Not far from the sandy beaches and glittering lights of the Gold Coast, the region’s hinterland offers a journey into lush ancient rainforests.
Up in the mountains, you can visit Binna Burra to walk amongst the trees filled with wildlife, past caves and other epic rock formations, along the ridges of the ranges for sweeping views, and over creeks and under waterfalls.
Less than an hour from Surfers Paradise, you’ll be able to see the skyscraper of the coast from up here, yet the cooler temperatures, relaxed atmosphere, and dense wilderness feels a world away.
There are a few national parks that can be easily reached from the beachside towns, and I’ve written previously about how they are among the best things to do on the Gold Coast. But even amongst all these wonderful natural sites, Binna Burra has always seemed extra special.
I suspect it has a lot to do with the Binna Burra Lodge, which has long been popular for family holidays and school camps. It means that generations of children have spent time here and grown up with fond memories, perhaps then bringing their own families here as they grew up.
But tragedy struck in 2019 when massive bushfires ripped through the region and destroyed much of the accommodation at the Binna Burra Lodge. The main lodge building and 40 of its adjoining cabins were razed and the area was cut off by road for months.
Now that it’s reconnected, you can easily visit Binna Burra – and perhaps you won’t even notice the damage from the fire if you didn’t know what it looked like previously. Those main lodge buildings and cabins have not been rebuilt, but there is other accommodation and facilities a few minutes away.
And, importantly, there are still lots of things to do at Binna Burra. The most important attraction – the nature – bounced back quickly, as the Australian bush is prone to do. The outstanding landscapes are as impressive as ever.
Where is Binna Burra?
Binna Burra is in Queensland, very close to the border with New South Wales. It’s about 30 kilometres inland from Coolangatta, although you’ll need to drive north through the Gold Coast hinterland for road access.
Binna Burra is part of the Lamington National Park and the closest town is Beechmont.
How do you get to Binna Burra?
Coming from the Gold Coast, it’s about a 45 minute drive from Surfers Paradise to Binna Burra, going through Nerang and Beechmont.
By car from Brisbane, it’s about 1h 30m drive to Binna Burra, also through Nerang.
Is Binna Burra open?
As you may know, Binna Burra Lodge was destroyed by a bushfire in 2019. The historic accommodation was a significant part of Binna Burra, but it wasn’t the only thing here.
Although access to the area was closed while the road was repaired, Binna Burra is now open and you can definitely visit. The restaurant, shop, luxury accommodation, and camping are all open. The national park and all the Binna Burra hikes are also open.
Can you stay at Binna Burra?
Yes, you can stay at Binna Burra. The large Binna Burra Lodge has not been rebuilt, which means there are fewer rooms than previously, but there are a couple of good Binna Burra accommodation options.
For a pretty special luxury room, there are the Binna Burra Sky Lodges, with spectacular views out across the forest. Otherwise, there are campsites, safari tents, or basic bunk rooms, which can all be booked here.
Although people will often just call this area Binna Burra, technically it is part of Lamington National Park, which I think is one of the best national parks in Australia.
There are two main parts to Lamington National Park – this one (Binna Burra) and Green Mountains. The bases for each of these sections are only about six kilometres apart, but it’s not easy to get between them. You either have to walk along a 22-kilometre trail or drive out of the park and back in again on a 60-kilometre route that’ll take about an hour and a half.
For this reason, people tend to choose one or the other for a day trip or an overnight base. The landscapes you’ll see from either are similar, but I prefer Binna Burra because you get better views down to the coast.
Lamington National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Site, a UNESCO site that’s made up of about 40 protected areas in New South Wales and Queensland. They’re particularly significant because these are the same type of rainforests that covered much of the continent millions of years ago.
So, one of the main things to do in Binna Burra is hit the trails and go for a bit of a bush walk to see these landscapes. If you’re not much of a walker, don’t worry, you still get a good sense of the rainforest from the rest areas.
Walking isn’t the only reason to come to Binna Burra, though. There’s also some heritage to explore, and some lovely areas for a meal and a drink. It’s a wonderful escape from the beach and perfect for either a day trip from the Gold Coast, or for a few days of relaxing amongst the nature.
