangered species.
At the northern end tent camping ($) is available at Peacock Creek. Two walking tracks, one short and one of about two hours walk, begin at the Cambridge Plateau Picnic Area which has BBQ, picnic tables and toilets. Please note; roads are closed in wet weather.
SPRINGBROOK NATIONAL PARK (425 ha)
Springbrook National Park consists of three distinct sections: Springbrook Plateau, Natural Bridge and Mt Cougal. Each with their own features and charms, access is a half hour drive from the Gold Coast or 45-60 minutes via Murwillumbah and Chillingham.
Springbrook Plateau section: Waterfalls cascade over the spectacular cliffs in this section. Lookouts offer scenic views of mountains, canyons and coastline, with "Best of All" lookout being the most spectacular, offering stunning views over the Tweed Valley and Mount Warning, to the south.
Extensive walking tracks lead through open forest and rainforest. Picnic areas are available. Camping is available at "The Settlement", a camping area opened in 2006. Bookings are required via the website or phone 13 74 68.
Access is via the Gold Coast-Springbrook Rd from Pacific Highway at Mudgeeraba, the Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd from Nerang, and from Numinbah Rd via Murwillumbah and Chillingham in the Tweed Valley.
Natural Bridge section: Water and time have formed this unusual geological feature in the dense rainforest. Day picnic facilities, with coin operated electric BBQ's and public toilets are available, but no camping is permitted. Access is via the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road.
A circular walking track leads you through the rainforest and along a creek bank. Don't miss the opportunity to explore the "Natural Bridge" formation, where a waterfall plunges through the roof of a cave into a beautiful sun-dappled rainforest grotto, which is home to glow-worms, bats and other denizens of the dark.
The spectacular glow-worm colony can only be seen after dark – don’t forget to take a torch with you!
Please note: smoking in the cave and touching the walls is not permitted, as this can disturb the fauna and damage their local environment. You can enjoy the natural delights of the cave by allowing yourself 5 to 10 minutes of quietly standing, as your eyes and ears adjust to the surroundings, and you become aware of the sights, sounds and scents, which are around you.
To protect the park's natural values and for public safety, all access to Cave Creek is now prohibited. This area has been declared a restricted access area. Rangers regularly patrol Natural Bridge and persons found within the restricted access area will be fined $225. For more information please read Natural Bridge's Cave Creek fact sheet.
There are two alternatives for swimming near Natural Bridge: Bochow Park, 4km north towards Nerang; and Numinbah Forest Park, 15km north of Natural Bridge.
Mt Cougal section: While most of the section is untracked and mountainous, a day picnic area at "Cougal Cascades" provides car parking, picnic tables, public toilets and a sealed walking track suitable for wheelchair access. Further along the track are the restored remains of an old sawmill dating from 1914. Access to the creek is strongly discouraged as several people have died or suffered serious spinal injuries after jumping or diving in this water. Access is available via Currumbin Valley (Gold Coast) and (Murwillumbah) only.
Cabins, cottages and chalet style accommodations are available on properties close to the various sections of this popular and accessible park.
TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Really a plateau, Tamborine Mountain National Park is in fact made up of nine national parks, including Queensland's first national park, Witches Falls, declared in 1908.
The plateau is a world of subtropical, eucalypt and cycad rainforests featuring an abundance of easy walks and magnificent views to the Gold Coast in the east, and the national parks of the Scenic Rim to the west. (Courtesy Mountain Trek Adventures.)
TOONUMBAR NATIONAL PARK
Sitting on the Richmond Range and 14,991 hectares, Toonumbar National Park contains two World Heritage listed rainforests; the Murray Scrub and the Dome Mountain Forest which are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
Car touring and bushwalking give access to pristine rainforest comprising booyong, figs, flame trees, hoop pine, rosewood and over 400 species of flowering plants. Keep a sharp lookout for tiger quolls and Coxen's fig parrot.
The region is noted for its unique and complex natural environment. Much of this complexity is due to activity associated with the Focal Peak Volcano which was active some 23 million years ago. The eroded volcanic remains of Mt Lindesay, Dome Mountain and Edinburgh Castle dominate the landscape today, and have provided the inspiration for many local Aboriginal legends and beliefs.
