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O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat

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by Susan Jackson (subscribe)
Gold Coast Explorer since Jan 2010. Always on the lookout for fun, family things to enjoy with my four kids.
Published June 7th 2012
O'Reilly's
O'Reilly's
Early visitors to O'Reilly's
Image courtesy of O'Reilly's website)

O'Reilly's is a rainforest retreat on the western edge of World Heritage listed, Lamington National Park. The land was originally claimed by 8 O'Reilly boys, of two related families, for dairy farming in 1911. Visitors to the area inspired thoughts of tourism and so the guesthouse was born and welcomed its first visitors in 1926.

Now run by the third generation of O'Reilly's, there are a number of draw cards to bring you to the mountain. Packages such as Families in the Forest, Girls Getaways and Romance in the Rainforest offer many reasons to lose yourself in Lamington. Great Walks holds its own appeal and this year is the 75th anniversary of the Stinson Rescue.


This place is full of stories, so make yourself some tea and read on.

The Stinson Walk

Stinson Rescue
The Stinson Rescue
Image courtesy of O'Reilly's website)

Back in 1937, a Stinson airliner, travelling from Brisbane to Sydney, crashed into the Lamington Ranges. 4 out of the 7 on board were killed. A search was launched which failed to find any wreckage. Ten days after the crash, Bernard O'Reilly set out on foot to find the plane, through dense rainforest. He discovered the crash site and two men still alive but in desperate need of medical attention. He also discovered the body of a 5th member of the party who died after falling over a waterfall, in a bid to get help.

Bernard returned to the men with a doctor while local farmers cut 16 kms of tracks through the rainforest of Lamington Plateau to rescue the two survivors.

This year commemorates 75 years of the Stinson rescue and there are four dates scheduled for retracing Bernard's steps through the mountainous rainforest terrain.

The Stinson 2012 Walk Dates are:
29 June – 01 July, 13 – 15 July, 03 – 5 August and 24 – 26 August 2012.

If you want to experience one of Australia's iconic walks don't miss the opportunity to join the anniversary groups. Billed as "rugged but rewarding" - it sounds like a walk to be remembered.

Strangler Figs
Strangler Fig
Strangler Fig trees have a hollow core which is great for climbing

If you're someone who likes a good story but wouldn't contemplate the walk then drop by for a day visit as it makes for a good family day out. We had the most fun on the walks by climbing up inside the strangler fig trees. After the original host tree dies, the fig that has grown around it, ends up with a hollow core which kids have great fun climbing. It's a kind of chimney climb, bracing yourself against the sides. It was really funny seeing a face peering through at various points up the trunk and it becomes a challenge to see who can climb the highest.

Inside the Strangler Fig
Inside the Strangler Fig


The Tree Top Walk
Treetop walkway
The Treetop Walk


The Booyong Walk is a board walk (300m from the guesthouse), which leads to a Tree Top Walk - the first of its kind in Australia. It's 180m in length and is made up of 9 suspension bridges, with much of the walkway being 15m above the ground. You can also climb up to two observation decks, the highest one being 30m above the ground.

Treetop Observation ladder
Climbing the ladder up to the observation deck

Climbing up the ladder, which does have wire screens around it, is quite daunting and not everyone will make their way to the top, especially if it's windy. The resulting view out over the canopy is worth the climb.

Treetop view
View out over the rainforest

Click here for walk options.

Mountain Café

After the walk you can stop off at the Mountain Cafe for something to eat or pack a picnic and enjoy eating it on the grassy area by the big rocks. The cafe has a number of black and white photos of the "old days" which makes for interesting viewing.

O'Reilly's Family Tree
The O'Reilly Family Tree

We really don't know how easy we have it, when you see how people worked and lived, less than 100 years ago. I have to say I admire the grit and determination of the O'Reilly boys, and the wives they enticed up the mountain, with the life they took on. There's a copy of the O'Reilly family tree there too. The café will also pack a lunch for you to take with on the trail if you ask them.

Birds

Bird feeding takes place close-by ($4 a tray), with many birds visiting, chattering and sitting on your head. The king parrots and crimson rosellas were beautiful. I noticed on the website that there are also 2 shows available: A "Birds of Prey Flight Show" & "Wildlife Encounter Show" but we didn't know about those when we visited. The pictures on the site look pretty impressive.
Birds of Prey Flight Show
Birds of Prey Flight Show
(Image courtesy of O'Reilly's website)


There are birding activities scheduled throughout the year for the birding enthusiast and a Bird Week, which runs every November.

O'Reilly's Vineyard

O'Reilly's Vineyards
You pass the vineyards as you drive up and back down the mountain

The O'Reilly's Vineyards are in the Canungra Valley and you pass by as you drive up and back down the mountain. They do picnic baskets, which aren't cheap, but I am assured by friends that the contents make for a delightful lunch experience. Sitting out under the trees is great for a family, as the kids can run around when they have had enough and try to spot the duck billed platypus which live in the river. We dropped by when a wedding was on, so didn't stay, but it looked such a beautiful and peaceful wedding venue. The cellar door is open daily for wine tastings.

Canungra Valley Vineyards
The Winery Homestead
(Image courtesy of O'Reilly's website)


The Drive

The drive from Canungra up the mountain is twisty and narrow so if you have kids who are prone to feeling car sick you might want to give them something before you go. We saw Roos on the way.
Road to O'Reilly's
The road to O'Reilly's


There are a number of options for overnight stays, including the retreat and villas. There is also a campground, owned and managed by National Parks, called Green Mountains Section, although I imagine it gets pretty cold up there in winter. You can break the drive for kids by stopping in Canungra. There's a shop near the tourist info centre, and a park and toilets across the road. Click here for directions.

Canungra
Canungra
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Why? Great walking/picnic/family day out
When: Anytime
Where: Lamington National Park
Cost: Your petrol
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