Sustainable tourism takes off in the Northern Rivers with $7m project

There will be new ways to experience the region’s World Heritage-listed rainforests thanks to an exciting new trails project in our national parks.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will spend $7 million to develop sustainable recreation experiences in the Wollumbin, Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks and Whian Whian State Conservation area.

The Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails Project will link Mount Jerusalem National Park and Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park with world class hiking trails and lookouts. There will also be an upgrade to the current visitor facilities at the Minyon Falls day use area.

This is expected it to boost the regional economy by attracting new visitors to local communities and encouraging them to stay longer.

A key part of the project is 4-day walk from near Uki to Minyon Falls, offering bushwalkers the ultimate rainforest experience. Bush camps will be built at two remote locations along the walking track network in both Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks.

Taking a minimal impact approach, natural elements will determine the route reducing the need for extensive trail construction. Most of the multi-day walking track network will be of a Class 4 standard, which means the hiking tracks are best-suited to self-reliant bushwalkers with basic directional signage provided.

The network will however include higher grade walking tracks where required due to greater levels of foot traffic, such as the Boggy Creek Walk adjacent to the Minyon Falls day-use area.

Increasing demand for Aboriginal tourism experiences from both Australian and international visitors is driving a strong focus on Aboriginal culture and storytelling. Engaging interpretation, including opportunities for local Aboriginal-guided experiences, will be a key focus with the aim of immersing the walker in the natural and cultural landscape creating a strong connection and sense of place.

This project is certainly on trend, with nature-based tourism currently surging worldwide. According to an Ecotourism Australia report, there has been significant growth in the number of international visitors to Australia’s state and national parks and the potential of nature-based tourism is yet to be fully realised.

Globally, immersive experiences in nature are one of the fastest growth areas and Australia needs to continue to focus on tourism products and experiences that appeal to both international and domestic travellers, rather than relying on passive viewing of nature.

The Northern Rivers region is internationally renowned for its World Heritage-listed subtropical rainforests which are home to the highest concentration of marsupial, bird, snake and frog species in Australia. The region also holds large areas of wet and dry sclerophyll forest and pockets of sub-montane heath, which provide habitat for a large number of threatened plant and animal species such as the Albert’s lyrebird and Fleay’s barred frog.  

The $7.35 million project will be delivered in stages with completion expected in 2022. 

You can have your say on the plan with submissions closing on 11 March 2019.


New wedding venue and cottages in Byron hinterland

We speak to Fraser Duddy from Nightcap Ridge about their newly completed function space and cottages. 

Set inside the World Heritage-listed Nightcap National Park, Nightcap Ridge is an exciting new eco-destination right here in the Byron hinterland.

Construction of an event space and two luxury cottages is complete and they are available for bookings.

"With the help of a grant from Destination NSW, through their 2017-18 Regional Tourism Fund, we were able to take our plans to the next level and the result has been really impressive," Fraser said.   

The large Queenslander-style function space, The Argory, seats 100 and the open fire, vaulted ceilings and stylish interiors provide a glamorous yet versatile backdrop for any event. The Argory looks over the lily ponds which provide a beautiful spot to tie the knot in front of family and friends.

The view from The Argory over the lily ponds. 

There are two new accommodation options, Blue Fig Cottage and Rose Gum Cottages. Both have two bedrooms, an open fire, full kitchen and huge clawfoot bathtubs. 

The log fire in Blue Fig cottage.  

The Blue Fig cottage bathroom. 

"A fire pit sits alongside each cottage for guests to relax and enjoy a campfire under the stars. They can even order a stew or curry to cook on their fire.   

The large vegetable garden and orchard can be used to create a paddock-to-plate experience and mountain bikes are available to roam around the park and visit natural wonders such as Minyon Falls. 

In addition to the studio-style Logger’s Cottage, Nightcap Ridge can sleep groups of 10 across the three cottages making it perfect for group bookings.

"We are focused on delivering a world-class nature experience and good old fashioned service with a smile. More than 95 per cent of Nightcap Ridge guests have left a five star review so we must be doing something right! 

"We also do our best to be as sustainable as possible and share this ethos with our guests. Nightcap Ridge is totally off the grid, powered by solar. We reject single-use plastics, our food waste goes to the chooks, we’re beekeepers and plant a range of native bee, bird and butterfly-attracting plants," Fraser said. 

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