Border Ranges National Park: Pioneers, Timber and Ghosts of the Past

Border Ranges National Park: Pioneers, Timber and Ghosts of the Past

Border Ranges National Park: Jan and Peter (both 74) took to their caravan to explore.

BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK

The World Heritage-listed Border Ranges National Park has scenic walks and breathtaking views surrounded by ancient landscapes. We took off in our caravan for a break inside the Gondwana rainforest.

Mt Warning is a dominant feature of the Tweed Valley in Northern New South Wales. It sits in Wollumbin National Park. This remnant core of a volcano was active 23 million years ago. Today, the core is less than half its original size. The surrounding caldera once covered an area of 80 x 100 kilometres. The erosion activity over the past 20 million years created a large cauldron- like landscape. It has one of the highest levels of biological diversity in Australia.

Mebbin National Park sits inside the caldera rim. We spent our first evening camped in this National Park. We travelled there along the Tweed Valley Way then via Murwillumbah, through the quaint village of Tyalgum, Brays Creek and pot- holed Byrrill Creek Roads to Cutters Camp. The campground, in a cleared forest setting, has recently been refurbished. New barbeques, picnic tables, toilet facilities and fireplaces have been installed to a very good standard. We enjoyed having the whole area to ourselves, (perhaps because it was cold.)

An upgraded walking track winds around a two-kilometre loop to Sweetmans Creek and back along the edge of Byrill Creek. It passes through subtropical rainforest between giant, ancient fig trees. In the late afternoon red-necked pademelons grazed happily on the grass close by.

Border Ranges National Park.

LOCAL LEGENDS

An elderly farmer in the area caught our interest in an area further to the west near Wadeville. He shared legends and stories from the turn of the century when timber getters wandered the lands. They worked in the forests, winding their way with bullock teams to harvest the giant forest logs. There were stories of blood-stained floors and family feuds. It was late in the day when we ventured along the track that is the Old Tweed Road. It was here that a bullocky was murdered with a blow from a bullock yoke. And that wasn’t the only ghost that haunts the area.

A German settler, spurned by the one he loved, shot himself. Halfway along the track, the crumbling wooden Cranes Bridge carries a legend of an apparition that appears on the bridge. The late afternoon breeze created moving shadows across the rough track, creating an eerie feeling. We hoped a ghost of the past would linger but alas, none visited us.

A short distance away at Hanging Rock Bridge on Barkers Vale Road, incidents from the past have also added to local folklore. Apparently, a local businessman from the past abandoned his journey along this road when an apparition appeared on that bridge. A Nimbin village resident reported that his reliable horse refused to set a hoof anywhere near the bridge. We were disappointed to see that the old bridge had been replaced with a new model. But we were able to view the original crossing of the river. The mournful hoot of an owl and the approaching evening caused us to move on.

NIMBIN

The showground at Nimbin was a convenient next campsite with plenty of space and clean facilities. The village, overlooked by impressive rock formations, is a central base for exploring the natural wonders nearby. Forests of red cedar first attracted timber getters to the area in the 1840s. The 1973 the Aquarius Festival brought alternative lifestylers and communes sprouted up in the surrounding hills. The streets of the village are predominately named after the early farmers, mostly in the dairying industry.

A nearby excursion was via the village of The Channon and along a fifteen-kilometre (part gravel) diversion leading to Protesters Falls. In 1975 local residents Nan and Hugh Nicholson raised the alarm when they discovered the logging plans for the area. The Terania Creek Protest was organised in 1979 against logging old growth forest. While the original protesters’ intentions were non- violent and peaceful, not everybody supported that ideal. However, this was the first-time people physically defended a natural resource. The mill was closed down as a result. The New South Wales Premier at the time, Neville Wran, made the historic ‘Rainforest Decision’ in October 1982. It saved approximately 100,000 hectares of forest from harvesting.

The picnic ground offered a pleasant venue in the rainforest for our lunch before a one- and-a-half-kilometre walk. It followed along the pretty Terania Creek through Bangalow palms to eventually emerge at the base of the impressive long drop of the falls and pool. This is the home of the endangered Fleay ’s Barred Frog. No swimming is allowed.

Border Ranges National Park.

