Parks Beyond Borders: Escape Winter At National Parks South Of The Equator

Warning!—as in Mount Warning National Park, Australia, just one of the great parks not far inland from the soon-to-be summertime appeal of the Aussie Gold Coast. Indeed, the Southern Hemisphere beckons with warm weather national park vacations while it's winter north of the Equator. Photo by Pouts31 via Wikipedia.

Gold Coast Aussie Escape: Mount Warning National Park

It’ll soon be summer down under, perfect time to head to Australia to explore all the country has to offer, including national parks. You won’t make a bad choice of destination if you head for Byron Bay, a scenic beachside resort area south of Brisbane and the legendary Gold Coast.

In this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, an article by Ute Junker advises Australians long accustomed to their spectacular coastline to look to the interior for adventure. National parks, water falls, rainforest and more lie not very far west from the coast it seems. That makes this (and in truth other coastal towns) great places to jump off to the interior and not just jump in to the surf.

“Byron Bay's status as one of our most beloved coastal retreats blinds many visitors to the fact the area's hinterland is just as inviting as those perfect white-sand beaches.” she says. “Take the time to brush the sand off your cossie and you'll find plenty of places to explore, from ancient volcanoes covered with dense forest to scenic villages with flourishing art scenes.”

It’s may surprise even locals, that there are “14 World Heritage-listed national parks full of scenic hikes in the area ... In the Border Ranges National Park, for instance, you can stroll through ancient forests of Antarctic beech that have stood for thousands of years, or take the stunning Pinnacle Walk, which lets you gaze into the caldera of an extinct volcano.”

Like any other areas dotted with parks, there are gateways towns, great food, and scenic drives aplenty.

If hiking sounds too strenuous, she counsels, “there are more than 650 kilometres of scenic drives you can enjoy without ever leaving the car. Or you could take a gentle stroll through one of the area's townships. Browsers and bargain-lovers will find Lismore is a treasure trove of vintage and handmade bargains. The town boasts more than a dozen vintage stores, including Carrington Bizarre, Black Angel and Kanzashi, where you can pick up exquisite antique kimonos.”

Junker says, “creativity doesn't stop at the town limits. Nearby Nimbin also has a number of galleries.” Nimbin is northwest of Byron Bay, very near evocatively-named Mount Warning National Park.

But, “It's not just art that inspires the locals: there are plenty of passionate foodies, too. Some of the area's most memorable meals can be found outside the towns - at Mavis's Kitchen, for instance. Here, at the base of Mount Warning, you can enjoy a superb lunch on the balcony of this airy Queenslander, overlooking the vegetable garden where the chefs grow their own organic produce.” Talk about local—even the coffee is grown in the area, and it “is, as you'd expect, superb.”

If you’re aiming at Oz this winter for summer down under, check out Junker’s piece. She shares other great park-accessible dining and lodging destinations, including a restaurant with one of the neatest naming concepts I’ve ever encountered. “The big drawcard” in Bangalow, “a quirky township,” is “Town, which combines a downstairs cafe (called Downtown) with an upstairs fine dining restaurant (Uptown, natch).”

South America is Next For “Family Adventure

The folks in Australia just seem to get out more than people from a lot of other countries—which is apparent from all those Aussie accents you hear around the world, from “backpackers” on the cheap to luxury-cruisers.

This morning’s Melbourne Herald Sun touted a globe trot tour of South America by Christina Pfeiffer. Leave it to an Aussie to sensibly suggest staying in the Southern Hemisphere with a five-country trip intended to target family adventure.

She starts with Peru, saying that, “climbing the Inca ruins at Pisac or Ollantaytambo is fun and educational, and the train to Machu Picchu is a bonding adventure.” Acclimatization is imperative, so “it's a good idea to stay a night in Aqua Calientes.” The Amazon also awaits. “Rainforest Expedition (perunature.com) has a menu of programs suitable for those travelling with kids. An example is the Refugio Amazonas program, which has an educational trail based on the story of a six-year-old girl living in the rainforest.”

