Some of Australia’s most beautiful scenes can be witnessed on the drive called The Rainforest Way. It covers an oval shaped plot of land from Lismore in northern New South Wales up the coast to Brisbane in Queensland and then south again on an inland track down to Casino. The area includes 14 amazing World Heritage National Parks. The Rainforest Way can be done as part of a larger road trip we previously told you about: The Legendary Pacific Coast Road Trip. Reserve at least a long weekend to explore the Gondwana Rainforest and sights along this amazing scenic drive.
Rainforest Way Map Photo Credit: Australia.com
Scenes from the Rainforest Way Photo Credit: VisitScenicRim.com.au
Hiring a Car for the Rainforest Way Scenic Drive
Rainforest Way Car Rental Map Photo Credit: Budget.com.au
Mount Nardi photo credit: VisitNSW.com
Hiring a car for the Rainforest Way scenic drive is very convenient because of all the nearby car rental locations that Budget has in the areas along the way. If you are starting out your drive from Lismore, there is a car rental location there. You can also hire a car in Tweed Heads. If you choose to hire a car in Queensland instead of in New South Wales, there are car rental locations in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, or Brisbane. When you hire a vehicle, be sure to tell your car rental agent your travel plans so that they can recommend the best type of vehicle for your trip. They can also help you with insider travel tips and safety guidelines.
Things to Do and See on the Rainforest Way Scenic Drive
Scenes from the Rainforest Way Photo Credit: VisitScenicRim.com.au
The rainforests of The Rainforest Way are the World-Heritage Listed Gondwana rainforest. This is the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest. Gondwana was one of the two supercontinents of Pangea. The plants in these rainforests also covered Gondwana hundreds of millions of years ago. In addition to the lush subtropical rainforests along this scenic drive, you will see volcanic craters, farmland, mountain ranges, and rare Antarctic beech trees. This is part one of our two part series on the beautiful Rainforest Way. In this blog, we will cover details on Lismore, Nightcap National Park, Minyon Falls, Wollumbin National Park, Murwillumbah, and Tweed Heads including Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park. Stay tuned for part two of this magical journey in an upcoming blog post.
Macadamia Plantation near Lismore Photo Credit: VisitNSW.com
We start our scenic drive in the northwest region of New South Wales in Lismore. It is set on the Richmond River and often a place to stay when visiting nearby Nightcap National Park and Minyon Falls. The city itself is rich in culture and home to many artists and performers. While in town, in addition to exploring the beautiful countryside, be sure to enjoy the galleries, theatres, and performing arts around Lismore. You can also visit the Richmond River Historical Society Museum to learn about the aboriginal history and culture ingrained in this land. It’s also a chance to view a rare example of an Aboriginal ceremonial ring site, historic pictures, and artefacts. A fun and interactive way to experience the history is at Wilsons River Experience Walk.
Nightcap National Park
Protestor Falls Nightcap National Park Photo Credit: PacificCoast.com.au
Protestor Falls Nightcap National Park Photo Credit: NationalParks.nsw.gov.au
Nightcap National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Visiting this park is truly a magical experience with the majestic waterfalls and rich rainforest land. Even though this rainforest is ancient, there is a newly discovered plant species here called the nightcap oak. The protected park is also home to threatened animal species like Fleay’s barred frog and Albert’s Lyrebird. The landscape here is not only filled with green trees and plants of the rainforest, you can catch some spectacular views of escarpments, creeks, and you can see Wollumbin off in the distance, it is the 20 million year-old shield volcano also known by its Aboriginal name, Wollumbin. There are some fun ways to admire all the beauty and history of this land: bring a picnic, go on a walking tour, or camp overnight. There are many different walking tracks to explore this beautiful land and lead you to different picnic areas. Protestor Falls is so named because of the protests that happened near here in 1969 which led to advances in the protection of the plants and animals.
