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Some content of this article has been provided by Bushwalking Queensland.
Queensland offers a wide variety of landscape environments, vegetation cover, climatic conditions, flora and fauna interest and a generally benign weather window during the winter months when bushwalking can be enjoyed in relative comfort.
Like much of eastern Australia, Queensland has a mountain range that runs roughly parallel with the coast, and areas west (inland) of this mountain range are much more arid than the coastal regions.
The triangular Cape York Peninsula is the northernmost part of the state’s mainland. West of the peninsula’s tip, northern Queensland is bordered by the Gulf of Carpentaria, while the Coral Sea borders Queensland to the east.
Queensland has many areas of natural beauty, including the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, home to some of the state’s most popular beaches; the Bunya Mountains and the Great Dividing Range, with numerous lookouts, waterfalls and picnic areas; Carnarvon Gorge; Whitsunday Islands; and Hinchinbrook Island.
The state contains five World Heritage-listed preservation areas:
- Australian Fossil Mammal Sites at Riversleigh in the Gulf Country
- Gondwana Rainforests of Australia including Lamington National Park
- Fraser Island
- Great Barrier Reef
- Wet Tropics of Queensland
Planning a bushwalking trip
Visitors to Queensland’ natural areas should however be aware of certain unique features which could be relevant to any planned bushwalks.
Winter is the peak walking season with generally dry climatic conditions and moderate daytime temperatures for walking. However, many inland temperatures can drop below zero at night so walkers need to be properly equipped to handle the cold. Temperatures at elevation or following storms can also drop dramatically at any time of year.
Summer is the off season for most bushwalkers due to often high temperatures, but some great walking can still be undertaken in cooler rainforests or near water. It is also usually the wet season with the possibility of summer storms and cyclones.
Warm (three layer) clothing should always be carried, even in summer.
Queensland is situated in the tropical and sub-tropical zones and does not have twilight after summer sunset. Visitors from southern states and overseas should be aware that it will get dark very quickly after sundown and visibility in rainforest in particular will be reduced to zero. Always carry a torch, and don’t start any long forest walks late in the day.
Bushwalkers in Queensland should take an active interest in weather forecasts and be prepared to make other plans if required.
Queensland is a large state with a humid, warm climate for much of the year. Some areas are covered in thick rainforest. Permits are needed for camping in all national parks and booking well in advance is advised for popular places. The main walking season is winter.
Lamington and Springbrook National Parks. Lamington National Park is an elevated plateau covered in thick, tropical vegetation. Major features include ancient trees, waterfalls and spectacular lookouts. An extensive track system provides many good half and full day walks and some easy overnight trips. For very experienced bushwalkers there are off-track overnight walks in the western and southern ends of the park. The Springbrook National Park is located in the Gold Coast hinterland and offers a variety of walking opportunities. Both parks are included in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.
The two parks are home to the 54km Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. The walk can be completed in three days and walking from west to east, starting in the Green Mountains section (O’Reilly) in Lamington National Park and finishing at The Settlement camping area in Springbrook National Park, is recommended. Camping permits are required and fees apply.
Border Ranges National Park. A large, world heritage listed national park inland from Lamington. There are numerous very short walks and a few short day walks. There are also many good walks following rough routes for experienced walkers.
Mt Barney National Park. Mt Barney is the highest mountain in southern Queensland and is a rugged peak with many cliffs and bare rock slabs. There is a wide variety of routes leading to the summit with none being easy. All are long, with very steep rocky sections and suitable only for fit walkers with experience and skills in rock scrambling. Most trips are two days or longer, and extended trips are possible by visiting neighbouring mountains. There are four maintained tracks around the base of Mount Barney: Yellow Pinch, Lower Portals, Cronan Creek and Upper Portals and all are classified as grade 4 tracks requiring some prior walking experience and ability to scramble.
Main Range National Park. A narrow park containing a strip of ancient peaks and rugged escarpments. The range is generally trackless and suited for experienced overnight walkers.
Carnarvon Gorge National Park. Located well inland, this deep gorge has many caves and aboriginal art sites. The lower gorge has a number of short-walk options on good tracks under its towering sandstone cliffs. The Carnarvon Great Walk is a 6-day circuit through the rugged gorge, up and around the sweeping tablelands of the Great Dividing Range to finish back at the Visitor Centre.
Fraser Island (K’gari) is the world’s largest sand island, featuring perched lakes in the dunes, long beaches with coloured sand cliffs, rocky headlands and crystal-clear freshwater lakes. The island is a World Heritage Area offering many walking opportunities. The K’gari (Fraser Island) Great Walk is a 90km, 6 to 8 day circuit walk in the island’s centre, but there are also many half-day strolls and easier one-day walks through rainforests, heaths and woodlands. Be safe and follow the dingo safety rules, particularly in summer when juveniles are learning pack rules and may show aggressive behaviour towards people.
Cooloola Recreation Area/Great Sandy National Park. Located between the coastal towns of Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach tracks in this park range from short circuits to longer walks. Spring is an ideal time to visit when there is a profusion of wildflowers. The 5-day, 102km one way Cooloola Great Walk links the Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach. It’s a grade 4 track that heads across high, wind-blown dunes (known as the Cooloola sandmass), past perched lakes, along sandy beaches, through rainforest, eucalypt forest, coastal woodland and heath plains.
The Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is a very popular coastal bushwalk. Advanced booking is required.
Bellenden Ker contains Mt Bartle Frere, the highest mountain in Queensland, located just south of Cairns. This is the wettest area of Australia and fine sunny days are rare. There are good tracks to the summit and also in the nearby valleys providing both one- and two-day walks.
