Minyon Falls Lookout and Picnic Area

Minyon Falls is located in Nightcap National Park, Northern NSW. The local Aboriginal people of this area are the Widjabul peoples, who are a part of the Bundjalung Nation. Widjabul people have lived in this area for many thousands of years and cared for Country. This land, and the water that flows through it, is sacred to them.

 

The upgrade to the Minyon Falls Precinct is part of the Tweed-Bryon Hinterland Trails Project. This $7.4 million state government funded initiative aims to deliver high-quality nature-based visitor experiences in the Tweed, Byron and Lismore region to boost the NSW visitor economy and community wellbeing. The project is part of a cohesive approach to market and enhance the tourism and local economies in the region, particularly in the Tweed Shire. It will enable the development of strong partnerships with community, industry, and government stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, to bring economic and social benefits to regional communities.

 

The strategic planning and fund allocation for this project was based on the findings from the NPWS funded research conducted in 2013 by Southern Cross University. The study was motivated by a dramatic downturn in visitation to the area after the iconic Wollumbin (Mt Warning) summit track was closed due to storm damage. It considered potential alternative visitor opportunities to draw visitors away the summit walk and reduce degradation of the sacred site. The research revealed a clear preference for immersive nature-based experiences, with views and opportunities to swim at the base of a waterfall as equally attractive to travellers as the summit climb.

 

The Minyon Falls Precinct, nestled within the ancient Gondwana Rainforest, provided a perfect platform for this experience. The investment in the precinct upgrade will assist in redistributing the current unsustainable visitor pressures away from Wollumbin and encourages dispersal of coastal visitation, particularly from the Byron Bay area, into the broader region. An improvement in the quality of visitor experiences and an increase in the variety of tourism offerings has the potential to encourage longer stays in the region, providing economic benefits to the surrounding communities. 

The precinct upgrade includes a new lookout, improved visitors’ amenities, parking and picnic area in addition to connectivity within the site and to the waterfall pools below. Universal access principles were incorporated to provide an all-access walkway from the carpark to the lookout, enabling visitors of all levels of mobility to explore the site and connect with nature. 

The design is centered around a cantilevered lookout giving visitors an exhilarating experience and a vantage point to take in the rainforest and the valley below. The lookout has breathtaking views back towards Minyon Falls and its thundering descent more than 100 metres over the huge rhyolite cliffs which were once part of the Tweed Volcano.

There were several challenges throughout the project. In more recent years the falls have recorded a sharp increase in suicide rates. As the pools and waterfall have particular significance and are a sacred women’s place to the Widjabul women, they perceive that Country has been wounded by these deaths. Our brief required us to review and implement suicide prevention best practices and weave suicide prevention messaging into the site to deter those contemplating suicide, and decrease the site’s appeal as a “suicide destination” and hopefully begin to heal Country.  

Sustainability and environmental conservation are at the forefront of NPWS values. Design decisions throughout the project deferred to these principles to ensure that the upgrades supported the natural environment. There were several tall Eucalyptus trees that were removed due to safety concerns, in keeping with sustainability design principles, these were reused in the fabrication of toilets, shelters and seating within the precinct. The lookout design also incorporated the retention of several large and significant trees, within and on the edge of the lookout structure.

Within the greater precinct, to reduce cost and wastage of existing materials, some sections of existing boardwalk were retained and improved with upgraded balustrades. Careful planning of the car park upgrade allowed for the full retention of existing hard stand and opportunistic additional car spaces where these could be provides in already disturbed areas with minimal earthworks required to reduce unnecessary environmental disturbance. 

The Minyon Falls precinct upgrades were completed at the end of 2021. They are the first of several sustainable visitor infrastructure projects planned as part of the Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project. The successful completion of this project not only provides improved visitor experiences on site, it also acknowledges the significance of the Wollumbin National Park to the Traditional Owners and the value of preserving this significant landscape for current and future generations.

 

Client

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service

Date

2018 – Current 

Location

Nightcap National Park, NSW