Moran Falls is located at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, tucked away in the Gold Coast Hinterland. This incredibly scenic location looks out over Lamington National Park and is a very popular spot to watch the sunset. While it may seem like Moran Falls is incredibly remote and difficult to get to, you’ll be pleased to know that it is accessible and the hike is very enjoyable. If you want to know how to get to Moran Falls, read on.
Located at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
First things first, Moran Falls is located at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the middle of world heritage listed Lamington National Park. For those who have never heard of O’Reilly’s, it is a very large rainforest retreat situated on top of a plateau in the Gold Coast hinterland. There is a large variety of accommodation options from camping grounds to large houses and it is the base for many incredible rainforest hikes and waterfalls (like Elabana Falls) in the area. You can choose to stay overnight (or for a few days) at O’Reilly’s to see the area in more depth or you can visit for a day trip as well as O’Reilly’s is very welcoming to day trippers.
The drive to O’Reilly’s
Not going to sugar coast it the drive to O’Reilly’s is rather interesting. While it is only 37km to O’Reilly’s from Canungra, it will take about an hour to drive there. The drive requires concentration as it is quite windy and there are several parts where it is only one lane for two way traffic (signs obviously point to where you must wait to give way). The drive certainly gives you perspective of where you are in the rainforest and you can appreciate some spectacular views as you ascend the mountain range.
Google Maps Link
The easiest way to find O’Reilly’s is to put this Google Maps link into your device. Be careful and make sure the route chosen goes past Canungra. While there is an alternative back road option that Google Maps may try and take you to, this road was not open when we last went through (and caused a 45 minute back track to correct once we came across the road closed sign!) and there was also a sign saying that even when open it is not accessible in wet weather. Do yourself a favour and scan the route to ensure you’re going up the range via Canungra. For reference, O’Reilly’s is about a 2 hour drive from Brisbane (Google Maps link here) and a 90 minute drive from Surfers Paradise (Google Maps link here).
Parking at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Being an incredibly popular day trip destination, O’Reilly’s has you covered with a large carpark dedicated for day trippers. Once you arrive at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, you will see the day trip carpark on your right. If this park is full don’t worry, you can always turn around and park along the side of the road you’ve just arrived in on.
How to get to Moran Falls
There are two options to get to Moran Falls. One is a longer and very pleasant hike that slowly descends through the rainforest and another is a shorter but steeper hike that will get you there quite quickly if you are out of time. When we visited we had a bit of time so hiked down the longer way and then as it was after sunset returned via the shorter track.
The Main Hike to Moran Falls
The longer hike to Moran Falls starts a little bit back down the road you came from as you approached O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. At the opposite end from O’Reillys in the day trip car park you will see a sign indicating the start of the walk to Moran Falls.
This walk will take you to the start of the official entrance to the hike to Moran Falls. You can either walk from the carpark or drive and park at the small carpark across from the official entrance to the hike. The walk from the day trip car park to the official entrance takes just under 10 minutes.
As mentioned, the walk is very pleasant and slowly descends through the rainforest closer towards the falls. This walk takes about 30 minutes and is not difficult or strenuous but as it is a rainforest track you do need to take due care.
After about 20 or so minutes you will arrive at one of the two official Moran Falls lookouts. Here you will be able to view the actual waterfall as it tumbles down the cliff face and into the valley below. Definitely worth a stop in here to take in the view of your destination.
Only a few minutes later, you’ll find yourself at the creek that turns into Moran Falls. There is a small concrete block like pathway across the creek so you can cross over and continue walking to the second official Moran Falls lookout on the other side of the falls (although the second lookout is of the surrounding rainforest and valley rather than the falls). However, if you want to take in the incredible view from a top of Moran Falls, this is where you want to change direction.
You’ll be able to turn to your right and walk along the edge of the creek in the direction of the falls. As you can sit on either side of the falls and cross over closer to the waterfall, it doesn’t matter which side of the creek you are on.
When you arrive remember (obviously) to be very careful. While the flat rock can give you a false sense of security, you are up incredibly high and with water around it wouldn’t take much to slip and fall. Always keep your wits and attention and be very aware of your surroundings when here. We arrived a little earlier than golden hour and relaxed as we waited for the sun to head towards the horizon.
The sunset was well worth the wait, in fact the sunset from Moran Falls is one of the most magical I have ever experienced.
Is Moran Falls Busy at Sunset?
Well, yes, we found that it was. I had been told by someone that it was empty every time they went at sunset but looking back I realised that person may have come on a weekday when it is far more likely to be quiet. The only afternoon that we could make the excursion was a Saturday of a long weekend no less. While I had hoped that other people wouldn’t be too eager to hike back in the dark, it didn’t seem to deter that many people and there would’ve had to have been about 12 other people here watching the sun go down like we did.
We were lucky though and for some reason most people stayed on the left side of the waterfall to watch the sun dip below the valley and we were on the right – meaning we had a lot of area to ourselves and were able to take a lot of photos with the incredible sunset.
Moran Falls Hiking in the Dark
After the sun had set and almost all light had faded we headed back to the path and (incorrectly) continued along (not heading back in the direction we came). We had already heard of the short path back to O’Reilly’s and had assumed that the path continued along to the other side of the waterfall and back the short way. We’re not sure if this does take you back to O’Reilly’s but it is not the short path. We were lucky to run into a couple who showed us the way back via the short path to O’Reilly’s.
Short Path Back to O’Reilly’s from Moran Falls
Back at where the concrete bridge crosses over the creek, if you are standing with your back facing the waterfall you’ll see just to your left a little path heading away from the falls. This is the start of the shorter path back. Please don’t take these next instructions as gospel but from memory you continue through this path until you arrive closer to the creek again (you may have to turn right to hit the creek rather than continue on up the hill). From here continue along the creek, it can be quite slippery, especially if it has recently rained and there will be a relatively steep part to get up so be careful. Continue along the track until you hit a road. On the road turn left and this will eventually take you to a part of O’Reilly’s. The road up to O’Reilly’s is very steep but it is definitely worth it for the short cut back at dark. In hindsight I would recommend taking the short way there and back so you know exactly where you are going on your way back. We’re very happy we ran into the couple who had arrived via the short way so could direct us back. Once you reach O’Reilly’s follow signs onto a dimly lit rainforest path that will take you back up to the main area (and day trip car park) of O’Reilly’s. The walk back took us about 25 minutes to the car.
When to go to Moran Falls
Moran Falls is a popular hike throughout the day. Sunset is absolutely spectacular as you watch the sun dip below the mountains and the sky light up in a golden glow. However, Moran Falls is a popular sunset spot so this will be busy. If you want to visit at sunset try and go in the middle of the week rather than the weekend to improve your chances.
While I have only been in late afternoon and at sunset, sunrise photos I have seen from here also look beautiful and any time throughout the day still shows off that fantastic view.
If you are interested in this you may also be interested in
- How to get to Elabana Falls (another waterfall hike at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat)
- Things to do on the Gold Coast
- Your Scenic Rim One Day Itinerary: Things to do in the Scenic Rim
- How to get to Purling Brook Falls on the Gold Coast
- Should you stay at The Pink Hotel Coolangatta?
- 50 things to do in Queensland