Sunshine Coast - Great walks in Queensland
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Great walks of Queensland
Six new long-distance bushwalking tracks are opening up some of Queensland's most spectacular wilderness areas
The best places are always off the beaten track, but exploring Queensland's glorious beaches, rugged ranges, crystal clear lagoons and ancient rainforests is now much easier thanks to Great Walks of Queensland, a $10 million Queensland Government initiative to create a series of 'Great Queensland Walks' through some of the state's most beautiful natural areas, including three World Heritage Areas.
The six tracks offer walkers a range of experiences, from short, easy strolls of a couple of hours to full-day walks and extended adventure walks lasting several days. So far, five of the planned walks have been opened.
1. Fraser Island Great Walk
The first to open was the Fraser Island Great Walk in June 2004, a 90km track that winds between Dilli Village and Happy Valley, taking in the stunning scenery of the world's largest sand island. The route is a mixture of both existing trails, which have been upgraded, and sections of old forestry tracks and fire trails which have been reopened.
The scenery along the whole route is breathtaking. Some of the highlights include new lookouts taking advantage of the spectacular views over the Great Sandy Strait, Lake Boomanjin, the largest perched lake in the world, the crystal clear water of Wanggoolba Creek at Central Station and the dazzling white shores of Lake McKenzie.
Inland, walkers will come across the giant rainforest trees in Valley of the Giants and can explore the historic areas of Bogimbah Creek, McKenzies Jetty and Mill and Fraser Island Commando School. The school operated from late 1943 to the end of World War II in 1945, providing training to specially-selected personnel to prepare them for operations behind Japanese lines.
Walkers' camps with toilet facilities and water have been established along the way near Lake Boomanjin, Lake Benaroon, Central Station, Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby, Valley of the Giants and Lake Garawongera. Privately owned camp areas are also located at Dilli Village and Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village. As well as the walkers' camps, accommodation is also available at the island's multi award-winning eco-resort Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village, or at Dilli Village, Eurong and Happy Valley.
Experienced walkers should allow six to eight days to complete the whole walk, but the track has also been designed to cater for those wanting an overnight or two to three-day adventure. In addition, there are plenty of shorter sections that can be completed within two to eight hours, depending on your starting point and level of fitness. Additional walking tracks link the Great Walk with key barge landings, accommodation and supply centres.
2. Whitsunday Great Walk
The 30km Whitsunday Great Walk winds through Conway State Forest, starting at Brandy Creek and finishing at Airlie Beach. It follows sections of old logging roads, at times weaving around giant strangler figs and tulip oaks. Highlights include panoramic views of Shute Harbour, Cannonvale and the Whitsunday Islands, majestic stands of Alexandra palms, seasonal creeks and pools surrounded by lush tropical rainforest.Watch out for the brilliant blue flashes of Ulysses butterflies. The walk has short, easy strolls for day visitors and more challenging and remote routes for well-prepared walkers, who should allow three days to complete the whole track.
Walkers' camps are located along the Great Walk. The two main camps, Repulse Creek and Bloodwood, have access to toilets and drinking water. You'll need to book campsites in advance and get a camping permit from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) before you begin.
3. Mackay Highlands Great Walk
Just further north the Mackay Highlands Great Walk links Eungella and Homevale National Parks, and passes through Crediton State Forest. Highlights include deep gorges, steep escarpments, a magnificent rainforest of red cedar, massive Mackay tulip oak, groves of piccabeen and Alexandra palms and dramatic views of the Pioneer Valley. You might even catch a glimpse of a platypus from the cool banks of the Broken River.The Great Walk is 56km long and experienced walkers should allow three to five days to complete the whole walk, but if you're after a shorter adventure you can arrange vehicle support and walk just one or two sections there are plenty of pick-up points along the track. In addition, there are plenty of short walks - ranging from relaxed strolls to half-day challenges - through Eungella National Park.
Excellent camp facilities exist along the route including Fern Flat, Crediton Hall, Denham Range and Moonlight Dam. Fern Flat is accessible only to walkers, but all other camping areas can be reached in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Motel-style accommodation and self-contained cabins are also available in Eungella and Broken River. Access to the walk is via Eungella, which is an 80km drive west from Mackay along the Mackay-Eungella Road.
4. Wet Tropics Great Walk
Although temporarily closed due to Cyclone Larry, the Wet Tropics Great Walk is a 110km trail winding through World Heritage wilderness and spectacular gorges and waterfalls between Townsville and Cairns. Linking two of Tropical North Queensland's most stunning waterfalls - Wallaman Falls and Blencoe Falls - you'll need six days to do the whole walk, but it is spilt into sections with short walks, full-day and overnight walks, and more challenging and remote routes for well-prepared walkers.
The southern end of the Great Walk from Wallaman Falls follows a section of the original Dalrymple Track forged in the 1860s by pioneer George Dalrymple and his team. Short walk options at the southern end include a 3.2km return walk to the base of Wallaman Falls, Australia's largest permanent single-drop waterfall cascading 268 metres. The northern section of the Great Walk is accessed via the Kirrama Range, or by Mt Garnet through the Herberton Shire and features a 5km return walk to the Blencoe Falls lookout with a majestic view of this hidden and remote wonder.
Campsites are located along the Great Walk at Wallaman Falls, the Pack Trail, Stony Creek, Blanket Creek and Blencoe Falls. Facilities at each vary, with Wallaman Falls offering barbecues, toilets, water, shelter sheds and car parking while the Pack Trail and Stony Creek are walk-in camps with toilets and picnic tables only. Blencoe Falls camping area offers a bush camping opportunity with toilet facilities and car-based camping. Campsites must be booked in advance, call 13 13 04 or visit QPWS camping.
5. Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk
The latest walk to open, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk is a 58km walk through the Blackall Range. Highlights include gorges, waterfalls, rock pools and views and it links Kondalilla and Mapleton Falls National Parks, Maleny and Mapleton Forest Reserves, and Delicia Road Conservation Park.
Allow four to six days to walk the entire trail, although like all the other great walks there are plenty of full-day walks and half-day strolls available. Walkers' camps are provided at Thilba Thalba, Ubajee and Flaxton. Each camp has a toilet, water and platform tables. Individual sites are separated into areas suitable for one or two small tents and each camp has an area for groups.
6. Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk
Due to open in May 2007, the proposed Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk will link the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park with Springbrook National Park via the Numinbah Valley. Spectacular views, ancient Antarctic beech forests, thundering waterfalls and amazing geological formations are a few of the highlights of the proposed 54km track. In 1994, Lamington and Springbrook National Parks were listed as part of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves Australia World Heritage Area. This area includes the largest subtropical rainforest remnant in the world and extensive cool, temperate rainforests of Antarctic beech. These forests provide a rich habitat for an incredible diversity of wildlife including rare and threatened animals such as the Coxen's fig-parrot, eastern bristlebird, Richmond birdwing butterfly and the plumed frogmouth. The proposed route will follow existing walking tracks, roads and trails as well as the reopening of disused tracks and new tracks. Walkers will be able to camp at Green Mountains, Binna Burra and Purlingbrook Falls and a new campground with 12 sites is proposed for Waterfall Creek in the Numinbah Valley to service walkers between the Lamington and Springbrook plateaux.
Article by Lee Atkinson, April 2006.
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