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An Inspiring Traveller’s Guide to Australia's Most Incredible Forested Wildernesses

by Noelle Australia |

Imagine wandering in an untouched wilderness, surrounded by trees stretching higher than the eye can see, knowing these proud giants have stood tall for centuries before any white settler set foot on the continent.

 

You can’t help but feel a sense of wonder at their enormity, as the twitter of birdsong, and the trickle of the pristine creeks along the forest floor are the only sounds heard for miles. The spirit of the original indigenous caretakers is strong here.

 

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"Australia’s Forest and Woodlands – 

More than Gum Trees and Billabongs!"

 

Australia currently has around 125 million hectares of forest within its borders – three percent of the Earth’s forests.  Most Australians are familiar with the typical “Australian bush” – or open eucalypt forest.  Less familiar are woodland habitats like tropical and temperate rainforest (home to the majority of our animal and plant species), and the mountainous pine forests – the oldest woodlands on the continent.  Plus, the magnificent forests of gigantic Huon Pines, shooting from the slopes of the rugged mountain ranges of southern Tasmania.

 

These precious forests, each with their own sublime, special beauty, are sanctuaries for some of the rarest plant and animal species on earth. Because of encroaching development, the resources industry, bushfires and climate change, they are also Australia’s most endangered habitats and in desperate need of our protection.

 

Plan a road trip with a difference

 

We believe Australians and international visitors deserve to better understand the vital wilderness areas that are often overlooked in favour of heavily promoted natural attractions like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru.  With the current pandemic making international tourism seemingly a long way off, many travel-deprived Australians are holding out for state borders to reopen, seeking getaway destinations inside our own country.

 

Australia has so much to offer travellers in terms of natural beauty, and to really get away from it all, you’ll have to venture far well off the typical tourist trail.  If your idea of a revitalising getaway is being immersed in the magic of Mother Nature, consider visiting one of these two incredible woodland destinations.

 

After the year of human-caused mayhem we’ve

had, who doesn’t want to escape the crowds

to the paradises in our own backyard?

 

 

•••

 

Destination One

 

The Styx “Valley of the Giants” – Tasmania

 

 

It’s little wonder many landmarks in southern Tasmania’s Styx Valley are appointed mythological names. Picture an enchanted forest from a fantasy novel – dark and deep, with pathways through the dense undergrowth tunnelling beneath a tangled canopy of overarching branches, their gnarled skin completely green with glistening moss and lichens.

 

On the mist-shrouded valley floor, rocks and flourishing ferns line the swirling, sepia-coloured Styx River, named after the waterway in Greek Mythology that marks the borderland between the living and the dead.

 

The remnants of a once-vast temperate rainforest, the Styx Valley Conservation Area, the last guardians of this eerily beautiful wilderness are the Eucalyptus Regnans (also known as the mountain ash or swamp gum).

 

 

 

Throughout the protected reserve, these behemoths soar up to 100m high, making them the tallest hardwood trees on earth. They’re second in size only to the California redwoods, but the redgums have grown for over a thousand years to reach their current heigh, the Styx redgums have a few centuries of growth left.  The biggest of all, Centurion, is believed to be 400 to 600 years old, 100m tall, and 400cm in trunk diameter.

 

Despite the one-of-a-kind natural wonders here, the Styx Valley is under threat by logging groups demanding further access into the forest.  Environmentalists are lobbying to turn the area into a National Park, protecting the last remaining 90m-plus high eucalypts and transforming the region into an eco-friendly, tourism-based economy.

 

 

Getting There

 

Noelle's Woodland Travel Guide - Road Trip from Hobart to Styx Valley Map

Source: https://www.google.com/maps/

 

Only 80km northwest of Hobart, the Styx Valley is yet relatively unvisited, an outing here is guaranteed to be peaceful and secluded. The scenic drive from Hobart to the rural alpine township of Maydena makes for a stunning road trip through the rugged Derwent Valley.  From Maydena, a gravel road leads to the entrance of the Reserve. It’s suitable for 2WD vehicles, but take it extra easy in the wet.  

 

If you want to spend more time among the giants, consider staying overnight in Maydena.

 

Where to Stay

 

Most people visit the Styx Valley as a day trip from Hobart, but you might want to consider basing yourself in Maydena, an hour and a half’s drive from Hobart. This pretty country village on the banks of Tyenna has become something of an adventure travel hub, popular with cavers, mountain bikers and of course, bushwalkers.

 

  • Maydena Mountain Cabins is one of several local properties in Maydena that offers self-contained cabins and garden apartments.

 

 

What to See and Do

 

Walking tracks for all levels of fitness and ability circle have been built in recent years to encourage low environmental impact bushwalking.

 

  • Big Tree Trail in the heart of the valley offers a boardwalk and gravel 700m circuit amongst some of the largest trees and flowering plants in the reserve. At the end, stairs lead to a spectacular viewing platform 50m above the Styx River with views over the canopy out to the mountains of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

 

Source: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/australia/tasmania/styx-big-tree-walk

 

  • The Tolkien Track is actually a network of various short trails – offshoots of the Big Tree Trail that lead deeper into the lush rainforest and some of the most magical scenery in the valley – streams, waterfalls, caves and even a giant hollow at the base of a tree trunk, so large that you can step inside what’s now known as The Chapel.

