Volcano Country Drive

The Northern Rivers and Gold Coast Hinterland region of Australia is referred to by vulcanologists as the Tweed Volcano Group. It is a reference to the now extinct volcano and associated inland landscape complex around the NSW/Qld state border. The huge size of the Tweed Valley, the caldera of the Mt Warning shield volcano, gives us an inkling of what a monster it was. The volcano's lava and ash spread covered an area from Byron Bay in the southeast, and Lismore in the southwest, to Mount Tamborine to the north in Qld (part of Queensland's Scenic Rim). The volcano created the magnificent, varied landscape we see today, from towering mountains covered in sub-tropical rainforest, to the gently sloping valleys of the Northern Rivers region.

This drive is a circular route, and can therefore be commenced from any of the towns along the way, including Murwillumbah (NSW), Tweed Heads (NSW), Mudgeereba (Qld) or Nerang (Qld). For the purpose of this exercise, we have started and finished at Murrwillumbah.

Location: Sunshine Coast, Qld/Northern NSW

Length: 150 km

Features/attractions: Mt Warning; Lamington National Park; Natural bridge; Numinbah Valley and Forest Reserve; Clagilaba state Forest; Springbrook National Park; Currumbin Valley.

Minimum duration: 3 hours


The Drive: Take Bray Street south out of Murwillumbah, followqing it onto Tweed Valley Way. After passing through Dunbible, turn right into Stokers Road, and at Stokers Siding take Smiths Crek Road to the village of Uki. At this juncture, Mt Warning is immediately ahead of you.

Follow Uki Road back towards Murwillumbah, passing the road that leads to Mt Warning. At Bray Park, turn left into Park Avenue, following it into North Arm Road. The settlement at Chillingham has an interesting shop and cafe. From Chillingham, head north along Nergang-Murwillumbah Road. After crossing the NSW/Qld borner, you will see Lamington National Park on your left. The often photographed Natural Bridge is around 7km north of the border on the right hand side.

Continue heading north through Numinbah Valley and past Numinbah Forest Reserve. The short drive through the forest is an interesting detour if you have the time; it had a pleasant picnic area. After passing through Clagiraba State Forest, continue to the intersection of Beaudesert-Nerang Road and Mt Nathan Road. The latter is the road to access Lamington National Park. It is a 120km return trip from the intersection to O'Reillys in the rainforest. We don't suggest you take it on this trip, but mark your map if you intend making the drive at a later date.

At Nerang, take the Pacific Motorway south towards Tweed Heads. If you wish to visit Springbrook National Park, take the Mudgeeraba exit and proceed along Franklin Drive, following the signs to the park (48km return from Mudgeeraba). Continue travelling south on Pacific motorway. After crossing Currumbin Creek, take the Stewart Road exit. Follow the signs to Currumbin Waters, turning left out of Stewart Street into Currumbin Creek Road, then Tomewin Mountain Road. You are now following the Qld/NSW border. Keep following Tomewin Road into Murwillumbah after crossing the border.


Distances:

Murwillumbah to Uki: 22 km
Uki to Chillingham: 23 km
Chillingham to Natural Bridge: 18 km
Natural Bridge to Nerang: 33 km
Nerang to Currumbin Waters: 26 km
Currumbin Waters to Murwillumbah: 28 km
Springbrook National Park detour: 48km return from Mudgeeraba

Places visited:

Murwillumbah: watched over by Mt Warning, the town of Murwillumbah on the Tweed River is a pretty place with some of the finest examples of Art deco architecture in Australia. It has some great cafes, shops covering a wide range of merchandise and an excellent art gallery.



Uki: a beautiful and peaceful village located virtually at the foot of Mt Warning. The village is a heritage conservation area with heritage buildings including the Mt Warning Hotel, the old Bank Building and the old Butter Factory, now converted to art and craft galleries and artisans workspaces.

Chillingham: consists of a general store and little else. Walking into the Chillingham Store is a bit like walking back into the 19th century. The difference is that this general store also has a charming tropical beer garden offering tea and scones and old style country cooking.

Nerang: the gateway town to the mountainous Gold Coast hinterland. Once a quiet country town, Nerang now accommodates the residential overspill from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Mudgeeraba: once a sleepy township that characterises the rural hinterland of the Gold Coast, Mudgeeraba is today a suburb of the Gold Coast. Contained on an 'island' within the flood plain its essential character remains one of a nineteenth century village despite the recent encroachment of housing estates to nearby land.


Springbrook National Park: a Gold Coast hinterland national park, noted for its cool rainforest, eucalypt forest, sparkling mountain streams, plunging waterfalls, deep, palm-filled valleys, spectacular views and remnants of early foresting history, all accessible by graded walking tracks.

Lamington National Park: Situated on the NSW/Qld border, Lamington National Park protects the rich ecology of a sub-tropical rainforest. Fertile, volcanic soils yield a lush environment, home to a large variety of flora and fauna. Within the park are hundreds of waterfalls cascading from rugged mountain ridges into densley forested valleys of pristine beauty.


Mount Warning: Towering over the town of Murwillumbah and the Tweed Valley in far north-eastern New South Wales, Mount Warning is the central core of the Southern Hemisphere's largest extinct shield volcano. Named "Wollumbin", meaning "cloud catcher", by the Bundjalung people who inhabited the region before European settlement, it is the first place on Australia's mainland to be touched by the morning sun. A climb to the summit to watch the dawn of a new day is a must for the adventurous.

The Caldera of the Tweed Volcano: The biggest erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest calderas in the world, it is one of the world's great natural wonders, and also one of the few places where the erosion process can be seen to the underlying pre-volcanic sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, providing enthusiasts with a wonderful opportunity to test their knowledge of geological processes. The huge size of the Tweed Valley, the caldera of the Mt Warning shield volcano, gives us an inkling of what a monster it was. Today the caldera valley is over 1000 meters deep and has a diameter of over forty kilometres, making it larger even than the famous Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

National Parks Visited: Springbrook National Park features panoramic views over the Gold Coast and northern NSW from walks through subtropical and cool temperate rainforest. Lamington National Park protects the largest remaining tract of undisturbed subtropical rainforest. Mount Warning National Park protects the diverse rainforest communities which clothe this rugged mountain peak. Walks, scenic drives, dramatic lookouts and visitor facilities are provided in Border Ranges National Park, whilst Nightcap National Park provides excellent day facilities and walking tracks.

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