Day Walks: Lamington

With its unspoilt rainforests, unparalleled opportunities for waterfall bagging, rugged landscape and abundant wildlife, Lamington National Park is one of Australia’s best walking destinations. Hold on a second, waterfall bagging? Well, the way we see it, if ticking off peaks adds an extra element to hiking in the mountains then why not do the same thing with waterfalls when you’re in rainforest? And if this is your cup of tea then Lamington is the place to go.

The combination of high rainfall and rugged topography which has produced some of the most varied and spectacular rainforest in the country also means that every creek and river tumbles over waterfall after waterfall. Best of all, not only are these surrounded by dense jungle (and what more could you want from a waterfall, really?) but most of the best can be visited in all-day walks from the two main trailheads;  O’Rielly’s Rainforest Guesthouse and Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, which can also serve as handy (and comfortable) bases for waterfall-bagging expeditions.  We’ve selected seven walks that encompass the best that Lamington has to offer – rocky peaks, jungle, and dare we say it, a grand total of 50 waterfalls (we think – different maps list different ones and it’s easy to lose count).

West Canungra Creek circuit
Distance: 14km
Time: 6 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse

The Border Track leaves from opposite the guesthouse front door and immediately plunges into thick jungle. After just 250m leave the Border Track, taking the Yerralahla track to the left and following it downhill as the track doubles back then descends via stone steps to Darraboola Creek. From here the track winds through the forest, crossing the creek three times, the last near the base of a small waterfall. After crossing the top of a ridge the track continues to zig-zag down, passing Bundoomba Falls before arriving at Yerrlahla (Blue Pool). Platypus and eels have been spotted here and this is a great spot to cool off on a hot day. After a break turn right at a track junction to head south along West Canungra Creek. Cross Darraboola Creek – this spot can be tricky – then cross West Canungra Creek twice before following the eastern side of the bank uphill to Gondaree Falls.

Wongaree Falls

Wongaree Falls is next as the route continues straight ahead at the track junction. This is one of the most beaufiful sections of walking in the park as the track visits at least six waterfalls in the next kilometre. Christmas orchids flower here in December and January and it’s also a good place to spot the Lamington spiny crayfish. After visiting Box Log Falls take the detour to Elabana Falls, where Canungra Creek crashes through a narrow crevice then spills over a rock platform in four adjacent cascades. It’s the most photographed waterfall in the park, with good reason. Return to the track and turn right on the Box Forest Circuit, climb to a creek crossing at Picnic Rock then zig-zag up the hill to rejoin the Border Track 1.7km from O’Reilly’s. Turn right and follow the mostly flat track back to the guesthouse.

Crossing Canungra Creek, Lamington National Park

Toolona Creek Circuit

Distance: 17.4km
Time: 6-7 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse

This excellent full-day walk picks up where the Canungra Creek circuit leaves off, continuing east along Toolona Creek to the edge of the plateau which marks the Queensland-NSW border. Along the way it passes a series of spectacular waterfalls and is almost entirely in stunning rainforest, with ancient Antarctic Beech trees near the border another highlight. For a bit of variety, start with the treetop walk opposite O’Reilly’s which joins the Border Track a short distance from the lodge.

Toolona Creek

Follow the Border Track south to a major junction 1.7km from the guesthouse, turn left and head downhill. Another junction is reached after 1km – turn right to continue downhill and cross Canungra Creek at Picnic Rock. The detour to Elabana Falls leaves the track shortly after, and is well worth the effort if you haven’t seen them already. Then return to the main track and head right, following signs for the Toolona Creek Circuit. Triple Falls is a short distance up the track and the first of several beautiful waterfalls visited as the trail follows Toolona Creek upstream. Among the highlights are Gwongurai Falls, which plunges 25m into a lush rainforest-lined gorge, and Chahlahn Falls, which flows in a series of elegant cascades over a black cliff that rises above the track. Allow plenty of time for photography.

Chalahn Falls

After visiting Toolona Falls, which flows in a narrow veil into more open forest, the track climbs towards the headwaters of Toolona Creek. Moss-covered Antarctic Beech trees – a remnant of the supercontinent Gondwana, some are 5000 years old – become a feature as the track approaches a t-intersection at the state border. Turn left to reach Wanungara Lookout just 50m away, beside a clearing that makes an ideal lunch spot. From here the track heads south along the edge of the escarpment, with occasional views over the plains to the east and a lot more gnarled Antarctic Beech trees, before swinging left and heading back towards O’Reilly’s. It is a pleasant 7km walk back to the starting point.