For thousands of years these volcanic ranges have attracted high rainfall, which combined with rich soils, has allowed rainforests to grow and flourish.
Contrasting climate and a mosaic of forest types provide even further diversity to the park where plants and animals from drier cooler habitats may be found close to subtropical species. It is this outstanding diversity and species richness that has led to these areas being recognised for their World Heritage conservation value.
More than 400 species of flowering plants may be found in the park. The rainforest is dominated by a high canopy of booyong, strangling fig, Moreton Bay fig, hoop pine, giant stinging tree, flame tree and rosewood. Below the canopy palms, ferns, vines and orchids thrive in the dappled light.
The park is an important refuge for many animals including more than 100 species of birds and a wide range of mammals, reptiles and frog species.
The park is also home to more than a dozen species of animals that are considered threatened species, such as the koala, tiger quoll, Albert’s Lyrebird and Coxen’s fig parrot. Ref.
TOOLOOM NATIONAL PARK
The 4380 hectare Tooloom National Park is located 10 km southwest of Urbenville on the Koreelah Range. The Range is one of three almost parallel volcanic ranges extending south from the 23 million year old Focal Peak Volcano system whose main centre of eruption was nearby Mount Barney in South East Queensland.
The park contributes to a dramatic regional landscape of ranges, dissected plateaus and valleys. The diversity of topography and soils is responsible for creating a variety of microenvironments that support a range of vegetation and habitat.
The extensive subtropical and forest red gum stands protected within this park provide habitat for the most diverse kangaroo and wallaby (macropod) population found anywhere in Australia.
Early exploitation of cedar in the Park area occurred from 1880, some years later than the coastal forests of upper north east New South Wales because of the remoteness of the area. European settlement began in earnest around the turn of the century and focused on timber harvesting and saw milling.
An area of subtropical rainforest on either side of the Legume Road is known as Tooloom Scrub. The name Tooloom was originally given to the township of Urbenville and 'Tooloom Scrub' initially referred to the entire forested area around the town.
Tooloom Scrub later became he name of the State's first flora reserve, dedicated in 1937, with large additions gazetted in 1984, and included on the World Heritage list in 1994 as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Ref.
TWEED HEADS HISTORIC SITE (MINJUNGBAL) (8ha)
Covering eight hectares, the site preserves an Aboriginal Bora Ground, with a walking track leading to a mangrove boardwalk along the Tweed River.
The Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre with Aboriginal museum and gift shop is open seven days a week, with a nominal admission fee for adults and children. Concessions are available for students and pensioners.
The centre provides picnic tables, electric barbecues and toilets for its visitors. Reach the centre by turning into Kirkwood Road off Minjungbal Drive (the old Pacific Highway) at South Tweed Heads. For further information telephone (07) 5524 2109.
References and Readings
- Miscellaneous from NSW NPWS Visitor guide Northern Rivers Region - National Parks and Reserves. Unknown
- Mebbin National Park. Ref. State Forests of the Far North Coast brochure, Forestry Commission of NSW 1991 and extract NSW National Parks Retrieved 2012/05/24
- Extract Mount Barney National Park © courtesy (QLD Department of Environment and Resource Management) Retrived 2011/07/14
- Koorelah, Toonumbar and Tooloom National Parks some extracts courtesy http://www.cleanandgreen.com.au/ Retrieved 2010/01/06
- Extract Springbrook National Park QLD - P&WS, Springbrook/Natural Bridge Section Office, Ranger South Coast, South East District Southern Region, 2008
- Arakwal National Park, some information courtesy of Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre 2005
- The Gold Coast Bulletin, South-east Queensland walking tracks, Feature - Thursday, 2000/06/22
- Executive Officer of CERRA property, Grafton NSW, 1999
- Various brochures by the National Parks and Wildlife Services of New South Wales and Queensland 1997
- Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre
- *"Tree Museum" lyric: from "Big Yellow Taxi", Joni Mitchell, 1970