A road tripping guide to Wollumbin and the Tweed Caldera
ABOUT 23 million years ago a series of eruptions took place that would leave one of the world's most spectacular volcanic formations as a lasting legacy.
The Tweed-Mt Warning-Wollumbin shield volcano, and its caldera which runs from the Gold Coast through Tweed to Byron Shire and the northern Lismore region is arguably "the best preserved erosion caldera in the world" - according to the World Heritage listing statement. It's also the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Best viewed from the top of Wollumbin after a three hour hike or if you're lazy, on Google Maps' satellite view, this ancient circular depression is massive and impressive.
Much of its highlands are covered in even more ancient rainforest remnants left over from before Australia dried out - and boasting some of the richest biodiversity on the planet.
Most people who travel to the region with an interest in ancient geology or just the spectacular views might pay a visit to Wollumbin National Park and hike up the mountain and back.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of this amazing landmark.
To truly appreciate the caldera a genuine visitor needs to take in Border Ranges National Park, Springbrook National Park, as well as Nightcap National Park.
It is the north and western edges which provide the most stunning views of the caldera valley and Wollumbin.
The best spot accessible by car on the NSW side is Pinnacle lookout, which is in Border Ranges National Park on the Tweed Range Scenic Drive.
There are two entrances to the park, the eastern entrance is about an hour from Lismore and the western entrance about 40 minutes from Kyogle, followed by a further 40 minute drive along unsealed road.
Border Ranges National Park links with Lamington National Park in Queensland, which offers similarly entrancing views. The border between NSW and Queensland is actually defined by the edge of the caldera escarpment.
At Springbrook NP, it's the aptly called "Best of All Lookout" which gives the prime view over the caldera from the north.
To get there, drive all the way up to the Pacific Highway to Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast, and take the signs to Springbrook before driving to the end of of Repeater Station Rd.
If you still have energy, take the long drive back road via the Numinbah Valley, Chillingham, and Murwillumbah, which takes you right through a landscape worthy of a Lord of the Rings film set.
There are two other sides of the caldera - Nightcap National Park in the southern edge, and Jerusalem National Park in the southeast edge between Mullumbimby and Uki.
Both of these offer solid views of the caldera valley and Wollumbin - but it takes more than a drive to get to the choice of them.
For the southern view north, a 10km round trip hike is required along part of the 18km (one way) Historic Nightcap Walking Track from the Mt Nardi side, accessible from Nimbin.
Mt Jerusalem National Park has several "secret spots" which are again accessible only by foot, a short drive out of Uki.
Once you've ticked off all four of these views plus Wollumbin itself, perhaps only then have you done justice to the might of the Tweed caldera.