Sometimes a holiday is so sublimely, uniquely and searingly transformative, restorative and uplifting that one’s life is unequivocally and forever richer for it; in the days, months and even years after the well-deserved time of much-needed repose and adventure has taken place. Such is most certainly the case for myself and various members of my family after an astonishingly transfigurative time of rejuvenation and relaxation over the Easter long-weekend, at O”Reilly’s Villas and Rainforest Retreat, in the heavenly verdant Gold Coast hinterland.
The Thursday prior to Good Friday sees us meander our way by car from Brisbane to the vibrant and eclectic town of Canungra, located at the base of the stoically winding mountain road that will take us to our much-longed-for destination of O’Reilly’s. Whilst in Canungra, we frequent the hip and ever-popular cafe, El Social, where we indulge in decadent lunch treats and coffee before fixing our eyes on the task of soldiering up the inviting mountain range, rising from outside Canungra to the ethereally beautiful O’Reilly’s. O’Reilly’s encompasses Villa and Retreat accommodation that is spread over ten hectares (the O’Reilly family themselves own more than 300 hectares) and is adjoined by the picture-perfect and luxuriously beautiful Lamington National Park, declared in 1915.
Pleasingly, upon arrival at O’Reilly’s, we find that the invigorating and chilly mountain air is a considerable several degrees cooler than the warm, sometimes oppressive, climes of Brisbane. Our villas (the family has spread ourselves over two of them, one being three bedrooms, the other two) are spaciously opulent, complete with a gas fireplace and pronounced deck, a spa, and providing a soul-enriching vista of the stoically majestic mountains to the west, including Mount Lindsay and Mount Barney (climbed by many an energetic soul). I could gaze at those mountains for hours and never grow tired of the transcendent sight of them, and indeed I do spend a substantial amount of time during our stay gazing nonchalantly in that direction.
After unpacking, we venture up to the main “Guest House” to take part in a complimentary “Manager’s Welcome” to learn of the history of O’Reilly’s and the workings of the Rainforest Retreat and Villas, in addition to the many activities on offer, including glow worm tours, birds of prey shows and early morning bird walks.
The eloquent and knowledgeable manager tells us that several O’Reilly brothers from the Blue Mountains selected land (that is now known as O’Reilly’s) to run a dairy farm in 1911, They would go on to have visitors to stay with them from 1915, and at Easter in 1926 had their first paying guests (my grandmother was one of the first guests) to stay in what came to be known as O’Reilly’s Guest House. This was a precursor to what is now the world-famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat – the accompanying Villa accommodation is a short walk and drive along the road. We of course are also told of the heroic Bernard O’Reilly, who in February 1937 set out from O’Reilly’s to find (which he did) the crashed Stinson aeroplane. He became a national hero, and put O’Reilly’s indelibly and permanently ‘on the map’.
Good Friday arrives and sees some our family embarking on an engaging and ambitious, but highly rewarding, walk to Elebana Falls and Picnic Rock, linked in with the Box Forest (Canungra Creek Circuit). This is a walk of some four to five hours, in which the bushwalkers see multitudes of ebullient water cascading over the Falls, and various precious wildlife species (there are over 160 species of birdlife at O’Reilly’s and Lamington National Park, as well as copious amounts of reptiles, frogs, mammals and invertebrates).
Late Friday afternoon, my sister and her seventeen year old son indulge in over two hours of ‘treatments’ at the Lost World Spa, including a luxurious facial, foot soak and massage. My sister later earnestly declares it is the best two hours she’s ever had, while my nephew felt so relaxed in the heady aftermath that he ‘collapses’ onto a day bed at the spa for a considerable time. That night, we all perform an Easter Play, written by my hugely talented fourteen year old niece, to much critical acclaim.
Saturday sees us all walk to Python Rock lookout, a short walk, where we can view the tranquilly breathtaking aforementioned mountain ranges to the west, and the nearby Morans Falls.
Easter Sunday, my mother and sister attend a special Easter service at the rustically elegant church located at O’Reilly’s, my sister volunteering to do a bible reading, which is well-received by the people in the church. Following a decadent, yet special, Easter brunch on Easter Sunday, we frequent the well-trodden treetop walk, high up in the lush rainforest canopy near the O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, in addition to finding ourselves in the Botanical Gardens. Later on, some of the family hike to Morans Falls, Moonlight Craig and Balancing Rock, a considerable distance; my nephew resolutely declaring it to be the “best bushwalk” he’s ever done.
On a couple of mornings at 6.45am, some of the family are led on the early morning bird walk, seeing among other species the lewin honeyeater, the regent bower bird and the satin bower bird, collecting blue objects for it’s nest.
Sadly, yet strongly fortified and already looking forward to returning, we venture systematically down the mountain and back to the frenetic ‘big smoke’ of Brisbane; a world away from our tranquil days and nights in the mystical and magical terrain of O’Reilly’s and Lamington National Park, a place never far from our thoughts.
At times I find myself daydreaming about O’Reilly’s and it’s temperate and other-worldly environs. Undoubtedly, O’Reilly’s surpasses all expectations. It is little wonder that my beloved grandmother wrote so emphatically in the pages of the O’Reilly’s visitor book many years ago: “I love this place!”. We’ll definitely return, the lure of the mountain proving too strong to refuse.