MT NARDI

Our original plan was to hike the Pholis Gap and Mt Matheson Loop starting from Mt Nardi in the west Nightcap National Park. This is the starting point for several walking tracks including the Historic Nightcap track. This was once the principal route taken by travellers and postal workers in the 1870s between Lismore and Murwillumbah. The journey required an overnight camp hence the name “Nightcap.” With pack horses, the mailman took three days to travel the muddy track. Today, the mountain can easily be identified by the television transmitting tower on its summit.

Mt Nardi was named in memory of Terania Shire Councillor Angelo Nardi (born in 1899) for his services to the community of Nimbin. He was a descendant of the pioneer farming settlers of New Italy – now a historic rest stop on the Pacific Highway. Pholis Gap received its name in memory of Athol Pholis, a timber worker, who was killed on the track by a falling tree.

We were disappointed to find the access road leading to the commencement of the Nightcap track at Mt Nardi closed for repair. However, we made a booking at Rummary Park campground where we could access part of this historic track from the south-east end. We were delighted to find another upgraded National Park camping ground. And, once again we had the camping area to ourselves. We expect the low temperatures kept away all except us hardy campers.

CECIL C.JONES CABIN

A cabin in the campground commemorates Cecil C. Jones who was a forest foreman in the Whian Whian Conservation Area. He lived there in the red mahogany cabin with his wife and four young children. It is the last remaining cabin of the ones constructed during late 1940 and early 1941 by the Forestry Commission in this forest setting, then named Boggy Creek camp. A cottage was also constructed for visiting for VIPs, especially the Forester in Charge of the Whian Whian area – Tom Rummery. The campground is named after him. Tom and Cecil planted a big kauri pine which can still be seen there today. When Cecil died in 1993, the Forestry Commission installed a memorial plaque with the words, “the bush has friends to meet him and their kindly voices greet him.”

Our hike the next morning was a grade three, six-kilometre return hike to Peates Mountain. It went through forest which is regenerating after recent bushfires. It was a steep climb towards the summit. Disappointedly the tall eucalypts at the top blocked what could be a spectacular view to the coast. We enjoyed a packed lunch before hiking back to camp along the historic Nightcap track. Unfortunately, the Boggy Creek walk from Rummery Park to Minyon Falls was also closed for maintenance. However, before moving on the next morning, we explored the Blue Fig Track for a couple of kilometres. We relaxed by a pretty cascade and watched a pair of Rufous Scrub-Birds fossicking in the dense eucalypt forest.

BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK

Our journey continued via Kyogle and Wiangaree (the eastern access road was closed) to the Border Ranges National Park. The 44-kilometre gravel Tweed Range Scenic Drive travels along the elevated edge of the caldera of the Mount Warning volcano, affording stunning views from the lookouts. This dramatic escarpment is the rim of one of the largest calderas in the world. Sheep Station Creek campground, a large area also recently refurbished, was our campsite for a few days. It is well set up with large campsites for vans and tents. We enjoyed the numerous hikes in the area.

From the campground, we hiked through eucalypt and rainforest for 2 kilometres to lovely Brushbox Falls and Palm Forest. Following the line of an old logging and bullock trail across the creek, we came across a sandstone rockface where early loggers carved their names. Beginning in 1886 the Red Cedar was harvested from the plateau with bullock teams. The bullock wagons were unloaded on the hill and taken empty around the steep descent to Sheep Station Creek. The sandstone rockface was used as a reloading ramp. Logs were hauled to the Richmond River where they were floated downstream for shipment. We continued on for 4 kilometres, connecting up to The Rosewood Loop circuit in old-growth Rosewood and Flooded Gum trees.

BRINDLE CREEK WALK

Because the Brindle Creek Walk is 6km one way and not a loop, we decided to hike it in two sessions. We parked the car at the Brindle Creek picnic area. We followed the line of Brindle Creek through lush rainforest for a five-kilometre return hike to Evan’s Falls and pool. Swimming is not recommended in the creek as it is also a habitat for endangered frogs. It was a pleasant spot to enjoy our lunch. Before returning to Sheep Station Creek campground, we drove further on to The Pinnacle Lookout. The short walk to the viewing platform revealed a view 1000 meters below into the Tweed Valley and across to the rugged volcanic core of Mt. Warning. It is stunning!

On our final morning, after morning tea in the Antarctic Beech picnic ground where we left our vehicle, we hiked 6 kilometres return. It was through huge hoop pines and large Antarctic beech trees to Selva Falls, again on the Brindle Creek walk. It was an uphill climb back to the picnic ground.

