There aren't many people who would think of siting dairy farms on a 3,000-ft.-high (900 m) plateau in the middle of impenetrable rainforest, but then there aren't many families as dogged as Australia's O'Reilly clan, who in 1911 did just that selecting an area close to the Queensland-New South Wales border. Gluttons for punishment, they opened a guesthouse on their property in 1926, despite the fact that it took visitors two days by rail, wagon and horseback to get there from Brisbane.
The funny thing is, people flocked to it, lured by the stunning isolation. And they still are, although these days, O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, as it's known, is a comfortable two-hour, 75-mile (120 km) drive southwest from the Queensland capital.
A rustic guesthouse remains at the heart of what has become a fully fledged eco-resort, with a village of smart, self-catering villas, added in 2007, hugging a mountainside nearby. Facilities include the aptly named Lost World Spa, a heated plunge pool, a games room, a lounge and a library, but O'Reilly's is above all a rambler's paradise, with stunning bird-watching and rainforest walks. When British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough sought ancient Antarctic beech trees and satin and regent bowerbirds to film for his acclaimed 1979 series Life on Earth, he went to the vast Lamington National Park, which surrounds O'Reilly's and forms part of an Australian World Heritage Site.
There are aerial pleasures to be had, too. The Tree Top Walk takes you into the forest canopy on wooden bridges and offers two observation decks: a natural high, like much else at O'Reilly's. For more information, see www.oreillys.com.au
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