Last Sunday, I left Brisbane's inner suburbs and headed half an hour out of town to spend a morning at scenic Bellbird Grove in D'Aguilar National Park (formerly known as Brisbane Forest Park).
Bellbird Grove is one of my favourite picnic areas close to the city. Only 10 minutes drive from The Gap (just head along Mt Nebo Road and turn right at the sign), it has a genuine bush feeling and is a great place to stretch your legs or chill out.
On one side of the road as you drive in is Rose Gum Picnic Area. Featuring tall, beautiful gums, this space has shade, picnic tables, barbecues and enough room for kids to run around or throw a ball.
If you want a serious game of cricket or footy, though, take a short walk across the road to Black Wattle Picnic Area -- which has a large, open space the size of a sports field.
For me, this is one of Bellbird Grove's great attractions. It's a place where you can kick a ball (as the more athletically gifted members of our party did) or chuck a boomerang (as we all tried to) without fear of wacking somebody in the head.
Of course, Black Wattle does get busy sometimes, and you may have to curtail any potentially risky activities if that happens, but it's such a big space that you can generally find a corner where you can do your own thing. For example, on the day we visited, a big birthday party was in progress with a major game of laser tag going on -- and it didn't affect us at all (except to make us all wonder just exactly what 'laser tag' was). Black Wattle also has a couple of big shelter sheds that are good for large groups.
As its name suggests, Bellbird Grove is home to plenty of birdlife, and I enjoyed listening to the chiming calls of the bell miners high in the trees. I didn't see any miners up close, but I did spend time stalking a couple of white cockatoos that were taking a nonchalant waddle around Rose Gum Picnic Area, stopping here and there to peck seeds.
This is a flat, easy walk through open eucalypt forest. While we found the scenery pleasant rather than stunning (and I was sad to see the extent to which lantana and other weeds had invaded the bush beside the track), it was a good way to get some exercise and suitable for children. The kids in our group had fun paddling in the creek hunting for tadpoles at the end of the track.
There's also another walk -- the 1.8km Golden Boulder track -- which includes signs that explain the area's mining history. This track is described as 'steep in places', and I've yet to try it. I also saw a sign advertising a free guided nature walk that runs each month from March to November, which can be booked by dialling 1300 130 372.
After a brief kip on the grass to enjoy the tranquility of the setting, we all got in our cars and headed back to busy lives in the city. While we didn't have time for a barbecue on this visit, the consensus was that we should come back another day and while away a whole afternoon at Bellbird Grove.
Three other things you should know Dogs are not permitted in any part of the national park.
Apparently Red Ash Picnic Area at Bellbird Grove can be booked for functions. I'm not sure exactly where it is, but Bellbird Grove is definitely a great spot for parties on a fine day.
If you're interested in native wildlife, you might like to visit Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre, which is 10 minutes drive from Bellbird Grove, on the way back to the city. Admission fees are low, and Walkabout Creek also has the Green Tree Frog Cafe if you're looking for something to eat.