Minyon Falls Lookout Photo Credit: VisitNSW.com
Minyon Falls are located within Nightcap National Park, but this area was so special, we wanted to highlight it even more. There is a lookout here, where you can see the falls, and much of the landscape and scenery of the park. In addition to that, on a clear day, you can see clear to the coast. It is a magnificent scene indeed. Minyon Falls are quite impressive as the water falls down into the base of the rainforest. There is a walking track loop, park, and picnic area here as well.
Wollumbin National Park in Murwillumbah
Murwillumbah countryside featuring Wollumbin in far distance photo credit: VisitNSW.com
Wollumbin photo credit: VisitNSW.com
Wollumbin National Park is home to the namesake of the park and the icon of the region which can be seen from all around: the shield volcano, Wollumbin. It was once a much taller volcano before erupting 23 million years ago. You might also hear it referred to as Mt. Warning, which is the name Captain James Cook gave to the volcano when he landed on the east coast of Australia. However, it has been known as Wollumbin to the Aboriginal people for thousands of years and is of great significance to the Bundjalung Nation. It is the first spot on the Australian morning to see the sun every morning. Climbing to the summit to see “the first sunrise” is only for the adventurous as the 9 km round trip track is quite steep and rocky. It is also not something that should be taken on without getting permission from the Bundjalung people. Murwillumbah is the closest city to Wollumbin National Park. It is set on the Tweed River and can be your spot for accommodations if you choose not to camp but want to stay overnight in the area. Murwillumbah features golfing, fishing, and boating as well as shady parks for a picnic or just to spend more time in the great outdoors. It is also home to the World Heritage Rainforest Centre, the Murwillumbah Historical Society, the Murwillumbah Visitor Information Centre, the Tweed River Art Gallery, and the Tweed River Museum.
Danger Point at Tweed Heads Photo Credit VisitNSW.com
Tweed Heads Coast Photo Credit: VisitNSW.com
Further up the coast just on the New South Wales and Queensland border is the town of Tweed Heads. This is a great place to add some surf, sand, and beach to your rainforest holiday. Tweed Heads is known for surfing and its golden sand beaches. However, there is so much variety here, you could likely plan a whole vacation stay here and take in a little bit of everything. There is a wide variety of things to do in this touristy city in addition to fun in the sun and sand. Relax on a Tweed River cruise, visit the Fingal Lighthouse, checkout the view from Danger Point, or explore the region from the Aboriginal perspective at the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Two of the national parks on the Rainforest Way scenic drive are close to Tweed Heads. Both Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Parks are just inland from Tweed Heads.
Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Antarctic Beech Trees in Lamington National Park Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Lamington National Park, like many of the parks in the area protects the Gondwana Rainforest, ancient trees, and the flora and fauna that call this land home. Lamington National Park is known for its natural beauty, which you can explore through the walking tracks and mountain views. It is part of the Scenic Rim Important Bird Area because of the threatened bird species that live in the park. It is considered a living museum that shows the evolutionary steps in the development of the plants and flowers. The forests that cover over the 20,200 hectares of land in Lamington National Park range from the sub-tropical rainforests, Arctic Beech forest, and dry eucalypt forest.
Springbrook National Park
The Natural Bridge Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Numinbah Valley with Springbrook Plateau to the left and Lamington National Park Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Springbrook National Park features peaks from the Shield Volcano Group and the remains of the eroded Wollumbin caldera and Mount Cougal. The protected park is in the Gold Coast hinterland. You can see the urban coastal town of Gold Coast off in the distance from the peaks. The Natural Bridge is an arch that formed naturally over Cave Creek. It is one of the highlights of the park. There are 4 sections of the park including the Springbrook section, Natural Bridge section, the Mount Cougal Section, and Numinbah section.
End Part One of the Rainforest Way Scenic Drive Holiday
This concludes part one of our scenic drive on the Rainforest Way. Stay tuned for part two of our magical journey through the Gondwana Rainforest in northern NSW and southern Queensland. Next on our journey, we leave Tweed Heads and travel north to Brisbane and then head south to Beaudesert, Kyogle, and Casino. Join us on our journey while we explore the rainforest and national parks in the surrounding area.