An escape from the city is something we can all enjoy and appreciate and it really doesn't get much better than a tranquil stay at the absolutely stunning O'reilly's Rainforest Retreat!
When I found out I was the winner of a 2 night stay here through Discover Queensland, I was beyond thrilled! O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat was somewhere I wanted to visit for a while and I couldn't wait to start booking dates! Covid did unfortunately result in us postponing this stay twice but, third time lucky, my husband and I FINALLY got to experience this dream stay!
We flew direct from Newcastle to Gold Coast Airport where we were picked up by shuttle bus and transferred to Gold Coast Family Car Rentals to pick up our rental car. The sun was starting to set and we were in for a long night, with our destination taking just under 2 hours.
The drive was long and very tiresome. With darkness surrounding us, there was no view to enjoy as we drove the steep and winding road up through the mountains. We saw countless mice and cane toads scattering across the road and even spotted a dingo making it's way back into the bushland!
What felt like forever, we finally arrived to O'Reilly's to check ourselves in. We received our keys and drove ourselves to our allocated parking spot only to find that one car had taken up two parks and that a car was already parked in our spot. I walked up to reception to notify them of the parking issue and although they did their best to try and track down the owners of the vehicles, we had no luck, and we had no choice but to park down in the day visitors carpark and walk all the way back to our room. Certainly not ideal after the long night we've already endured but we were given drink vouchers for the inconvenience, so that was a bonus!
After a much needed bite to eat at the upstairs bar room, we tucked ourselves in for the night, hoping the rain holds off so we can go exploring the following day! Waking up the next morning we could now appreciate the room and it's view. Our prize included the Mountain View Room - Queen + Single and it felt cosy yet provided so much space! With a large ensuite and plenty of room to move around there is one thing missing, a TV, but we weren't bothered by that at all because we had a balcony that overlooked the beautiful McPherson mountain ranges and even had some parrots fly up to say hello!
After taking in the view from our balcony, we made our way to breakfast which is served buffet style and made sure to get our energy's worth for the big day ahead of us. O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat is tucked away inside the stunning Lamington National Park and there are heaps of walking and hiking trails to choose from which range in kms and time it's expected to take to complete the trail.
When you check in at reception you are given a map of all the trails found inside Lamington National Park with a brief description of what you can expect on each trail. My husband and I decided on the Box Forest Circuit, a return trip of about 10.6kms which took us about 4 hours to complete. Even just wearing casual clothes we found the trail quite easy to walk, most of the trail is quite flat with slight hills but I would still recommend appropriate clothing, snacks and water, especially if you plan on stopping every now and then along the way. You can find a list of other trails here.
Box Forest Circuit has a range of waterfalls from small to quite impressive, we were lucky, due to the recent rain the area was getting the week we arrived, the waterfalls were flowing and looked truly amazing! If you want to go chasing waterfalls in a dryer period, I would probably recommend a trail that is more likely to have larger falls all year round to save disappointment.
The weather was overcast and the temperature just perfect as we made our way along Box Forest Circuit. As you leave O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat the pathway is asphalt which then leads to natural ground of dirt and rocks. There are clear and easy to read signs that point you in the direction of where you would like to go.
You truly feel like you're away from the world walking through Lamington National Park, the whole time we walked we only came across a few other people, it's the perfect definition of tranquility with only the sounds of the rainforest filling your ears! Along the way we saw incredible trees, beautiful plant life and heard the sounds of creeks, waterfalls and birdlife the deeper we walked into the forest.
This place really is a nature lover's and photographer's dream! With so many photo opportunities it's really worth it just to sit back, relax and take in the beauty around you. With the weather being unpredictable and knowing it could rain at any moment, we did stop to take a few photos along the way and appreciate nature surrounding us, but we were also mindful to not stick around for too long.
Not that it mattered, there was no stopping the rain and with still another hour or so until we returned back to O'Reilly's we became SOAKED! Having nowhere to stop for shelter and with our only rain poncho being used to protect my camera bag, we had no choice but to push through. We took it in our stride and just accepted that it is a rainforest after all, but thankfully the canopy above was dense and stopped most of the rain from falling through, my husband and I still shared kisses along the way and had a laugh, the rain really did enhance the experience!
Relieve washed over us as we finally reached the end of our walk and saw the reception of O'Reilly's in our sight and we made good timing too, the parrots were in abundance in the bird feeding area and we thought a hot shower could be put on a hold for another moment. Walking over to the parrots we were given a silver dish filled with bird seed and soon became the centre of attention, the parrots came swarming left, right and centre!
These parrots are not shy and landed on our arms, shoulders and head, making for the perfect photo opportunity and the chance to get up close and personal to admire their stunning colours. Watch out for the turkeys though, they can be a bit pushy!
The parrots had enough and so did we, eager to have a hot shower and change into dry clothes, we waited out the rest of the afternoon for dinner. With the retreat possibly hosting up to 300 guests at a time, bookings for the restaurant are essential! For $55 per person we were treated to a 3 course meal, you can order food off the menu separately however, works out to be better value for money to opt for the 3 course meal and you can still choose what food you would like from the menu as it isn't a set menu.
There is SO much to see and do at O'Reilly's, many of which are weather dependant and since we were short on time as well, weren't able to experience everything on offer, so i'll leave a link here so you can check them all out!
With our flight leaving on our third day just after 12pm, we decided to get breakfast first thing and check out to allow plenty of time to return our rental car and get to the airport. This time the drive back was much more pleasant, with daylight on our side we could actually see the beautiful rainforest environment as we drove down the mountains and back into town. I hope to return to O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat again one day and take part in a lot of the activities we missed out on and experience a different trail!
Website - https://oreillys.com.au/