A Weekend in the Lamington National Park

The Lamington National Park, Gold Coast, Australia

Exploring the Beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland

My husband had two weeks off recently due to an infected cat bite on his thumb.  We had some time on our hands and, because we hadn’t been away since last March, we decided to make the most of it.  Luckily we live in one of the most beautiful areas in Australia.  We often have a staycation – a short trip within an hour of home.  Right on our doorstep is the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, so we had a night away there, at Lamington National Park.

The sun sets over O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia
The sun sets over O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast is known as the glitter strip because it has all the glitz and glamour of high-rises right along one of the most pristine beaches in the world.  Our most famous beach is Surfers Paradise.  It is a tourist mecca, with many attractions like theme parks and night life.

I rarely go to that part of the city, however.  I much prefer the natural environment that can be found in the Gold Coast Hinterland, also known as the Green Behind the Gold.  There are waterfalls, rainforest and a diverse collection of wildlife.  Away from the crowded beaches, up in the hills is where my heart sings.  That is where I feel at peace.

One of the beautiful native birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
One of the beautiful native birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

We decided to visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  I had only been once before, and my husband not at all.  I took a youth group camping up there the first time, an experience I will never forget.  Many of the teenagers had never stayed overnight outside their family home so it was a huge eye opener for them.

To get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is quite an experience.  The road is narrow and windy and the trip takes 90minutes through Canungra, up the mountain to the World Heritage listed Lamington National Park.  The views are stunning of farm land in the valley below and the mountains of the McPherson and Darlington Ranges.

View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park
View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park

O’Reilly’s has an interesting history.  It started over 100 years ago as a settlement for the O’Reilly family who cleared the land for cattle farming.  Over time they began to receive guests who had made an arduous journey to get there.  That is how the guest house began, in 1926.  Over time it has grown and is now a large operation of several types of different accommodation options, a restaurant, bar, day spa and winery.

View over the pool area, towards the south at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, in the Lamington National Park
View over the pool area, towards the south at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Another interesting historical fact is that in 1937 Bernard O’Reilly trekked through the rainforest to rescue survivors of the Stinson Plane Crash. There is a replica of the plane at O’Reilly’s. His knowledge of the local area was vital in locating the wreck, and during the rescue effort.

Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in the Lamington National Park in 1937.  The survivors were rescued by Bernard O'Reilly who knew the area well.
Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in 1937. The survivers were rescued by Bernard O’Reilly who knew the area well.

The Wildlife and Rainforest

Part of the attraction for us was the wildlife.  Very experienced guides are available to lead the guests on a number of different guided walks, educational talks and hikes through the Lamington National Park.  We took part in two guided walks, and also viewed a documentary of the wildlife in their cinema.

Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk.  Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.
Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk. Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.

There is also a treetop walk – a series of suspension bridges up to 15 metres above ground that allow you to walk amongst the tops of the forest.  Because I get severe vertigo with heights I was very nervous at the slight swinging of the bridges but I made it across by not daring to look down.  My husband even climbed up the 30 metre high ladder to a platform where he could view 360 degrees across the top of the rainforest. 

One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park
One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park

The Glow Worm Tour

Without a doubt my favourite part of the weekend was the nighttime glow worm tour.  The guide took us for a short drive from the resort. We then hiked through the bush to a stream where thousands of glowworms sparkled like stars along the bank.  The stream was flowing gently, so that the glow worms reflected in the water.  When you looked up through the trees, the milky way glittered brightly above us.  It was incredibly beautiful.

Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree in Lamington National Park
Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree

Matt our guide helped us to spot many native animals and plants along the path.  His knowledge and enthusiasm for the wildlife enhanced the experience.  One of the more interesting creatures was a bright blue crayfish which can walk 2km away from water!  This was a feisty little crustacean who snapped its claws at us.  He has a mean bite we were told.

The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor in Lamington National Park
The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor

We encountered two types of possums, many different varieties of birds and insects, lizards and spiders.  I would have just walked straight past many of the creatures but Matt had a way of finding these elusive animals in the dark.  

Matt the guide pointing out a native frog.  One of the wild animals in Lamington National Park
Matt the guide pointing out a native frog

Hand Feeding the Birds

The early morning bird walk was just as interesting.  Being able to hand feed the wild birds was a beautiful experience.  The rainforest is home to a huge variety of birds.  The most colourful are the parrots that you can hand feed. Many of the walking tracks are suitable for all types of fitness levels, with two being suitable for wheelchairs..  

The more adventurous can take a segway safari tour, or try the flying fox.  There are guided walks through the Lamington National Park, or there are many tracks that you can do on your own without being a paying guest.  Maps are available from the National Parks Information Centre or O’Reilly’s reception.  

Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest
Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest

If you are ever in our part of the world, pay a visit to the hinterland.  The experience will stay with you much longer than a day at Sea World.  There is so much more to the Gold Coast than the glitter strip and Surfers Paradise.

Hand feeding the birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
Hand feeding the birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

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