Stately treeferns (Dicksonia Antarctica) line the Honeysuckle Walk, which is a feature of Barrington Tops State Forest.
Barrington Tops is a twenty-five-kilometre long plateau extending between a series of extinct volcanic peaks in the Mount Royal Ranges, an easterly offshoot of the Great Escarpment. Eighty kilometres west of surf and sand, as the black cockatoo flies, one-and-a-half kilometre high mountains rise to swirling mists. On a plateau stretched between their summits, alpine meadows awash with fragile wildflowers in springtime spread out beneath snowgums' open boughs. Melted snow becomes lithe white water dancing down to the sea through ancient beech forests bathed in an ethereal green light. Pure clear water flows from sphagnum moss swamps that retain and slowly release great quantities of water from the plateau, fed by mists, melting snow and an annual rainfall exceeding fifteen hundred millimetres.
More than twenty valleys radiate from the hub of the plateau. Wild rivers become waterfalls plunging from great heights into fern-lined gorges. In the river valleys of the lowlands, weathered basalt washed down from the mountains forms rich alluvial soils. Rainforest in Barrington Tops National Park is the southernmost link in a chain of remnant rainforests in central Eastern Australia protected by World Heritage listing. Antarctic beech forests cloaking the slopes above the nine-hundred-metre mark are a living link with the supercontinent of Gondwanaland, where they evolved sixty-six million years ago. Pollen of the genus Nothofagus dates back to the Late Cretaceous period, when Australia was still part of Gondwanaland. It is believed the genus evolved after links between Africa and South America were severed. Today, it is found in the mountains of New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand and southern South America and relic rainforest in Tasmania. Nothofagus is the southern hemisphere's representative of the European beech.
The first stage of the Barrington Tops National Park was dedicated in 1969 with additions being made in 1982. The park gained World Heritage Listing in 1986 and, more recently, much of the area has been declared Wilderness. The pure quality of their water and their special aesthetic beauty have enabled Boonabilla Creek and the Paterson, Williams, Chichester and Wangat rivers to be classified as Wild Rivers. Fantastic views of forested wilderness unfold from the highest peaks. On a clear day from Carey's Peak, at an elevation of 1545 metres, the white sands of Stockton Beach may be visible as a distant fine line above the rolling, agricultural, green valley of the Williams River, scooped out in a blue-green wilderness of forest. At Mount Barrington, at 1556 metres, a view to the western slopes of the Tops overlooks grazing land towards Scone in the Hunter River Valley.
While reaching up to meet enveloping mists, Antarctic Beech trees tower over an understory of treeferns.
At the Laurie Lookout in Gloucester Tops, it is possible to see distinct changes in forest types. Rising from the valley floor, warm-temperate rainforest species merge with wet eucalypt forest up the slopes. Where the slope retains little water, dry eucalypts thrive. Adjacent to the subalpine swamp communities and woodlands, grassy summits known as 'grassland balds' cap the summits.
The impressive array of habitats found in the Barrington Tops nurtures half of the plant species found in Australia and over one-third of its mammals and birds. A high concentration of gliders and owls, including the barking owl, which emits a blood-curdling human-like scream while hunting at night, nest in hollows in eucalypt forest that has never been logged, saved by the rugged nature of the terrain. The powerful, masked and sooty owls, however, join twenty-three other animals on the endangered list, including the tiger quoll, the red-legged pademelon, yellow-bellied glider, koala, broad-toothed rat and sphagnum frog. One of Australia's rarest birds, the tiny and elusive rufous scrub bird, may be heard singing a loud melodious song while foraging on the forest floor adjoining beech forest.
Barrington Tops is home to the magnificent iridescent blue-green paradise riflebird, which belongs to the birds of paradise family, often considered the most beautiful birds in the world. Sometimes this bird can be heard tearing rotten wood, in pursuit of insects, with his strong curved beak. The paradise riflebird decorates his cup-shaped nest with cast-off snakes' skins, probably the skins of diamond pythons and green tree snakes, reptiles which share his moist forest habitat in wet eucalypt and temperate rainforest.