Not everyone may be able to adventure in Northern NSW and South East QLD right now. Please check the current health and travel advice regarding regional NSW and QLD and the area you’re travelling from before making your way to Northern NSW and South East QLD. We want you and the locals to stay safe!
Stretching from South East QLD to the Northern Rivers in NSW is a region of unmatched beauty. Picture rainforest hikes, eclectic villages, majestic mountains, and plenty of off-road adventures. This is Yugambeh and Bundjalung Country.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Yugambeh and Bundjalung Nations, the traditional Countries of the Yugambeh and Bundjalung people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
Adventure Road Trips at Your Feet
Whether you’ve got half a day to escape, you’ve got a whole day to explore or have an entire weekend to play with, there’s a luxe hinterland adventure just waiting to be had.
And there’s no better adventure companion to explore the region in than the Jeep Compass S-Limited. Seriously, this car has heaps of off-road capability for 4WD adventures, from booking it along an empty beach, to navigating water crossings and muddy tracks.
The swanky updated interior comes with a 10 inch HD display, that brings with it nifty tech and safety features, like detecting when you’re getting drowsy, recognising upcoming traffic signs, and intuitively knowing when to slow down, ensuring every drive is a safe one – which is especially handy after a long weekend of exploring!
There’s keyless entry for when your hands are wrapped around a surfboard and wireless charging so you have one less thing to remember to pack. Plus a 360° camera so you can check for critters on all sides before hitting the road.
So what are you waiting for? Jump in and let’s get exploring!
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Half Day Adventure – Byron Bay to Crams Farm Reserve
Distance from Byron Bay: 175km return
Driving Time: 3 hours
Highlights: Coffee in Burringbar, a dip in Unicorn Falls, a toasty pie and a kooky shopping sesh in Uki, and a picnic at Crams Farm Reserve
Pack a picnic lunch and start your morning in the quaint and tiny town of Burringbar – just 30 minutes from Byron Bay. Sip a coffee from the community-minded Elwood Café and browse the enormous collection of antiques at Heaths Old Wares. Once you’ve had your fill, jump back in your 4WD and hit the road to Unicorn Falls – a hidden gem where a gentle waterfall trickles into a waterhole.
From the town of Uki, follow Rowlands Creek Road south before turning left on Manns Road, which eventually turns to gravel as you enter Mt Jerusalem National Park. Once you cross a wooden bridge, pull up a park and begin a short walk at the enormous boulder. Unicorn Falls are visible from about 200m in.
If you’re feeling peckish on your way out, Uki Pies are a much-loved flaky treat, with fillings ranging from butter chicken to Mexican veg. There’s plenty to check out in Uki itself; the town’s post office is heritage listed and doubles as a café, the family-friendly Mount Warning Hotel often has live music on the weekend, plus, there are a handful of quirky second-hand book, clothing, and furniture stores to poke your nose into.
Next, you’re heading 20 minutes down the road to the panoramic Crams Farm Reserve to picnic by the waterlilies in the shadow of Wollumbin. Also known as Mount Warning, to some the mountain’s name means ‘cloud catcher’, and it’s a place of great spiritual importance to the Bundjalung people.
Crams Farm Reserve is an ideal spot for nature photography, bird watching, and bushwalking, and if you’ve got a boat (we’re talking non-motorised, like a rowboat or canoe), there’s a jetty and launch ramp that’ll allow you to explore the upper reaches of the dam.
Full Day – Springbrook and Lamington National Parks
Distance from Byron Bay: 250km return, with Lost World 450km return
Driving Time: 4 – 6.5 hours
Highlights: Waterfall hikes, rainforest 4WD tracks, glow worm caves, delicious food including high tea and scones, fudge, and farm-fresh produce
With glow worm caves, charming teahouses, and waterfalls tumbling down colossal cliffs, it’s hard to believe that Springbrook National Park is less than an hour’s drive from the highrise-lined beaches of the Gold Coast, and just under two from Byron Bay.
Rainforest Walks and Waterfalls
Springbrook National Park (along with its siblings Lamington, Mount Barney, and Main Range National Parks) is part of the Gondwana rainforests of the Australia World Heritage area – meaning its ancient vegetation dates back more than 100 million years.
It’s a diversity hotspot, too: there are 1700 species of tree and flowering plant, as well as pademelon, frogs, snakes, and birds – including the extremely rare Albert’s Lyrebird, of which there are only 3500 left in the world!
On your way into the park, stop at Mudgeeraba’s Bon Appetea for some scones and cucumber sandwiches – which you can enjoy in the gorgeous 1900s building or its well-manicured cottage gardens. Next, it’s time to stretch your legs with a bushwalk.
The shortest, most accessible trail is Natural Bridge: an awe-inspiring natural feature where a roaring waterfall pours through a hole in the roof of a cave. The cave is also home to squeaking bats and a smattering of luminescent glow worms, so when you’re inside, keep your noise to a minimum and your phone light off so that you don’t disturb them!
If you’re looking for a more challenging walk, Purlingbrook Falls and Twin Falls Circuit are barely five minutes drive from each other, and both are 4km return hikes. They start with a walk through eucalypt forest (complete with epic lookouts), then see you wander down to the bottom of the falls for a solid spray of mist and a cheeky dip in a rockpool.
4WDing and a Bite to Eat
Post-stroll, it’s time to put your Jeep Compass through its paces and do some 4WDing through the rainforest.
