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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lamington National Park, Green Mountains Section

In June, we camped for two nights at Green Mountains Campground in Lamington National Park. The Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park is often referred to as O'Reilly's because of the history surrounding the O'Reilly family, the Stinson crash and the famous O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat. Two nights was definitely not enough for such a wonderful destination but the opportunity came up so we grabbed it. We drove up through Canungra where we stopped at the information office and the lady there was very helpful. The road from Canungra to Green Mountains camp ground is only 35 kms but it takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive because it is steep, narrow and windy and contains several short one way sections.

Green Mountains Campground

The campground has hot showers and good pit toilets but fires are not allowed and there is no cooking shelter which seems an oversight for an area that has high rainfall. There are BBQs and tables in the picnic area opposite O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat but they are not lit at night. The campground is on a slope and has small gravel pads provided for tent camping. The camping area is separated from vehicle parking by bollards. There are also a few motorhome sites, however, only sites 1 and 2 are suitable for motorhomes of any size and they back onto the fairly busy road to O’Reilly’s. The road from Cunungra is not suitable for caravans and big rigs so I guess the camping sites reflect that.

View from Morans Falls Track

After setting up our tent we drove down to the start of the Morans Falls track but the small car park was full so we drove back to camp and walked about 700 m down the hill to the trailhead. The Morans Falls track is a 4.4 km return, Class 3 track. Python Rock track leaves from here as well, but it was closed when we were there. There is an excellent constructed lookout at the end of the trail with views of the Morans Falls. It was only about 4.30 pm when we got to the Morans Falls but up in the forest on the mountain it was rapidly getting dark so we had to hightail it back to camp.

Morans Falls

Red-necked pademelons are common around the camp ground. 

Red-necked Pademelons

That night we noticed that there were a couple of bandicoots making their tell-tale conical holes in the campground grass.

Long-nosed Bandicoot

The next morning we got up early and walked to the trail head opposite O’Reilly’s. The West Canungra Creek Circuit was closed so we walked the Box Forest Circuit, a Class 4, 10.9 km walk that branches off the Border Track after an easy 1.7 km walk.  We took the recommended clockwise direction. We hadn’t walked very far down the Border Track section when we saw a Logrunner.


Then we saw a male Albert’s Lyrebird displaying. Or to be more accurate, the bird was behind a large mossy log and we could see the tail display. A first for us.

Albert's Lyrebird Tail Display.

We turned left into the Box Forest Circuit and entered an amazing wet rainforest wonderland. The track is narrow and wet, with some quite long drops off the path. It zig zags down and down past amazing ancient trees and ferns. This area is known as the Giants Garden.

As we approached the Yanbacoochie Falls we encountered a Lamington Blue Spiny Crayfish walking towards us on the track. It was about 11 cm long but it reared up, waved its claws at us and hissed quite loudly so we thought it prudent to give it right of way.

One of several Waterfalls on the Box Forest Circuit

We crossed the creek by jumping from boulder to boulder and on the other side we encountered a second Spiny Crayfish emerging from a hole in the mud bank. 

Lamington Spiny Blue Crayfish  Euastacus sulcatus  

We took the short detour to Box Log Falls where the creek thunders through a narrow rock gorge. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

Box Log Falls

We decided we weren’t game to negotiate the rock scramble to the Elebana Falls as it was quite wet and made our way to Picnic Rock where we naturally stopped for a well earned picnic.

Picnic Rock

As we made our way back to the Border Track we were overtaken by some hikers who had been behind us doing the same walk and they were very disappointed to have not seen any Spiny Crayfish.

Back at camp we had afternoon tea and made our way to the Tree Top Walk which is in the O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat grounds but is free and open to the public. There were hordes of very noisy tourists on the Tree Top Walk and we saw no birds at all. We had a quick look at the Botanical Gardens on our way out.

Tree Top Walk, O'Reilly's

Tree Top Walk, O'Reilly's

In 1937, Bernard O'Reilly found the wreck of a Stinson and two surviviors ten days after it crashed. Today there is a Stinson and a memorial at O'Reilly's commemorating his remarkable acheivement. The book "Green Mountains" by Bernard O"Reilly is an excellent read about the early history of O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat and the Stinson rescue.

Stinson at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat

Stinson Memorial at O'Reilly's

In the O’Reilly's Rainforest Retreat grounds there is a bird feeding area, for paying customers, and on the other side of the road there are National Park signs asking people not to feed the birds. We have seen this conflict between National Parks and commercial interests at Bunya National Park as well. This area is usually good for viewing birds. Although we didn't feed the birds we couldn't resist taking a photo of a King Parrot that was being fed when we walked past.

Australian King Parrot, male

We were amused to see a Crimson Rosella walking along a small branch on the ground. 

Crimson Rosella

There was an easy to find Satin Bowerbird bower in the picnic area, opposite the bird feeding area.

Satin Bowerbird Bower

Around the campground, Yellow-throated Scrubwrens and Eastern Yellow Robins were common. There were plenty of Satin Bower Birds and a male was keeping his eye on a bower in a garden near the path to the main car park. Wonga pigeons walked around the campground road edges in the afternoons. They bob their heads so much that we had trouble getting a photo of one without a blurry head.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Wonga Pigeons

Next morning we got up early and did the Tree Top Walk again; still no birds. Then we did a short walk along the Border Track where we saw another male Logrunner, had two sightings of Rufous Scrub-bird, saw two Albert’s Lyrebirds wandering, together, along the track and I believe a Hastings River Mouse, all outstanding sightings which will entice us back again. 

Logrunner, male


  1. What a fantastic experience!

    Of course the hikers missed the crayfish, my hiking friends miss everything! The outdoors is just a scenic gym to them :)

    I saw my first ever Lyrebird at Lamington earlier this year, the only place in the world where this species can be reasonably considered a guaranteed sighting. Next challenge - to see one displaying, regardless of logs!

    Would love to go spotlighting on those tracks...

  2. We often take longer to do walks than the indicated times but we see twice as much as a lot of people. Once a park ranger asked us what we saw on a 10 km trek and we gave him a list of birds, a feral cat sighting, and described some flora and he told us he asks people all the time what they saw and they always say they saw nothing. Amazing.