Exploring Australia's rainforests

written by Kirsten Powley

updated 15.01.2019

Australia has it all covered: the big blue Great Barrier Reef, the Red Centre, white and golden beaches, but often visitors miss out on a huge part of the country's landscape: the lush, green rainforests. Spanning across this vast country (yes, even in the seemingly arid Northern Territory – we'll get to that later) you'll find all five types of climactic rainforest. So whether it's an exciting jungle walk you're looking for, a rainforest that brushes onto beautiful beaches or one surrounding thundering waterfalls and cooling plunge pools, an Australia rainforest experience will have your heart fluttering as fast as the butterflies that inhabit them.

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

The Daintree Rainforest is the reigning king of Australian rainforest. The oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest on earth and part of the World-Heritage listed Wet Tropics (which also includes Karunda), it's a beast. It's accessible from Cape Tribulation – the only place in the world where two UNESCO sites meet, the Daintree and Great Barrier Reef – as well as Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown. This area is one of the only places you can glimpse the southern cassowary bird, and it's also a highly significant place for Aboriginals. To learn more, head to Mossman Gorge, where you can go on bush tucker walks with an Aboriginal guide to learn more about the Aboriginal peoples' connection with nature.


Cape Tribulation, where the Daintree rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef © Darren Tierney/Shutterstock

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Gondwana Rainforests, Queensland and New South Wales

If the Daintree is the king, the Gondwanas are the most legendary of Australia's rainforests. The Gondwana rainforests of Australia can be found from Newcastle in New South Wales up to southeast Queensland. Their name recalls the ancient continent of Gondwana that once connected South America, Australasia and Africa.

The most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world, the Gondwanas cover a lot of Australia's national parks, such as Springbrook (fun tidbit: this is where I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here is filmed) and Lamington National Parks in Queensland and Wollumbin (which surrounds the remnants of the larger extinct volcano, Mount Warning) and Dorrigo National Parks in New South Wales. In any of these parks you may be able to see the rare Albert's Lyrebird.

To cover more ground in your trip, jump into a hire car and head for the Rainforest Way, a series of scenic drives that stretch from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay.


Dorrigo National Park in New South Wales, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia © Taras Vyshnya/Shutterstock

Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, the type of Australia rainforest you'll find if different from your classic lush green trees and ferns. Here, you'll find monsoon rainforest, a type of rainforest that grows in tropical and subtropical regions with a distinct long dry season followed by a wet season. It's typically less lush and green than the classic rainforest we're accustomed to because leaves are shed during the dry season.

What Kakadu lacks in year-round greenery it makes up for in its wet season waterfalls and plunge pools (and of course its rejuvenated flora, too). Take a walk to Jim Jim Falls and try the Gubarra Pools walk to see the best of this Australia rainforest.


The view from the top of Jim Jim Falls © Umomos/Shutterstock

Great Otway National Park, Victoria

Stretching from Torquay to Princetown in southern Victoria, Great Otway National Park is made up of waterfalls, rugged coastlines and ferny gullies. Notably, it's located just off the Great Ocean Road, one Australia's top experiences. It's easy to combine Great Otway with the famous coastal road trip, stopping at viewpoints and beaches and then venturing on hikes inland to some secluded waterfalls such as Hopetoun and Erskine Falls. There are plenty of camping areas, picturesque spots for picnics and you can even try horseback-riding (permit required) and mountain-biking.


Hopetoun Falls in Great Otway National Park, Victoria © Sara Winter/Shutterstock

Tarra Bulga National Park, Victoria

Tarra Bulga National Park is in Gippsland, and is a great choice if you're looking for a rainforest experience with plenty of well-maintained walks and trails. As one of the only four major areas in Victoria with cool, temperate rainforest, Tarra Bulga is brimming with gullies, tree ferns and giant mountain ash trees. For a dizzyingly spectacular view, take the Fern Gully Nature Walk which brings you over a splendid suspension bridge, or head down to Tarra Falls. There's a chance you might see a platypus or a family of wombats, or classic Aussie critters like possums. Unlike Great Otway National Park, there's no camping permitted here in Tarra Bulga, but you'll find a range of other accommodation options.


Suspension bridge in Tarra Bulga National Park in east Gippsland, Victoria © kawhia/Shutterstock

Cradle Moutain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania

You didn't think we'd miss Tasmania in our Australia rainforest list, did you? This little island off of mainland Australia's southeast coast is full of incredible scenery, and of course, that includes rainforests. Head for Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and make sure you check out the King Billy Track. It's named after the King Billy pine tree (which in turn was named after an Aboriginal Tribe Leader), a tree that only grows here in Tasmania where it thrives in the highland rainforest. The nearby Enchanted Walk is also not to be missed, living up to its name and taking on a very AMidsummer Night's Dream-esque atmosphere (with a bit more humidity).


Temperate rainforest in Cradle Mountain Lake-St Clair National Park, Tasmania © Atosan / Shutterstock

The Kimberley, Western Australia

Like the Northern Territory, Western Australia's Kimberley region is mainly known for its dry, outback-style landscape. However, it's also rich with monsoon forest, best experienced in the wet season when plunge pools and waterfalls abound. The Mitchell River National Park in the northern Kimberley region is a great place to trek and try to spot the wealth of wildlife, such as the endangered scaly-tailed possum. Other than nature, it's also an important cultural site to the Wunambal people and contains Aboriginal rock art.


The four-tiered Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley © The Perfect / Shutterstock

Top image: Mossman River in Daintree Rainforest © AustralianCamera / Shutterstock

Kirsten Powley

written by Kirsten Powley

updated 15.01.2019

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