 

Noelle Woodland Travel Guide - The Tolkien Track Map

Source: https://noloneliness.com/tolkien-track-the-styx/

 

Many of the landmarks here are named for places in the Lord of the Rings. Stand below the mighty twin trunks of Fangorn and gaze in awe at the wise, wizardly majesty of Gandalf’s Staff. Staring up at this hulking skyscraper, you can spot the ropes and pulleys up to a wooden platform, almost 85m in the air, where the world’s highest ever aerial protest was held in 2003. The protest successfully halted advancing loggers into the ‘Valley of the Giants’, at least for now.

 

 

Know Before You Go

 

Despite being less than two hours from Hobart, the Styx Valley is remote area with no mobile phone coverage. The weather here is also extremely changeable and tends to be on the wetter side, making some tracks quite challenging and slippery. Pack appropriate layering clothing, wet weather gear and quality hiking shoes.

 

 

 

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••

 

 

Destination Two 

 

Gold Coast Hinterland - Queensland 

  Noelle's Woodland Traveller's Guide - Gold Coast Hinterland

 

45 minutes inland from the beaches, bikinis, brand name board shorts and entertainment strips of Surfers Paradise, the Gold Coast Hinterland isn’t exactly a secret – but most tourists tend to overlook it in favour of sand, surf and theme parks.

 

The Hinterland is a sprawling oasis of dense rainforest, open bushland, tree-covered volcanic peaks, scenic rural valleys and pretty hilltop villages welcoming visitors with boutique stays, cute cafes, cellar doors, art galleries and top-notch restaurants.  

 

Nolle's Woodland - Traveller's Guide for Gold Coast Hinterland Road Trip

 

One of the most ancient, breathtakingly scenic and beautifully preserved woodland areas in Australia, Hinterland comprises of a chain of mountain ranges. Within them are numerous national parks containing a network of bushwalking trails, stunning viewpoints and superb sanctuaries for wildlife and birds.

 

Luxury guesthouses, glamping and wellness retreats have become a feature of the Hinterland’s vibrant tourism industry, but for those whose truly want to feel a million miles from it all, there are farm stays and secluded campgrounds inside the National Parks.

 

Getting There

 

Noelle's Woodland Traveller Guide - Gold Coast Hinterland Road Map 

Source: https://www.google.com/maps/ 

 

The Hinterland’s townships and National Parks are roughly an hour and half drive from Coolangatta Airport, Brisbane or Byron Bay. There are also private transport options (book with them direct or through your accommodation) from Brisbane and Coolangatta Airport.

 

Soon after you leave the city behind, you’ll start to climb up curving mountain roads with magnificent views around every corner. There are dozens of scenic drives to fill your days in the Hinterland – simply choose a base to stay according to your preferred accommodation.

 

If you’re staying close to the main beaches and are short for time, full day tours with hotel pick-up are available, usually including winery visits and guided walks in through Tamborine Mountain, Lamington National Park or Springbrook National Park.

 

 

Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Tamborine, Gold Coast Hinterland Township Map

Source: https://www.google.com/maps/ 

 

Where to Stay

 

If you’re a nature lover, the Hinterland deserves much more than a day trip from Surfers, and luckily the region has amazing stays to suit every taste and budget.

 

  • O’Reilly's Rainforest Retreat is the most famous place to stay in the Hinterland. In the heart of Lamington National Park, it was founded by the pioneering O’Rielly family in 1926 and today a third generation of O’Reilly's have updated the retreat to offer modern comfort. Choose from a simple mountain-view room or a lavish canopy spa villa, or pitch your own tent on the Green Mountains campground.  

 

  • Mouses House in Springbrook National Park is one of Australia’s most unique luxury stays, with 14 romantic individual chalets secluded deep within the forest.

 

  • Greenlees Cottages provide affordable, accessible accommodation on a working macadamia farm, with individual, self-contained cottages radiating a rustic country charm. 

 

  • Glamping has truly taken off in the Hinterland and perhaps the most extravagant choice is Nightfall. Nightfall’s architect-designed safari tents are privately set beside burbling rapids in the Lamington National Park rainforest. Guests are treated to sumptuous organic meals and there are daily yoga classes available and a masseuse on hand.

 

Noelle's Woodland Traveller's Guide - Nightfall - The ultimate glamping experience.

Source: Instagram @nightfallcamp

 

  • If real, down-to-earth camping is more your style, The Settlement Campground is the only bush campsite in Springbrook National Park. There are cooking and toilet facilities on-site, and bookings are essential.

 

 

What to See and Do

 

Tourism in the Hinterlands caters to travellers of all sorts, with everything from family fun parks to cheese tasting and craft breweries. But – let’s focus on the biggest attraction in the Gold Coast Hinterland – it’s natural beauty.