Back at Sheep Station Creek we hitched up the van to commence our homeward journey. We were reluctant to leave after spending a very enjoyable week of staying and hiking in these ranges. We decided this area has some of the best views and walks in New South Wales. But, the Gold Coast was calling us back!

Lamington National Park: Crazy-Amazing Bushwalks

Lamington National Park: Crazy-Amazing Bushwalks

Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep. It’s hard to believe that this nature paradise is so close. Here are our favourite walks!

We have had numerous requests here at Silver to suggest the best bushwalks for the over 50s. So we went to investigate the utterly stunning O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. It’s a tough job but we fell on the sword for you. You are welcome!

The Scenic Rim was just named in the top 10 regions to visit in 2022 for Lonely Planet. And with good reason, it’s achingly beautiful. So here we are!

Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep.
Image by Katie Purling

Lamington National Park Location

For those of you who are new to the Gold Coast, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is only around 90 minutes from the Gold Coast, and it is just so beautiful it’s hard to put into words how lucky we are to have this just so close to us. You can stay in a lot of different types of accommodation at O’Reilly’s. You can also camp at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The campground just took out bronze in the Queensland Tourism Awards.

And, the Vineyard (which is a whole other 6-page story in itself) just took out the silver medal!

Located in the Lamington National Park, it is the most drop-dead gorgeous bushwalking destination in Queensland. It contains over 320 kms of walking tracks that lead to spectacular lookouts, waterfalls and some of Queensland’s most significant wilderness areas.

Lamington National Park is nearly 1000 metres above sea level which means that the temperature is 5-8 degrees cooler than Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Lamington National Park is made up of two sections: Green Mountains and Binna Burra. Green Mountains section is located on the western side of the Lamington Plateau, and wraps around O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

Below are self-guided walks, but there are more. Plus, you can actually book yourself or your group on a private guided walk. These are utterly fascinating, and the O’Reilly’s guides really know their stuff.

Lamington National Park: SHORT WALKS

The Tree Top Walk – Return Distance 800 metres The Booyong Walk is clearly signposted. It starts opposite the entrance to the O’Reilly’s Reception. This walk is an iconic part of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. It’s great for a daytrip for the active over 50s – it has 9 suspension bridges up to 16 metres above ground. You get a bird’s eye view from a deck in a fig tree over the walkway. The best time to see birdlife is early morning or late afternoon. The Tree Top Walk is free to experience at your own leisure, and it is open all day every day.

Mick’s Tower – Return Distance 1 km

This walk shares the same entrance as the Wishing Tree Track, except you turn right at the 330m mark. This rainforest observation tower is 18 metres high. Information signs on the various decks refer to the surrounding rainforest and in particular to a large Red Carabeen growing close by. This is an ideal spot to enjoy the tranquillity of a rainforest canopy with the birds for company.

Centenary Track – 1.8 km return

This universal access track leaves from the northern end of the Green Mountains carpark, 150 m from the national park information centre. The track passes by a tall hoop pine at the entrance and slowly descends through subtropical rainforest for 900m. It then joins the Python Rock and Morans Falls tracks. Bench seating spaced along the track offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Watch for regent and satin bowerbirds darting through the branches, logrunners foraging on fallen tree trunks and Albert’s lyrebirds scratching in the leaf litter.

Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep.
Image by Tourism & Events Queensland

Lamington National Park: HALF DAY WALKS

Moonlight Crag – Return Distance 7km

For the more fit and feisty over 50s who would prefer to stay at O’Reilly’s rather than do a day trip (do it, it’s gorgeous) these are most vigorous walks and involve some hill climbing. On this walk, you can swing by Moran’s Falls and see Balancing Rock.

Elabana Falls – Return Distance 7.6 km

The Elabana Falls Track descends through a stand of Antarctic Beech and then past the largest Brush Box trees in the National Park. Turn right at the Box Forest turn-off for Picnic Rock, a favourite lunch spot, but be sure to continue to Elabana Falls 400 metres further on.

Pat’s Bluff – Return Distance 5.4km

Pat’s Bluff affords a view over the Albert and Logan River valleys to the Great Dividing Range. Pat O’Reilly’s log cabin is 70 metres in from this spot. Peregrine Falcons nest in caves in these cliffs and often rest in the dead trees above the cliff line.

Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep.
Image by O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Lamington National Park: FULL DAY WALKS

Box Forest – Return Distance 10.9km

This circuit leads directly to Picnic Rock and Elabana Falls. It leads you through rainforest, past impressive stands of smooth, pink-barked brush box Lophostemon confertus, before reaching the falls. Similar brush box in other parts of the World Heritage area have been radiocarbon-dated at 1500 years, making these giants the oldest ever carbon-dated trees on Australia’s mainland. If you intend walking this entire circuit, walk in a clockwise direction and exit via Elabana Falls and Picnic Rock.

Yerralahla (Blue Pool) – Return Distance 10km This is for the feistiest over 50s. There is a 400m drop in elevation from O’Reilly’s to Blue Pool. The track winds down through outstanding sub- tropical rainforest. The track passes through stands of Red Cedar, booyong, Giant Stinging Trees and Hoop Pine, often supporting large staghorns. This walk lets you soak up the waterfalls and rainforest, and to negotiate the numerous creek crossings.

Border Track – 21.4km one way only

This is a really fun walk if you are fit and well. This track connects Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s, and there is a shuttle that takes you from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra in the morning (check O’Reilly’s Discovery Program for days and times or speak to Reservations to book – cost is $33 per person), so you can walk back to O’Reilly’s and look forward to your swim and a wine at the end! The track passes through stunning rainforest and you’ll enjoy every step. The Border track is the backbone of this World Heritage-listed area and part of the longer Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. On a clear day, lookouts provide spectacular views.

Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep.
Image by O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN TRACK MAP

Lamington National Park walking track maps are available from O’Reilly’s gift shop or O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. You can also download a map from the website www.oreillys.com.au

GUIDED FULL DAY WALK – STINSON WALK

Looking for a challenge? Recount Australian history and celebrate the life of Bernard O’Reilly, who heroically saved the lives of two plane crash survivors over 80 years ago. This all happened in World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park. Following in Bernard’s footsteps, you’ll traverse 37 kms in one day from O’Reilly’s to the historic Stinson crash site. The walk goes through stunning landscape surrounded by the incredibly diverse and wonderful flora and fauna of Lamington National Park. Register your interest for the next Stinson Walk on the website!

Python Rock – 3.4 km

The sealed track to Python Rock has even grades, suitable for older people and those confined to wheelchairs. The booyongs and figs near the West Cliff turn off are impressive. So are the large New England Blackbutt as you enter the open forest for the first time. The view from Python Rock overlooks Castle Crag to the Lost World with Mount Throakban on the left and Moran’s Falls. You can proceed up the hill from the lookout on a tough track and turn left for West Cliff.

To stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Call: 1800 688 722 or log on to www.oreillys.com.au

The View Cafe – Food With a View Like No Other

The View Cafe – Food With a View Like No Other

The View Cafe: As Silver writers were exploring Hinze Dam, we came across the View Café. It’s tough work finding these hidden gems and eating a luxurious breakfast, but someone has to do it!

As we approached Hinze Dam, we saw the fabulous The Hinze Dam Visitor Centre. It is owned by Seqwater, and has educational displays and informative talks. These talks will resume once Covid goes back to the hell from whence it came. But as we discovered, this building also has a café and function centre in it! So off we went inside for a good reconnaissance mission.

The first thing you notice is the stunning view and exceptional architecture of the place. The vistas from the View Café across Hinze Dam make this destination one of the Hinterland’s most rewarding visits. This is the kind of place where bushwalker-types do proposals.

The food looks fit for an Instagram extravaganza. There’s muffins, coffee, omelettes, pancakes. There’s a kid-friendly menu, and a group buffet menu which looks absolutely delicious. The salads range from salt and pepper calamari through to Caesar salad and warm Thai chicken salad, with beer battered chips or sweet potato fries on the side. You can have all that with a chilled glass of wine or beer.

the view cafe

You have the choice to relax inside in aircon to the gorgeous dining room that juts out over the water (still with those views!). Or you can sit outside on the terrace overlooking the stunning scenery of the Nerang River. The captivating views stretch from the Numinbah Valley to the Pindari Hills.

the view cafe
the view cafe

THE VIEW CAFE: HISTORY

Twenty-three million years ago the area in front of the View Café was part of a massive volcano. In its prime, the crater rim stood two kilometres tall with lava flows sprawled across more than 7000 square kilometres. The ridge of rock is viewable from The View Café – a constant reminder of the region’s volcanic past. In the more distant view from the cafe lies the Lamington Plateau and Pages Pinnacle. Waterside Park is built on part of the quarry at Pelican Point which supplied the greywacke rock for the Hinze Dam wall. You can view the quarry to the right of the cafe.