Bilborough’s Lookout is atop Mount Thillinman, and can be accessed through the far left gate at the end of Bilborough Ct. Though it’s relatively short and not too technical, it’s very up and down, so still requires a moderate level of 4WDing skill (and a car that can handle off-road, cheers Jeep!).
If you’re looking to splash out on fresh produce or perhaps even stay the night, Greenwood Farm & Co has a farm stall, a cooking and beekeeping school, and a to-die-for bed and breakfast. Other accommodation options include the eco-certified Mouses House Rainforest Retreat, Springbrook Lyrebird Retreat, and Springbrook Mountain Chalets, as well as a range of cosy cottages.
If you’re keen to continue on from Springbrook to secure a memorable overnight stay, Lost World Guest House takes you deep into neighbouring Lamington National Park, and boasts authentic farm stay accommodation, glamping, cottages, and cabins. It’s also a great basecamp to explore surrounding rainforest walks, luxury massages, cooking classes, and stargazing.
Weekend Drive – Byron Bay to the Scenic Rim
Distance from Byron Bay: 370km return
Driving Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Highlights: Breaky in Lismore; pit stops in Kyogle and Woodenbong; swimming, mountain climbing, hiking and 4WDing in Mount Barney National Park; lunch at the classic Eltham Pub
At the foot of the Great Dividing Range is the prettily named Scenic Rim: a former volcanic hotspot that has bloomed into a fertile treasure trove of plants, animals, and diverse landscapes.
Mount Barney and its World Heritage-listed National Park are one of many gems in a region known for its boutique wineries, craggy peaks and stunning swimming spots. This weekend, we’ll be soaking up all Mount Barney has to offer, from both up close and afar.
Day 1 – Markets, Hikes, Swimming Holes, and Camping
Breakfast will be in Lismore: a diverse and thriving regional town crammed with historic buildings. The Bank and Flock Espresso are local faves, and Benchtop Espresso is known for its Eastern European influence and yummy Turkish coffee.
If it’s a Saturday morning, pop by the Farmers Markets at the Lismore Showground (the site of a wildly significant Aboriginal Bora Ring) and stock up on local produce for car snacks or your overnight adventure.
From Lismore, you’ll be crossing the border into Queensland and heading to Mount Barney National Park, with a quick detour to Woodenbong (the unofficial Yowie capital of Australia) for some novelty pic ops and a pit-stop in Kyogle to scour the vintage and antique stores for goodies.
After all that driving, you’ll probably be hankering for a leg stretch and maybe even a swim! Beneath the dizzying heights of Mount Barney are four well-maintained tracks that wind around the base and offer incredible views, and you can take a dip at all of them.
Yellow Pinch is a 2km hike through open eucalypt forest that has a peaceful swimming hole complete with a rope swing and gentle rapids to frolic in. If you’re after a longer walk, Cronan Creek Falls is 12km return along the lovely Cronan Creek.
Towards the end, with a bit of rock hopping, you’ll find a ripper swim spot! Lower Portals track is a 7.4km trek that can be steep and requires a couple of creek crossings, but you’ll be rewarded with a set of deep rock pools and a handful of small waterfalls for your efforts.
Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes
There’s also the Upper Portals track, which can only be accessed with the magic of a 4WD (cue the Jeep Compass S-Limited to ensure no adventure is left behind).
Starting at the Lower Portals and the Yellow Pinch area, head to the Waterfall Creek Road. The climb to the top is steep and rough, and ends at Cleared Ridge car park, where the hike begins. The Upper Portals marks the entrance to Mount Barney Gorge, and the 8km delight of a walk is peppered with wildflowers, creeks, waterfalls, and rapids.
Post hike, if you’re putting up a tent for the night and sleeping under the stars, the 4WD-accessible Waterfall Creek Reserve is a corker of a spot – though it doesn’t have any facilities.
You can also use Cleared Ridge as a starting point to walk to Montserrat Lookout: a camping spot with unmatched views of Mount Barney that, like most other camping in the park, is only accessible on foot. There are, however, a few private camping areas in the neighbourhood.
If your taste in accommodation is slightly less rustic, you’ll find romantic cottages at Barney Creek Vineyard and country hospitality at Mount Barney Lodge, which offers glamping, homesteads, and cabins to snooze in. If you’re after a hearty feed, the Rathy Pub in nearby Rathdowney is a must, as is the Rathlogan Olive Grove and Shed Café.
Day 2 – Mt Barney and Eltham Pub
On Sunday, if you’re not too pooped after yesterday’s workout, you may want to attempt a summit climb. Mount Barney has two peaks: Mount Barney East, at 1351m, and Mount Barney West, at 1354m.
There are other peaks in the national park that people love to climb, too: Mount Maroon at 967m, Mt May at 836m, and Mt Clunie at 1155m. None of them can be considered remotely chill, though, and should only be attempted by serious bushwalkers with the right supplies.
On your way back to Byron Bay, amidst cruising through the lush hinterland, you can’t go past a lunch stop (or drink) at the Eltham Pub. Lovingly restored and boasting a menu that caters well to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, it’s a classic venue that’s popular throughout the week and often a great spot to catch live music.
- A 4WD or SUV ready for adventure, like the Jeep Compass S-Limited
- Good walking shoes
- Water for you and the car
- A playlist for long drives
- A warm jumper for the cool afternoons
- Camping gear if you plan on spending the night under the stars
- Eco-friendly sunscreen and bug spray
- A sunhat
- A camera to get snap-happy
Photos thanks to Jeep