Want to explore a ‘living museum’ of ancient rainforest, with all the comfort and perks of a comfy retreat? Casey and Maya share their itinerary of a couple’s weekend at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, in the Gold Coast hinterland.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Yugambeh people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.


We’ve already unpacked the ultimate Gold Coast adventure itinerary, but what are these experiences really like? We sent our Explorers straight to the source to get a feel for Gold Coast’s magic first-hand. 

Quick Overview

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is located just a 90 minutes drive from the Gold Coast, Queensland, boasting more than 320km of trails through the ancient Gondwana rainforest that you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.

About O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

The retreat is tucked away amongst the breathtaking Gondwana rainforest, offering world-class hiking, nature experiences, and jaw-dropping vistas. There are only a handful of places on earth you can see this type of rainforest, let alone this intact.

We were blown away at the serenity and grand eternity this rainforest holds and often found ourselves simply standing silently listening for its ancient secrets.

You’ll find the retreat in World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park, home to many rare and endangered species, like Antarctic beech, ferns, cycads, Leaf-Tailed geckos, Chelidae turtles, and birds dating back 150 million years to the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent.

The rainforest here is described as a ‘living museum’ that shows how life adapted and endured from the Jurassic period to now – this timelessness is something you can feel all around you, from the thick green canopy to the bustling rainforest floor.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace


Stop and look up almost anywhere on any trail and you’ll find a flourishing microcosm of life

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat History

Known as ‘Woonoongoora’ to the Yugambeh language group, the retreat is in Lamington National Park, on the Traditional Lands of the Birinburra, Kombumerri, Wangerriburra, and Migunberri people, who thrived on the land for thousands of years before European arrival.

In 1911 the O’Reilly family arrived on the land to clear for cattle pasture, just four years before Lamington National Park was established, making it one of the oldest national parks in Queensland.

The family were pioneers in conservation and ecotourism, taking their first guests in 1915 before focusing their efforts on tourism from 1926.

Third-generation members of the family still run the property today and give strong recognition to the Traditional Owners who have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years.

In 1994, Lamington National Park was granted World Heritage status for its significant biodiversity and in what UNESCO described as the ‘largest and most significant remaining stands of subtropical rainforest and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei) cool temperate rainforests in the world’. 

How to Get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

From the Gold Coast, it’s a picturesque 90-minute drive winding up the mountain to O’Reilly’s plateau. You’ll pass through the hinterland village of Canungra, which is a good spot for either lunch or breakfast – we recommend the Ginja Ninja Café and Bar for a tasty, funky pit stop.

At the base of the mountain is also O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, which is a popular stop on the way up or down.

From Brisbane, the drive is bang on two hours and around 2.5 hours from Byron Bay.

Where to Stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

The retreat offers plenty of choices from BYO camping right through to private villas with a jacuzzi on the deck.

On this trip, we stayed in a Safari Tent in the main campground, which had a great view over the canopy and mountain ranges in the distance. We’ve travelled and camped at literally hundreds of places all over Australia and these were honestly the best camp bathrooms and kitchens we’ve seen – clean, practical, well-built, and there’s a great communal fire area and deck for sunset.

Safari tent sunrise


Where to Stay Nearby

If you’re looking for another great spot to stay on the way up or down the mountain, Canungra Cottage BnB is a quaint and impressively preserved heritage cottage, in the bustling hinterland village of Canungra, around 30 minutes from the Gold Coast.

Where to Eat at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

There are a few options for eating and drinking at the retreat, depending on your mood.

The relaxed Mountain Cafe and Gift Shop serves a hearty breakfast and lunch daily. We ate here multiple times, coming back for the juicy burgers and stunning view over to the ranges.


Table with a view at the Mountain Cafe and Gift Shop

We poked our heads in at the Dining Room located in the main guesthouse – it was classy to say the least, with North American lodge vibes and fit out with a fireplace and timber furnishings.

We also had a drink (or two) at the Rainforest Bar. With food options available from pizza to confit duck, this place serves much more than bar snacks, and is another cracking spot to watch the sun go down. After a few well-deserved drinks, we opted for takeaway pizza to bring back to our cosy safari tent.


Where to Eat Nearby

You’ll surely be hungry on the way up or down the mountain, so I also recommend stopping in at Ginja Ninja Cafe and Bar, a funky-styled, yet authentic neon-Japanese eatery located in Canungra. The popular joint is known for its burgers, curries, and sushi.

Essential Gear for O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

  • Hiking shoes
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Rain jacket
  • Camera or binoculars for birdwatching
  • Torch or head torch – while the main guest house has lit paths to the bar, from the villas and campsites it’s very dark walking up to the bar or restaurant
  • First aid kit

What It’s Like to Visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

From gentle rainforest boardwalks, to gnarly off-grid orienteering, and multi-day hikes, getting close to native animals, or eating and drinking at the bar or restaurant, there’s plenty to do – but here’s what we did over the weekend.

