Despite living in Queensland most of my life I had never been to Lamington National Park and didn’t know what to expect, which meant everything was a surprise for me. The biggest surprise of all was the drive up there. I don’t consider myself someone who takes a drive just for the fun of it, so I was really taken aback by how much I enjoyed driving up there. It’s the kind of drive where you wind down your windows, turn your music up and just cruise.
It starts out taking you through long stretches of road with subtle turns, drawing you southwest away from Brisbane City and suburbia, past increasingly smaller towns until you get to the gorgeous little town of Canungra. From here you turn into Lamington National Park road, which is where the fun really begins.
The road starts to twist and turn, winding you through single-lanes and narrow strips of road lined with big gum trees and sheer rock faces. As you get higher, the view becomes too good to drive past. A seemingly endless space, showing off the size of our beautiful Australian bushland, where dense scrub breaks open into large paddocks dotted with cattle, lazily feeding. Wallabies nibble on the grass by the roadside, dashing off as you get closer while bright orange wattle trees explode with colour and mountains cut shapes into the horizon.
As you climb higher, winding around tighter turns and smaller roads, the scrub gives way to lush rainforest. Huge trees tower overhead, creating a deep green umbrella above you. Vines wrap around trees, twisting into french plaits, adding another layer of beauty to the sea of green leaves and moss-covered tree trunks. The road continues to wind, alpaca and cattle spring up either side and birds fly by. Finally the beautiful, encompassing rainforest breaks, and you arrive at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Once you stop driving, you can’t help but shake your head in wonder and think, “What just happened? That was incredible!”
Where to stay
Walking into a Mountain Villa at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat brings a big smile to your face. The luxurious villas are nestled into lush rainforest and you feel like you’ve found your way into an amazing treehouse. Spacious, modern and fully self-contained, the villas are the perfect places to reconnect with nature and recharge. The kitchen and dining room open up onto a huge deck, perfect for soaking in your private spa or enjoying food and wine as the sun sets.
The bedrooms are generous with a bed so big you may not see the person sleeping next to you for quite a while once you get in. Waking up in the morning, as the sunlight trickles through the window, you hear the sounds of birds echoing through the forest. It’s a welcome change from the sound of cars or day-to-day suburban or city life, it’s a calming, soothing sound that makes you want to stay in bed and fall back to sleep.
You can snuggle up on the couch with the fireplace roaring, toast marshmallows, watch old movies or curl up in the corner and read a book. I found it so easy to relax in the peace and tranquillity of O’Reilly’s because every detail had been thought of and all I had to do was enjoy it. I also really loved being surrounded by so much natural beauty, like seeing the lovely little Pademelons feeding at dusk.
8 of the best things to do
1. Glowworm tour
Possibly my favourite activity, the Glow Worm Tour took me completely by surprise. The tour takes place at night, driving then continuing on foot deep into a secret rainforest location to Glow Worm Grotto. Once you settle into a comfortable spot and your eyes adjust, the bright little lights of the glow worms begin to shine more and more brightly against the dark, quiet forest.
The inspiring and knowledgeable guide talks you through the life of a glow worm and how important conservation is, especially at O’Reilly’s. It’s the kind of tour that gives you a sense of our impact on the environment and the importance of education and awareness.
2. O’Reilly’s treetop walk
Take the 180-metre walk along 9 suspension bridges, winding 15 metres high above the rainforest floor. Climb up a beautiful old Strangler Fig to observation decks 3o metres above the ground and take in the view of rolling hills, thick scrub and dense rainforest.
3. Flying fox
Zip through the rainforest down a 180-metre cable, 25 metres above the forest floor with the wind in your hair and a massive (possibly terrified) smile plastered across your face. This high-adrenaline experience is a thrill a minute and one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
4. Segway tour
Have an amazing, fun experience roaming through the rainforest on a Segway tour to Moran’s Falls. This safari-like tour takes you through Lamington National Park, gliding past an old dairy farm, Eucalypt forest and a creek crossing (with the chance of spotting a Platypus!) At the stunning Moran’s Falls, you can climb over rocks and take in the amazing view of the Great Dividing Range.
5. Bird watching and feeding
I’m absolutely terrified of birds, but even I got a tray of birdseed and got up close and personal with King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas! You can also go to the famous Birds of Prey show in the afternoon to see some of Australia’s beautiful owls, falcons and eagles in free flight.
6. Hiking and bushwalking
There are many short walks and full-day walks in Lamington National Park and O’Reilly’s has put together a great series of track maps and guides for you to use. Before heading out on a walk, stop into O’Reailly’s to grab a map and fill out the daily log to show where you’re going and your expected time of return, for safety reasons.
7. Eco Rangers kids activities
The perfect way for the younger generation to have some fun, and learn about the rainforest and the importance of conservation and how delicate and valuable our rainforest and bushlands are. Kids can enjoy fun games, arts and crafts under the supervision of O’Reilly’s staff while parents have a little time out.
8. Feed alpacas
Stop in at the Mountain View Alpaca Farm on the drive up, grab a coffee and some alpaca fur socks, take in the stunning view at the back of the farm then feed the friendly alpacas! They’re absolutely hilarious, each with their own personality and funny little quirks and noises. I was laughing the entire time I was there and the coffee was great too.
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