There are pockets of untouched rainforests dotted about Northern New South Wales and if you wish to discover them, then you'd best follow Rainforest Way. The name Rainforest Way itself sounds like it's taken straight from a fictional fairy story and when you venture into any of these rainforests, you do get the feeling you are being watched by fairy folk - or maybe it's just the glow worms. As you drive along these routes, simply follow the rainforest seedling symbol, a classic sign and your little green guide for the journey.
There are several routes which comprise Rainforest Way and I will give the basic details of each below. The seven routes themselves cover a wide area from Boonah in South East Queensland to Lismore in Northern New South Wales, each one connecting to a unique pocket of protected rainforest, some of which are World Heritage listed. Each route has a detailed map provided on the Rainforest Way website, which I highly recommend downloading before you depart.
1). Mallanganee Lookout and Richmond Range - 5 hours / 121 kms:
Climb the Great Dividing Range to Mallanganee Lookout with amazing views across the valleys of Richmond Range National Park. The route also loops through the town of Woodenbong and into Tooloom National Park, the home of the greatest macropod species diversity in all of Australia. There are many sites along this route which are significant to the local Aboriginal people.
The local Kyogle and Beaudesert Lions Clubs built this scenic road in 1971. This historic route passes Mount Lion and crosses the New South Wales and Queensland border by way of the famous "tick gate". See how railway engineers designed an ingenious "spiral loop" to enable trains to cross the Border Ranges, as you drive along side magical Running Creek. Be sure to do the nature walk at Border Loop Lookout.
This route ventures into the Gold Coast Hinterland, as you drive through Nerang and up Tambourine Mountain, into the cooler climate sub-tropical rainforests. Within Tambourine National Park, I recommend the walk to Curtis Falls through the Piccabeen Forest, then reward yourself in a cafe along Gallery Walk. Continue on to the Binna Burra or O'Reilly's sections of Lamington National Park.
4). Main Range Drive - 5.5 hours/ 109 kms:
Begin this drive at Boonah, west of Beaudesert, exploring Mount French National Park along the way. Rock climbers will want to test their skills at Frog Buttress. This route also passes some stunning waterfalls - Teviot Forest Reserve and Queen Mary Falls. Be sure to stop at Carrs Lookout for views of the Condamine River, which feeds into Australia's longest river, the mighty Murray. The route passes no less than five National Parks, including Mt Barney.
5). Mt Warning View Circuit - 4 hours/ 90 kms:
This route is basically one giant lap around Mt Warning/Wollumbin. Beginning in Murwillumbah, visit the World Heritage Rainforest Information Centre before following Tourist Drive 32 to the township of Uki, near the base of majestic Mt Warning itself. Those fit enough may wish to make the actual ascent on foot, however allow a good six hours for the spectacular round trip. Continue on towards Kyogle, then north to Chillingham and back to Murwillumbah.
Begin at Cape Byron Lighthouse and head for the hinterland through the towns of Bangalow and Federal. Minyon Falls drop 100 metres off the ridge at Nightcap National Park, and they are definitely worth the drive. Also stop in at Protestor Falls (site of Australia's first forest blockade) before driving on to Nimbin and Lismore to complete this memorable circuit.
7). Tweed Range Scenic Drive - 4 hours/ 90 kms:
This drive takes you deep into Border Ranges National Park, (via Kyogle) where the highlight is Pinnacle Lookout. The views over Mt Warning and the caldera are unique and the surrounding rainforests are pristine. Visit Bar Mountain, where you can wander through a rare Antarctic Beech forest or maybe have a picnic at Brindle Creek or attempt to find the 1000 year old Cedar.