Did you know Australia was once part of an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana? It incorporated present-day Australasia, Antarctica, Africa and South America. But forty-five million years ago, when Australia was covered in subtropical rainforest, it began to separate from Antarctica.
As the continents drifted apart and the climate changed, the rainforests shrank, until only 1% remained by the time Europeans colonised Australia. Of course, in the iconic words of Dr Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Life, uh… finds a way”. And it did.
The last remnants of these rainforests are found in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, which is World Heritage-listed and includes national parks from just north of Newcastle into south-east Queensland. Think lush rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, ancient volcanoes and rare species.
We’ve found some easy rainforest walks and idyllic picnic spots where you can enjoy a glimpse of what the land was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Stand on the edge of a volcanoHealthy Day Out*Estimate only, based on Protestor Falls walking track, measurements will vary. Check the walk grade and conditions before you go. You can calculate your own personal energy burn at 8700.com.au
Less than an hour’s drive from the glittering Gold Coast, you can stand on the edge of a shield volcano and look 1000m down into the Tweed Valley. Luckily, you don’t need to worry about dodging lava flows—the last time it erupted was 23 million years ago. Further south is Protesters Falls walking track in Nightcap National Park, near Lismore. It’s one of our favourite short walks, taking you through pristine rainforest to a spectacular waterfall. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a barbecue lunch at Terania Creek picnic area.
Ranger tip: We know waterfalls are a great spot for a swim or capture that photo for the ‘gram. Please take care and read our waterfall safety tips.
Swim among ancient fernsHealthy Day Out*Estimate only, based on Coombadjha nature stroll, measurements will vary. Check the walk grade and conditions before you go. You can calculate your own personal energy burn at 8700.com.au
If laying around by a rainforest pool isn’t Insta-worthy, we don’t know what is. Coombadjha nature stroll winds its way past coachwood trees and giant red cedars, ending at a viewing platform overlooking a fern-fringed pool. Located in Washpool National Park near Grafton, this hidden gem is the perfect spot to relax to the soundtrack of the rainforest. When you’re done, head back to Coachwood picnic area to dry off in the sunshine and enjoy an alfresco feast.
Did you know? The Gondwana Rainforests contains the largest stand of temperate rainforest in the world, with ferns from the Carboniferous Period and conifers from the Jurassic Period.
Get a birds-eye view of the rainforest
For a different perspective of the Gondwana Rainforests, you can’t miss a visit to Dorrigo Rainforest Centre near Coffs Harbour. The highlight is a 70m boardwalk that soars 21m above Dorrigo National Park, with views from the rainforest to the sea. Cook up a barbecue lunch at The Glade picnic area, then head out on the easy Crystal Shower Falls walk, which takes you to the base of a stunning waterfall.
Experience the life of a stockman
With dramatic gorges, vast stretches of wilderness and wedge-tailed eagles soaring above, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park near Armidale feels like something out of a Baz Luhrmann movie. You can camp near a traditional stockman’s hut at Youdales Hut campground, or stay at the comfy East Kunderang Homestead (Akubra optional). While you’re there, boil up a billy tea at Apsley Falls picnic area, before stretching your legs on the Apsley Rim Gorge walking track. It offers magnificent views across one of Australia’s largest gorge systems, carpeted in rare dry rainforest.
Follow in the footsteps of dinosaursHealthy Day Out*Estimate only, based on Gloucester Falls walking track, measurements will vary. Check the walk grade and conditions before you go. You can calculate your own personal energy burn at 8700.com.au
Home to rare gemstones and sedimentary rocks up to 290 million years old, it’s easy to imagine dinosaurs wandering through the untamed wilderness of Barrington Tops National Park, near Gloucester. Gloucester Falls walking track takes you through subalpine woodlands to a lookout where twin waterfalls plunge into the valley below. Trust us, your ‘soothing sounds’ playlist on Spotify has nothing on the call of lyrebirds echoing across the mountains. Gloucester Tops picnic area is a great spot to regroup and relax, before setting out on another walk or heading home.
We like to think of the Gondwana Rainforests as our own Jurassic Park – where we can step back in time to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana over 500 million years ago. So get out there and enjoy a glimpse of this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Area.
NSW National Parks are natural unpredictable environments. Plan for your trip with our THINK Before You Trek safety tips, check the weather and always stay updated with the latest alerts.