Australian Traveller magazine brings you Tim Fischer’s Secret Spot: Lamington Plateau
As chairman of Tourism Australia and a former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer has clocked up more travel miles than most people have had hot dinners. In the 12th of his exclusive columns for AT, Fischer explores the magic of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Queensland’s southeast coast is an area deserving of anyone’s time – especially those parts that take in the Lamington Plateau, where most proper roads lead through the small township of Canungra. The launch pad to the heart of the Lamington National Park, Canungra is easily attained about an hour and a half south of Brisbane airport, and about the same northwest from Coolangatta’s landing strip. It’s one of the world’s largest remaining subtropical rainforest reserves, with rugged mountains and wide-ranging wildlife.
Despite the charms of Canungra’s old sawmill settlement, passing through town always evokes a bittersweet memory for me. It’s here that I spent several months in the Army Jungle Training Centre as the lowest species of officer rank the army ever had – namely, a Second Lieutenant with 1RAR (1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment). It’s been years since I’ve gone back into the Jungle Training Centre but it looks peaceful enough as you drive past – it’d be wise to keep one’s distance, I suspect.
Just near the Centre there’s a beautifully shaped open tramway tunnel cut through the local sandstone ridgeline which, years ago, carried the narrow gauge track for a timber-haul to the local sawmill. Today, lining the Lahey’s passageway, you can see scratch marks from logs that squashed against the tunnel walls during transportation. It’s an explorer’s gem and visitors can stroll through in the heat of the day, soak up the cool air and imagine the steam train roar of the distant past. I’ve suggested to the local Tourist Bureau that they should hold a candlelight dinner in the tunnel, perhaps featuring the great wines of the area. The local boutique estates product fine Australian wine, so with luck there’ll soon be even more reason to visit.
"GET THERE BEFORE THE LIKES OF POINT LOOKOUT AND ITS PANORAMIC VIEWS ARE MADE INACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC."
Once you tire of Canungra’s arts-and-craft-laden streetscapes and crave more by way of landscapes, strike south from the township toward the main part of the Lamington Plateau. Bushwalks centre on and originate from the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse; in fact, for true adventurers, there’s a long one-day hike linking the two.
If you’re staying at O’Reilly’s, make the most of the park’s short strolls, steep climbs and varied trails. The guesthouse was erected in the middle of the World Heritage-Listed area in 1926 and is a paradise for the dedicated bushwalker. Tropical plant species, gushing waterfalls, expansive views . . . remember, you’re 900m above sea level here, and although the Pacific Ocean’s shores are 30km away you’ll still catch glimpses of the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise. Better still are the magnificent wilderness vistas taking in Mt Warning, which towers 1100m above the coast; there’s a four-hour summit walk to consider, or even helicopter flights for the cavalier. This must surely be some of the most spectacular scenery on the east coast of the country.
For the more daring, the long walk to the Stinson aircraft wreck is a physical climb with steep ascents and descents through the densely forested McPherson Ranges. I strongly recommend this be undertaken with a guide, however; National Parks, in order to preserve certain of its aspects, discourages casual users of this trek, and would rather see the pathway become overgrown and unmarked. Indeed, there’s a sharp debate in relation to perceived deliberate downgrading of the standard of pathways through the Lamington National Park, including allowing one or two of the key lookouts to the south to become totally overgrown. Get there before the likes of Point Lookout and its panoramic views are inaccessible to the public. The Stinson Walk, however challenging, is rewarding, the beauty of the forest far outweighing the climb’s more fatiguing aspects.
There’s no doubt the Lamington Plateau is a great place to escape to, a sharp contrast with a busy Brisbane and a colourful Gold Coast. It’s truly an attraction in its own right, and at Christmas there’s an added bonus – in the cluster of buildings which constitute the modern O’Reilly’s, a wonderful timber chapel remains as a local church and a great setting for Carols by Candlelight.
As an explorer of this captivating country, I commend this set of Secret Spots, especially as Gold Coast visitors so often overlook them. Take your time visiting the area; it’s a journey you’ll certainly remember.
Details: Lamington Plateau
Where: Around 75km inland from Brisbane.
Contacts: Tourism Gold Coast – www.visitgoldcoast.com/
Tourist information: www.goldcoastaustralia.com
Canungra information: http://www.canungrainformation.com
O’Reilly’s Guesthouse: (07) 5544 0644
Gold Coast Information centre: 1300 309 440
Canungra Information centre: (07) 5543 5156