From the cafe you can explore on wide safe paths. They are very accessible for people with disabilities, wheelchairs, walkers, plus they are a dream for parents with prams. These paths wind to the dam’s edge along manicured gardens. From the café, you can also take a scenic stroll along the peak of the dam wall. All this is a very easy walk, with amazing views.

TONY’S STORY

We cornered Tony, the owner of the café, who is 75, to get the info. He adores the spot. “We took control of the business in 2014 we thought it was the most beautiful location and that is something that would never change. It will always be beautiful. We did change one thing – the menu. We made it Australian and better suited to the area.

“My 56-year-old wife manages the front-of- house – she’s been doing that for many years and she’s very good at it! She Austrian, so she speaks four languages – French, German, Spanish and English! I look after the administration side of things. We love it and have no plans to retire! We have a wide range of customers, they come from everywhere, including the local area, of course. But they also come from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and from the Tweed area. People come from all around because it’s such a beautiful day trip. The weekends are super busy! During the week we get a lot of people who are in the stage of their life where they’re semi-retired or retired. They have a lot of time for fun! They come here to enjoy a beautiful day out and do the walk around the dam.

Car Clubs

We also have car clubs and motorcycle clubs, which make this their stop of the day. And we get older groups who are coming for a day trip, and we can cater for them in our function room. It’s the perfect place for them because of the wonderful access the flat pathways afford them. It’s really easy to get around here at the cafe, and in the visitor centre grounds and around the dam. There are no steps, and you can park right adjacent to the building. We have disabled toilets, so it is accessible for everyone. A lot of older people are very active however, and stop here for breakfast on the way to the wonderful walks in the Springbrook area, like Twin falls, Natural Bridge and Purling Brook Falls. They stop for breakfast, or they can grab some picnic items from here on their way.”

THE VIEW CAFE: MAKE A DAY OF IT

The View Cafe has a 4-star Trip Advisor rating and was awarded the Travellers’ Choice Award in 2020. They are rated #1 for Quick Bite in Advance Town. So grab your friends, or tell your events organiser to hire the bus! This day out is not to be missed.

THE VIEW CAFE

phone: 0499 221 695

phone: 07 5563 0313

email: tony@viewcafe.com.au

Store 100-200 Advancetown Road, Advancetown

When you are there, be sure to get that second coffee. Here’s why.

Hinze Dam –  A Day Tripper’s Delight!

Hinze Dam – A Day Tripper’s Delight!

Looking for a day trip? Then check out Hinze Dam. The highly accessible walks and facilities make this the day out the stuff of legends.

Hinze Dam, in the Gold Coast hinterland, seems wildly far away, but in fact, it is just 30 minutes’ drive from Pacific Fair. Built across the Nerang River, it was originally constructed in 1976, and significantly upgraded in 2011.

The body of water the dam created is stunning. Of course, it is what we all drink here on the Gold Coast, so its purpose is originally functional. However as an accidental recreation area, it’s a great win for everyone who likes nature and fresh air.

Visually speaking, it quite the sight to behold. The vastness of Queensland’s mountains alongside man’s engineering expertise unite in perfect symmetry. You want to say things like, ‘Ah! The serenity!’ The architecture and landscaping, plus the sheer size of the lake and its shores make this a dam good day out (sorry I couldn’t help it).

It’s the accessibility here that is a winner. There are lots of disabled parks. Also, the paths are wide and flat, and super-smooth… everywhere. There’s a 2.5 kilometre walk over the dam that maintains this flatness and smoothness. Use a walker?

Hinze Dam

Easy Walking

This is a dream walk. Wheelchair? You’ll have the time of your life. Do you simply prefer no steps and a flat surface? You’ll love it. There are no steps, not even from the carpark, to the café, to the dam, to the toilet, across the grounds…no steps. None.

The visitor centre here has an interesting display, and they have informative talks on the dam. Well worth a drop-in. And the café next door has brilliant views and food.

Hinze Dam

We spent a couple of hours at the dam but you could spend all day if you have the time. By the time you have lunch, take a walk in the gardens, cross the dam and just enjoy the beauty of the place, you can easily smash through 3 hours.

