South East Queensland in Australia is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From waterfalls to mountain summits, to rocky waterholes, there’s a lot of trails on offer only a couple of hours from Brisbane. So grab your walking shoes, hop in the car, and check out my top 10 day hikes across South East Queensland.
The Queen Mary Falls circuit is an easy walk down to the base of the spectacular falls and back. The trail is 2km in total and will take no more than an hour. There’s also a number of other falls in the area to check out including Brown and Dagg Falls, and it’s also a great camping spot for a weekend. Make sure you bring a jumper along to Main Range National Park – it’s often on the chilly side here even in summer.
Who’s up for some mountain views? Still, in Main Range National Park, the Mt Cordeaux/Bare Rock hike offers stunning views over Cunningham’s Gap and the Fassifern Valley. This hike is 12.4km return and will take about four hours. If you’re feeling particularly energetic and had an early start, you could also do a double walk and head up Mt Mitchell, across the road from Mt Cordeaux. Allow another three hours return to tackle Mt Mitchell.
Lamington National Park should be high on the list for any nature and waterfall addicts out there. There are two sections to the park, Binna Burra and the Green Mountains. Binna Burra is closest to Brisbane at a 90-minute drive. It’s hard to pick just one hike at Binna Burra – there’s many to choose from ranging from short walks to long distance. My personal favourite is the Coomera Circuit. It’s an 18km circuit that passes up to nine waterfalls including Coomera Falls and Bahnamboola Falls. This is a whole day walk and will take about 6-8 hours depending on your fitness.
Lamington National Park is so good it rates two mentions. In the Green Mountains section, Moran Falls and Box Forest Circuit run a tie. The Green Mountains is located about a two-hour drive from Brisbane via Canungra. Moran Falls is a fairly short walk down to the top of the falls and is a great spot for sunset. Allow about 2-3 hours round trip. Box Forest Circuit is longer at 10km return but offers up beautiful waterfalls through the lush green rainforest (watch out for leeches though).
Springbrook National Park is a top spot to go chasing waterfalls. You are sure to be in awe of the 109 metre Purling Brook Falls. A short walk from the base of Purling Brook Falls is the picturesque Warringa Pool. The return hike taking in the falls and Warringa Pool is 4km and will take about two hours. While you’re in Springbrook National Park, Twin Falls and Rainbow Falls are also worth a look. Both these waterfalls are accessible from the Tallanbanna Picnic Area.
Fancy a dip in a waterhole? I found the perfect spot. The Lower Portals is a 7.4km kilometre walk from the picnic area of the same name, located off the gravel Lower Portals Road. The Lower Portals is situated at the base of one of south-east Queensland’s most impressive mountains, Mt Barney. The rugged red dirt path takes you past creek crossings and to the boulder-filled Lower Portals. Plan around four hours for the return trip.
With a landscape scattered with granite boulders, Girraween National Park is a unique place to explore. This one takes a little more effort to get to and is a three-hour drive from Brisbane. There’s a number of walking trails to choose from that range in difficulty. Beginners can stretch their legs on the hike to Granite Arch. More hikers will enjoy the views from the Pyramid. There’s also plenty of picnic areas so you can enjoy a bite to eat among the boulder-strewn landscape.
Mt Maroon offers stunning 360-degree views of the Scenic Rim – but should only be attempted by fit, experienced hikers. Mt Maroon lies in the shadow of one of the awe-inspiring Mt Barney, and you’ll also be able to spot Mt Lindesay and Mt May. It’s a tough climb up to the summit, and you’ll need some navigational and rock scrambling skills – as well as a head for heights to take on the challenging trail. But if you do decide to give it a go, you’re sure to be impressed! It’s best to go with someone who’s been there before to show you the way. The return trek will take between 4-6 hours depending on your fitness and time enjoying the views at the top.
Only an hour’s drive north of Brisbane lies Mt Ngungun – one of the Glasshouse Mountains. This is one of the easiest mountains to hike in the area and follows a well-maintained trail up to the summit. You’ll need to do some easy rock scrambling to get to the top, and then you’ll be rewarded with views of Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah. The 2.8km return hike will take around two hours all up. Be warned that this hike is very popular, particularly for sunrise and sunset.
Not far past Toowoomba lies Crows Nest National Park. It’s a bit of a drive at three hours, but make a day out of it by making the 5km round trip to the Valley of Diamonds Lookout via waterholes and Crows Nest Falls, go for a swim in the waterholes, or enjoy a picnic at the national park. It’s an easy walk and will take less than two hours. If you want to make a weekend out of your trip west, combine this with a drive up to the Bunya Mountains.
A walk in the wilderness needs a little preparation. Make sure you bring water, snacks, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and a first aid kit, and wear shoes with grip for any slippery trails or rocks.
Make sure you tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. It’s recommended to bring a hiking buddy along with you.
And don’t forget your camera to get those Insta-worthy shots.
The best time to go hiking in South East Queensland is between May and September when the weather is colder, and there are fewer snakes around.
If you want to make a weekend out of the listed hikes, camping is also possible at some national parks including parts of Crows Nest National Park, Mt Barney National Park and Lamington National Park. Head to the Queensland National Parks website at www.npsr.qld.gov.au/nationalparks/ for more information.
Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.