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The road to the western edge of the Australia World Heritage-Listed Lamington National Park was long and windy, so we were ready to check in and start relaxing at the iconic O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Famous for not only its eco accommodation offerings but the variety of activities and attractions you can do here.
From wildlife encounters to bush walks to treetop walks and the iconic flying fox zip wire – there are so many things to do at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat for all the family.
But what is it like to stay there? Does it live up to the hype? In this guide, we share our experience while visiting Lamington National Park.
The O’Reilly Story
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
But first, what is O’Reilly Rainforest retreat? There’s actually a great story behind the family run O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Three generations of O’Reilly family have been welcoming people for over 90 years into their home and beautiful backyard.
We met two generations in the breakfast room, and both were very warm and friendly chatting with all their guests. Jack was even popping bread in the toaster for everyone.
On the 19th of February 1937, a Stinson airliner crashed into the Lamington Ranges killing four of the seven on board. A search failed to turn up any wreckage, but determined to find the plane, Bernard O’Reilly set out on foot to find it in the thick bush.
He found it along with two people still alive and in desperate need of medical help. They were rescued and survived.
You can follow in his footsteps by following the 35km Stinson walk trail. O’Reilly’s offers guided hikes to the crash site.
Disclosure: We stayed at O’Reilly’s in partnership with Gold Coast Tourism, but all the thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own.
Our Experience at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
We drove through the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest and by about the 73rd turn we were over it and hoped that our destination would be worth it.
When O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat appeared before us, we were so happy to see it.
And you know what? After our two-night stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, a popular Gold Coast Hinterland accommodation, I’d easily do this windy scenic drive through the Lamington National Park again – multiple times!
Sometimes the best places are hidden away to preserve their sanctity, and that’s how it felt at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
The chaos of life cannot enter here. There are just ancient forests, birdsong, potoroos and simplicity.
Here is what it’s like to stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Staying in an Eco-Villa at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Up here in Lamington National Park there are no shops or roads, only a lodge, a Lost World Day Spa, family-friendly rainforest retreats, and luxurious eco-villas.
And what beautiful villas they were at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Modern, contemporary, spacious, and self-contained and designed to melt into the Gondwana rainforests of Australia setting.
They had all the amenities you would need for staying in a rainforest but with the additional luxury ironing boards, towels, and hot showers, plus the rooms were air-conditioned.
You also have a full kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee/tea makers, and a big island for preparing meals.
Each villa has all the safety features to ease the minds of worried travelers, such as a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, a security system, and window guards. With all these safety features, it felt secure.
You’ve got green mountain views from the balcony, or through the glass fold-back doors if it’s a little chilly. But, don’t worry if there is, the gas fireplace in your rainforest villa will warm you up.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold for us to enjoy a spa bath on the balcony with a cold glass of wine after one of the most awe-inspiring days we have had as a family on this Australian road trip.
Since we were travelling as a family, we opted for one of their mountain villas.
If you are travelling with small children, you can put in special requests with the front desk staff for extra beds for 0-3-year-olds, which are small rollaway beds with additional bed sheets. This does cost a small additional fee.
They also have other mountain view rooms of different sizes, some with either a queen bed, king bed, or twin bed. Some rooms have a twin trundle bed to allow you some extra space during the day.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is the perfect spot to unplug on a Gold Coast family holiday.
Can you see the joy on our faces sharing this moment together?
Flying Fox Zip Wire Experience
We enjoyed our time suspended 30 meters above the ground as we zipped along a 180m cable over the rainforest.
Back and forth we went on the flying fox. Not just Craig and I, but the whole family. Yes, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
The girls watched me as I set off first, zooming above the forest and waving to them down below.
They were harnessed up just in case, but I wasn’t expecting a just-in-case. I hopped off at the end ready to tag Craig when Kalyra piped up and said, “I”m going to go on it, Mum.”
“I go too, Mumma.”
I looked down to my knees at the eyes trying to peak out and above the helmet engulfing her head.
“You want to go Savannah. Are you sure? It’s very high up.”
“Yes. I want to go.”
She turned and walked off with Craig and Kalyra.
“I’ll come to get them if they change their minds,” I shouted at Craig knowing that when they stood on the edge of the platform they’d chicken out. It’s a long way down from that vantage.
I watched from afar as a tiny speck walked onto the platform and got connected. My heart started racing and my breath caught in my throat.
“OMG she’s going!”