The walk along the top of the dam wall is amazing, and it reminds us that we are small little beings who are unimportant entirely. There’s no shade though, so don’t forget your hat! There are well-placed explanatory plaques and information stands detailing the method of construction, the points of interest, the geology and specific types of flora and fauna. And look out for the sign explaining the “climbing eels.” It reminds us all that the natural world can be dam weird.

Hinze Dam

Hinze Dam Picnic Sites

If you want to bring a picnic, there’s many places to set up camp, with beautiful vistas. There are a few shaded tables, but they go fairly quickly, so bring a picnic blanket, just in case.

When there’s drought the drowned trees become visible and there are a number of places that present a very photogenic situation. When there is a lot of rain, the spillway looks incredible. And, when the dam needs to release water, you can be put on an alert service that informs you when this will happen, so you can go that day to see it! (seqwater.com.au/dam-release- notification-service).

Hinze Dam

In all, this is a great place for Silvers. It is a very peaceful area, with the silence broken by the odd kookaburra and smaller birds. You realise how quickly you can get to deep forest so close to the ocean. This place has a nice combination of science, environmental information (the hydroelectric power), scenery, tranquillity, and artistic landscaping. The whole area is a selfie paradise, and it would make a great wedding backdrop. 

To organise a function room at the café, call 07 5563 0313. To check opening times at the visitor centre, click here.

Or perhaps you’d like a trip abroad?

A Land of Fire and Lava

A Land of Fire and Lava

Looking for somewhere different with mind-blowing natural phenomena? Then consider a small Spanish-owned island off the coast of North-West Africa, called Lanzarote. Nicole Buckler finds the good stuff.

Europeans, Scandinavians and Russians know Lanzarote well. The town of Puerto del Carmen on Lazarote island is thick with holiday apartments built specifically for the package holiday traveller. Most of these travellers live in countries so sun-starved that tourists are there for one purpose – to get some solar rays on their skin. Lanzarote is nicknamed the “Island of Eternal Spring” because of its guaranteed good weather all year round. A subtropical-desert climate can do a lot for the tourist trade.

fire and lava
The beautiful white-washed houses of Lanzarote

Such tourists don’t tend to leave the resorts much, or venture further than the unadventurous restaurants around their accommodation. All they want to do is uptake vitamin D while lying next to a pool. So this means that if you are going to Lanzarote to explore the natural phenomena, then you will get an easy ride. You will actually get some sites all to yourself! We Gold Coasters are spoiled for sun, so we can concentrate on other things while there.

Because of its package holiday reputation, this is one of the most underrated places to holiday in the world. Outside of the McResorts is a natural wonderland of world-class beauty. The island is so spectacular, that it was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993. And UNESCO don’t go around naming stuff biospheres lightly.

Lanzarote, one of the famous Canary Islands, has a volcanic origin. It was born through fiery eruptions. Solidified lava streams as well as extravagant rock formations are quite the sight to behold. And they can go on as far as the eye can see. Some parts of the island are so moon-like, that photos of the area were studied by Apollo astronauts before going to the moon so that they could get an idea of what they might encounter.

fire and lava
The strange colours of the lake at El Golfo

BEACHES

The part-sand, part-volcanic-stone beaches are perfect for the barbequing of human flesh. This, combined with clear waters, makes Lanzarote the tourist attraction that it is.

If you want to sneak off to a National Park beach, a must-see is El Papagayo, a collection of small bays with incredible crystal-clear waters and fine white sands — it could be the most gorgeous place on the island. Although, it can be quite a mission to get to it. As well as needing a car (preferably a 4WD as the roads are not really roads at all), the best coves require visitors to climb down a  sandy cliff to reach the alluring beach below. Only mountain goats or reasonably able humans can accomplish this feat. Clothes are optional here, so when in Rome…

Because of the volcanic history, there are several black-sand beaches on Lanzarote. This is an Instagrammer’s dream come true. If you’ve never seen a black sand beach before, you’ll be amazed when your feet sink into one. Check out the black sand beach of Playa Quemada (burned beach).

