Most people cringe when you mention National Parks, they start yelling things about locked gates, no access, no fire wood, no 4wding and no fun- even more yelling occurs when they are World Heritage Listed- but they probably have never been to the Border Ranges that separate NSW and QLD. These ranges ‘developed’ several million years ago when there was major upheaval under ground that pushed a massive amount of earth towards the sky. The most significant feature in this area is Mount Warning, a largely eroded volcano that now around half its original size. National Parks declared this a World Heritage National park back in 1986, listing around 50 rainforest reserves making it one of the largest most extensive in the world. National parks have gone to great lengths to offer a wide range of activities in this park, and needless to say us 4wders and campers are more than welcome.
This trip through time is only around 100km long but a great escape from every day life from the hustle and bustle. Lying just 170 km south east of Brisbane is Kyogle- a logging town from way back; it is the starting point for this trip. A small well equipped country town where pies are still hand made and where you can still get the old fashion service at a proper garage.
The drive starts off by heading north from Kyogle along the Summerland Way for 15km until you hit the little hamlet of Wiangaree- a last minute stop for fresh bread, ice and milk. Turning right here will see you faced with a road and campsite condition board, critical for this area as weather conditions can change dramatically. Winding your way through dairy farms for several kilometres, crossing old timber bridges, you look ahead towards the mountains as they disappear in the clouds makes you wonder what lies ahead. Lynches Creek Road is well signed posted, pointing you towards the Border Ranges. This is where you will start winding your way into the thick lantana infested forest. If there is any moisture about it is advisable to select 4wd as the road climbs sharply for several kilometres, and there isn't much room on either side !!, as the road levels out the signs show that Brisbane is only 132 km away !!.
A right hand turn here will head you deeper into the forest, passing several farms with stone fruit and cattle yards on them.
While not a hard drive here it’s advisable to drive with your lights on and keep to the speed limit of 40 km an hour due to the jump ups, sharp turns and narrow roads. The beauty of this loop is that there is minimal driving, so that leaves more time for exploring and camping. At around the 31km mark you will approach the turn off to the first camp ground- Sheep Station Creek. Dropping down into some pristine rainforest, Whipbirds greet your arrival. If you haven't already purchased your camping and vehicle pass you will need to use the honesty box here. Sheep Station Creek Camp ground has some 40 sites, from tents, campers through to walk in sites well away from vehicles. National Parks have done a great (yep great!) job here. Offering solid based campsites, table and chairs, bbqs where you can have a real fire (you must bring your own wood though), clean long drop toilets, a communal shelter with a large fire box and information boards on the local walks and vegetation. Defiantly no complaints paying fees for this area. Steeped in history, there are several walking tracks down to Sheep Station Creek, where there are formed walking tracks and board walks, letting you explore the cool running creek that cuts its way through boulders and palm trees. Back at the turn of the century the red cedar cutters used this area to transfer logs down stream to awaiting ships. Problem here was the steep contours of the land, so it is possible to see where they unloaded these massive logs, moved the bullocks around the turn then transferred the logs back on for the next section of the journey- there is a large rock here where the cutters blazed their names into dating back to the 1880’s.
Considering you are in rainforest areas, the weather can change quickly, so keep an eye out for those pesky leeches and mozzies if it is a bit moist. If your towing a van or trailer- it is not allowed to continue from here as the roads are very narrow and steep, don't let that stop you from exploring other sections, as the other end of the park is only 60km away. Continuing on from here for the next leg of your journey, turn left at the top of the camp turn and head deeper into the Park.
At the top of the plateau you will come across another camping area- Forest Tops. This one is blocked off with bollards lining the road, so you need to carry all your gear in- not far, but just far enough to be annoying. Fully grassed with the usual National park Facilities makes this spot ideal if you have packed light. You wont be driving long again before you have a decision-turn left on this one way track, or take the main road straight on. Most take the left turn that starts to swallow you down deeper in the heart of this National park.
Good choice to use a lower gear here to save your brakes but also there is a good chance to spot the ever so shy Lyrebird that might dart across the road. In fact- turn off the radio, and wind down the windows and listen to the music of the bush. At the very bottom of this section there are several walks that lead you to large red cedar trees, several pristine creek walks and picnic facilities are available also. Driving out up the other side you can see why it is one way as the road is somewhat narrow with tree ferns and vines dangling across all the way. Probably the most dramatic feature here is that you can watch your GPS climb to well over 1000 metres above sea level- it is steep! There are several informal lookouts and picnic areas on the rim of this road, but you need to pick you day for viewing, as when the clouds roll in- you see nothing !. Good excuse to come back though.
Further down the road you will rejoin the main road which is well sign posted so you can wander back down to your camper, camp at the next stop or just keep exploring. By turning left onto the Tweed Range Road, it puts you back heading into any potential traffic, but by slowing down to the 40 km per hour it is enjoyable for all. Further along the rim you will come to Bar Mountain picnic area on the right. Plenty of grass for the kids to play on, bbq table, bbq pits (need your own wood); under cover shelter and toilets make this an enjoyable stopover. Be wary if cooking any meat as there are some resident quolls here that will smell your food from a mile away- the joys of this area. This is a great spot to unwind and lose an hour or two with several walks that lead you towards some old Beech trees that are around 2000 years old. Following the main road along, it descends as quickly as it started, but by selecting high 4wd you will be in complete control. One of the risks involved in driving in such old forests is that there is a chance that rotting trees will and can fall in front of you-another reason to take your time.
Soon after leaving here the forest turns to scrubby timber with lantana and other vines reaching for light. As you approach the 90 kay mark you will come to the other end of the park, which is well sign posted. Seems strange that as soon as you pass these signs there are farms, hippie shacks and horticultural igloos in the shadows of this area, all taking advantage of the rich soils and high rainfall. It seems this area must be lush all year round as the cows are fat and the trees lining the road are covered with stag horns and old man moss. By following your nose until the t intersection, turn right and follow Williams Road for several kilometres past flowing creeks and hidden Bed & Breakfast retreats. Unfortunately the tar soon turns up and you are forced to turn right back towards Kyogle for a 15 min run into town or simply turn left and head towards the coast through Murwillumbah. I suppose there is the OTHER choice......turn around and do it all again.
A great weekend away, with great facilities- this is one National Park which has ticked All the boxes for campers, walkers, 4wders and families.