Binna Burra (Lamington)

A long day walk that combines waterfalls (Coomera Circuit) with views over the Byron hinterland (Mount Hobwee Circuit).

Lamington National Park is part of the Scenic Rim, a group of forested mountain ranges that was formed by volcanic activity and encompasses south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. The national park is also part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes an extensive area of subtropical rainforest. The park is divided into two sections: Binna Burra on the eastern side and Green Mountains on the western side of the Lamington Plateau; the Border Track links these two sections by foot.

Lamington National Park has over 150km of trails (largely constructed during the Great Depression) that were designed by Romeo Lahey. There are references to Lahey laying out these trails based on his observations of dairy cow movements on the surrounding hills, with their paths never having a gradient of greater than 1:10 [source: Wikipedia]. While I haven’t found primary evidence of this, it is noticeable when hiking that the paths are never steep, and often “zig zag” endlessly up the side of steeper peaks.

It’s been just over eight years since my last hike in Lamington National Park, so I’m taking the opportunity to squeeze in a walk before an IT conference that’s being held on the Gold Coast. Being easier to get to Binna Burra (it’s 30min less driving than Green Mountains), I awake early and I’m on the track by 7:15am. I’m starting off on the Coomera Circuit, which is regarded as one of the best walks in this section and takes in a number of the 400 waterfalls that are in Lamington NP. It was rated  as one of the best day walks in Australia by Australia Geographic.

The tracks are well made, and I’m travelling at least as fast as a cow as I leave the Binna Burra track head.

The Coomera Circuit trail soon branches off to the right (the Border Track goes straight ahead), and descends into the Coomera Gorge. The first waterfall, at the 5.4km mark, is the most impressive. Coomera Falls has a drop of 64m, below a viewing platform 160m above gorge.

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The track continues through rain forest as it follows the Coomera River, ascending gradually (the Coomera Falls lookout is the lowest point of the walk, at 695m above sea level). The vegetation is lush and it’s cool on the track, with a number of smaller side waterfalls. Fortunately, there are no leeches!

The next falls are the Gwongorenda Falls and Goorinya Falls. My pace is now slowing, as I stop to take photos every few hundred metres.

Another ten minutes and down a short side-track is the Bahnamboola Falls, which cascades into a deep pool.

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Next, there’s Kagoonya Falls and the smaller Gwongarragong Falls, both of them quite different but all of them very picturesque.

Mercifully, as my progress has now slowed considerably (I’m well below cow-speed, despite the very gradual ascent) with the constant photo-stops, there’s 500m or so before my next step. Moolgoolong Cascades are small, but drop into a large and still pool.

A bit further on, I reach the junction with the Border Track, having walked 10.6km. It’s still early in the day, so rather than turning left and returning via the Border Track, I turn right and continue further. It’s about another kilometre to the next junction, where I leave the Border Track and join the Hobwee Circuit (I’m now about half-way to O’Reillys Guesthouse, at the Green Mountains end of the track). The thick rainforest has been replaced by more open wet sclerophyll forest.

A side-track leads to Dacelo Lookout, with views over the Byron Shire. Mount Warning is the highest peak, directly ahead in the distance (another good hike).

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The Mount Hobwee Circuit track gradually ascends to the summit of Mount Hobwee, which is the highest point of the walk at 1,164m. There is no view, so I take a photo of the sign, eat my chocolate bar (it’s lunch time) and continue on my way.

I add one more side-trip to my walk, taking the Wagawn Track (4km return) out to Mt Wagawn. There’s again no view from the Mt Wagawn summit (1,015m), but a rough track that leads down the ridge from the summit provides some views to the south. (According to my map, the track should continue down the ridge to Bushrangers Cave, but the track peters out, and I don’t have the energy to bush-bash down to the cave. Post-walk research reveals that the cave is best visited by starting from the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, at the bottom of the ridge.)

From here, it’s back to the starting point… I’ve walked 18km and it’s more or less all downhill from here. From the Wagawn Track I re-join the Hogwee Circuit, and then I’m back on the Border Track. There’s one more nice view from the Joalah Lookout, this time out over the Woggunba Valley and the Springbrook National Park beyond.

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I’m almost back… another 5km  and I arrive back at the car, finishing the walk at 1:15pm and in time to get to my afternoon meetings in the Gold Coast – and a well-earned beer!

Location About 110 km / 2 hour drive south of Brisbane and 45m / 50min from Gold Coast, both via Beechmont
Distance 27km (Cooomera Circuit + Hobwee Circuit)
Grade Moderate. Total ascent of 600m.
Season/s All year round.
Map Lamington National Park 1:35,000
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks web site. Map for Binna Burra.

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Mount Warning (Wollumbin)

The Mount Warning track is a steep hike to the top of a volcanic plug, and the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by the morning sun.

The remnant of an ancient shield volcano, Mount Warning stands to the south-west of Brisbane in the Tweed Ranges. A place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung (Aboriginal) people, the mountain was officially recognised as Wollumbin in 2006. It’s a popular walk undertaken by over 60,000 people each year (Source: Wikipedia), many of them to watch the sunrise. Under traditional Aboriginal culture, Wollumbin is considered a sacred men’s site and people are discouraged from climbing the mountain (there’s signage at the start), although very few Web sites mention this and it’s a popular walk.

Today is my second time doing this hike, this time taking Luke, my (7-year old) son, with me. We set off from our hotel at Kingscliff around 7am, and we’re at the start of the trail just after 8:30am. The track immediately starts climbing up through subtropical and temperate rainforest.

It’s a well-made track; a few sections are a bit rough and there’s sometimes a bit of mud (it looks like it could get pretty muddy in places after heavy rain) and we make good progress. As the mountain gets steeper, the track zig-zags up the hill maintaining a very constant or consistent gradient. There’s occasional views out through the foliage, but most of the time there’s not a lot to see.

The fun starts at the 4km mark, when the track turns into a steep rock scramble assisted by chains. This last section is about 400m, with 150m vertical ascent.

There’s a couple of platforms and benches on the summit, which is 1,156, m above sea level. There are views in all directions, from coastal views towards the Gold Coast and Byron Bay in the east to the Border Ranges National Park to the west. The ascent’s taken a bit over two hours, and the round trip including 30min at top is just under four hours.

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The Sunrise Climb

My previous Mount Warning climb was in May 2014; this time on my own. I stayed overnight in the area, arriving at 11pm the previous evening and staying at the Mt Warning Rainforest Park. This meant I could get a 5am start, reaching the summit in about 1:15min. It wasn’t the best weather: it rained heavily overnight and while it did clear in the morning, I didn’t actually see the sun rising.

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Hints and Warnings

  • It can get cold when you stop – bring some warm clothing.
  • There’s a chance you’ll get a leech; you can bring salt, pluck it off with fingers or wait until it falls off!
  • Don’t be on the summit (or on the section with chains) if there is a thunderstorm. [Update: a man was killed and his partner injured by lightning on the summit in December 2016. ABC News]
  • There is no mobile coverage on the trail.
Location Mount Warning is about 2 hours from Brisbane and an hour from Gold Coast. Head towards Murwillumbah.
Distance 8.8km return (3-4 hours)
Grade Moderate. Steep climb (750m ascent).
Season/s All year round. Avoid being on the summit during thunderstorms
Map Burringbar 1:25,000 (NSW 9541-2S)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks web site. Park brochure (wollumbin_mebbin_pdf)