Lunch break on the Border Track, Lamington

Albert River Circuit
Distance: 20.6km
Time: 6 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse

Another long day out which follows the Border Track from O’Reilly’s to a waterfall-laden circuit with some lookouts thrown in for good measure. Follow the Border Track for 5km to a signposted junction near a grove of impressive Antarctic Beech trees. Descend for about 30 minutes to the attractive Jimbolongerri Falls then Lightning Falls, which tumble into Black Canyon. Take the short side-track to Echo Falls then follow the main track east along the Albert River, visiting six more waterfalls before climbing to a bush campsite. This is the starting point for a walk to the wreckage of a Stinson airliner that crashed in the jungle in 1937 (four people died but two survivors were found by a rescue party 10 days after the crash). The trek takes two days and is for experienced walkers only. For now, continue 160m past the campsite to Echo Point for grandstand views of Mt Warning and the Tweed Valley. The track follows the Queensland-NSW border north for 500m to Comimam Lookout for more views before climbing back to the Border Track. Turn left, O’Reilly’s is about one hour’s walk away.

Box Forest circuit
Distance: 10.6km
Time: 4 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse

This is a shorter version of the Canungra Creek circuit that can be completed in an afternoon and includes most of the waterfalls. Follow the Border Track to the junction 1.7km from O’Reilly’s, turn left and descend past some giant box brush trees to another junction. Head left again. The track descends gently through the forest then doubles back and drops sharply via a series of switchbacks to Canungra Creek. Turn right and follow the creek east to Yanbacoochie Falls, Bunyip Falls and half a dozen more before reaching Elabana Falls and climbing back to the Border Track. Turn right to retrace the path to O’Reilly’s.

Box Log Falls

Moonlight Crag
Distance: 8km
Time: 2-3 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse

Most of Lamington is characterized by lush rainforest but there is another side to the park – the edge of the plateau is marked by rugged escarpments and grandstand views. An afternoon walk from O’Reilly’s samples some of the best – and don’t worry, it also includes a waterfall. Start by walking downhill along the road for 1km – the surrounding forest is still beautiful, but watch for cars – to a parking area that marks the start of tracks on the left-hand side of the road to Morans Falls and Python Rock (if you have two cars you could drive to this point). Follow the path to Morans Falls through open rainforest to a lookout 2.3km from the road which overlooks the falls as they tumble over the cliff into the valley below.

Continue south, crossing the creek above the falls to reach another lookout point on the other side. Look for wooden steps that climb out of the clearing. It’s a short walk through forest to a car park, continue up the dirt road and turn right at a fork in the road, following signs to Balancing Rock. Ignore a track that joins from the left and continue straight ahead at another junction for an excellent view towards the rugged massif of the Lost World. A car park is reached soon and but the track continues to Balancing Rock, an interesting rock formation that has been taped off for walkers’ safety.

Castle Crag

Return to the car park and past the viewpoint to the last junction and turn right, following the sign to Moonlight Crag. The trail deteriorates into a very faint track through the bush which leads past a research plot just before a clearing adjacent to the road. Look for an old sign with extremely faded writing pointing uphill to Moonlight Crag – don’t follow the road. The faint trail continues uphill, if you lose it just head for the top of the ridge. You won’t miss the lookout at Moonlight Crag, it’s a giant two-tiered wooden platform that seems a little out of place in such a wild location. The views, framed by grass trees clinging to the cliff edge, are outstanding, especially late in the afternoon. The Lost World looms ahead, the cliffs of Castle Crag frame the view from the right and the jagged outline of Mt Barney is visible on the horizon.

Moonlight Crag sunset

From the platform, find your way back down the slope to the clearing and join the road, following it downhill back towards O’Reilly’s, which can be seen above the trees. At an old ropes course follow the sign to the Wishing Tree Track and pick up the path alongside Morans Creek. Cross the creek on a swing bridge then climb through rainforest, passing a giant hollow tree trunk dubbed the Wishing Tree before emerging at the back of the O’Reilly’s guesthouse.

Coomera Circuit
Distance: 17.9km
Time: 6-7 hours
Start/Finish: Binna Burra Lodge

Regarded by many as the classic Lamington day walk, the highlight of this all-day trek is the breathtaking Coomera Gorge, viewed from a hair-raising perch high above the 64-metre Coomera Falls. The day also includes an obligatory selection of waterfalls as the river is followed upstream from the gorge before returning to Binna Burra with a stroll along the Border Track. From the car park at the end of the road at Binna Burra, head south on the Border Track. The forest is relatively open compared to Green Mountains, but the rainforest closes in as the track heads uphill for 1.9km to reach a four-way junction. Turn right, following signs to Coomera Gorge. From here the path descends, passing through some delightful gullies and skirting the edge of the rainforest before ending abruptly at a lookout platform that juts out of the cliff edge on the eastern wall of the gorge, a vertigo-enducing 160m above the Coomera River.

