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Bushwalking Queensland contributed to this article.
Queensland offers a wide variety of landscapes, climatic conditions, interesting flora and fauna and a generally benign weather window during the winter months when bushwalking can be enjoyed in relative comfort.
There are numerous, diverse World Heritage areas in which to walk from the northern Wet Tropics to the Gondwana Rainforests in the south. The Great Walks, including the island walks on Hinchinbrook and Fraser, highlight mountain peaks or rocky gorges. A wide variety of day or shorter walks visit waterfalls and explore the coast.
Queensland is situated in the tropical and subtropical zones and does not have twilight after summer sunset. Visitors should be aware that it will get dark very quickly after sundown and visibility in rainforests in particular will be reduced to zero.
Permits are needed for camping in all national parks and booking well in advance is advised for popular places.
Queensland is a large state with a humid, warm climate for much of the year. Winter is the peak walking season with generally dry conditions and moderate daytime temperatures. However, many inland temperatures can drop below zero at night so walkers need to be properly equipped.
Summer often has high temperatures, but there are still some good walks that can be undertaken in cooler rainforests or where a dip in a pool or stream is possible. It is also usually the wet season with the possibility of summer storms and cyclones.
Bushwalking areas and notable walks
Tropical north Queensland
Mt Bartle Frere, the highest mountain in Queensland, is located just south of Cairns in the Wooroonooran National Park. The park forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and sunny summit days are rare. There are good tracks to the summit and also in the nearby valleys providing interesting one- and two-day walks.
The Wet Tropics Great Walk is a set of walks in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area series of national parks which comprises six sections: Blencoe Falls, Dalrymple Gap track, Mount Fox, Princess Hills, Wairuna and Wallaman. Girringun National Park is one of these and contains spectacular waterfalls such as Wallaman and Blencoe Falls and the impressive Herbert River Gorge. There are around 110 km of walking opportunities in the park, including short and overnight walks. The Juwun Walk leads from Blencoe Falls through the Herbert River Gorge. Allow four to six days for this 43.5km walk through the untracked gorge.
Hinchinbrook Island National Park is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The Thorsborne Trail follows its east coast for four to five days through lush rainforest, beside mangrove-lined creeks, across sandy beaches and over heath-covered headlands. It visits cascading waterfalls and skirts swampy areas. Permits should be booked well in advance for this very popular walk.
Conway National Park, located near Airlie Beach, protects the largest area of lowland tropical rainforest in Queensland outside of the Tropical North. The park has a variety of walking tracks including the Conway Circuit, formerly the Whitsunday Great Walk. The 27km circuit is a shared-use track 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.
The Mackay Highlands Great Walk starts in Eungella National Park noted for dense rainforest and palm groves, deep gorges, steep escarpments and abundant tropical fauna. The 56km track traverses Eungella National Park, Crediton State Forest, and Homevale National Park and takes three to five 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.
Carnarvon Gorge National Park is located well inland. It has a deep gorge with 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 six-day circuit through the rugged gorge, up and around the sweeping tablelands of the Great Dividing Range to finish back at the Visitor Centre.
Cooloola Recreation Area/Great Sandy National Park has tracks ranging from short circuits to longer walks. The Cooloola Great Walk takes five days and links the Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach. The102 km track heads across high, wind-blown dunes (known as the Cooloola sandmass), past perched lakes, along sandy beaches, through rain and eucalypt forest, coastal woodland and heath plains.
Conondale National Park forms the centre of an extensive area of unspoilt mountain scenery in the Conondale Range. The four-day Conondale Range Great Walk is a clearly marked track starting and finishing at the Booloumba Creek day-use area. Highlights of this 56km circuit walk include ancient rainforests, deep gorges, cascading waterfalls and expansive views at the top of the range. Camping permits are required.
Kondalilla and Mapleton Falls National Parks have short walks and day walks to lookouts and waterfalls. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk is a four-day, 58.8km walk through subtropical rainforest and tall open eucalypt forest within these parks.
South east Queensland
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, heath and woodlands.