 

 

Source: https://jonnymelon.com/purlingbrook-falls/

 

  • Springbrook National Park allows you step back into prehistoric times and enter an ancient volcanic landscape of plummeting canyons, soaring clifftop lookouts, cascading falls swimming holes and temperate beech forest. The many walking tracks range from the short Purling Brook Falls Walk that passes behind a series of waterfalls to a natural swimming hole, to the 54km Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk.

 

 

 

https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/australia/queensland/gold-coast-hinterland-great-walk

 

 

  • For the Natural Bridge and Glow Worm Tunnel, you’ll have to drive out of the Springbrook Plateau towards the NSW border. The 1km circuit contains one of the most mesmerising sites in the Hinterlands – a hole tunnelling deep into the basalt rocks with a waterfall plummeting right through it. Enter the cave and experience the mystical atmosphere with the cavern overhead, a glowing blue-green pool below and streams of water and light pouring through the opening above. Past the Natural Bridge are the star-like twinkling lights emanating from the inhabitants of the Glow Worm Tunnel.

 

Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Natural Bridge and Glow Worm Tunnel

Source of Natural Bridge and Glow Worm Tunnel : https://www.viator.com

 

 

  • Lamington National Park together with its sister park, Springbrook, make up the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforest, one of the largest chunks of intact temperate rainforest in the world. Both Springbrook and Lamington are remnants of the 23 million year-old Tweed Volcano (aka Mount Warning). Beneath its shadow, a patchwork of waterfalls, caves, rainforest, tall open forests and wildflower heaths provide a refuge for creatures like koalas, kangaroos, platypus, red-necked pademelons and red-tailed black cockatoos.

 

Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Tweed Volcano Map and Info

Source of Tweed Volcano : https://www.viator.com

 

 

  • Over 160km of walking tracks criss-cross the park, from mild to hardcore. The walk from the Information Centre to Morans Falls a 4.6km return journey to a magnificent waterfall with an 80m drop into Morans Creek Gorge. While the thunderous roar of the falls becomes more of a trickle when rain is scarce, the lookout frames awe-inspiring panoramas of the mountain ranges.

 

Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Morans Falls

Source of Morans Falls: https://jonnymelon.com/morans-falls-lamington-national-park/

 

 

  • The 17.5km Tooloona Circuit makes an awesome, challenging day hike, passing through magnificent groves of 2000 year old Antarctic Beech Trees and 13 waterfalls.

 

Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Tooloona Circuit

https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/australia/queensland/toolona-creek-circuit

 

 

  • The mountains of Tamborine National Park are known for their distinct volcanic peaks, visible from the Gold Coast suburbs. Queensland’s oldest national park stretches across an 8km long plateau. Hit up the Information Centre in North Tamborine to grab maps and info on easy to moderate bushwalks. The 1.1km walk to Curtis Falls is a great place to spot lyrebirds and the elusive platypus. The short track to Cedar Falls Lookout continues into a gorge with swimmable rock pools at its base.

 

 Noelle Woodland Traveller's Guide - Curtis Falls

Source of Curtis Falls: https://mikeandrewphotography.com

 

 

Know Before You Go

 

Parts of the Gold Coast Hinterland were damaged in the 2019-20 summer bushfires. Some trails in the National Parks remain closed. Check for updates on the Queensland National Parks website.

 

 

 

 

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Other Australian Woodland Destinations

 

We’ve tried to highlight woodland destinations that aren’t as well-known or tend to fly under the tourism radar. However, Australia is blessed with many other accessible yet peaceful woodland areas, each with their own unique ecosystems, fauna, and flora. Check out these honourable mentions:

 

Daintree Rainforest – North Queensland

 

The oldest tropical rainforest on earth, this humid jungle is home to tropical critters like cassowary, tree kangaroos and kingfishers. Accessible for Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown, you can cruise the Daintree River in search of crocodiles, taste bushtucker with a local guide and sleep in a treetop eco-lodge.

 

Tarkine Forest - Tasmania

 

It’s said that walking beneath the towering canopy of old-growth trees in the Tarkine is a mystical experience. It’s the largest tract of temperate rainforest in the Southern Hemisphere, with some the most amazing bushwalks on an already unbelievably beautiful island. If you require a little luxury after a hard day’s hike, join Tarkine Trails for a multi-day stay in its posh rainforest camp, complete with a Japanese washroom, sumptuous meals and local Tassie cheese and wine.

 

Warrumbungle National Park – New South Wales

 

Giant, sprouting lava rock formations and spikey mountain ranges form the distinctive backdrop of this World Heritage wilderness, created by volcanic activity 180 million years ago. 600km from Sydney, the campgrounds in the beautiful forests and wetlands of the Warrumbungle are the ultimate star-gazers escape.

 

 

Has reading about these extraordinary

natural wonders left you pining for a roadtrip

and long walks in the wilderness?

 

 

 

Noelle’s Woodland Luxury Range

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If you can’t get to your dream woodlands destination just yet, you can still bring a touch of its essence into your home with Noelle’s Woodland Luxury bath and body care range.

 

We’ve distilled the healing properties and natural energy of native flora like wild hibiscus and mandarin into this sublime collection, all sustainably harvested or organically grown here in Australia.

 

Find out more about our Woodland Luxury Range

 

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