How to visit Binna Burra
When I’m writing about national parks, I always like to try to give you a bit of orientation, because sometimes it can be hard to get a sense of how things are laid out until you get there.
Thankfully, visiting Binna Burra is really easy because there is just one road that goes into the park. And there are just two spots where you would stop to access the amenities and start any hikes.
The first spot you’ll come to is the official visitor centre, which is a relatively small hut on the right side of the road, with limited car park spaces. This is also referred to as the ‘Lower picnic area and trailhead’.
The main reasons you would stop here are to get some information from the visitor centre, or to start the popular walk along the Caves track (although it ends at the other main area, and you can do it in either direction).
The second spot where you find stop is much larger and is the main centre of Binna Burra. It’s at the end of the road, so you won’t miss it. This is where the Binna Burra Lodge used to be, and where you’ll find the accommodation that still exists, as well as the restaurant (called the Binna Burra Tea House), shop, and a few other facilities. There are lots of car park spaces here.
At the very top, opposite the restaurant is the ‘Binna Burra trailhead’ where most of the walks start from. There’s some more information on a board here with details about the walks (check for any warnings before setting off).
Binna Burra walks
One of the main reasons people visit Binna Burra is to hike through Lamington National Park. The trails that are accessible from the main lodge area offer a good variety of short strolls or full day trips.
To help you choose the best Binna Burra walks for your visit, I’ve got a few recommendations, in order from shortest to longest.
The Rainforest circuit from the Binna Burra trailhead is the easiest walk here and should be manageable for most levels of fitness. It’s a 1.2 kilometre loop that can be done in about 15 minutes (or 30 minutes as a leisurely stroll).
The walk takes you through some of the typical subtropical rainforest that you find in the park, with information signs about some of the key features. You’ll likely see a few birds or other animals along the way.
If you’re looking for a decent walk but are a bit limited with time, I would recommend the Tullawallal circuit. It’s a five kilometre trail that brings you back to where you started. It’s only moderate difficulty and will take the average walker about 1.5 hours.
The flora on this walk is an excellent example of the Gondwana rainforests, starting with strangler figs and vines and then morphing into ferns and mosses. A short detour off the main circuit takes you up to the rocks and ancient beech forest of Tullawallal.
This is probably the most popular of the hikes at Binna Burra – and it’s easy to see why. Most of the trail traces along the side of the mountains, with some dramatic caves on one side and sweeping views across the valley on the other.
At times, the path crosses some creeks and there are some steep sections. Although it’s just 3.5 kilometres long, it will take at least an hour (especially if you stop to admire the wildlife along the way – there are often koalas in the open forest).
The Caves track is a one way walk and I recommend beginning at the lower picnic trailhead and hiking the trail up to the Binna Burra Lodge, because it’s easier to walk down the road (rather than up it) for the other leg.
Daves Creek circuit
This is the first of the longer walks I’m recommending, so make sure you take plenty of water and make other preparations for this hike. The Daves Creek circuit is 12 kilometres long and can be done as a circuit, with clockwise the recommended direction.
The walk begins along the Tullawallal circuit but then continues across to the peaks on the eastern side of the national park. It takes you through eucalypts and woodland, right to the edge of the mountain for an incredible viewpoint to the ocean.
The Coomera circuit also starts with the Tullawallal trail but then cuts down to the west into Coomera Gorge and follows the path of the often raging Coomera River. At one point, you can walk up to the cantilevered lookout over Commera Falls, plus there are some other cascades along the way.
The circuit then meets up with the Border Track, which brings you back along the ridge to the Binna Burra trailhead. As well as the rainforest, there’s a wonderful giant brush box forest along the way.
The walk is 17.4 kilometres and will take a minimum of four hours (probably closer to five or six for many walkers). It also has some river crossings, so it’s advised not to do this hike after heavy rain.
Ships Stern circuit
If you love your hiking and you’re looking for a big expedition, then the Ships Stern circuit is one of the longest hikes at Binna Burra. It also takes you through a great variety of the area’s landscapes, and I would recommend it as the top day walk here.