Another thing to know is that Lanzarote is one of the best surfing spots in Europe. Known as the Hawaii of Europe, the best place to surf is Playa de Famara. It is a black sand beach under huge black cliffs that will seem otherworldly. It is not touristy at all in this area, and you can find some crazy little places to stay in Caleta de Famara, a coastal village next to the beach. But be quick, this place is starting to get on the map. In the last few years Famara has become the place to be for numerous surfers from all over the globe. The 6-star ASP event La Santa Pro is a leg of the world surfing championships. It was held in October at the beautiful beach of San Juan, a few hundred metres away from the village.

lanzarote
Typical accommodation at the resort area of Puerto del Carmen

OTHER SWIMMING SPOTS

The lagoon called El Golfo is something else. The neon-green body of water sits between a black beach and red cliffs. It started its life when sea water ran into an old volcanic crater. The green colour is from algae living its best life in the water. Around the edge of the lake, you can pick up pieces of a mineral called olivine – it is very popular with jewellery makers. Like vast tracts of Lanzarote, being there is like being on another world.

THE HOT STUFF

Timanfaya National Park is the hands-down highlight of any trip to Lanzarote. Timanfaya, meaning “Mountain of Fire” is one of the greatest geological phenomena you are likely to see. This region was devastated by intermittent volcanic eruptions, the last being in 1824. All life was nuked. The effect that this had on the landscape was, and is, incredible. It is a vast expanse of lifelessness that goes for as far as the eye can see. There are “seabeds” of dried lava which look like giant petrified slugs that go on for miles. It truly is an amazing place.

lanzarote craters
One of Timanfaya National Park’s spectacular craters.

At this strange-looking place, the ground is still scorching hot, so you aren’t allowed to just walk around like a lunatic. Any visitors must stay on a bus or be contained in guided tours. The ground is still so volatile and deathly dry that a human could die in a few hours of being lost in the park. But be sure to visit Timanfaya, you’ll feel small and unimportant in a good way.

As a side-note, the heat of the volcano is used for cooking steaks and fish in a restaurant on top of the lava flow, called, of course, El Diablo. More or less, the dead flesh is held over the lava until it is crispy and perfect. Free heat, I like it.

WINE PRODUCTION

If humans ever wanted to learn how to grow grapes on the moon, they should come and see it being done in La Geria. This wine region looks like the lunar surface. It’s desolate, seemingly dry as hell, and steep. But Lanzarote’s biggest wineproducing region has managed to make a wine industry thrive in the face of punishing adversity.

Lanzarote is windy. Legend has it that after several days in Lanzarote, the constant wind creates a biological response in humans of sheer anxiety. As well as allegedly making us all jumpy, the wind blows away the grapevine seeds before they can germinate. So the locals of Lanzarote dig deep holes in the hills of lava, and build rather odd-looking stone circular walls around the seeds so that they don’t blow away. These walls also hold in the scant dew that appears on the plants from time to time.

It is truly extraordinary to see large expanses of these stone circles. But all the effort building these pods is worth it. The wine of lava from Lanzarote has a remarkable peppery taste and you drink a whole lot more of it than you remember, usually. If you ever take any of my crazy recommendations, take this one. It is seriously the best wine I have ever tasted in my life.

lanzarote water
The captal, Arrecife, is not touristy at all, and you can find some excellent restaurants here.

WATER

Lanzarote is a “desert island” where most of the drinking water is imported in bottles. It is a seriously dry place where only cacti survive well. The rainfall is scant, but in Lanzarote there is fog fairly often, which is a saving grace. The locals have developed an ingenious way of collecting water — they catch fog. They have erected huge vertical sheets of fine nets which sit on the tops of mountains. When the fog moves through the nets, it precipitates into water and runs down the nets into storage tanks. This technique of collecting “horizontal rain” provides an alternative source of freshwater. Along with the wind power turbines, the landscape is quite an interesting spectre, all in the name of living well in a harsh but achingly beautiful place.

FOOD

If you stay in the tourist towns, you can expect to be disappointed with the food. However, once you strike out into the areas where the locals live, you’ll be impressed. The Spanish port areas sees the menu change to tapas, fresh fish and seafood cooked in the Spanish-Lanzarote way, and the famous Lanzarote potato with Mojo Rojo sauce — tongue orgasm kind of stuff.

lanzarote
Lanzarote

GETTING THERE

A great way to see Lanzarote is to book a package holiday out of somewhere like London. That way, you get to see London and then get a cheap, direct flight from the English capital, with your accommodation thrown in for next to no extra cost. Otherwise, flights go from the Gold Coast via Doha in Qatar, while others are routed via Spain. Happy travels! ■

Website: www.hellocanaryislands.com/lanzarote

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