High in the McPherson Range in the Gold Coast hinterland, Lamington National Park protects more than 20,000 hectares of rainforest, waterfalls and rocky peaks -- and all just 2 hours drive from Brisbane.
The park contains two sections -- Binna Burra on the eastern side and Green Mountains (sometimes referred to as 'O'Reilly's') on the western side. While my husband and I have visited both sections many times, we had our first family trip to Green Mountains when we spent four days there with our two sons (aged 8 and 10) during the recent school holidays.
Green Mountains is a bit over 100km from Brisbane, or around a two-hour drive (see the Department of Environment website for directions). The last 36km of the drive from Canungra is steep and winding, and it's slow going. In our case, it brought on motion sickness in one of our sons, so we had an even slower journey than usual.
Nevertheless, we made it up the mountain by late afternoon, and checked into our accommodation. While Green Mountains has quite a pleasant Department of Environment campground (from around $5 per person per night), we decided to lash out and take the luxury option this time.
We booked into a mountain villa run by O'Reilly's, a private resort that offers a range of accommodation and activities in and near the national park. Our villa proved amazingly comfortable and cosy, despite some periods of heavy rain and chilly temperatures. (If you'd like to know more about the villas, and the rest of the O'Reilly's resort, read my separate review of them for Weekend Notes.)
But the star attraction at Green Mountains is the environment, with more than a dozen different bushwalks starting from or near the Department of Environment information centre and O'Reilly's resort. These walks are a wonderful way to experience Lamington's attractions.
They range from fully sealed short tracks (suitable for wheelchairs) to the 23km Border Track, which connects Green Mountains to Binna Burra. In addition to the nine official tracks listed on the Department of Environment website, O'Reilly's provides its own guide that lists some extra walks (available from O'Reilly's reception).
During our four days at Green Mountains, we walked to both Picnic Rock (7.6km return) and Python Rock (1km return) with our two boys, who managed both walks fine. We all marvelled at the rushing waterfalls, tall trees and panoramic mountain views. We also enjoyed the company of catbirds, whipbirds and wrens, and admired the cute pademelons and wallabies we saw huddled near the undergrowth.
As well as this, we strolled along the Booyong Walk (800m return), which leads visitors to the famous Treetop Walk. Consisting of nine suspension bridges, the Treetop Walk rises up to 15m above the ground. I'm not good with heights, but even I enjoyed wandering through the rainforest canopy. My husband and sons went further still, climbing up a lookout in a giant fig that took them 30m above ground.
As well as doing the walks, we participated in some of the activities run by O'Reilly's. Bird-feeding is probably the best-known, where you pay $4 for a tray of seed to offer to the parrots that flock into the bird-feeding area between 11am and 3pm each day. This was great fun, and uses approved feed so that its environmental impact is minimal.
Still on a bird theme, we attended a one-hour Birds of Prey show ($48 for a family pass), which we found both informative and fun. We managed to get up close with eagles, owls and falcons, and learned a lot along the way. It's one of the best wildlife shows that I've seen.
My husband and our eight-year-old also went on the flying-fox, which is located on O'Reilly's private land (if you book in, you will be driven to it in an O'Reilly's 4WD from reception). This is a serious version, which has you harnessed and whizzing 25m above the ground for 180m. I didn't go along, but my two adventurers described it as 'awesome', and well worth the fee for three rides ($32 for adults, $20 for kids).
It boasts one of the biggest selections of bushwalks that you'll find in any of Queensland's national parks, plus a whole range of activities that you don't normally get in such areas. It's doable as a day trip, but better still for a weekend or longer stay. I highly recommend it.
PS - A number of tour companies run daytrips to Green Mountains, and there are also picnic tables, barbecues and a cafe available if you want to eat something while you're there.