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. The plateau provides extensive views of the surrounding landscape.
Mt Barney National Park has four maintained tracks around the base of Mount Barney: Yellow Pinch, Lower Portals, Cronan Creek and Upper Portals. All require some prior walking experience and ability to scramble. Mt Barney is the highest mountain in southern Queensland and is a rugged peak with many cliffs and bare rock slabs. There are a number 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.
The 54km Gold Coast Hinterland Great 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.
Bunya Mountains National Park has several short walks through rain, bunya pine and eucalypt forests to lookouts and waterfalls.
Main Range National Park is a narrow park containing peaks and rugged escarpments. The range is generally trackless and suited for fit, experienced overnight walkers. There are several short walks, but to walk off-track a camping permit is needed.
Girraween and Sundown National Parks are dominated by granite with many easy short walks and day walks possible.
In northern Australia, crocodile attacks have resulted in many fatalities. Take great care near any creek, river, estuary or inlet.
Unless expert local advice and signage confirms that the location is safe from crocodiles:
- DO NOT paddle, wade, swim or attempt to cross.
- DO NOT loiter or camp on the bank.
- DO take note of warning signs.
- DO supervise children closely.
Crocodiles are a risk in Western Australia north of Port Hedland, the Northern Territory north of Katherine and in Queensland north of Rockhampton.
Further information: Saltwater or estuarine crocodiles – Australian Museum
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.
During the cyclone season be especially alert and monitor the local news broadcasts and weather warnings. See the links and apps below.
Marine stingers can be found north of Townsville between October and June and south towards Gladstone between December and March. Box jellyfish has quick acting venom in its tentacles that can kill a person in less than five minutes. The smaller Irukandji jellyfish may also be encountered. Stings are possible at any time of the year so wear protective clothing when swimming in coastal areas.
Dingos are present inland and in some coastal areas, notably on Fraser Island and can be dangerous. Over time the dingo on Fraser Island has interacted with visitors mainly through scavenging food waste of residents and campers. Bushwalkers should consult rangers when planning to do the K’gari (Fraser Island) Great Walk with remote bush camping where there is potential for incidents. 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. If one is encountered, try to keep a tree or barrier in between. They can run up to 50kph through forest and jump up to 2 metres high. See Cassowary Bird – Diet Habitat Reproduction Eggs Facts Attack.
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.
Scrub 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.
Ambulance cover: essential for all bushwalkers
Payment for ambulance services in Queensland operates differently to most other states.
Interstate visitors should check that their home state or territory ambulance cover has reciprocal arrangements with the Queensland Ambulance Service that would apply to them.
International visitors should confirm they have travel insurance that covers bushwalking.
Current weather, emergency and safety information
Well prior to a trip, each group member should, on their mobile phone*:
Install the Bureau of Meteorology weather app:
- BOM Weather – Google Play
- BOM Weather – Apple App Store
Bookmark the websites below, which provide current local advice and emergency warnings.
- Emergency alerts – Disaster Management Queensland
- Queensland weather forecast and warnings – Bureau of Meteorology (or the app above)
- ABC Emergency – current local emergency information from the ABC
- Current tropical cyclones – Bureau of Meteorology
- Tropical cyclone outlook – Bureau of Meteorology
- Current bushfires – Queensland Rural Fire Service
- Hazard reduction burn notifications – Queensland Rural Fire Service
- Fire bans and restrictions – Queensland Rural Fire Service
- Park alerts – Parks and Forests, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Road condition information – Queensland Traffic
- Air quality monitoring – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Bites and stings – Queensland Poisons Information Centre
*Useful only when there is mobile phone network coverage.
References and external links
- Parks and forests – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Walk with care – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Safety in parks and forests – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Park accessibility – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Queensland National Parks and protected areas – Queensland Government
- Great Walks topographic maps – Department of Environment and Science, Queensland
- Topographic maps – Qtopo
Bushwalking peak body
Bushwalking Queensland – provides general information on bushwalking and on the State’s bushwalking clubs.