Cape York. The most northern tip of Australia is an extensive wilderness area with few tracks. Provides adventurous, extended trips for experienced walkers.
Conondale National Park, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, forms the centre of an extensive area of unspoilt mountain scenery in the Conondale Range and protects the habitats of many rare and threatened animals. Located within the park is the four-day, 56 km Conondale Range Great Walk. Highlights of this circuit walk include ancient rainforests, deep gorges, cascading waterfalls and expansive views at the top of the range. It is a clearly marked track starting and finishing at the Booloumba Creek day-use area. Camping permits are required.
The 56km track traverses Eungella National Park, Crediton State Forest, and Homevale National Park and takes 3 to 5 days to walk. It is recommended to walk from north to south as track markers are easier to follow and very steep climbs can be avoided. Walking between April and September avoids wet and dry weather extremes. A camping permit is required.
Conway National Park, located near Airlie Beach, protects the largest area of lowland tropical rainforest in Queensland outside of the Tropical North. Conway National Park has a variety of walking tracks including the Whitsunday Great Walk which has been renamed Conway Circuit. The 27km circuit, as with most other tracks in the park, is a shared-use track leading through tropical rainforest. There are panoramic vistas over the scenic Whitsunday area from higher vantage points. The circuit can easily be completed in three days and camping permits are required.
The Wet Tropics Great Walk is a series of bushwalks on tracks in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Stinging Trees. There are 4 species of stinging tree found from Northern NSW to Far North Qld. They range in height from a few centimetres to forest giants. The leaves are covered with fine hairs which will deliver a painful sting if touched. All leaves, whether still attached to the tree or fallen on the ground, either green or dead, will sting. Bushwalkers should carry waxing strips to try to remove the hairs if they come into contact. Medical attention will probably also be required.
Snakes are common in Queensland and most of them are poisonous although snakebites are rare. Take care to avoid stepping on them when they are warming up in the morning sun. Carry a snakebite bandage.
Water sources may not be available in the hotter inland regions of the state during summer, check the status of water sources before you go.
Crocodiles are in the wet tropics and coastal areas north of Gladstone and are dangerous. Do not swim in any locations where there may be crocodiles.
Dingos are present inland and in some coastal areas, notably on Fraser Island and can be dangerous.
Fraser Island is a World Heritage Listed area and attracts large numbers of visitors each year. It is also the habitat of the protected dingo, which here is the purest bred population of all Australian dingoes. Over time the dingo on Fraser Island has interacted with visitors mainly through scavenging food waste of residents, campers and other visitors, and picking over recreational fishing remains. There has been one fatal and several injurious attacks on visitors over recent years which has resulted in fenced compounds for campers. Fraser also has a Great Walk with remote bush camping, so there is potential for incidents. Bushwalkers should consult with rangers when planning a visit. See Be Dingo Safe flyer (PDF)
Southern cassowaries are large flightless birds that live in tropical rainforest of north-east Queensland and can be dangerous. Ill-informed interaction by visitors through feeding and harassment can result in aggressive behaviour leading to injury. Cassowaries can stalk people in expectation of a hand out or attack to protect their chicks. Do not feed wild cassowaries as that may make them aggressive to the next person that they meet who doesn’t offer food.
Try and keep a tree or barrier between you and any cassowary. They can run up to 50kph through forest and jump up to 2 metres high.
Marine stingers and other hazards. The Queensland coastline has some magnificent beaches which tempt swimmers at any time of the year. “Going for dip” as part of a bushwalk can be an inviting scenario, but please be aware of marine hazards which can include dangerous rips, bluebottles, sharks, crocodiles and two of the world’s most dangerous jellyfish. Seek local advice, follow warning signage and preferably only swim at patrolled beaches.
Mites can cause ‘scrub itch’ which can become infected if scratched. They are found all over Australia but in tropical Queensland they can also carry Scrub Typhus. This is a serious condition which can be fatal. For prevention, apply insect repellent or tea tree oil, wear a wide brimmed hat and cover exposed skin as much as possible. Avoid brushing against vegetation and sitting on bare ground.
Feral pigs, cattle, horses and buffaloes are present in some remote areas and can be dangerous.
Storms and Lightning. Summer storms can build up very quickly. If caught in an approaching thunderstorm, bushwalkers should take immediate action to minimise the danger from lightning. Descend from elevation, stay away from cliff edges, rocky creek beds, open ground and tall trees. Find a gully or depression and sit it out away from each other. If in camp, an enclosed motor vehicle is the safest refuge.
Dry conditions and bushfires. The effects of unseasonal or prolonged dry conditions can lead to the threat of bushfires. Refer to news services, weather reports, roadside signage and Park Alerts to determine the fire danger level for the intended walk area, and be prepared to cancel or modify your walk plans if necessary.
Cyclones. The cyclone season in northern Australia is generally from November to April. A cyclone is an intense low-pressure system with gale force and higher winds moving in a clockwise direction around the eye. Cyclones can bring destructive winds, torrential rain and flooding, tornadoes and storms, and a storm surge along coastlines where the sea level can be raised much higher than normal.
People in the expected path of a cyclone should monitor local news broadcasts for a Cyclone Watch (the predicted area to be affected) and the Cyclone Warning (destructive winds and storm surge imminent).
Statewide emergency services information
Dial 000 and ask for Police to report a bushwalking emergency.
Queensland Police is responsible for land search and rescue , assisted by organisations including:
The Queensland Ambulance Service can provide medical evacuations by land or air. Ensure you have appropriate ambulance insurance .
Interstate visitors should check reciprocal arrangements for their state or territory ambulance organisation.
International visitors should confirm they have travel insurance that covers rescue operations.
Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) for remote area trips can be hired in Cairns and Brisbane from Adventure Rentals.