DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
This World Heritage listed area offers spectacular views of the Mount Warning volcanic site, along with drives and walks through dense rainforest.
Border Ranges National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, is a large wilderness area that protects untouched rainforest and unique plants and animals connected to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.
It contains the largest areas of subtropical rainforest in the world; nearly all the Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest in the world; large areas of warm temperate rainforest; many plants and animals that are very much like their ancestors in the fossil record; many rare and threatened species and eroded craters of extinct shield volcanoes.
Formerly known as the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia, this property was first placed on the World Heritage List in 1986. The area was extended in 1994 and is World Heritage-listed because:
“It represents outstanding examples of major stages of the Earth’s evolutionary history, ongoing geological and biological processes, and exceptional biological diversity.
“A wide range of plant and animal lineages and communities with ancient origins in Gondwana, many of which are restricted largely or entirely to the Gondwana Rainforests, survive in this collection of reserves.
“The Gondwana Rainforests also provides the principal habitat for many threatened species of plants and animals.” (Gondwana Rainforests, UNESCO).
The Gondwana Rainforests is also listed on the NSW State Heritage Register and the National Heritage List. A tour through the Border Ranges National Park isn’t normally an off-road challenge, but should be part of any tour of the mountainous region between Queensland and NSW.
The Tweed Range Scenic Drive is navigable by two wheel drive vehicles in good weather, but 4WD provides traction backup if the weather turns nasty, as it did during our July 2020 visit. The gravel surface became very slippery after an overnight shower and many errant tyre tracks showed that car drivers had had some difficulties keeping on the track.
The 1000-metre altitude of much of this National Park guarantees a weather change is always on the cards.
The easiest way to enter the Park is via Lions Road and Sheep Station Creek, and then our route took in all the steep climbs and visited the most significant viewing sites. We used Kyogle as a base for our two-day visit.
The trip begins with a bitumen run out of Kyogle, but the road soon turns to gravel and climbs steeply. Virtually the entire dirt road drive is through dense rainforest, but the canopy is clear enough for GPS to function.
At Bar Mountain there are long and short walks through elevated rainforest that is home to the rare Antarctic Beech: a survivor of the Gondwana land mass that eventually broke up into today’s South America, Australia, India and Antarctica. Some of the trees visitors gaze at began growing when the Roman Empire was at its peak.
From Bar Mountain through to Forest Tops Camping Area the road is dotted with mountaintop viewing spots, with The Blackbutts and The Pinnacle being standouts.
These lookouts give a clear view of the Mount Warning volcanic area and sit at the edge of the ancient caldera; the largest in the southern hemisphere. The craggy finger of Mount Warning is all that’s left of the weathered core of the original volcano and is said to be half its original height.
The one-way loop drive from Forest Tops through Brindle Creek shows another aspect of this extraordinary area, as the road drops into the Brindle Creek valley and crosses the Creek at a beautifully sited bridge.
The ideal camping spot in the Park is at Forest Tops, where there is ample grass area, composting dunnies and three fire places. The only drawback is having to lug your camping gear from the 4WD to the site, because you can’t park near your camp, thanks to a typical NSW Parks and Wildlife vehicle exclusion fence.
From Forest Tops the track descends steeply into the Sheep Station Creek valley, where there’s another, busier, campsite.
An alternative to driving down the hill is to bush-walk the 9.2-kilometre Booyong Track that runs from Forest Tops to Brush Box Falls, near the Sheep Station Creek campsite and then transfer back to Forest Tops by vehicle (there’s always someone happy to give the walk a miss and be the ferry person).
There are loop walks at Sheep Station Creek that are must-dos – both taking in Brush Box Falls and its attendant swimming holes.
Sheep Station Creek was the base for cedar cutters in the mid-1800s and there are still traces of their Red Gold activities. Not far from Brush Box Falls, on the Palm Forest Walk, is a log slide where forest giants were slid down the hillside to waiting horse-drawn jinkers. The loggers carved their names into a rock face and the historic graffiti survives today.