Nightcap National Park, NSW

By Louis Southerden 28 January 2015
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Experience night and day in a national park where Australia’s first successful conservation battle was fought.

IT WAS 1979 when Nightcap National Park, on the southern rim of Mt Warning’s shield volcano in northern NSW, hosted one of Australia’s first and most fiercely fought conservation battles: the three-year Rainforest War, in which a dedicated group of activists, supported by former NSW Premier Neville Wran, saved the area’s ancient trees from local sawmills.

Nightcap was subsequently declared a national park, in 1983, and World Heritage listed in 1989. One of the most accessible parts of the park is Minyon Falls, where rainwater tumbles 104m down a basalt and rhyolite rock face into a plunge pool that’s a popular swimming spot. Minyon Falls is also where you can experience “night and day in Nightcap National Park”: a night-vision wildlife tour, then a daytime walk to the base of the falls.


Night-vision walking: Forget running through the bush commando-style. A night-time tour of Nightcap, wearing infrared night-vision goggles, is a peaceful experience and a chance to see some of Nightcap’s nocturnal mammals – including bandicoots, pademelons, tawny frogmouths and possums – in the dark of night.

Minyon Falls day walk: The walk from Minyon Grass, a picnic area 2km from the falls lookout, to the base of Minyon Falls may be short (2–3 hours) but it can be challenging. As the National Parks and Wildlife Service warning sign says at the start of the track, natural hazards include “steep slopes, rock and tree obstacles, unstable slippery surfaces, creek crossings and pools”.

From dry schlerophyll forest the trail descends through a fern gully, then dawdles through a tropical rainforest populated with slender Bangalow palms more than 15m high, before emerging at the falls, an ideal picnic spot.

The essentials

Location: 40 minutes drive north-west of Byron Bay.

Accommodation: Rummery Park Camping Ground in Whian Whian State Conservation Area, 2km from Minyon Falls Picnic Area. Contact NPWS Lismore/Alstonville on (02) 6627 0200. There are B&Bs in Federal.

Food/drink: There is a café and shops in Federal, 14km from Minyon Falls.

Points of interest: Vision Walks runs guided day walks as well as night-vision walks.

Beware of leeches on the Minyon Falls walk, and listen for the haunting calls of Wompoo pigeons.

Maps: A free map of the park is available from Byron Visitor Centre.

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