Guest Post by Chris Fry
Did you know that there are over 1000 National Parks in Queensland to explore, so you’re sure to find something for everyone? Each and every one of them has a certain drawcard or something that makes them special.
Therefore today, we have just 10 amazing National Parks in Queensland that you have to see. These include ones that are easy to access, might require a four-wheel-drive, or are lucky enough to have tours organised.
After reading this post, I can guarantee there will be a few National Parks that you’ll be adding to your list.
- 1 Bribie Island National Park
- 2 Lamington National Park
- 3 Welford National Park
- 4 Stradbroke Island (Naree Budjong Djara National Park)
- 5 Carnarvon Gorge National Park
- 6 K’Gari (Fraser Island) Great Sandy National Park
- 7 Noosa National Park
- 8 Whitsundays Island National Park
- 9 Porcupine Gorge National Park
- 10 Magnetic Island National Park
Bribie Island National Park
Just a short drive from the Queensland capital of Brisbane, you have the Bribie Island National Park. The best part is, that accessing the Island is easy with a standard two-wheel drive vehicle and driving over the Bribie Island Bridge. However, the actual National Park area will need a high clearance four-wheel drive, or purchasing a tour on the Island.
The National Park is nearly one-third of the Island, which is full of wildlife, uninhabited, and beach camping spots. Consequently, it’s the fourth largest sand island in the world, just smaller than Fraser Island, Stradbroke Island & Moreton Island.
The most popular pastime in the Bribie Island National Park would be fishing, swimming in the lakes or beaches, camping, or driving the four-wheel-drive tracks. Many will bring self-propelled or motorized water devices like kayaks, blow-up flotations, or jet skis. Apart from that, the Island has an ample amount of facilities, including accommodation, cafes, restaurants, and shopping.
Lamington National Park
With easy access and a short drive from the Gold Coast, The Lamington National Park is a big favourite to visitors to the area. This is just one National Park in a series, all included in the Gondwana Rainforest and UNESCO World Heritage listed in 1994.
You have over 160 kilometres of hiking trails that allow you to explore the magical bushland, waterfalls, and local wildlife. These can range from 1 kilometre to 21 kilometres long, which allows you to choose what’s best for your situation and time.
A big favourite would be driving to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and basing yourself from there. You’ll have access to the first Treetop walk built in Australia with nine suspension bridges, along with feeding the Rosella Birds. Apart from that, facilities are available with a café, souvenir shop, accommodations, and tourist information.
Welford National Park
The Welford National Park is located in Outback Queensland and is one of your best ways to experience the arid, desolate Australian lifestyle. The park is about an hour outside of the small town of Windorah and can only be accessed by four-wheel drive. There are no supplies at the National Park, so please ensure you bring everything with you, including a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water, food, and maybe a fly net.
There are three different driving paths to follow when exploring the Welford National park, the River Drive, The Desert Drive, and the Mulga Drive. The River drive is very short and displays the Barcoo river system, local wildlife, and off-grid camping site.
The Desert Drive would have to be the most popular and takes a couple of hours to complete. The highlight here would be the bright red dirt sandhills or roads and popular for the avid photographer. If you’re a flower enthusiast, then this is also a great place to spot Australian Wildflowers.
Stradbroke Island (Naree Budjong Djara National Park)
North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) lies off the coast of Brisbane and is only a short 40-minute ferry ride away. The Quandamooka people are the original owners, and over 50 percent of the Island is listed as the Naree Budjong Djara National Park (meaning “My Mother Earth”).
A small community has been built up over the years and has over 2000 people permanently living there. This accommodates the tourists with plenty of facilities, creature comforts, groceries, restaurants, and arts and crafts stores. Accommodation will also range from off-grid beach camping to five-star resorts with amazing beachside views.
There are lots to do on the Island, including finding secluded lakes, swimming at the many beaches, spotting whales and kangaroo around the gorge walk, and absorbing the rich indigenous history. A four-wheel drive will come in handy to do your own thing, although the Island has tours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, a public transport system, and car hire to help you get around.
Carnarvon Gorge National Park
The Carnarvon Gorge National Park is located about 9 hours inland of Brisbane and a “must-do” if you’re into hiking. You can explore some of the highlights in a day visit, but better over a few days, to a week. Consequently, it’s best to visit in the wintertime from April to October as the water level is lower, easier to access the sites and walk over the creek.
You have one main hike to run down and cross the actual gorge several times. This is over 20 kilometres return, but also has alternate, longer tracks to see specific sites. It’s best to plan out your days and find what is suitable to see in your length of time and fitness. As a whole, this hike has very little elevation and can be completed as a moderate hiker.
