Brisbane writer and busy mum of two boys. See my parenting articles at www.brisbaneschild.com.au and www.kidsonthecoast.com.au.
Published July 21st 2012
Update April 17th 2015
We have visited O'Reilly's twice more since this article was written, and tried the infinity pool in warm weather. My boys are now 11 and 13 and O'Reilly's still rates for me as one of the best family holidays ever.
O'Reilly's is a private resort located in the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park, in the Gold Coast Hinterland. While O'Reilly's is technically on private land, it's surrounded by the national park in all directions, and gives you easy access to Lamington's bushwalks, mountains and rainforest.
Not far from O'Reilly's is a reasonably pleasant campground run by the Department of Environment. The campground has level sites surrounded by bush, and provides water, toilets and hot showers. We've camped there in summer, but avoided it in winter when its mountain location and lack of fireplaces can make it very cold.
This winter holidays, as an alternative to camping, we decided to look at what O'Reilly's had to offer in the way of accommodation for our family of four. We had a choice between their Rainforest Retreat (motel-style rooms next door to reception) and the mountain villas (self-contained eco-villas a few minutes drive or about ten minutes walk from reception).
Neither is cheap, especially compared to the campground, which costs around $5/person/night! Standard tariffs for O'Reilly's start at around $400/night for a one-bedroom option in the Rainforest Retreat, and only go up from there. But there are lots of specials, and we were able to get three nights in a mountain-view villa for $1200. My fingers were very tightly crossed that it would be worth this hefty price.
I needn't have worried. When we arrived late on a cold, wet afternoon, with one of our sons very car-sick, the villa was wonderfully welcoming. It boasted attractive modern architecture, big rooms, beautiful polished wood, and a cosy gas fire, which had been put on before our arrival to warm things up. We carted our gear in and I got busy making dinner while all the males in the family chilled out on the comfy couches.
Making dinner was also a pleasure, with a top-quality Miele stove (much better than I have at home) and a properly equipped kitchen (no blunt knives and cracked crockery here, unlike many holiday units). After dinner, we watched some Wimbledon tennis on pay TV before getting to bed early. The gas fire and air-conditioning kept us warm and cosy all through a wet, cold night -- very different from the camping experience.
Next morning, we opened our curtains to check out our valley view. With the weather still drizzly, it was more of a 'misty view', but pretty nevertheless (and it proved to be stunning later in our stay when the weather fined up). We lazed around in our comfortably warm villa, played some cards, and then organised ourselves to go exploring.
A track leads from the villas up to O'Reilly's reception and the main area where all bushwalks and activities start. If I were with adults, I would have walked it, but, with two kids, we drove. We then explored the wonderful Tree Top Walk (suspension bridges through the rainforest canopy), as well as some other short walks. (Read my separate article on Green Mountains for more info about walks and activities.) We spent time admiring the tall trees and lush rainforest before heading back to our villa in the afternoon.
The next day we had fun feeding the parrots (11am-3pm, $4), where we bumped into another family we know. They were staying in the Rainforest Retreat and described it as 'very nice', though a bit tough in wet weather with no cooking facilities.
After feeding the parrots, we headed to the Birds of Prey show ($48 per family), which was both very informative and highly entertaining. We could also have attended a Wildlife Encounters show, taken part in a guided walk, or gone on a glow-worm tour. There were also eco-ranger activities available for children. While I would have been very happy just to bushwalk the whole time, our sons were definitely impressed by the long list of O'Reilly's activities available.
Over the next few days, we did some more walks, and my husband and younger son had a go on O'Reilly's flying fox ($32 per adult, $20 per child -- 'awesome' according to their reports). We also ate dinner one night in O'Reilly's restaurant (probably a bit over-priced, but quite nice food and a lovely setting), and visited the quaint library next to reception. This boasts an open fire, an old piano, and lots of photos of the O'Reilly family, who have been on the mountain since the 1930s.
My husband and sons also tried out our spa bath, on the villa balcony, and enjoyed it, though my husband found it a bit shallow for him. I wasn't game to go out in the cold, so have put that on my to-do list, along with a swim in the spectacular lap pool. This pool is beside the Lost World spa, which sits not far from the mountain villas, and has stunning views.
The spa itself offers a wide range of wonderful treatments, but its prices were too steep for me, with massages starting around $165.
All in all, we had a wonderful time at O'Reilly's mountain villas. The only downsides we could find were the distance up to reception (which resulted in lots of short drives to and from the starts of walks and activities), and the quality of the food from the Mountain Cafe (a takeaway store that sells the usual not-very-good pies, chips, etc).
While we found the price of the villa very high, the quality of what we got was very good. We still love camping (and we're already planning our spring holiday to Girraween National Park), but I have to say that an eco-villa makes a great base to explore a chilly national park in winter. Now I just have to get back there in summer so that I can try out that incredible pool!