Back to Binna Burra: like a phoenix, the beloved bush lodge has risen from the ashes

The heritage-listed central lodge was destroyed in the 2019 bushfires but there are still plenty of verdant trails and places to rest after a long day’s hike

The rambling emerald hills of the Numinbah and Coomera valleys rumble and tumble like cheeky cartwheeling children, making it almost impossible to imagine that just over a year ago the surrounding Lamington national park was on fire.

It was the blaze which would destroy more than 50% of the world’s oldest subtropical rainforest – Gondwana – which stretches from Queensland’s Binna Burra to south of Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

And it would herald the start of Australia’s worst bushfire season on record.

Locals described the Binna Burra blaze, which destroyed the historic lodge 800 metres above sea level on the Gold Coast hinterland as “apocalyptic”, and the ash like a “Chernobyl cloud”.

But like the 30km/h winding road which leads to Binna Burra Lodge and rainforest campsite, this tale comes with plenty of twists and turns.

Grooms Cottage, built in the 1930s, survived the 2019 fire and has been transformed into a bushwalkers’ bar.
Grooms Cottage, built in the 1930s, survived the 2019 fire and has been transformed into a bushwalkers’ bar. Photograph: Binna Burra Lodge

Although the heritage-listed central lodge and 42 cabins were destroyed during the 8 September fire, the original 1930s timber cottage of pioneer Arthur Groom, the Tea House, all but one of the luxury sky lodge buildings, the safari tents and campsite survived.

The Binna Burra road was closed for 12 months after the fire sucked all the moisture from the soil and follow-up rain caused the unstable earth to erupt in rockfalls and landslides.

But Binna Burra is back. And more beautiful than ever.

The winding road up to Binna Burra Lodge which reopened in September.
The winding road up to Binna Burra Lodge which reopened in September. Photograph: Binna Burra Lodge

On a clear day, trek the trails which carry the souls and stories of thousands of bustling bushwalkers, passionate pioneers and traditional owners – the Yugambeh people.

At dusk, perch outside and witness the lolly pink sunset transform into blushing Gold Coast meter-maid gilt, before crouching around a smoky campfire for some more tales, tall and true.

The remaining sky lodge apartments at Binna Burra Lodge.
The remaining sky lodge apartments at Binna Burra Lodge. Photograph: Binna Burra Lodge

Where to sleep: despite the fire, there are still plenty of places to rest your weary head and legs after a big day of hiking. For those seeking a spot of luxury, book one of the sky lodges (from $298 a night). Choose from studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom eco-friendly apartments replete with cooking facilities, spa baths overlooking the mountains, fern-green day beds and fireplaces. There are also two-, four- and six-bed permanent but basic safari tents (from $95 a night), and powered and unpowered two- and four-man tent sites (from $30 a night) with nearby amenities.

The safari tents at Binna Burra Lodge.
The safari tents at Binna Burra Lodge. Photograph: Binna Burra Lodge

Where to eat: Binna Burra has transformed Groom’s 1930s cottage into a delightful bushwalkers’ bar with beer and wine on tap as well as bottled. It’s a colourful central hub from which to meet fellow walkers, partake of a morning coffee or sunset drink, as well as charcuterie platters. The tea house reopened for meals in October.

One of the best stories to spring from the drought which led to the bushfires is that of Scenic Rim farm boxes. At Binna Burra you can order one of these delicious boxes, packed with local produce from around the region.

What to do: Lamington national park has 160km of walking trails which start at 30-minute rainforest strolls to all-day hikes. One of the best ways to experience these is with the team at International Park Tours, spearheaded by Arthur Groom’s granddaughter Lisa Groom. For the more spiritual, take in a soothing qi gong or yoga session among the eucalypt trees. At the base of Binna Burra, go on a horse riding tour with Scenic Rim Equine Group or pop down to Canungra for some retro shopping and coffee.

How to get there: Binna Burra is a 90-minute drive from Brisbane or 40 minutes from the Gold Coast. On the Pacific motorway, take the Nerang exit and follow the signs to Beechmont/Binna Burra. From 1 December Queensland is set to open its border to Victoria and all of NSW.

Christine Retschlag

The GuardianTramp

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