Saturday, January 13, 2018

A holiday 23 million years in the making...

Well, perhaps not a holiday exactly:  more a short break over Christmas for 5 days to Mount Tamborine, barely an hour from where I live, and up behind the Gold Coast, so usually 2 to 4 degrees cooler than Brisbane or the coast.  We never stayed up there before, but I couldn't be away from work for too long this year, so we went there instead of a beach holiday.

We stayed at a holiday rental house in the streets behind the very touristy (and not that interesting, really) Gallery Walk at Eagle Heights.   I had never driven in the residential streets behind Gallery Walk before, and what a pleasant surprise they are.   The houses are a mix of old and new, but many are are in a cottage style, and cooler weather gardens are very common, as well as tree lined streets, some with spectacular views to the coast.  Some examples:

This isn't actually the house we stayed in, but just an example of a charmingly done cottage style house and cottage garden of a type you virtually never see in Brisbane, but of which there are many up at Tamborine.

This is the inside of the one we stayed at, and it was  the nicest holiday rental house we have ever been in.  Heaps of good cooking equipment in the kitchen (handy if you are doing a Christmas dinner), plenty of money spent on furniture, fully ducted airconditioning, beautiful bathrooms (I should have taken a photo), and for winter, a big central fireplace.   It's called The Maple and The Nest (booked through Stayz, not Airbnb), and I recommend it.

These doors:

which featured in my Christmas greeting post,  led to this wisteria covered courtyard - can you imagine how this would look when the wisteria is in flower?

Anyway, Mt Tamborine is sort of a plateau area, with a population of around 7,000, I think I read, with residential development around some small but still pretty national parks.   General photos of the area:

 A house with a view to the coast.

 The view to the west.

And some typical national park scenery:

 Strangler figs:  lots of strangler figs.

The other things Mt Tamborine does well:   craft beer, pizza with beer, cheese, avocados, and bread.

I think the Fortitude Brewing Company (which is big enough that some bars in Brisbane have it on tap - including my favourite bar, the Paddock Bar at Rydges next to the Brisbane showgrounds) is just the most consistently pleasing SE Queensland craft brewery, and its home is at Mt Tamborine.  The bar there does great pizza too, and the local cheese place (which is really high quality as well) is in the same complex.  We bought a "growler" and took some hoppy IPA home - it was great.

Around the corner from where we staying there was a small bakery, but it make some distinctive and fantastic sourdoughs, and was open every day over Christmas.  It's in a group of local shops that is off the main road, and hardly anyone seemed to ever be there, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find such high quality bread - try the German beer bread, you'll like it.

There are many small farms on the plateau, and avocados are plentiful, and they are often left on "honesty system" road side stalls.  We had some very good quality ones,  and some great red rhubarb and cucumber, but I suspect in other seasons the range of veges would be higher.   Stuff left out on the roadside in the middle of summer probably has a limited life.

There are tourist attractions based on tree top walks and flying foxes and the like, but they do seem pretty expensive and we didn't bother trying them.  Just lazing around instead, and the kids had their bikes to get around a bit, but it was still pretty hot and the ducted aircon was always attractive.   It was a pretty pleasant stay.

So, why the title to the post?

Well, the small Tamborine Heritage Centre (worth a quick visit, to learn a bit of local history) had this picture which caught my attention:

If you can read it, towards the right, they have marked a plateau area as "Tamborine Mountain".   What I didn't realise before was that this entire area had, 23 million odd years ago, all been under a huge shield volcano, the central remnants of which are the present Mount Warning in the Tweed Valley area, about 55 or so kilometres to the south as the crow flies.

Now, I could have guessed from the shape of Mt Warning, which looks very similar to the Glasshouse Mountains north of Brisbane, that it was, like them, the central core of an eroded volcano.  (I think most people from Brisbane with vague geological interest know that about the Glasshouse Mountains?   I mean, one in particular - Crookneck:

 ...looks very much like a central volcanic plug.)

But I had no idea that Mt Warning was the centre of such a huge volcano in height and extent.   And that, if you look at the geography of the area now, the eroded caldera is clear:

And here's a NASA image of the same area:

As the NASA website says:

Australia, the only continent with no current volcanic activity, is home to one of the world's largest extinct volcanoes: Tweed Volcano, shown in this 3-D stereo image pair. Eruptions here ended about 20 million years ago. Twenty million years of erosion have left this landform deeply eroded yet very recognizable as a caldera with a central peak--the erosional stub of the central pipe that carried magma upward to Earth's surface.

I feel I should have know this before, even if I didn't do geography or geology in high school.

And what was Australia like 23 - 20 million years ago?

Well, it seems it had broken off from Antarctica by then and was still heading north.   (Antarctica was cooling because of its new surrounding southern ocean, although the ice sheets had not yet formed - that was only about 14 millions years ago.)

According to the Australian Museum website, the early Miocene (23 to 16 million years ago) featured this:


  • Northern Australia was covered in lush rainforest.
  • The Miocene was a time of enormous richness and variety of plant and animal life in Australia, equal to that found today in the rainforests of Borneo and the Amazon.


  • In Australia the early relatives of many of familiar present-day animals had evolved including possums, kangaroos, koalas, bats, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, frogs, millipedes, beetles and many kinds of birds.
  • Many less familiar animals also lived in Australia during the Miocene such as, marsupial lions, flesh-eating kangaroos, cleaver-headed crocodiles, thunder birds, horned turtles and strange 'thingodontans'.
Land of the flesh eating kangaroos, and a giant shield volcano not far from where I live now.  How interesting!

Speaking of ancient living things, a public park at Tamborine has a few bunya pine trees planted, which are a magnificent tree except for this problem:

That's a pretty good reason for their relative lack of use as a park tree.  I really only recall seeing some in their natural habitat up in Bunya Mountains National Park, when I was a teenager.

Here's one the cones at Tamborine, with my pale looking foot (and starting to look old) ankle for scale:

And how long have they been around?   Well, relatives like it has been around since the Jurassic (175 million years ago), apparently, so I presume it is likely that they were here pretty much in their current form when the Tweed volcano was spewing lava a mere 20 million years ago.

So there you:   I went on a holiday and learnt something about prehistory I didn't realise before.

Remarkably few in my family (read - none) find this as fascinating as I have....

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