Let’s have a Nightcap: Minyon Falls

This entry is the first from a June vacation in Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales (NSW). For all intents and purposes, Tweed Heads is essentially part of Australia’s Gold Coast located at the twin border towns of Coolangatta Tweed. However that changes during winter Origin season when state league rivalries artificially surface and New Year’s Eve when summer time differences become problematic. The Tweed River (below) is the pinnacle of this region for tourism and boating activities.

Tweed River facing East © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The photo (below) captures the Tweed River from an easterly perspective into Queensland. Hidden behind the high-rise on the left is the Point Danger Marine Rescue station, Captain Cook Lighthouse and Centaur Memorial of World War II. The Jack Evans Boat Harbour Park is visible to the left, the furthest feature on the mainland. These features are located just south of Coolangatta. The river mouth of the Tweed is pictured centre frame. Fingal Head lies to the right.

Tweed River facing East © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Another photo (below) shows the Tweed River from a southerly perspective into New South Wales. To the left is Fingal Head. The river parts to the right to become Terranora Creek. To the distant right is Tweed Heads South and Banora Point. To the distant left is Kingscliff. The south is the focus of the trip which forms the basis for this piece.

Tweed River facing South © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

It was discovered whilst driving inland in the beautiful Tweed Range for bush walking and sight-seeing that radio reception is obstructed. Alex Clarke’s aerial photo (below) captures the 1000 m (3,281 ft) wall of the Tweed caldera.

Upper Tweed Valley from a light aircraft at about 500 ft © 2005 Alex Clarke

Considering this region incorporates the Tweed Shield Volcano and Caldera which is the ‘biggest erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere’ this is unsurprising. Reception is optimal along the coastline, as one might expect. This includes high-rise reception.

Tweed Range © 2010 Ben Hutton

It was surprising to learn that one of the most interesting places for radio reception during the break would be Nightcap National Park, comprising some 11,000 hectares of spectacular forest and creeks. This park is home to the 20 million year-old volcano.

However, it is also home to the legendary Mt Nardi. This television and FM radio broadcast site causes receiver overload at towering apartment towers at Tweed Heads… some 48 km (30 miles) away, even on a portable FM radio! It will be demonstrated that perhaps the Mt Nardi ABC broadcasts are ‘blowtorches’ for good reason. Before the frequencies became blocked by local stations, the 100 kW stations could easily be heard along the coastline 195 km (121 mi) north on any car radio. Some enthusiasts classify these instances as ‘over servicing’ by the public broadcaster or put alternatively, an excessive level of coverage. Consider that only one ABC station offers local coverage, the rest are always networked.

Minyon Sans Falls © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The desired destination was the Minyon Falls walking track, Minyon Loop. The track was chosen because time was scarce. It was easy to schedule this into a winter afternoon when the sun tends to disappear at a ferocious pace! One way to get there is from the road from Mullumbimby, located 35km or (21 mi) west. The portable Tom Tom GPS unit was left back in the big smoke, so it was left to the potentially riskier Google Maps to guide the way. Google Maps suggested the drive through Mullumbimby was the only way to get there from the coast! The 76 km (47 mi) drive from the Tweed Heads accommodation took approximately an hour and a half.

Nightcap NP is located just 21 km (13 mi) northwest of culturally rich Byron Bay, which attracts capital city folk to its numerous music festivals and enjoys a reputation as a popular surfing destination, unshackling its struggling working class town history for much of the 20th century. With European discovery in 1770 came the naming of Cape Byron, the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Bay residents occasionally still endure tropical cyclones in February, with the last major destructive forces being Barbara in 1967 and Connie in 1954. Such weather patterns usually do wonders to the swell! Inland access to the park (and specifically Mt Nardi) is also available via historic Nimbin, perhaps the best known Australian hippie commune of the 1960s and ’70s.

Nimbin Hemp Embassy © 2010 Nimal Skandhakumar

Upon arrival at about 5pm, the Minyon Falls Lookout rising up 104 metres (341 ft) in the distance bore NO resemblance to anything taken by photographers included here. In comparison, does anybody expect that a McDonalds’ burger dispensed from a drive through at 11 pm will have the same presentation as that depicted a television commercial? Of course not! 🙂

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Nicolas Emmanuel-Emile

If one carefully contrasts the photos (above and below) it is clear that a ‘soggy squashed burger with brown lettuce’ was being dished up for this particular visit! Such is life.