I screamed to the catcher behind me. She walked straight to the edge of the sloping platform holding Craig’s hand until he could hold it no more and then weeeeee off she flew.
I was stunned.
She faced fear head-on, my two and half-year-old, the youngest and smallest to take on the flying fox at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat went soaring through the air, 30 metres above the trees holding on and looking around.
Her spirit made my heart soar with love and admiration. She was a little shell-shocked, but said she had fun.
We sat and watched Kalyra get ready to go. I could tell she was scared and, if her sister had not just shown her how it was done, I’m sure she would have bailed.
But she followed in her footsteps and away she went. There was no silence from her, only pure squeals of joy.
“Oh my god Mummy, that was so much fun. I’m going to go again.”
And off she went. We had to drag her away after her sixth go.
Savannah said she wanted to go again, but this time she pulled out at the last minute. Now she knew what it was really about and the fear grabbed a hold of her.
But, after watching us have so much fun for the rest of the afternoon, she decided she could no longer hold back. Up she went again and this time she took off.
She did get off that ride and took the helmet off with a very firm, “No more. “ She does love to tell the story of the Flying Fox now and she always says how she was not afraid.
I was so super proud of my girls for displaying such courage despite their fear. I think it taught them so much about fear and how we can move through it and still be alright.
When you go to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat soar on the flying fox! It will enhance your Gold Coast family holiday memories.
The Flying Fox costs $32 for an adult and $20 for a child.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Birds of Prey Encounters
It wasn’t just the flying fox that made it such a special couple of days for us. We also enjoyed a couple of wildlife shows that the retreat puts on for its guests.
The Birds of Prey Show was a highlight for the girls. They loved getting close to wedge-tailed eagles, barn owls, and kites and learning all about their skills as hunters and flyers.
Kalyra can now recognise these birds when we’re out and about and I love how much she is learning because of experiences like this.
If you’re a bird lover then you will love coming out to O’Reilly’s Retreat.
I don’t know much about birds except that Australia has more species than any other country. And I met plenty of bird lovers who were recording each of the ones they’d seen in small black notebooks.
One couple from the States had seen over 350 on their five-month tour of Australia. They came over here for bird watching and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat was one of their first stops.
The Lamington National Park is renowned as one of Australia’s premier birding areas with over 232 recorded species.
The Birds of Prey show costs $17.50 per adult, $10 per child (ages 4-12), OR $48 for a family.
Sunrise Bird Watching Tour
I had risen early to join the bird-watching tour. I didn’t care much for seeing the birds, I just wanted an early morning walk in the forest without any children climbing all over me.
I surprisingly enjoyed myself on the bird walks and loved looking at all the birds.
There are so many of them and so pretty and their personalities are so different and cute.
I didn’t mark any off in my book and I can’t remember many of their names, but I enjoyed their little beaks snatching walnuts from my fingers.
And I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the passion the others in our group had for birds and the joy on their faces when each new one flew on our path.
Isn’t travel a wonderful portal for pursuing those things that make our hearts sing?
Segway Fun at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Craig was able to break off and have his time out later once the sun had warmed up the mountains.
The girls and I just chilled in our rainforest villa with the mountain views, while he went cruising on the rainforest road two-wheeled segway through the rainforest.
It was his first time on a segway, and whilst he said it was a little weird at first, once he got the feel of it after a 30-minute training session, it was easygoing.
The 90-minute guided segway tour goes to the lookout point over the top of Moran’s Falls.
Segway tours – $99.00 per person for 30-minute training session + 90-minute Moran’s Falls tour.
The Tree Top Walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
On our first afternoon, we took the lovely Tree Top Boardwalk through a canopy of flowering and fruiting vine-covered trees.
The Tree Top Walk was the first of its kind in Australia, is 180 meters in length, and is made up of 9 suspension bridges, with much of the walkway being 15 meters above the ground.
It’s also free to do the Tree Top Walk, one of the few free things to do in O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
There were ladders going up a Strangler Fig tree to an observation deck 30 metres above the ground. The views of the Lamington National Park out to NSW and Mt Warning were stunning.
The Gold Coast Hinterland is something special.
I should have realized then Kalyra would have done the flying fox as she scrambled up the tree with her daddy to take a look. Savannah wanted to do the same, but fearful Mummy pulled her back ( I have a slight ladder phobia).
Bush Walks in Lamington National Park
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
The Lamington National Park contains over 160 km of graded walking tracks and a similar distance of walking trails that lead to lookouts waterfalls and some of Queensland’s most significant wilderness.
