From World Heritage-listed rainforest to waterfalls, volcanic spires and koalas, nature rules in Lismore and the Richmond Valley. Get set for an adventure when you visit this pocket of the Northern Rivers region.
Hike through ancient rainforest
This part of the far NSW North Coast is blessed with national parks – yes, there are many to choose from, and several are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage area: Richmond Range and Toonumbar in the west, Border Ranges in the north and and Nightcap in the northeast.
Border Ranges is webbed with hiking trails to suit all levels, leading through gorges and rainforest to waterfalls and clifftop ridges. The Pinnacle Lookout is a highlight – from here, your view extends over the lush Tweed Valley 100m below, all the way to Wollumbin across to the ocean and beyond. Other popular trails through the park include the short Palm Valley loop walk through subtropical rainforest and the easy Rosewood loop taking in rare trees, as well as the more difficult Booyong walk that departs from Sheepstation Creek campground. Note: A number of these trails are along the Tweed Range Scenic Drive, which is currently closed and due to re-open at the end of March 2024. Keep an eye on the National Parks website for updates.
Go off the beaten track
Like Border Ranges, the Richmond Range is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, and comes with plenty of walking trails, including the Culmaran Valley track. This walk starts at the Cambridge Plateau picnic area. From here you can also take in the rainforest on the well-maintained Cambridge Plateau 4WD route, which snakes along the crest of Richmond Range, offering striking views between Mallanganee in the south and Mount Brown to the north.
Feel the force of nature
Hiking can be hot work – it’s a good thing that Lismore’s national parks come with plenty of ways to cool down in the form of billowing waterfalls. In Nightcap National Park, lace up your walking shoes and explore the Protesters Falls track and Minyon Falls loop. The former is an easy trek, through subtropical Bangalow palms and native tamarind, which give way to towering rainforest giants of yellow carabeen and strangler figs. The latter winds along the Nightcap escarpment, tracing fern-lined creeks. Both offer picnic facilities.
Wander among giants
The Murray Scrub walking track in Toonumbar is a hikers delight, weaving through cool, shady rainforest, beside streams and under vines. While much of the trail is dominated by Bangalow palms, huge rainforest trees with buttressing roots and enormous strangler figs, you’ll also find yourself amid a grove of old growth red cedar trees towering over you. If you want to feel insignificant, in the best possible way, this is the place to visit. Note: The track is closed until the end of February 2024.
Keep watch for the Albert’s lyrebird
Wollumbin National Park is one of Australia’s biodiversity hotspots, with abundant flora and fauna, including the rare and endangered Albert’s lyrebird. Dual named Wollumbin-Mount Warning is the central plug of a huge, extinct shield-shaped volcano – under Bundjalung lore, only chosen people can climb Wollumbin. As a sign of respect to their ancestors, Bundjalung people ask that you choose not to climb it. Instead, enjoy views of it from a range of vantage points including the short Lyrebird track; you can also spot it from neighbouring Cudgen Nature Reserve, Border Ranges National Park and Nightcap National Park.
Pitch your tent
Most national parks in the area have dedicated campgrounds, allowing you to bed down amid nature – or just make the most of the camp amenities including picnic tables. Peacock Creek camping site is in the Richmond Range and Iron Pot Creek is in the Toonumbar, both west of Kyogle, while the Forest Tops and Sheepstation Creek camping sites are in the Border Ranges, north of Kyogle and Nimbin. Note: Forest Tops is closed until 31 March 2024.
Spot koalas in the wild
The Lismore area is home to one of the largest koala populations in NSW – locals often spot them roaming through their backyards. You can tour the Koala Care Centre, which rehabilitates injured or sick koalas before returning them to the wild. A short drive south is the Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve, another sanctuary for koalas.
Discover the wonders of the rainforest – in one place
A great way to experience a condensed version of all the surrounding national parks is by visiting the Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens. A number of trails (some of them accessible) meander through well-maintained gardens that feature rainforest plant species all found within 200km of Lismore.
Spot an elusive platypus
Just 30 minutes’ drive southwest of Lismore is Casino, which is enveloped by the beautiful Richmond River. The Riverbank Scenic Walk here has a number of highlights, including vantage points where you can try your luck spotting an elusive platypus. Before you return to Lismore, enjoy sweeping vistas from the Mallanganee Lookout nearby, situated on a peak of the Richmond Range.
Take to the water
Bundjalung National Park stretches north from Iluka to Evans Head with the Pacific Ocean as its eastern boundary. If you like being by the water, you’ve come to the right place – it unites rivers, beaches and freshwater lagoons. Spend a day canoeing along Evans River or Jerusalem Creek, mountain biking the Macaulays Lead or Serendipity fire trail, or walking along Ten Mile Beach. There are also boat launching facilities, snorkelling on the shallow reefs and fishing. You can spot whales and dolphins nearby from both Razorback Lookout and Goanna Headland, and keep your eyes peeled for koalas on the Gummigurrah walking track, a 3.3km loop.
Pick up some speed
If you prefer to explore on two wheels, you’ll want to make a beeline for the Captain Rous Park mountain bike trails, which offer around 3kms of tracks to test your skills, alongside a playground and picnic area. Meanwhile, Nesbitt Park features a mountain bike skills course and pump track.