Minyon Sans Falls  © 2013 FM dxing at wordpress

The sides of Minyon Loop were littered with fallen trees from a recent storm. As can be seen above, there was NO water in the waterfall.

Fallen foliage on Minyon Loop © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Minyon Falls may not qualify as dangerous or remote terrain, characteristic of Ben Fogle’s Extreme Dreams (2006-2009) nor Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007) but exercise is always the name of the game!

Altitude readings at Minyon Sans Falls day area  © 2013 FM dxing at wordpress

This blogger’s hands never lie! The elevation at the day area site (adjoining the Repentance Creek car park) was 389 metres above sea level or 1,276 feet. The weather was fine yet overcast and the ambient temperature sat at 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees F).

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

In torch-light, the team endured over 45 minutes of difficult track on the Minyon Loop. This was due to the steep rises out of the valley. Making the 7.5 km (5 mi) distance was impossible within the allotted time frame. Upon return in darkness, it was straight to the well-lit car. It was magnificent to replenish the dehydrated bodies with bottled water.

Before departure, a brief FM band scan was undertaken for approximately 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the scan is NOT exhaustive due to time restrictions; perhaps readers may be inspired to complete it should they tour the park. A printout of the Kyogle tropospheric projection from FM Scan with a 600 km (373 mi) radius was recovered from the back seat. This saves a lot of time and uncertainty in identifying stations in an unfamiliar area such as this. It becomes a simple procedure of ‘ticking off’ the stations predicted. The bulk of the time can be spent paying careful attention to the unlisted (that is, unpredicted) stations. Kyogle was 38 km (24 mi) west and punctuated by the National Park itself. Although the distances on this printout were inaccurate for our location, this printout was all that was on hand. The projections proved reliable.

Because of the eroded volcanic terrain, cellular reception is never guaranteed. And neither the Optus nor Telstra 3G carriers furnished sufficient coverage. Although a print out is old-fashioned, under these circumstances it is fool-proof. And it can be used to build a fire in an emergency! The team used paper National Park maps as well! The most interesting reception included:

  • Nim 102.3 Nimbin CBD [weak: 17km, 11mi]
  • SBS 106.3 relay Nimbin Reservoir
  • Radio 97 104.1 relay Elanora [54km, 34mi]
  • FM 104.7 Grafton [99km, 62mi]
  • Life 103.1 South Grafton [132km, 82mi]
  • River 94.9 Ipswich [147km, 91mi]
  • 89.7, 93.7, 102.5 Tenterfield [148km, 92mi]
  • 2MC 106.7 Port Macquarie [248km, 154mi]
  • Radio 531 93.5 relay Port Macquarie [311km, 193mi]
  • ABC 94.7, 95.5, 96.3, 97.1, 98.7 Taree [350km, 217mi]
  • ABC 96.7, 99.1, 100.7 Narrabri [363km, 226mi]

Receptions of River 94.9 FM and Ten FM 89.7 were of insufficient strength to permit RDS decoding; nor were the Brisbane stations. Radio enthusiasts can inspect the entire FM band scan which is viewable as part of the FM List registry. Because the band scan was taken shortly before 6 pm, some of the signals audible may be jet reflected stations rather than pure troposcatter propagation. Because of our location (which seems to be classified as a valley in the literature, despite the elevation) permanent signals may arrive at the location via a propagation method known as knife-edge refraction from the very tip of the range into the valley. For example, Narrabri stations may fall into this category. NO enhancement was forecast.

Mt Nardi comms centre © 2007 Angus Fraser

The Nightcap Range provides a natural barrier towards the north-west. In this direction, the mountains include the 560 m (1,837 ft) tall Peach Mountain, 7 km (4 mi) away. The 130 m (427 ft) high broadcast towers are situated west of the towering 804 m tall Mt Matheson (2,638 ft). Towards the north, the Goonengerry National Park poses another obstacle, with a 410 m (1,345 ft) peak situated nearby. Conversely, towards the south-east lies a 262 m (860 ft) hill, near Federal.

Other prominent mountains in the region include Nightcap’s Mt Burrell with 933 m (3,061 ft) and Jerusalem Mountain with 810 m (2,657 ft). Jerusalem is the pinnacle of the Jerusalem National Park. These are located 22 km (14 mi) and 14 km (7 mi) away, respectively. The towers are situated 14 km (9 mi) northwest of the Repentance Creek car park.

