These planning notes are from our 2 week holiday visiting the rainforest national parks just inland of the Gold Coast/Tweed Heads during September 2013 school holidays using a rental car. We basically did a clockwise circle from the Gold Coast south to Byron Bay and then back inland through the rainforest clad mountain ranges of: NightCap; Border Ranges; Mt Warning; Lamington and Springbrook National Parks astride the NSW/QLD border. First is some general comments followed by any relevant specific information. hoepfully some information here useful for other travellers comtemplating a visit this rare rainforest landform?
The main highlight is the rainforest clad National Parks occur on the mountainous remnants of the massive ancient volcano of Mt Warning. High rainfall triggered by the mountainous terrane, combined with the fertile basalt soil has created substantial pockets of ancient 'Gondwanaland' rainforest more typical of the Cretaceous 'Dinosaur' era than the current dry Eucalypt landscape that typifies most of Australia.
Gold Coast Airport is more convenient than Brisbane and airfares and car rental are no dearer than that available at Brisbane.
For car hire we went with a 'second tier' rental company Cut Price Rentals. For a two minute walk outside the terminal and be willing to drive a 5-10 year old car meant we got all inclusive rates about half that of the major terminal-based rental firms.
For Accommodation camping was no problem anywhere with plenty of spaces (even though school holidays) apart from the Springbrook National Park where there is only 11 spaces in the whole region and no commercial option so book early online for this park!
Both NSW and Qld National Parks have relatively good websites for information with interactive maps and the ability to download brochures etc. Queensland parks in general http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/ with good overview brochure for this specific area being …qld.gov.au/parks/…goldcoast-scenicrim-vg.pdf . NSW parks in general http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/ with overview brochure for this area http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/~/media/Visitor/Files/PDF/Brochures/northern-rivers-region-visitor-guide-pdf.ashx . Murwillumbah in NSW has an excellent Visitor Information Centre with physical maps, brochures and staff etc for finer detail and there was another good centre in Queensland at the entrance to Bina Burra in Lamington NP
Tweed Heads. Can spend an hour or two at Point Danger headland reading all the history signs and also watching the whales migrating past about 1 km offshore.
Byron Bay. Was a 3 km long traffic jam into and out of town but once thru town the run to the headland and lighthouse walks was surprisingly less crowded as was the nearby beach
NightCap National Park (NP) . Worth a day. Minyon Falls is an impressive vertical drop with a great lookout but the falls themselves had little water towards the end of the dry season. Big Scrub Loop is meant to be one of the best remaining remnants of lowland forest but we could not find the signpost of the main road but ended up doing a nice rainforest walk - 'the platypus walk' at the nearby Rocky Creek dam picnic area. Was not really any good views from top of Mt Nardi with walk tracks in the rainforest a bit back from the cliff edge. Is the Rumney Creek campground in this park on 'first come first serve basis' but we did not stay here and instead ended up at the Nimbin commercial campground which had a a nice treed setting with a pool.
Border Ranges NP. Day drive along the scenic drive had a couple of stops with excellent views back to coast from the Blackbutt and Pinnacle lookouts. SheepStation Creek was a very pleasant campground with some nice forest walks.
Mt Warning NP. Daywalk to the top is through beautiful rainforest with excellent panoramic views from the summit. Ascending up the winding track gives the rare opportunity to see into directly into the crowns of the trees further down slope, to givea glimpse at all the bird activity that is normally happening high above your head on flat walks in rainforest. Commercial campground near the base has a nice creek setting.
Springbrook NP. Could spend two full days here. The Natural Bridge section in the valley had an interesting cave/waterfall feature worth seeing. The upland main section had numerous walks and waterfall lookouts back to the coast from the high spectacular plateau and cliff edge.
Lamington NP. Has two separate options of either Bina Burra or O'Reillys. Both are commercial operators about 60-90 minutes drive into the park up windy mountain roads so staying overnight to get the morning or evening birdlife almost a must. We did Bina Burra as the closer option. Had a somewhat cramped campground in a nice rainforest setting with a few nice walks that can take up a day.
David Fleay Wildlife Park at Burleigh Heads. A low key government run affair focussing on conservation of endangered native animals rather than tourist entertainment. Takes about an hour to walk around the animal pens and another hour to see the animal presentations and talks by the rangers.
Whale Watching. We did the SeaWorld combo ticket that lets you go and the 3 hour whale watch one day and then have a full day at Seaworld the next. The whale watch boat and crew and commentary was super professional.
Hope my notes useful for other travellers in planning to see some of the last rainforest remnants of Australia?