The Northern Rivers region represents everything that’s great about holidays. Long stretches of glittering coastline, sparkling beaches and easy access to treasured national parks.
And while the Pacific Highway is a popular route to explore all along the east coast of Australia, venturing off this main tourist route has its rewards. Comprising of seven distinct touring routes that loop away and link up with each other, the Rainforest Way leads you through the heart of Australia’s Green Cauldron connecting the towns and villages of Casino, Kyogle, Murwillumbah, Nimbin, Lismore and Byron Bay.
From the acclaimed natural beauty of the Byron Bay hinterland to World Heritage rainforest and the spectacular national parks of the Lismore region, you’ll travel through verdant valleys, surrounded by farms growing delicious produce, where you can enjoy spectacular lookouts, exhilarating walks and delightful waterfalls.
Day 1: Mallanganee and Richmond Range
2hr 19min | 149km
Starting from Casino, drive west to Mallanganee, where you can stop at the lookout for spectacular views over the Richmond Range – if it’s a clear day you’ll be able to see the distant volcanic plug of Mt Warning (Wollumbin). From there, you can travel into Tabulam and cross the Clarence River on the longest timber truss bridge in the southern hemisphere.
Once you're back on the road, drive north through the historic village of Bonalbo, a great access point for the World Heritage rainforest and Richmond Range National Park. Here, you can hike past rare spotted gums and settle in for a quick lunch at the Cambridge Plateau Picnic Area.
If you’re looking for a place to fish and four wheel drive, continue north through the Yabbra State Forest, from there you can cruise to Ubernbville where you’re able to do a loop through the village of Woodenbong to Tooloom Falls and Toolom National Park – home to ancient Aboriginal sites and Australia’s greatest diversity of kangaroo species.
Day 2: The Lions Road
1hr 35min | 100km
Criss-cross two states and the McPherson Ranges on the Lions road, built by the town’s Lions Clubs in 1971. You’ll start from the charming town of Kyogle, which sits on the Richmond River, encompassed by rainforest.
From here, you’ll turn onto the Lions Road just north of Wiangaree and curve around Border Ranges National Park – just one of the many World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests. Providing incredible views of Gradys Creek Valley, the Border Loop Lookout is a great picnic spot to stop and admire the scenery. In the mood for a walk? Follow a 45-minute hiking track through the rainforest canopy, while keeping your eyes peeled for koalas.
Day 3: Tamborine Circuit
2hr 9min | 116km
Starting from Nerang on Queensland’s Gold Coast, head south-west to Beechmont where you can enjoy the green pastures which surround the town while learning about the close-knit community.
After Beechmont, follow a rainforest drive through the Binna Burra section, which is home to hundreds of waterfalls and walking trails, or continue on to Canugra, where you can turn off for the O’Reilly’s Green Mountains section. Try the 16-metre high Tree Top Walk, see glow worm caves and swing across the rainforest on a flying fox. Walk short sections of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk, or spend four days hiking the entire 54km trail.
Back on the scenic, winding road – drive to Tamborine Mountain, where you can visit vineyards and browse art and antique shops on the Gallery Walk. Nearby Mount Tamborine National Park is the best place to picnic, spot platypus and walk to Curtis Falls through a stand of piccabeen palms.
Day 4: Main Range Drive
3hr 36min | 234km
Beginning in the hinterland town of Beaudesert, less than an hour from Brisbane – you’ll drive west to Boonah. Here you can browse the galleries and craft shops, buy fresh produce from the roadside stalls and check out the distinctive heritage buildings.
Drive south through farmland and rainforest, stopping to bushwalk around Mount Toowoona, taking in river views from Carrs Lookout, while visiting Teviot and Queen Mary Falls. From here, continue past Daggs and Browns Falls towards Killarney and Legume, heading east to Woodenbong.
Day 5: Wollumbin-Mount Warning View Circuit
2hr 31min | 116km
This drive will take you around the base of the Tweed volcanic caldera, offering stunning views of the iconic Wollumnbin (Mount Warning) and the spectacular caldera escarpment. From Murwillumbah, follow Tourist Drive 32 to Wollumbin (Mount Warning) National Park for a rainforest boardwalks, and then onto the historic village of Uki where you can visit the restored Uki Buttery, which now is host to a thriving arts and crafts community.
Leaving Uki, head towards Kyogle and turn right onto Byrrill Creek road – heading towards Tyalgum and then onwards to Chillingham, where you can stroll through the bush tucker garden at Buck’s Farm. Head north to Springbrook National Park to visit Natural Bridge, a spectacular waterfall through the roof of a basalt cave.
Day 6: Minyon Falls
2hr 34min | 127km
Explore the galleries, theatres and performing arts space around Lismore before driving east along the Bangalow road to Bexhill and turn left. Following the signs to the village of Rosebank, you’ll drive through the picturesque farmland and lush foliage of the surrounding hills.
Follow the signs to stunning Minyon Falls, which plunge more than 100 metres (330 feet) into a deep, palm-fringed gorge. There are a number of designated walking trails to the bottom of the falls, including an eight-kilometre (five-mile) loop walk, or follow the Boggy Creek walk from the Rummery Park campground to the top of the falls (one to two hours each way).
Head towards the village of The Channon, home to a famous monthly market, then travel through Nimbin, the cradle of Australia's counterculture since the 1970s. See remnants of the area's volcanic activity at Nimbin Rocks, drop into the Nimbin Candle Factory or stock up on organic produce at the Nimbin Farmers Market, held each Wednesday. From here you're a one-hour drive to the quaint township of Bangalow and Byron Bay.
Day 7: Tweed Range Scenic Drive
1hr 33min | 89.8km
Starting in Kyogle, pick up a Border Ranges brochure from the Kyogle Visitor Information Centre. From there, head north through Wiangaree to the World Heritage rainforest of Border Ranges National Park. Here, you can follow one of the many walking trails from the Sheepstation Creek campground or trek through primeval rainforest on one of three trails to Brindle Creek. Enjoy a picnic at the Antarctic Beech picnic area, taking in views over the Lost World wilderness area out towards the Queensland border.