An easy-go­ing but spec­tac­u­lar drive through the Bor­der Ranges Na­tional Park on the New South Wales far-north coast.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PICS KEV AND BILLI SMITH

AT THE mere men­tion of na­tional parks most peo­ple start yelling about locked gates, no ac­cess, no fire­wood, no four-wheel driv­ing and no fun – it’s even worse when the parks are World Her­itage listed. How­ever, these peo­ple have prob­a­bly never been to the Bor­der Ranges that sep­a­rate NSW and Qld.

Bor­der Ranges NP was World Her­itage listed in 1986, and the parks ser­vice has gone to great lengths to of­fer a wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties for 4Wders and campers. The park fea­tures ap­prox­i­mately 50 rain­for­est re­serves and its most sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture is Mount Warn­ing, a largely eroded vol­cano now around half its orig­i­nal size.

The track through the park is only about 100km long, but it’s a great es­cape from the hus­tle and bus­tle of ev­ery­day life.

Ly­ing 170km south of Bris­bane is Kyo­gle in New South Wales, the start­ing point for this trip. Kyo­gle, a small log­ging town from way back, is a well-equipped coun­try town where pies are still hand­made and where you can get old-fash­ioned ser­vice at a proper garage.

The drive gets rolling by head­ing north from Kyo­gle along Sum­mer­land Way for 12km un­til you hit the lit­tle ham­let of Wian­ga­ree, the last-minute stop for fresh bread, ice and milk. Here you’ll see a road and camp­site con­di­tion board – crit­i­cal for this area, as weather con­di­tions can change dra­mat­i­cally. Over the next sev­eral kilo­me­tres you’ll pass dairy farms and old tim­ber bridges un­til you ar­rive at the turn-off for Lynches Creek Road, a well­sign­posted road that heads to­wards the Bor­der Ranges.

This is where the road starts wind­ing its way into the thick lan­tana-in­fested for­est. If there’s any mois­ture about it’s ad­vis­able to select 4WD, as the road climbs sharply for sev­eral kilo­me­tres and there isn’t much room ei­ther side. When the road even­tu­ally lev­els out, a sign in­di­cates that Bris­bane is only 132km away. Turn right here to head deeper into the for­est and pass sev­eral stone fruit and cat­tle farm prop­er­ties. While not a hard drive, it’s ad­vis­able to keep your lights on and your speed limited to 40km/h due to the jumpups, sharp turns and nar­row roads.

After 31km you’ll ap­proach the turn-off to the first camp­ground: Sheep Sta­tion Creek. If you haven’t al­ready pur­chased a camp­ing and ve­hi­cle pass you’ll need to use the hon­esty box. The Sheep Sta­tion Creek camp­ground has some 40 sites cater­ing for tents and campers, as well as walk-in sites po­si­tioned well away from ve­hi­cles. The camp­site also fea­tures tables and chairs, bar­be­cues with fire pits (you must bring your own wood), long-drop toi­lets, a com­mu­nal shel­ter with a large fire box, and in­for­ma­tion boards re­gard­ing walks and local veg­e­ta­tion – we’ve def­i­nitely got no com­plaints about pay­ing fees to use this area.

There are sev­eral walk­ing tracks to Sheep Sta­tion Creek, from where there are formed walk­ing tracks and board­walks al­low­ing ex­plo­ration of the cool run­ning creek that cuts its way through boul­ders and palm trees.

Back at the turn of the cen­tury the red cedar cut­ters used this area to trans­fer logs down­stream to await­ing ships. How­ever, the steep con­tours of the land cre­ated a prob­lem, and it’s possible

to see where the work­ers un­loaded the mas­sive logs, moved the bul­locks around the turn, then reloaded the logs for the next sec­tion of the jour­ney. The cut­ters even blazed their names onto a large rock in the area, which dates back to the 1880s. Weather can change quickly in rain­for­est cli­mates, so keep an eye out for pesky leeches and mos­qui­tos if it’s a bit moist.

You’re re­quired to park the car­a­vans and trail­ers at Sheep Sta­tion Creek camp­ground before fol­low­ing the nar­row and steep roads that lie ahead. A left-hand turn at the top of the camp leads deeper into the park, and as the road plateaus you’ll come across an­other camp­ing area: For­est Tops. This camp­ground is blocked off with bol­lards lin­ing the road, so you need to carry all your gear in – it’s not too far, but far enough to be an­noy­ing. With the usual na­tional park fa­cil­i­ties, this spot’s ideal if you’ve packed light.

Con­tin­u­ing on from the camp­site will lead to a left-hand turn down a tight one-way track – al­though you can choose to head straight on the main road. Most peo­ple choose to turn left and take the tight track that cuts deeper in the heart of the park. It’s ad­vised to use a lower gear here to save your brakes – plus there’s a good chance a lyre­bird might dart across the road. At the very bot­tom of this sec­tion are sev­eral walks that lead to large red cedar trees and pic­nic fa­cil­i­ties.

The road that climbs out the other side is some­what nar­row, with tree ferns and vines dan­gling across. It’s also very steep, with our GPS indi­cat­ing we were 1000 me­tres above sea level. There are

sev­eral in­for­mal lookouts and pic­nic ar­eas on the rim of this road, but pick your time wisely – when it’s cloudy you’ll see noth­ing.

Fur­ther along you re­join the well-sign­posted main road, so you can wan­der back to your camper, camp at the next stop or keep ex­plor­ing. Turn­ing left onto Tweed Range Road there may be traf­fic, so keep to the 40km/h limit and make it en­joy­able for ev­ery­one.

Con­tin­u­ing along the rim will lead to the Bar Moun­tain Pic­nic Area, which has plenty of grass for the kids to play on, a bar­be­cue table, bar­be­cue pits (bring your own wood), un­der­cover shel­ter and toi­lets. Be wary if cook­ing meat as there are res­i­dent quolls that will smell your food from a mile away. This is a great spot to un­wind, with sev­eral walks lead­ing to­wards 2000-year-old beech trees.

The main road quickly de­scends here, so select high 4WD and take your time, as one of the risks driv­ing in old forests is the chance a rot­ten tree may fall in front of you. After a short drive the for­est starts to shift into a land­scape of scrubby tim­ber, lan­tana and vines. As you ap­proach the 90km mark you’ll come to the other end of the park, which is well sign­posted. As soon as you pass these signs there are farms, hip­pie shacks and hor­ti­cul­tural igloos in the area, all tak­ing ad­van­tage of the rich soil and high rain­fall. It seems this area must be lush all year, as the cows are fat and the trees lin­ing the road are cov­ered with stag horns and old man moss.

Fol­low your nose to the T in­ter­sec­tion, turn right and fol­low Wil­liams Road past flow­ing creeks and hid­den bed and break­fast retreats. Un­for­tu­nately the tar soon turns up and you’re forced to turn right to Kyo­gle or left to­wards the coast through Mur­willum­bah. There is one other choice: turn around and do it all again!

The roads in and out of the park are in pretty good nick.

Ad­mir­ing the views of Mount Warn­ing off in the dis­tance.

2000-year-old beech trees are preva­lent within the park.

Iso­lated camp­ground means there’s plenty of space to pitch a tent.

The 317km² NP crosses into both NSW and Queens­land.

If you haven’t got a parks pass, then use the hon­esty box.

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