I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published June 28th 2017
A quiet, peaceful camping site
I enjoyed reading Anna's article about Camping at the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park in Weekend Notes Brisbane back in April (see the article here). Her photos of the area were very beautiful and I promised myself I would go there one day. When I saw a weekend bushwalking trip come up on the Brisbane Bushwalkers club trip list for mid June, I signed up straight away.
We left Brisbane at 1pm on Friday and drove to the Manna Gum camping ground via the Cunningham highway, with a short stop at Aratula. There is another National Park campsite nearby at Poplar Flat and we saw quite a few private campsites along the river as we drove in through Gordon Country. Goomburra is 90 minutes drive south-west of Ipswich and 30 minutes' drive north of Warwick, It is in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, about 175 kilometres South West of Brisbane.
There were fourteen of us at the National Park camping site in a variety of accommodation. Luckily it was a base camp and I didn't have to carry everything, so instead of taking my new light weight American Tarptent, I took my very old patched Macpac Olympus because it is bigger. I'll use the new one on through walks when I have to carry everything on my back.
Being a base camp meant I could take a bottle of wine and a piece of salmon to cook over the fire. I even packed my wildlife trap camera which my son and daughter-in-law gave me for Mother's Day. I put it up in the bush near the campsite to see what animals I could capture on film over the two nights. Something did trigger it, and I think with a bit of imagination I could see two tiny animals on the film when I got home and uploaded the photos onto my computer from the SD card
I had been warned it could be very cold with temperatures as low as 0 degrees, so I took a sleeping bag and doona. Some of the others arrived in flash camper vans and had the luxury of stoves, fridges, lights, hot showers and even hot water bottles.
The campground was large and peaceful under the Manna Gums with open fireplaces, compost toilets and tap water. Even though it was school holidays there weren't many other campers there. You do need to pre-book a campsite through National Parks, Sports and Racing (NPSR) and get a permit. Camping fees were only $6.15 per night. People also need to take their own firewood and boil water for drinking. You can book online and you need to display your camp permit on your tent or van. There isn't any mobile phone coverage.
We had a good communal set up with a tarpaulin, tables and chairs. It was very ciivilised with pre dinner snacks, drinks and socialising. In the morning we were entertained by lots of beautiful fairy wrens hopping around looking for crumbs. We also had visits from a Satin Bower Bird, sulphur crested cockatoos and magpies and many other birds. Some people thought they spotted an owl one night, but it turned out to be part of a tree.
On Saturday we piled into four wheel drives and drove 10-15 minute uphill from the campground on Lookout Road to the short half hour walk into Sylvester's Lookout. We crossed the creek, which probably could be managed in 2WD when the water was low. It was a very clear day, and we had excellent views over the coastal plains below and distant mountain ranges. We could see the peaks of Mt French, Mt Alford, Mt Maroon, Mt Greville, Mt Moon and Mt Barney. A sign explained that each of these peaks in the Fassifern Valley was formed when hot volcanic magma forced its way into cracks and weaknesses in overlying layers of basalt rock. As the basalt eroded away, the dyke or plug was left as a peak. The weathering of the rocks to form the steep escarpment took over 30 million years.
After the lookout, we set out across country through the bush. The sign warned we were heading into a rugged, wild area. Luckily we had good leaders with good navigation skills who had done the walk previously and knew the area well. The track was overgrown with lots of obstacles to climb over and signs that could have been easily missed such as arrows on trees and rock cairns. My cheap walking poles were good until I got my foot caught in a root and fell heavily onto a pole. It snapped in half. Luckily I didn't get stabbed in the stomach. It's time I bought some new carbon fibre ones.
We only walked about eight kilometers on Saturday. It seemed a lot longer because we had lots of up and down and climbing over large trees and over rocks.
The nights weren't as cold as we expected. The temperature went down to about 4 degrees. I was a bit cold the first night, but the second night I rugged up in my beanie, thermals and gloves and was very warm.
We had a choice on Sunday to go bird watching or do the 6.5 kilometre Cascades walk. I opted for the Cascade walk as I had seen photos and heard it was a beautiful walk. We went clockwise and crossed Dalrymple Creek about 16 times. We walked through rainforest and saw waterfalls, cascades, ancient trees, and volcanic rocks.
We could hear the elusive Albert lyrebirds calling but didn't see any. There were huge staghorns and orchids up the trees and sunlight reflected off the water and rock faces. We saw remnants of huge old trees which had been logged. The area used to have large stands of red cedar, white beech and hoop pine which were logged from the late 1840's to 1985.
Hardwoods such as New England blackbutt and manna gum, and scrubwood such as rose mahogany and yellow carabeen were also logged. The only ones left are in very inaccessible locations. A large stump beside the track showed the size of some of the logged trees.
The bird watching group saw 27 different bird species. After lunch we packed up and headed home, with another stop at Aratula for coffee and a pie. If you ever get the chance to go there, you will love it.