If you’re heading on a longer hike or overnight hike, make sure you sign the hiking register with your expected return date so someone knows when to expect you back!


Walk Among the Treetops – Literally

Ever wondered what it’s like high up in the rainforest canopy?

One of the well-known highlights at the retreat is the Tree Top Walk, made up of nine suspension bridges that weave through the dense rainforest canopy. We actually walked this 200-metre loop a bunch of times, simply because it’s somehow both thrilling and relaxing – have a go and you’ll see what I mean!

If you don’t mind heights, you can also climb the ladder up a huge fig tree to get 30 metres above the rainforest floor and gain a birds-eye view of the unforgettable surroundings.

According to the retreat, this was the first treetop walk in the world and is located only a few hundred metres from the main reception.

It’s free and open all day, but I recommend going first thing in the morning or late afternoon to get the most out of the bird life.


Climbing 30 metres up into the rainforest canopy on the Treetop Walk

Wildlife Encounters

While you’ll see unique wildlife everywhere on the property, you can also get up close with plenty of different animals like snakes, birds of prey, marsupials, and glow worms in one of the tours on offer, which you can book online or at the main guest house reception.

We headed out for the evening glow worm tour, an especially unique experience as it’s one of the few places on Earth where you can see glow worms outside in their natural habitat and not in a cave.

Sitting beside the tranquil creek with our eyes closed for a few minutes to adjust to the dark was almost meditative, before we started to see the faint glimmer and glow just across the banks.


Photo by Destination Gold Coast

Our guide said they glow best after rain and on a night with clouds or low moonlight – unfortunately, we had neither, but the moonlit stroll in the crisp rainforest air, with plenty of spots to stop, listen, and look for nocturnal friends was an experience in itself. 

I also learned that you can only see glow worms in Australia and New Zealand and that they aren’t actually a worm, but the larvae of a fly.


Morans Falls Hike

There are more than 300km of trails at the retreat, so if you’re just there for the weekend I’d highly recommend trekking to Morans Falls.


Morans Falls


From the main accommodation area, this is a gentle 4.4km return hike with about 150 metres of elevation change, and the views are spectacular. Plummeting 80 metres into the valley below, you can get a good look back at Morans Falls from the lookout if you keep walking past the top of the falls.

From the top of the falls there’s also a great view out to the plains and ranges, and as it’s west facing, you guessed it, this is a spectacular spot to watch the sun go down.


View from the top of Morans Falls!


If you don’t mind adding an extra kilometre or so, you can also walk this trail as a loop by continuing past the lookout and up the hill. You’ll get to a quieter section of rainforest with some less seen, but equally spectacular views. This will eventually join the main road back to the retreat.

If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, there’s also an epic 10km loop called the Box Forest Circuit that plunges into an untouched rainforest valley and loops past four different waterfalls.

Tips for Visiting O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

  • Booking in advance is highly recommended, including the campground, and especially during school holidays. Keep in mind Queensland school holidays are usually a week different than NSW and Victoria.
  • Parking near the trailheads is limited so make sure you’re there early (before 10am) if you want a good spot. There are a lot of day-trippers on weekends
  • Once you start getting 5km away from the main retreat area or dip into valleys, phone reception becomes limited
  • While the retreat is fully equipped with everything you need, there’s only a small general store selling basics. So if you’re camping or glamping I recommend being self sufficient
  • Take advantage of the free public BBQs at the main trailheads near the guest house 
  • There’s a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service kiosk at the main trailheads with plenty of information, maps, and local rangers to help you with the longer trails that extend off the property


The outlook from our safari tent

FAQs O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Where is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat located?

About 70km west of the Gold Coast in Lamington National Park.

When is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat open?

The retreat and National Park are open year-round and the front desk is staffed 7am to 9pm.

Is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat free?

Yes, visiting the property is free and you can do a day-trip from the Gold Coast, however staying at the campground (or any of the accommodation) and taking tours will cost you, but it’s certainly worth it! 

When is the best time of year to visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat?

Every season offers something unique about the experience.

How many days should I spend at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat?

There’s so much to do, but in two or three days you can see most of the highlights.

Is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat good for beginner hikers?

Yes, there’s a great mix of interesting gentle boardwalks and hikes, as well as more challenging trails.

Can you swim at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat?

Sure can! There’s a pool at the retreat, as well as plenty of creeks for a wild dip.

Do you need a 4WD to get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat?

No, any car can get up to the retreat, but the road is windy and steep in sections.


Right now is the best time to escape the cold of the south and experience the magic of the Gold Coast for yourself. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to the warmth!