- The 2,455 hectare Mount Warning National Park is in the heart of the Tweed Valley, 12 kilometres south-west of Murwillumbah. The park’s environmental significance comes from its large stands of sub-tropical rainforest and its biodiversity.
- Mount Warning is an extinct volcano, 1,156 metres high. Its caldera was formed after a major eruption which caused the collapse of the walls that formed the volcano’s cone.
- Australia’s Green Cauldron incorporates 14 National Parks and Reserves covered by the World Heritage listing, including Springbrook, Lamington, Richmond Range, the Border Ranges, Mt Barney, Mebbin, Nightcap, Mt Jerusalem and Mt Warning Wollumbin.
- The Border Ranges are also World Heritage listed. They encompass more than 30,000 hectares of scenic rainforest, gorges, and waterfalls. The area has an extraordinary concentration of frog, snake, bird and marsupial species.
Stretching from Byron Bay to Queensland's Gold Coast and west towards the Great Diving Range, this vast caldera shelters a huge diversity of rare flora and fauna, subtropical rainforests and a breathtaking rim of mountain ranges.
When the warm rays of the morning sun rise over Australia, the first place they light up is Mount Warning in northern New South Wales.
A site of great spiritual significance to the Aboriginal tribes of the Bundjalung nation, Mt Warning and the surrounding caldera comprise the remnants of an ancient shield volcano, formed more than 20 million years ago.
The towering, cone-shaped peak of the mountain dominates Australia’s Green Cauldron, which stretches stretching across 5000km2 of northern NSW and south-east Queensland between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, and west to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
Captain James Cook gave the mountain its ominous name after his ship almost ran aground on the nearby reefs. He wanted to warn other 18th century mariners against sailing too close to this unchartered coast.
Botanists, geologists and ecologists praise this mountain and its national parks for their biodiversity. The area provides a habitat for more than 200 rare and endangered plant and animal species. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the high-pitched wail of the green catbird, the amazing mimicry of Albert’s Lyrebird and the call of the whip-birds, which reverberates like a whip crack through the rainforest.
The 14 National Parks surrounding the Mt Warning Wollumbin Caldera form part of the Gondwanan Rainforests of Australia, inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1986. They provide some of the best bushwalking in Australia on a series of clearly marked trails ranging from a few hundred metres to the 54-km Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk from Green Mountain to the Springbrook Plateau.
Making it easy to access all of these magnificent wilderness experiences is the Rainforest Way, a series of driving loops connecting the National Parks in and around the caldera via quaint country villages and tranquil farming communities.
The touring route begins at the friendly art-deco town of Murwillumbah, and then meanders around the base of the mountain. Along the way you drive through many charming towns and pass roadside stalls offering fresh local produce and bush tucker grown in the valley’s fertile volcanic soils.
The Border Ranges National Park sits on Mount Warning’s western edge and is home to the highest concentration of marsupial species in Australia. At the park’s Antarctic Beech picnic area the views over the wilderness are like views of a lost world. A highlight is the view from the Pinnacle Lookout on the rim of the Wollumbin Caldera. To stand on the rim of this caldera is to experience one of Australia’s most breathtaking natural wonders.
On the southern rim of the caldera lies the Nightcap National Park. In the late 1970s, conservationists fought vigourously to save the area’s natural treasures from timber loggers. The waterfall in the park is named in honour of those dedicated environmentalists.
The Green Cauldron is a distinctive Australian landscape of natural and cultural significance. Its vast expanse of subtropical rainforest offers a window onto Australia’s prehistoric past. Its plants and animals have a genetic history that stretches back to the super continent known as Gondwana. To experience this special place is to be immersed in nature’s mystery.
Things to see and do
- Drop into the World Heritage Rainforest and Visitor Centre in Murwillumbah. It’s at the start of the Rainforest Way, and provides excellent interpretive information on the rainforest and the region.
- Enjoy a picnic in the peaceful surrounds of the Korrumbyn Creek picnic area. Keep an eye out for the resident wildlife, including Albert’s Lyrebird, the Powerful Owl, Marbled Frogmouth, and Sooty Owl as well as koalas, spotted-tail quolls and squirrel gliders.
- Take the Tweed Range Drive which loops from Murwillumbah to Kyogle and Lismore. The views of Mount Warning and the caldera are unforgettable.
- Visit the hinterland towns and villages of Casino, Kyogle, Lismore and Nimbin. The area is affectionately known as the Rainbow Region because it is home for many alternative lifestylers including artists, writers and musicians. Their colourful festivals brim with arts and crafts, kites, crystals and local produce.
- Explore 160kms of bushwalking trails in Lamington National Park; taking you to spectacular lookouts and waterfalls around the rim of the Mt Warning Wollumbin Caldera or into the deep gorges carved out of the ancient lava flows by the Coomera River and its tributaries.
- Sample the local produce. The region’s macadamia nuts, exotic fruits, aromatic coffee and excellent wine are all excellent.
- Relax in a health spa in the hinterland at Ballina. Experience the classic Aussie surf culture at the coastal retreats of Kingscliff or Byron Bay.
- Go snorkelling with the turtles, whale watching, deep sea fishing, scuba diving and surfing along the Pacific Coast or explore the northern rivers via kayak, sailboat, houseboat, jetboat, waterski or a relaxing cruise.
- Challenge yourself to climb the rugged peaks in Mt Barney National Park south of Boonah or be the first in Australia to see the sunrise from the summit of Mt Warnin
- Combine rainforest walks, art and craft shopping, wine tasting and fine dining in and around Mt Tamborine and the Scenic Rim
Start your tour at the Australia’s Green Cauldron exhibit at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you’ll learn how this vast caldera was formed and see some of the rare and endangered wildlife species that make their home here.
Drive south along the Tweed Coast via Tweed Heads and immerse yourself in the beach and surf lifestyle of Fingal, Kingscliff, Salt Village, Casuarina, Hastings Point, Pottsville, Brunswick Heads and world-famous Byron Bay.
Turning inland towards Lismore, explore the southern rim of the caldera, travelling through the picturesque villages of the Rainbow Region, taking time out to view Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park, before heading towards Nimbin and the Border Ranges.
The Tweed Range Scenic Drive through this World Heritage listed wilderness area follows the western wall of the caldera, providing plenty of stopping points where you can delve into the heart of the rainforest or walk out onto the rim of the ancient volcano at breathtaking lookouts such as Blackbutts or the Pinnacle.
Following the full circuit to Wiangaree, you can then take the scenic Lions Road across the border to Rathdowney and Beaudesert, continuing on to Mt Tamborine, Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland.
Entering the bowl of the caldera via the Numinbah Valley, take your time exploring this lush Garden of Eden, following the Mt Warning View Circuit to Chillingham, Tyalgum, Brays Creek, Clarrie Hall Dam, Uki, Mt Warning, Murwillumbah and Tumbulgum.
From here, the cross-country road to Terranora will take you on the road less travelled via Bilambil and Carool, or take the scenic drive across the Tomewin Range Road into Currumbin Valley and back to the Gold Coast Airport.
Allow at least a week or more to complete this full itinerary, staying overnight at B&Bs, rainforest retreats and lodges en route. If you only have a few days available, take one of the shorter Rainforest Way drives. Australia’s Green Cauldron is easily accessible via international and domestic air services to Gold Coast Airport and via the Pacific Coast Touring Route.