O’Reilly’s offer guided walks or you can set out on foot yourself on any of the trails that suit your fancy. There is the fun creek crossings to Moran’s Fall, a popular walking track from O’Reilly’s.
The Border Track is a popular full-day hike between Green Mountains and Binna Burra. Boasting stunning scenery and spectacular views, the Border track is the backbone of the national park and part of the longer Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk
The O’Reilly’s Retreat Rainforest Bar
We enjoyed some happy hour cocktails in The Rainforest Bar.
It wasn’t a clear night for us, but the sunset on the verandah overlooking the mountains with views that go on forever is spectacular (although it was also quite good from our room in the spa!).
For dinner, we dined in the dining room, which is open for a buffet breakfast and a gourmet a la carte dinner.
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
The food here is exceptional, the soup of the day was one of the tastiest soups I’ve had and their pizzas are to die for.
You can also order room service from the dining room during limited hours or eat at the retreat’s coffee shop, O’Reilly’s Mountain Café and Gift Shop, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Go to dinner early if you want to see the glow worm tour at 8pm in the evening. We did find service in the dining room and lunch cafe a little slow.
Glow Worm Tour
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
We had to scoff down deserts and the girls had to leave ice-cream in their bowls (tragedy I know!!), but it was worth it though as the glow worm tour was really awesome.
Again, another experience where my girls absorb the magic of the world they live in.
Our guide kept us entertained as we walked through the bush by torchlight to the Glow Worm Grotto. Hundreds of them sat on the rock wall at the edge of the creek, luring insects into their home using their bioluminescent taillight.
It was truly spectacular and our guide was very informative, and humorous, about the life of a glow worm. We also saw many bandicoots along the walk – the first I’d ever seen in the wild.
Spa at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Lost World Spa Pool | Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
Of course, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is not all about adventure and fun, it’s also a place for relaxation and rejuvenation. Well, it is a resort, after all!
Head over to the Lost World Day Spa for a nourishing body treatment such as hot stone massages, facials, body wraps, body scrubs, and more.
The onsite spa has seven treatment rooms including special rooms for couples. You can also have aromatherapy treatments and enjoy the sauna and infinity pool.
The spa is open Monday – Sunday from 9am – 5pm (6pm on Friday and Saturday), but hours differ on Tuesdays. You will need to check with reception on times if you are planning your visit for a Tuesday as hours always change.
The spa is only for ages 16+.
O’Reilly Rainforest Retreat Pools
If you’re travelling during the warm summer months, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several outdoor pools to cool off in.
Underneath the Observation Deck, you’ll find some refreshing outdoor pools, including a children’s pool for toddlers to splash around in.
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
If you are not planning on staying at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and are just interested in visiting for a day, you’ll find there are plenty of public areas where you can enjoy a picnic and relax in the jungle.
The public areas are free to visit but there is an additional charge to join the guided walks and enjoy the attractions and wildlife encounter shows.
There is free wifi in all public areas and free self parking.
Canungra Valley Vineyards
Credit: Gold Coast Tourism
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat also has its own vineyard which is located outside of Canungra on Lamington National Park Road.
Here you can enjoy wine tasting (of course) and walk around the vineyard grounds. You’ll even find an alpaca farm here!
You can also enjoy the vineyard’s delicious food, which is known for its pizza and cheese boards.
They also offer picnic baskets packed with some delicious cheeses and wines, which is ideal for those who forget to pack their own picnic!
Credit Andy Macpherson Studio & Aspect Architecture
It was super easy to check in and out of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. You simply need to show them your booking confirmation, the credit card or debit card you used to make your booking, and your passport.
The front desk is open every day between 7am and 9pm, so if you plan to arrive after 9pm you must inform the staff in advance.
They require a cash deposit for incidental charges but you get this back when you check out.
Where is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat?
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is located only a two-hour scenic drive from Brisbane and 90 minutes west of the Gold Coast. It’s 86km away from Coolangatta Airport (about 1 hour 45 minutes drive).
O’Reilly’s offers a range of accommodation options from the traditional charm of the retreat (formally the guesthouse) or the modern self-contained villas, located 700m away from the main building.
All guests staying at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat can enjoy free parking. Check rental car prices from the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast Travel Tips
Thinking of spending time on The Gold Coast? Then these guides may help you plan your Gold Coast family holiday: