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5 Best Summer Hikes in South East Queensland

Home > Brisbane > Adventure | Lists | National Parks | Outdoor | Walks
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published November 26th 2019
Escape the summer heat with these great hikes
Summer hiking, had me a blast

Summer in South East Queensland brings hot days where anything but the early morning or late evening makes many people avoid too many outdoor activities. For hikers who don't like the heat, the best option is to seek the mountains, rainforests, beaches and waterholes as an antidote to the heat. Here are 5 great hikes suitable for hiking in summer.

Great summer hikes usually include a place to swim
Great summer hikes usually include a place to swim


Remember for summer hiking that the heat can be a killer. Always take more water than you need for the hike so that you have some leftover. On a number of group hikes, I have ended up giving away water to others who didn't bring enough water or on one occasion to someone whose hydration pack broke. I have never been sorry for carrying too much water in summer.

Lush forests with waterfalls in the mountains are great places to escape the summer heat
Lush forests with waterfalls in the mountains are great places to escape the summer heat


There are a few other strategies for summer hiking. In most cases, people try to start and finish early, while for longer hikes, some people will start early and have a nap in the middle of the day, then finish the hike in the afternoon. Personally, I just look for places in the mountains with lots of shade.

Mt Warning Sunrise Hike

One of the best ways to beat the heat is to hike at night, with the reward being sunrise from a mountain top. The most iconic night hike is to walk up Mt Warning to watch the sunrise. The track is 8.8 kms return and it takes 2 to 3 hours to hike to the summit, and in summer it means you might start at 2 am. The night air is much cooler and on top of the mountain, it can be cold enough that it is well worth taking a light jumper or jacket.

Enjoying the view from the top of Mt Warning
Enjoying the view from the top of Mt Warning


Most of the walk is on a well-maintained track, and while straightforward it is a continually uphill. Even at night, it is impossible to lose the track. The last part of the hike is up a steep section with a chain. The best way to do this is to hike to the base of this section in the dark, and at first light, make your way up this section.

Before the sun rises
Before the sun rises


The summit has a wide platform with views in all directions, so even though the top can attract many people with the same idea of watching the sunrise, there is still plenty of room. Some people will hike up the day before and spend the night on the top, but it is not really comfortable and there are no facilities at the top.

Mt Warning has a distinctive sharp peak
Mt Warning has a distinctive sharp peak


Once the sun has risen, you can start to head down to avoid the heat and then head into nearby Murwillumbah. There are many cafes here to choose from.

A classic country cafe in Murwillumbah
A classic country cafe in Murwillumbah


Note: Indigenous custodians of the mountain would prefer it people were to choose to hike other mountains and there are a number of other sunrise options for hikers, including Mt Maroon and Flinders Peaks. The main attraction of Mt Warning is that it is supposed to be where the sun first hits mainland Australia. However, while that is true in winter, it is not true in summer.

Noosa Heads National Park

There are plenty of coastal and beach walks in South East Queensland, but the one that most counts as a hike is at Noosa Heads National Park. The main hiking circuit combines the Tanglewood Walk and then returns via the Coastal Walk Track for a hike that is about 5 to 6 kms.

The walk starts at Laguna Bay and there is parking at the end of Park Road, but this parking is limited, so get there early. The first part of the walk is 4 kms along the Tanglewood Track. Keep an eye open here for koalas.

For the standard walk the most southerly point of the circuit is Alexandria Bay
For the standard walk the most southerly point of the circuit is Alexandria Bay


The Tanglewood Track joins the Coastal Walk Track and if you turn right you can walk down to Alexandria Bay. This is the Sunshine Coasts unofficial nude beach, so don't be shocked if you see people enjoying the shore or waters without any clothes.

The return walk heads north from Alexandria Bay along the cliff tops. You will see surfers seeking waves off the rocks along this section of the walk and it is not uncommon to see surfers walking along with their boards.

The walk follows the rugged coast line
The walk follows the rugged coast line


The place to stop on this walk is Tea Tree Bay. This little beach has reef that creates long runs for surfers and calmer water for swimmers. There are toilets and drinking taps here and it is a popular beach for swimming though be away it is not patrolled.

Tea Tree Bay is a lovely sheltered beach for swimming and relaxing
Tea Tree Bay is a lovely sheltered beach for swimming and relaxing


After a swim here, it is just a short walk back to the start of the hike. If you are feeling lazy or have little kids, you might just walk part of the coastal walk or just head to Tea Tree Bay for a swim.

Tea Tree Bay attracts swimmers of all ages
Tea Tree Bay attracts swimmers of all ages


Note: The alternative is to do the 10.8 km return walk from Sunshine Beach to Noosa along the Coastal Walk route.

Kondalilla Falls to Flat Rock

A great summer walk should have a swimming hole. In too many of them, the swimming hole is at the end of the track, which means after the swim, you have to walk back and you end up hot and sweaty again. But if you walk from Kondalilla to Flat Rock, you actually have spots to swim at both ends of the walk.

Kondalilla Falls
Kondalilla Falls


There is a track that runs from Baroon Pocket Dam to Kondalilla Falls as part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. As the return walk, it is over 20 kms. You can make the walk shorter by either doing a car shuffle with friends or walking to the middle point and then returning, with the best option being starting at Kondalilla Falls as there is a swimming hole there.

Swimming at Kondalilla Falls
Swimming at Kondalilla Falls


It is easy to find the middle spot of this walk, which is Flat Rock. It is not signed but is easily recognised because it is a big flat rocky area on the edge of a wide pool. The water is deep enough to get in and cool down and the rock is a great place to sit and relax.

Flat rock is a great place to stop for a break and even a swim
Flat rock is a great place to stop for a break and even a swim


Tooloona Creek Circuit

To find somewhere cooler in summer, there are 3 things to look for in a walk. It should be up in the mountains, there should be plenty of dense shade and plenty of waterfalls where you can sit and enjoy the cool moist air. O'Reilly's in Lamington National Park has all 3 of these things, with the best decent length hike with plenty of waterfalls being the Tooloona Creek Circuit.

Crossing the creek on the Toolona Creek Circuit
Crossing the creek on the Toolona Creek Circuit


This 17 Km walk is the best intermediate-length hike in that section of Lamington National Park, though if you want something shorter you can do the Box Forest Circuit instead.

The lush rainforest of O'Reilly's
The lush rainforest of O'Reilly's


When hiked in a clockwise fashion, the main part of the circuit is fairly rocky, which for me meant that your calves end up quite sore as you have to use them to balance on the rocks. There are plenty of waterfalls on this walk, with Toolona Falls often being the best one to stop at for lunch.

One of many waterfalls on the Toolona Creek Circuit
One of many waterfalls on the Toolona Creek Circuit


The return part of the hike follows the flat and generally uninteresting Border Track, which is a simple walk back to the beginning.

Greenes Falls in Mt Glorious

The go-to quick escape from the summer heat is Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious which lie right on Brisbane's doorstep. While only a quick drive from the city, the mountain air and rainforest setting quickly take the edge off of the seasonal heat. While there are many walks in this area, a nice quick short one is Rainforest Circuit, which includes Greenes Falls.

The walk starts at Maiala day-use heads down towards the falls. The total length is only 2 kms, and if you need to do more hikes then there are plenty of other rainforest hikes in the area as well. However, the joy of the area can just be to find a nice cafe in the mountains and enjoy coffee, cake, a meal or other refreshment in the mountain air.


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