Highway One: Gondwana forests NSW

By Catherine Lawson 11 March 2015
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Exploring the ancient forests of northern NSW.

Centuries old Antarctic beech trees (Nothofagus moorei) cling to the long-extinct Tweed Volcano’s outer rim in the Border Ranges NP, in far northern NSW. The hoary bark of these Gondwanan survivors is softened by dark-green coats of lichens and bryophytes.

The Antarctic beech forests protected in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area support one of the nation’s greatest concentrations of marsupial, bird, frog and snake species.

Descending deep into Dorrigo’s subtropical rainforest along eroded basalt terraces, we spot strangler figs and walkingstick palms and our eyes follow the mossy, buttressed trunks of booyong trees up into a canopy draped with vines and studded with epiphytes. Birdsong rings out from these treetop gardens and waterfalls trickle under the track and disappear beneath bracken ferns that carpet the gully below.

Our long descent ends at a suspension bridge that spans the void beneath Crystal Shower Falls, swinging and swaying about 20 metres above the river gully and leading walkers into a fern-covered cavern behind the waterfall to gaze back out through its broad shimmering veil.

One of 50 sites between Newcastle and Brisbane that form the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area (WHA), Dorrigo National Park appeals for its accessibility, attracting around 150,000 visitors every year. But it’s for a riverside camp in Nymboi-Binderay National Park that we’ve journeyed inland to where the Nymboida River’s rampaging rapids thrill rafters with a wild whitewater ride.

West of Dorrigo, Moonpar Forest Drive cuts a narrow path north through stands of giant tallowwood trees to Platypus Flat, a serene stretch of riverbank where deep pools momentarily curb the 165km-long Nymboida River, known by its Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal name. We select a site between quiet campers stirring pots and stoking fires and after Maya’s steaming alfresco bath, spend the hours before sunset on the water’s edge watching platypus and river turtles bubble to the surface.