If you follow the recommended clockwise direction, you’ll first head down into the valley, past waterfalls, and across the Nixon River. Then you’ll climb back up to the Ships Stern Range for fantastic views across the hinterland to the coast, before coming back to the Tullawallal circuit for some lush rainforest.
The Ships Stern circuit is 21 kilometres long, and there are a few short side tracks you can take along the way to waterfalls and viewpoints. It’s got some steep inclines and will take about six hours to complete.
21.4km (one way)
The final walk to mention is the Border Track – and it’s a bit different to the others. This is the trail that you can use to connect the Binna Burra and Green Mountains sections of Lamington National Park. It’s too long to go there and back in one day, so some people like to stay at the destination overnight then walk back (or arrange transportation).
For a return day walk, though, you can obviously just walk some of the Border Track and then turn around and walk back. As you follow the edge of the ancient caldera that forms the mountains here, you’ll be right in the heart of the beautiful landscapes, full of wildlife (I saw quite a few pademelons when I was on it).
Also, several of the other official Binna Burra walks that I haven’t mentioned are detours off the Border Track, so you can use the trail as a springboard to one of them for a great day hike – I would suggest the Araucaria lookout, Wagawn, or Mount Hobwee.
Binna Burra tours
Most people visit Binna Burra independently. It’s an easy drive from the Gold Coast, there’s lots of parking, the walks are well signposted, and the accommodation is simple to arrange.
However, if you don’t have a car, then it can be quite tricky to get here. And some people do like to have the safety net of a guide and arrangements made for them.
Although there aren’t lots of options, there is this great tour from Brisbane or the Gold Coast that will take you to both Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s at Green Mountains. It means you can see both sections of Lamington National Park – and have some time to yourself for some hiking.
There are also a few other ways to experience Lamington National Park here, that you may be interested in:
Binna Burra accommodation
While it’s possible to visit Binna Burra as a day trip from the Gold Coast, you’ll get a lot more out of this rainforest retreat if you stay a couple of nights. The sunsets can be the highlight of the day, and there’s a fun and welcoming vibe at the bar at Groom’s Cottage in the evening.
Without the historic Binna Burra Lodge, the range of accommodation is a bit limited, but there are some good options still.
Binna Burra camping
There are two ways to camp at Binna Burra. You can bring your own equipment or you can stay in one of the permanent safari tents.
The campsite is conveniently located next to the restaurant and, along with your designated spot, you’ll have access to free showers and toilets. There are shared fire pits but you’ll need to bring your own cooking equipment.
With the safari tents, they each have a corrugated iron roof above them, so are comfortable in any weather. The small tents can fit three people and the large ones have beds for six people. There are no power points but there are USB chargers (for phones, etc).
The safari tents have amazing views and are really popular. I think it’s a nice and affordable way to visit Binna Burra. You can see more details and make a booking here.
Binna Burra Sky Lodges
At the other end of the spectrum are the Binna Burra Sky Lodges, a modern and luxurious complex, set away from the other buildings amongst secluded wilderness. From the rooms, there are incredible views across the valley, which catches the sun and changes colour throughout the day.
There’s a range of sizes, from studios to three-bedroom apartments, and they even have spa baths with large windows looking out to the view. It’s a beautiful property that can either be a cosy base for a couple of days of hiking, or just a quiet getaway to the mountains.
To see current rates and availability, have a look at the Binna Burra Sky Lodges here.
Stay near Binna Burra
With limited accommodation at the main Binna Burra trailhead, it does get busy in peak season. Or perhaps you’re looking for something a bit different. In that case, there are a few other properties just at the entrance to the national park and in the nearby town of Beechmont.
- Wallaby Cottage at Cedarview: The charming rooms of Cedarview B&B are a wonderful option but, for something even more private, you can have the whole of Wallaby Cottage to yourself.
- Hazelwood Estate: The modern luxury of Hazelwdoo Estate makes this a very special property, and perhaps it’ll be no surprise to find out it’s also a Wagyu and polo farm.
- Green Acres B&B: Down in Beechmont, the Green Acres B&B offers something a bit more casual, with a small self-contained apartment within a local residence.
- Bean Cabins: Or there are the individual units at Bean Cabins which are delightful little self-contained apartments with a deck and beautiful views.