The aforementioned obstructions meant NO images from Mt Nardi were readily heard on the Blaupunkt Las Vegas DVD35 during the brief scan. Considering the significant physical impediments provided by the Goonengerry, Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks it is perhaps surprising that the local Casino FM station with a modest 86 m (282 ft) mast located 42 km (26 mi) south south west of the car park is audible around Tweed Heads. The Heads are some 88 km (55 mi) north-east of their site!

The answer may be found if one recognizes that the terrain from Casino to Cape Byron (on the ocean) is flat. The predominantly unobstructed path was ideal for the historic Murwillumbah railway. Whilst it had its first track section opened in 1894, the 130 km industrial railway has been disused since 2004.

NSWGR BOX001S10 - 4419, Murwillumbah © 1977 Michael Green Hill

The photos by east coast terrain specialist photographer Michael Dawes (two can be found below) are indicative of the unspoiled and captivating beauty of Nightcap NP at its sunny peak.

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

Some rain would surely enliven waterfalls such as Minyon this summer, if only to dampen the already worrying bush fire season! [A few days after the publication of this entry, the Rural Fire Service of NSW reported a controlled bush fire was burning 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) northwest of Mt Nardi].

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

After stopping the car briefly in Mullumbimby at 7pm to make a cellular phone call, a sense of déjà vu dawned on this blogger. There had been a spot of horse race gambling and a sparkling chilled beverage consumed in one pub here on a ‘men only’ road trip en route to Lismore several few years earlier!

Crystal castle, Mullumbimby © 2008 Melanie Cook

Although rising 122 metres (400 ft) above sea level, Mullumbimby CBD is a built up dining and retail precinct meaning the receiver ‘noise floor’ rises noticeably higher than in the boon docks. Put simply, the interference tends to kill weak FM signals! Located just north of the town is a 307 metre (1,004 ft) peak, essentially the location is surrounded by hills and mountains once again! There was barely five minutes to spare, but the following stations were received stationary at some random car park:

  • 2KY 87.6 Sky Sports Racing Radio [local broadcast]
  • Star 105.5 & 2CS 106.3 Coffs Harbour [194km, 121mi]
  • Star 105.1 Port Macquarie [258km, 160mi]
  • ABC 96.7, 99.1, 100.7 Narrabri [376km, 234mi]

Broadcasts originating from the south (i.e. Coffs and Port) were received with a very weak signal strength.

Mullumbimby road sign © 2008 Yellow Arrow

Before returning north-bound to the M1, the car would NOT initially start. Hey… please stop laughing! After five minutes it roared to life; the terrifying anxiety dissipated. Starter motor problems were suspected at this time; indeed the team’s unqualified suspicions proved accurate when the fault was professionally diagnosed at the dealer service the next week. Upon arrival back at the twin towns of Coolangatta Tweed about an hour later, there was an uneasy sense of unfulfilled potential. One day, this blogger may return and capture this magnificent spectacle of Minyon Falls in the flesh. And participate in a serious hike, which demands a bit of forward planning! One day…

Nightcap National Park

NSW Government

Bonzle Digital Atlas

Minyon Falls


Star Newspaper (Malaysia)

Minyon Falls, Mt Warning, Nimbin, Fingal Head & Byron Bay

Californian exchange student blog

Gadsventure  travel blog

World Untold travel blog

Nightcap National Park FM broadcasting

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

100.9 ZZZ FM

Broadcast distances are calculated using FM Scan. Town and mountain distances are calculated using As the Cocky Flies and ExplorOZ. To establish terrain and tower positions for this discussion, Geo Maps were used. These maps are invaluable to ascertain elevation contours and pinpoint tower positions. A Hybrid Satellite and Standard Geo Map-250K can be created at the Geoscience Australia website.

The copyright holders of third-party photography included on this blog have licensed their works under the Creative Commons for non-commercial use (such as this not-for-profit blog) with attribution. To view more of their work, type the photographer’s name into Flickr. To ascertain the copyright holders of each photograph, please use the mouse hover.

Creative Commons license - Click here for details

Photographs of Tweed River and Minyon Falls taken by this blogger (indicated by the mouse hover) may be freely used for non-commercial activity provided attribution is given. Should readers choose to use those photos elsewhere, please link back to this page or attribute this blog as the copyright holder.

One Response to Let’s have a Nightcap: Minyon Falls

  1. FC says:

    Very interesting
    I almost imagine being at Nightcap myself

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