We love to go camping in the hinterland National Parks just over the border in New South Wales. It’s spectacular country with ancient volcanoes, escarpments and mountain ranges all blanketed in rainforest.
Our favourite time to slip away is winter – the air crisp and cool, still nights and starry skies, followed by chilly mornings with dew on the grass. It’s just over an hour from our home on the Gold Coast to the Border Ranges, where we can set up camp, pitch the tent, start a fire, cook up some pasta, pour a glass or two of wine, and sit and quietly listen.
In the middle of the week we are usually the only campers in the forest, the quietest nights, crackling camp fires, an infinite shadowy ceiling lit by the moon and decorated with twinkling stars, big skies and of course very big conversations.
Early in the morning we walk through dripping rainforests and beside crystal streams flowing over smoothed ancient rocks, all the time listening for bird sounds.
It’s the simple pleasures of camping that we love, finding the perfect site so the morning sun streams into the tent, splitting wood with a blunt axe, lighting fires with damp kindling, morning tea with ginger nut biscuits, the occasional rain shower rhythmically tapping on the tent, and mornings cold enough to see your breath as you turn over and snuggle inside a sleeping bag and pull the doona up over your ears.
Or the little surprises that nature can deliver, like waking in the night and seeing silhouetted in the moonlight a huge buck Kangaroo, calmly standing at the door of your tent. You know that a single hop would leave your tent flattened like a failed souffle, and that yelling ‘piss off skip’ isn’t going to work. Or having a quiet breakfast interrupted by several squabbling families of Blue Faced Honeyeaters picking a fight because they’ve fallen in love with your new blue tent.
For one of Cathy’s special birthdays we climbed Mt. Warning, the remains of the central volcanic plug. Each morning for eons the top of Mt. Warning is the first place in Australia to be touched by the rising sun. We set off in the dark and as dawn approached we scrambled up the last of the boulders to the summit. As we sat and watched, the sun rose over the ocean, briefly bathed us in warmth and then quickly ran down the mountain across the valley and raced off to wake the rest of Australia.
This World Heritage listed area is known as the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Gondwana refers to ‘the great southern land’ the ancient super continent that included Australia, South America and Antarctica. The central feature is the 20 million year-old Wollumbin shield volcano, with its central plug Mt. Warning. It is one of the best preserved erosion caldera in the world. For thousands of years Aboriginal people have lived as hunter-gatherers in this area, Mt. Warning remains significant to them with its mythology extending back to the Dreamtime.
The area was a favourite of early western timbergetters and settlers who especially sought the cedar trees. The National Parks including Springbrook, Border Ranges, Nightcap, and Richmond Range were set up to protect the ancient rainforests. Many of the current park trails were once bullock logging tracks and some of the park campsites are old loggers’ camps and yards. The campgrounds have colourful names such as Sheep Station Creek, Iron Pot Creek, Forest Tops and Cutters Camp.
We feel so fortunate to live so close to and to be able to experience such to an amazing wilderness brimming with wildlife, history and unique landscapes.
Springbrook National Park https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/springbrook/about.html
Includes a spectacular crescent shaped escarpment extending from the Springbrook Plateau to the Lamington Plateau to the Tweed Ranges. The terrain was a major obstacle to exploration and it was only in 1863 that the first Europeans ventured there to survey the new Queensland – New South Wales border.
Border Ranges National Park: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/
The untouched rainforest includes unique plants and animals connected to ancient Gondwana. The Tweed Range Scenic Track hugs the escarpment and provides magnificent views over crater to the volcanic plug Mt. Warning. It is also part of the Scenic Rim Important Bird Area and home to several threatened species.
Nightcap National Park: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/
This rugged country and the ancient lush rainforest provides a protected home for the newly discovered Nightcap Oak as well as a number of threatened species, including Albert’s Lyrebird.
Richmond Range National Park: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/
The forest tracks meander through world heritage rainforest and provide scenic lookouts across the Richmond River Valley. A protective habitat for the animals and birds including gobbling brush turkeys, non-venomous carpet pythons, delightful Rose-Crowned Fruit-Doves and the rare Little Bent-winged Bat.
Dorrigo National Park: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/
The Waterfall Way Scenic Drive (185km 2.5hrs) links Coffs Harbour and Armidale and passes through both the New England and Dorrigo National Parks. The parks have a huge variety of animals and birds, including the Red-necked Pademelons, the coloured Wompoo Fruit-Dove and the spectacular Regent Bowerbird.