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A Visitor's Guide to Mt Coot-tha

Home > Brisbane > Nature | Outdoor | Parks | Places of Interest | Walks | Lists
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published May 27th 2015
The best of Brisbane's highest peak
A Visitor's Guide to Mt Coot-tha

Mt Coot-tha is an amazing patch of greenery right on the door step of Brisbane. Let's look at how to get the most out of Mt Coot-tha.

Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council
Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council


While today we see Mt Coot-tha as most wild bushland, it was known as One Tree Hill for a long time as most of the top of the hill had been cleared except for one large eucalyptus tree. In 1880, it was realised that it would be valuable for the people of Brisbane to preserve green space near the city and it was declared a Public Recreation Reserve.

The name was changed to Mt Coot-tha after the aboriginal name ku-ta, which means honey. This was a popular place to come and collect honey from the native Australian stingless bees.

Over the years Mt Coot-tha has been home to gold miners, World War II US servicemen and of course, several TV towers. Now it is where tourists go to admire the view and locals go to escape the city for a short time.

The Summit

The summit, the place most people go first. Maybe you drove up, cycled or walked one of the trails, but the Summit is everyone's key destination.

Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council
Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council


While this is not my favourite place to view Brisbane city, it is really the only place you can see the most of the city and the suburbs in one glance.

The summit has a couple of dining options. Now the Kuta Cafe has a pretty bad reputation. The food is costly for the quality and size that you get. However, the coffee is great and the ice cream is fantastic value for money.

The View from the Kuta Cafe
The View from the Kuta Cafe


For the romantic, nothing beats a meal at the Summit Restaurant, Brisbane's premium place to propose to your love. Even if it isn't a special occasion this is a great fine dining establishment with a good reputation for delicious cuisine.

Courtesy of the Summit Restaurant & Bar
Courtesy of the Summit Restaurant & Bar


The key walking trails

Mt Coot-tha is dotted with numerous official hiking trails and a number of old unofficial trails that locals still walk. There are three walking trails up to the Summit. Most people walk the Summit Track from the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area. This is a nice walk, especially if you detour down the Aborigine art trail. If you want a little exercise, then Honeyeater Track that goes from Fleming Rd in Chapel Hill is a popular and not too difficult walk. For the fitness fanatics, try the little known Lookout Trail, which I normally start from the corner of Chapel Hill Road and Russell Terrace in Chapel Hill. This steep track will make you feel unfit (though I know a 68 year old guy who runs it every morning).

The start of the Aboriginal Art Trail
The start of the Aboriginal Art Trail


The walk everyone does is the Summit Trail and most people find this one really boring, though the Aboriginal Art Trail is a wonderful diversion for first time visitors to Mt Coot-tha.

Aboriginal Art at Mt Coot-tha
Aboriginal Art at Mt Coot-tha


My favourite way to visit Mt Coot-tha by public transport is to take the 425 bus to the start of the Honeyeater track, walk up to the summit for some coffee and ice cream, then walk the Summit Track and the Aboriginal Art trail. Then it is a short walk along the road to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and a bus back to the city.

Hikers on the Honeyeater Trail
Hikers on the Honeyeater Trail


The Gap Creek Reserve is a great place to start some walks. There is a nice circuit here that goes down the Bellbird Trail, up the steep Kokoda Track, then down the Jacksonia Track and onto the Cockatoo Trail. There are several other trails you can take from this location as well.

The Simpsons Fall Picnic Area is another good place to start a walk. The track to the falls starts at the back of the picnic area. You can then do the Eugenia Circuit if you want a little more exercise.

Hikers on the Cockatoo Trail
Hikers on the Cockatoo Trail


You can put several walks together to make a circuit or to cross the mountain. For example, walking from the Gap Creek Reserve to the Simpsons Falls Picnic area and back is a fantastic circuit that really gives you a good work out and takes about 2 hours for the reasonably fit.

Picnic and Barbecue Spots

There are several places for picnics and Barbecues at Mt Coot-tha. The summit has the best views but the worst facilities for picnickers and no barbecues at all. But, of course, there is a few grassy patches where you can spread a picnic blanket and enjoy the views.

My favourite picnic area is the Simpsons Falls Picnic Area. This lovely green patch is quiet because you have to walk from the car park to the picnic area. But this can be a hassle if you have a lot to carry. The barbecues are all wood fired as well.

Simpsons Falls Picnic Area
Simpsons Falls Picnic Area


The Gap Creek Reserve has the best facilities as it the newest area with electric barbecue areas. There is also a nice little area for kids to ride their bicycles.

The JC Slaughter Falls is one of the most popular barbecue areas. You can also drive your car up and park it beside the barbecue that you are going to use. But for those who want a quiet spot, there are still some out of the way picnic areas if you search around.

Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council
Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council


There are also six other little picnic areas dotted around the Sir Samuel Griffith Drive. They are worth checking out if you are looking for a quiet place to escape the crowds on a busy weekend.

On your bike

Mt Coot-tha is a popular destination for both road and mountain cyclists. A popular option is to ride up the mountain and do a circuit or two of the Sir Samuel Griffith Drive. The way up is a nice little challenge and the much improved cycle paths on the Mount Coot-tha Road helps keep cyclists safe.

Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council
Photo Courtesy of the Brisbane City Council


There are also a number of mountain biking tracks reserved exclusively for cyclists, as well as a few multi-use paths. Now be aware there is a certain amount of tension between mountain bikers and hikers on the mountain. Many of the signs saying "no hikers" on the trail biking paths get damaged. At the same time I have heard cyclists complain about having to share multi-use paths with hikers or even cyclists coming the other way.

Mountain Bikers at Mt Coot-tha
Mountain Bikers at Mt Coot-tha


Hey everyone, this is a wonderful location that many other cities are jealous of and there is room for everyone. I hope we can all share and be nice to each other on the path.

Mountain Bikers at Mt Coot-tha
Mountain Bikers at Mt Coot-tha


The best location to start trail biking is the Gap Creek Reserve as most of the paths connect to this location.

Cyclist at Mt Coot-tha
Cyclist at Mt Coot-tha



Other spots

There are also a number of little spots to check out on the mountain. The Ghost Hole Track leads to an old Gold Mine and is worth the short walk to check out.

The Bush Chapel at Mt Coot-tha
The Bush Chapel at Mt Coot-tha


One location people often never visit is the Bush Chapel at the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area. There is very little information available about this, but it seems to date back to Word War II when it was used by US servicemen stationed on Mt Coot-tha.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Half-way up Mt Coot-tha is the lovely Brisbane Botanic Gardens which most people called the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens because even Google confuses the Brisbane Botanic Gardens with the City Botanic Gardens that is in the CBD.

Brisbane city view from Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Brisbane city view from Brisbane Botanic Gardens


This great botanic Gardens includes a Japanese Garden, several ponds and lakes, views of the city, native plant areas and much more.

Japanese Garden at Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Japanese Garden at Brisbane Botanic Gardens


There are other attractions in the gardens, including the Tropical Display Dome, a library, planetarium, cafe and little art gallery. For me, no trip to Mt Coot-tha is complete without a stop off at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

Tropical Display Dome
Tropical Display Dome
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Where: Mount Coot-Tha QLD 4066
Your Comment
Is the aboriginal art authentic, or just a recreation?
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12386) 1480 days ago
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