Argentina, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil are also on Pfeiffer’s list, with good rundowns of vacation options that are heavy on nature and park appreciation.

She recommends Santiago as “a good place to start a South American adventure as it's clean and relatively safe.” Beyond that city in the shadow of the Andes, “Patagonia in the south has spectacular scenery of forests, lakes, glaciers and granite pillars. The region is great for trekking and horse riding.” And “a cruise aboard expedition-style ship Stella Australis (free for children under three, and half price for those up to 12 sharing a cabin with an adult) is a good way for families to explore,” with zodiac trips ashore twice a day.

Brazil’s urban areas are arguably not as safe as Santiago, but, “with 7000km of beaches and 44 national parks, Brazil is a natural playground for families.” She particularly points out a still best-kept-secret spot, “The Pantanal.” Along with “the Amazon basin, and Iguacu Falls”—these are “adventure destinations with plenty to offer. Safaris in the Pantanal, one of the world's largest tropical wetlands, often include visits to local schools and farms, wildlife quizzes and campfires.”

Hut Two Three Four

For Aussies staying close to home, or backpacking visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, at least one of the historic huts in Mount Kosciusko National Park is in much better condition.

For hikers in the Snowy Mountains, “BRADLEYS and O'Briens Hut near Cabramurra in the Kosciuszko National Park has received some careful attention recently,” says The Summit Sun, a news outlet about “community events throughout the Snowy Mountains” not far south of Canberra.

“The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages more than 70 historic huts,” in the area. “NPWS Ranger for the Upper Murray in Kosciuszko National Park Craig Smith said the works were urgently required, both to preserve the heritage of the area and because of the hut's popularity.”

Smith said, "Bradleys-O'Briens Hut holds strong ties for families in the region and it's used by bushwalkers and other visitors, but the chimney had been leaning a little more each year.”

The structure was carefully dismantled, components numbered for reinstallation, and then the entire chimney was rebuilt.

Smith said, "During the reconstruction we also catalogued artefacts including bottles, plate fragments, cutlery, part of an old camp oven, and a rabbit trap, but alas we found no gold."

The chimney reconstruction was funded by NPWS and the Federal National Historic Grants Program that also “enabled reconstruction works on Daveys, Mackeys and Pedens huts and at Coolamine Homestead.” O'Briens and Bradleys Hut isn’t fancy, just “a single room clad with corrugated iron, a huge fireplace at one end, and a verandah at the front and back.”

“Most of the huts in Kosciuszko have volunteer caretaker groups, most of whom are members of the Kosciuszko Huts Association, and they do a great job undertaking minor maintenance works," Ms Bowden said.

“The hut goes by two names because Pat O'Brien and Jack Bradley jointly held the snow lease,” says the Summit Sun. “They employed Jack Bailey from Tumbarumba to build the hut in the summer of 1952 with labour provided by both families.”

Check out the Kosciuszko Huts Association if you would like to help conserve huts in Kosciuszko National Park or plan to take a trek. The article also has a picture of the hut.

Snow But No Set Track in Prince Edward Island

Meanwhile, back in the great White North, Canada’s national park budget cuts have short-circuited the grooming of Nordic ski trails in Prince Edward Island. The trails will be open, just not groomed. That puts skiers in the backcountry mode of breaking their own trail or following in the tracks of others—rather than gliding in the machine-set grooves so favored by skiers in more developed Nordic ski sites.

Quoted in the Canadian Broadcasting Company article was Don Mazer, who has used the trails for the past 30 years. "Losing this as a trail system is a significant loss," he said, “especially for people who do their primary skiing here."

The article interviewed Karen Jans of Parks Canada, who said, “I understand why Islanders and some of our visitors would be upset with that decision. We had to make some decisions here. We're focusing those investments when it's the highest need, the peak demand, so that we can ensure that we can continue to provide those kinds of quality services."

Sadly, “Parks Canada won't be opening public washrooms, and no emergency services will be provided.”