East of Dividing Range
Town Hall, Warwick

I just returned from a 4 night, 1300 km (800 mile) road trip with Luke and Aidan. We did a large loop west of Brisbane, through Cunningham Gap and the Great Dividing Range to Stanthorpe, then south into the Granite Belt and camped at Girraween N.P. A higher, drier plateau, but not real Outback desert. The rock formations are outstanding, and we did not see any snakes, which are by reports, plentiful in the warmer months. We did see plenty of lizards though, which makes me think snakes were out and about too..

Young Wallaby

Old Goat, Girraween N.P.

Now how did that get up there..?

Luke on 1st Pyramid, Giraween N.P.
Aussie Bush Camping
Holding up Balancing Rock

Aussie autumn foliage

Then, up onto the New England Tablelands that lie behind the Great Dividing Range. Yes, there really is a region of Australia called New England. As a multi-generational old Yankee, I had to check it out.  Settled by English, Scots and Irish in the 1820-40’s, it’s a high plateau, up to 3000-4000 ft. elevation, running 300 or so miles N to S, and 100 miles E to W. A high, cool plateau, mostly given over to grazing large herds of beef cattle and sheep. The villages are sparsely placed and tiny. The area is famous in Australia for having light snows and an annual foliage display, but it’s not exactly Vermont. There’s even a University of New England at Armidale, and the center for country music further south in Tamworth. Another surprising find in Australia, and a beautiful area to visit….

New England plateau landscape, from moving car
“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..”.really…

Summit Ridge Cathedral Rock N.P.
Camping neighbors…

In a trip filled with superlatives, we also hiked the largest Granite dome in the southern hemisphere at Bald Rock N.P near Tenterfield. It was very similar to Enchanted Rock outside of Fredricksburg, Texas, for those of you readers with Texas roots. An exfoliating granite dome with wonderful views of the Granite Belt below. 

Near summit Bald Rock N.P.
It’s what’s for dinner…

Eucalypt Forest

Bald Rock summit, New England, NSW
Bird’s Nest Fern
Valley of the Lorikeets..High atop New England

Superb Lyrebird, a very lucky encounter

We then hiked up to the highest point on the plateau, at a place called Cathedral Rock National Park near Ebor.. It was a real Lord of the Rings experience as the cool fern and lichen encrusted, stunted eucalypt forest transitioned into a higher, gnarled cypress and beech mini-Bonzai landscape. 

A boulder strewn series of summits rose above, out of the mist. And in a most unexpected turn, the forest trees were full of flocks of raucous lorikeets, currawongs and parrots, flying rapidly in tight clusters, the noise of their hundreds of wings slicing through the silence just above the tree tops….startling and unforgettable …

Packing my bags for the Misty Mountains…

Superb Lyrebird, elusive and rare
Above Dorrigo, NSW

Turning east at Armidale we drove down the “Waterfall Way” into rich, moist, dairying lands, before dropping thousands of feet through the Eastern Escarpment rainforests and onto the coastal plain at Coff’s Harbor.

The Waterfall Way

Dorrigo Hotel, NSW

Heritage Building Bellingen, NSW

We finished up traveling north through the surf and beach towns of Lennox Heads and Byron Bay, another stunning landscape filled with friendly, helpful locals.

Wollombomi Falls gorge

Aidan on Lennox Head
Next stop, New Zealand….!

We camped at Wollomombi Falls, the second highest in AU with a drop of 220 m,(over 700 ft); and stood at the Easternmost point on the Australian Continent at Cape Byron.

All in all, a wonderful further foray into the amazingly varied countryside and habitats of eastern Australia, and our first real backcountry, or bush, camping.

I hope you enjoyed the journey half as much as we did. Hope to head further north, and further west in the near future. Best to all, but for now I have to pay for my fun with six shifts in a row in the ED…ddu.

Big ocean and surf…
Red Rock Beach, NSW
Lennox Beach and Head, NSW
Byron Light, 1901

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