Minion Falls holds a very special place in my heart.
This is in no way related to the scenery — but a deep emotional connection forged through a tragic aviation disaster. Yes, while performing a daring drone fly-by of an adjacent waterfall — a manoeuvre that would yield glorious aerial closing footage for our Minyon Falls in 50 seconds edit — plastic connected with cliff in a crunch that still causes me to wake in cold sweats screaming impotently at the almighty for taking my toy before its time.
But let’s not speak of that misfortune again — the grief is raw, and there's still the business of sharing the hike ahead. So let’s get at it then…
Minyon Falls is in Nightcap National Park, forty minutes west-ish of Byron Bay, and ninety minutes south-ish of the Gold Coast, on the east coast of Australia. With every tourist in the area blinkered to beach and bay, you’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much else in the area outside of Byron. On weekdays, it’s not only possible, but probable that you’ll finish the hike without seeing a soul. Although, following a recent spate of shark chewings, we wouldn’t be surprised if hiking increased in popularity.
There’s a few variations of the Minion Falls circuit — but we’d recommend starting from the carpark at the top of the falls. After a quick peek over the edge of the viewing platform, hit the track and follow the cliffs. If acrophobia is an occasional companion — keep your eyes on the trail and don’t look left. It’s a long way down.
Just a few hundred metres and several hundred stairs, you’ll see a track to your right. Take it. A short stroll through forest, and a quick spin left down a forestry road, you’ll hit the top of Quandong Falls. Pause — watch as water meets gravity in a weightless float to the canopy below. It’s dramatic, it’s deserted, and if you’ve a head for heights — it’s a great spot for shot. But this tranquil scene is also the setting where our tragedy played out. Somewhere far beneath you lies the wreckage — drenched by a waterfall weeping the tears of a thousand drone-less drone pilots.
One day, far into the future, we hope an adventurer will stumble upon the bones of our by-then ancient airship. And, returning with its precious cargo, in heady anticipation slide mini-SD card into vintage mini-SD card reader to marvel at the brevity of its content, and the ferociousness of its ending.
But back to the present. After a selfie or six, backtrack to the spot you first turned right, and follow the ridge. This drops you quickly into dense rainforest — though to be honest I can’t remember much of this. My mind was on morbid things; mangled drones with memory cards containing memories that would never be shared. Footsteps on the path. The sounds of waterfall, of whipbirds, and sobbing.
But it’s hard to stay sad on a walk like this. Surrounded by strangler figs that seem to keep going up, and underneath — a world tinted green — filtered through frond and fern. It’s a magical place, so take it in at a leisurely pace until you hit the stream. Then, hop the creek, go left at the junction, and get to scrambling. This is our pick of the walk — a hundred metre mad clamber over giant boulders to reach the base of Minyon Falls. You’ll spot the cliffs before you leave the forest, but it won’t prepare you for the strange vertigo you’ll feel looking straight up a hundred metres of sheer rhyolite and waterfall.
If you’re prepared, you’ll have packed a picnic. And if you packed a picnic, this is the place to eat it. And when you’ve taken your fill of food, cliff and fall — backtrack over the boulders, head straight ahead at the junction, and brace yourself for a brief pant uphill to Minyon Grass carpark. While you’re here, take a moment at the lookout to see the falls from one final angle, then hoof the last kilometre up an uninspiring gravel road that’ll take you right back to your ride.
Whether you’re up for a less-seen side of the region, have a kink for waterfalls, or just out to avoid puka-shelled backpackers and ornery sealife — Minyon Falls is worth your time.