The Amphitheatre has to be one of your biggest highlights to see, along with the Moss Garden, The Cathedral, Wards Canyon, and the stunning Boowinda Gorge. Alternate tracks away from the main gorge hike would include Mickey Creek, Warrumbah Gorge, The Rockpools, and Boolimba Bluff.
K’Gari (Fraser Island) Great Sandy National Park
Fraser Island or K’Gari receives over 300 thousand tourists each year, it’s the largest sand island in the world and part of the Great Sandy National Park. It’s 1600 kilometres in size, 123 kilometres in length and can be accessed by barge from either Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach.
Accommodation on the Island consists of two major resorts, The Kingfisher Bay Resort and the Eurong Beach Resort. Additionally, there are beach camping, Caravan Parks, holiday homes, private rentals, and Airbnb options. Accessing any of these on your own will require a four-wheel-drive vehicle, although day and overnight tour options leave from Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach, and from the capital Brisbane.
There is no shortage of sites to see and things to do with swimming in the crisp waters of Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Lake Wabby, or Champagne Pools. Not only that, but you have the SS Maheno Ship Wreck, the Pinnacle’s coloured rock formation, and exploring the only rainforest in the world, growing in sand.
Noosa National Park
The Noosa National Park is located on the Sunshine Coast, about 1.5 hours north of Brisbane. It’s about 2000 hectares in size, and is one of the biggest national parks among major urban development. This makes it very convenient to visit, provides lots of different facilities and plenty to do.
There is one main hike in the Noosa National Park, and this follows the rocky coastline between Noosa Main Beach and Sunshine Beach. The distance is about 5.4 kilometres one way, and you’ll have to return on the same track or find transport from the opposite end. One of the biggest highlights here would be the Fairy Pools, which is a common swimming spot left behind in the rocky headland from high tides.
Apart from that, it’s a great way to spot local wildlife and even the elusive Koala Bear in its natural habitat. There are several secluded beaches to explore, swim or just laze around in sun. After all the exploring, head back to Noosa, enjoy a drink by the beach, or walk the streets for some local shopping.
Whitsundays Island National Park
The Whitsunday Island National Park is definitely one to add to that Australian bucket list. There are over 74 islands in the network, which stretch over 280 square kilometres off the coast of Airlie Beach in North Queensland. You’ll soon learn that its popularity stems from its magnificent beauty, crystal blue waters, and white silica sand beaches.
Even though the Great Barrier Reef spans over 2000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, the Whitsundays is the most popular area, and is visited by over 500 thousand tourists each year. Day trips can be purchased from Airlie beach, or you can fly direct to places like Hamilton Island. Additionally, shuttles or ferry’s depart several times a day and loop around the most popular islands.
You just can’t beat the views over Hill Inlet or discover the fine white sandy shores of Whitehaven Beach. Try something a little different and snorkel the underwater life and find Nemo, turtles, Manta Rays, or groupers in the many different reef systems.
Porcupine Gorge National Park
The Porcupine Gorge is another big highlight to explore in Outback Queensland, but located in the northern part of the state near Hughenden. It’s known to the locals as Little Grand Canyon and contains hikes, lookout points, and the most amazing pyramid rock formation.
The National Park is 54 square kilometres in size, but the canyon itself is 25 kilometres long. The sandstone cliffs were eroded away over time by the rushing water, which has also formed the Pyramid. You can explore the gorge in two parts by a lookout point on the south side, or by hiking onto the river bed on the northern end.
The hike into the gorge will take about 1-hour return, but can only be done during the winter season with less water around. The rocky holes in the river bed collect water and is sometimes great for swimming. Otherwise, you can explore the small rock faces, plant life and get the best view of the Pyramid.
Magnetic Island National Park
Just off the coast of Townsville in North Queensland, you have the Magnetic Island National Park. Conveniently, ferrys leave from the Townville Marina about 10 times a day and take about 30 minutes to get there. It’s around 52 square kilometres in size and has over 2000 permanent residents.
You can see most of the highlights on a day trip to the Island, but better explored over a few days to absorb all that the Island has to offer. It has a few different shopping districts, which provide accommodation, restaurants, tours, and lots of free things to do.
There’s a few different beaches like Alma Bay, Arthur Bay, Radical Bay, or Horseshoe bay. The east-facing ones are great for a sunrise morning walk or a perfect photo location. On the other hand, you can find plenty of snorkelling, hiking for views, seeing the Allied Rock Wallabies or scouting for koalas.
Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys, provides valuable information and inspiration for your land and underwater travels. She lives in Australia, and has travelled to 36 countries and across Australia.