Coomera Gorge from lookout

 

Coomera Falls is ahead and the 150m Yarrabilgong Falls tumbles down the opposite cliff. Continue with care, for the next 200m the rough track hugs the cliff edge and in places it is less than one metre wide. Several waterfalls tumble into the gorge opposite to complete a spectacular scene as the track enters the Coomera Crevice, a narrow crack from which Coomera Falls tumbles into the gorge. Cross the river above the falls and the path enters true rainforest – and assumes a more familiar character, winding south along the river. Cross the river two more times and zig-zag uphill to Bahnamboola Falls. More creek crossings and zig-zagging follow as the track passes a series of beautiful waterfalls, including Kagoonya and Gwongarragong Falls, before passing the delightful Moolgoolong Cascades and eventually Goorawa Falls, the furthest point on the walk from Binna Burra.

Moolgoolong Cascades

From here it’s a short climb to rejoin the Border Track. If you’re really keen, the border and cliff-top views to Mt Warning are less than 1km away. Otherwise, turn left at the junction and follow the Border Track for 7km back to Binna Burra. About halfway Joalah Lookout offers views over the Woggunba Valley.

Border Track
Distance: 21.4km
Time: 6-7 hours
Start/Finish: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat/Binna Burra Lodge (or vice-versa)

The Border Track is the backbone of Lamington’s walking track network and, as seen above, is usually used as a highway into the forest to link up with various circuit walks. But the track is an excellent adventure in its own right. The track follows sections of the route blazed by surveyors sent to mark the state border in 1859 and was one of the first trails constructed in the park under work programs during the Great Depression. The track includes some magical stands of Antarctic Beech trees, a number of outstanding lookouts, but strangely is the only walk on this list that doesn’t visit any waterfalls at all – although dozens are only a short side-trip away. The Border Track is clearly marked at each end and well defined for its entire length. There is no public transport between O’Reilly’s and Binna Burra so you will have to organize a car shuttle, or walk back the next day!

Border Track

OTHER THINGS TO DO

The lodges at O’Rielly’s and Binna Burra offer way more than accommodation and somewhere to park your car before you start walking. Both places offer a range of guided outdoor activities, including nightwalks, birdwatching, guided walks through the forest and kids activities. Accommodation packages include dinner and other meals – the breakfast smorgasboard at O’Rielly’s is one of the scenic wonders of the national park. And of course, this being Lamington, spectacular subtropical rainforest is right on your doorstep.

Step beyond the graded track network of Lamington and you descend, often literally, into truly wild country. Bushwalkers from Brisbane journey here to engage in multi-day walks and rock-climbing (and sometimes a mix of both). If you plan to join them you will need to be experienced in both activities – contact the park rangers for more information.

Lamington rainforest

FLORA AND FAUNA

Did we mention the jungle? Subtropical rainforest is the most common habitat in Lamington, giving way to mossy cool temperate rainforest at higher altitudes. Eucalypt forest can also be found on the drier slopes. Wildlife in Lamington is spectacular and diverse – the abundant birdlife includes regent and satin bowerbirds, colourful parrots and (if you’re particularly lucky) the rare alberts lyrebird. Mammal-wise you would be unlucky not to spot a pademelon, while potoroos, bandicoots, antichinus and bushrats may all be encountered in the forest. Around the creeks keep an eye out for bright blue Lamington Spiny Crayfish. The Queensland Department of Environment and Natural Resources website also reliably informs us that the park is home to several species of earthworm.

Regent bowerbird

ACCESS

To get to Green Mountains (O’Rielly’s) drive inland from Nerang towards Beaudesert, then follow the sign-posted road from Canungra. The 36km ascent is extremely windy, with a number of single-lane sections, so take your time. To reach Binna Burra take the turnoff about 1km east of Canungra and then follow signs to ‘Lamington National Park – Binna Burra’.

WEATHER

Lamington can get very wet. Most of the rain falls between November and March, but torrential downpours can occur at any time of year. In winter nighttime temperatures can drop to near freezing and snow is not unknown.

Goorawa falls

CAMPING AND ACCOMMODATION

O’Rielly’s and Binna Burra have a range of accommodation, with O’Rielly’s being on the swisher end and Binna Burra more of a B & B atmosphere. Both sites also have camping facilities – those at O’Rielly’s are managed by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (book online and in advance of weekends and holidays). To camp at Binna Burra book through the lodge.

SAFETY/WARNINGS

Be cautious around creeks and waterfalls as the rocks can be very slippery, and don’t venture off the tracks as the vegetation is very dense and it is easy to become lost. Make sure that you record your walking intentions in the books provided, and be warned – if you forget to sign off when you return (at least at O’Rielly’s) expect to get a knock on your door from concerned staff checking to see if you’re OK. The park is also home to several venomous snakes.

Canungra Creek circuit

TRACKS

The major tracks are all well graded, and mostly branch off the Border Track which runs between Binna Burra and O’Rielly’s. There are also much rougher places to walk in the park – if you intend visiting these make sure you have experience in, and gear for, off-track walking.

MORE INFORMATION

http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/lamington/about.html

or call 13 74 68.

These descriptions are a guide only. While we have made every effort to make them accurate, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained while using them. Make sure you use an up-to-date map and consult rangers before heading out.