Killarney is a little known SEQ destination with lots to do
Killarney Day Trip or Weekend Away
Killarney is a small town in the scenic rim on the border with New South Wales with a population of just under 800 people. Not being on a major road to anywhere it is often a destination that people have not heard of, let alone thought about visitng. Yet the region has many fantastic attractions that make it worth the trip.
Speaking of food, Killarney's 2 feet of rich black soil grows a wide range of wonderful fruits and vegetables. It is also cattle country, so expect great beef along with lamb and chicken. The emphasis here is on country cooking that many other more gentrified country towns are losing (I am looking at you Maleny). What isn't grown in Killarney can be also brought in from neighbouring areas such as Stanthorpe.
A selection of ingredients used at the Spring Creek Mountain Cafe
Killarney has numerous natural attractions, including 4 waterfalls along one of the best scenic drives in South East Queensland. It can also be the base for visiting other areas such as the granite belt wineries, as well as neighbouring national parks.
The Author travelled to the Killarney region as a guest of Southern Queensland Country Tourism.
Killarney is just over 2 hours drive from Brisbane. The best way to travel to Killarney is through Boonah via the road that goes over the Main Range via The Head. This is a single lane scenic drive that is mostly travelled by tourists or locals. While it is the shortest route, it is not the fastest (no matter what Google Maps tells you) but it is by the far the most interesting.
The scenic drive from Boonah to Killarney is one of the best in South East Queensland
Because of the narrowness of the road you will drive this road slowly and everyone you see coming the other way will slow down, give you plenty of room to pass and wave as you go buy (especially people in big four wheel drives.) There are also many scenic spots to stop on the way, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the trip.
The main alternative route is via Cunninghams Gap and Warwick. It is longer but much faster. There are several scenic stops on this route as well, including Aratula, hiking trails in Cunninghams Gap and the town of Warwick. Most people return home via this route, or if you are heading to Killarney late in the day then go this way and return via The Head when you have more time on another day.
The quickest way to Killarney is via the Cunningham Highway through Warwick
There is another scenic alternative to the road over The Head. If you have a high clearance four wheel drive you can take the dirt road through Cambanoora Gorge. While the road is well maintained and suitable for all vehicles, it crosses the Condamine River in 14 places. The crossings are just rocky causeways and are a little unstable. Even four wheel drive vehicles have been known to become stuck in the middle of the river if the water washes away some of the causeway (but to be honest this very rarely happens).
The alternative route from Boonah to Killarney is four wheel drive only
Killarney itself has several places to stay. This includes staying at the pub, local motels and caravan park. The main advantage is being able to enjoy a country dinner at the pub along with a few beers or glasses of wine.
It can be far more interesting to stay out of town. While there are no national park camp sites, the Queen Mary Falls Caravan & Tourist Park is situated across the road from Queen Mary Falls. This beautiful location is surrounded by farmland with a wide green space to setup your tent, along with places to park a caravan, and cabins for people looking for a little more comfort.
Tent and fire pit in the unpowered camping section at Queen Mary Falls Caravan & Tourist Park
When driving from Killarney the first major scenic attraction is Browns Falls (if you are driving from Boonah, then read this section in the reverse order). This lovely waterfall requires that you walk 600 metres along a fairly rough but beautiful track. Not particularly hard, but you will want to wear clothes and shoes you don't mind getting dirty ( though we did the walk dressed for a nice lunch and managed to avoid any dirt or mud on our clothes or shoes.)
Browns Falls is reached by a walk along a rough creek track
The jewel in the area is Queen Mary Falls. The two viewing platforms are reached by a short easy walk. Start on the Cliffs Circuit track to the first platform, then continue along the walk to the Main Circuit and follow this for a few hundred more metres across the little bridge to the cliffs on the other side. You can simply return the way you came or walk down to base of the falls. The total walking distance is only 2 kms. While the track coming back up is steep with stairs, anyone with even basic fitness could complete this walk.
Queen Mary Falls has a great 2 km walk from the cliff lookouts down to the base of the falls
The last of the 4 falls on the drive is Teviot Falls. The lookout is not well signposted and the waterfall not very obvious as it is far away. But the lookout has great views down the mountain making it a worthwhile stop.
The view down the mountain from the Teviot Falls Lookout
If you have a four wheel drive then the Cambanoora Gorge is a must. You can also book tours through companies such as Cambanoora Co. There is also the option to cycle or walk this road, but be aware that you will be wading through the river 14 times.
Shopping & Other Killarney Attractions
Despite being a small town that is not on any major roads anywhere, Killarney is worth looking around. One of the main places to visit is the Killarney Heritage Centre. Run by volunteers it costs just $5 to look around this little museum.
Many people in Killarney earn some extra income through handcrafts or arts. The Willow Gallery is run on a co-op basis with various members staffing the shop on a volunteer basis. They have everything from paintings to fudge. Worth popping in to look and is open from Friday to Sunday.
Also along the Warwick-Killarney Road is another crafts shop. The address is 7 Warwick-Killarney Road and it is located in an old wooden building which contains a brick vault inside from when the building was a bank. I can't tell you the name as they don't display any name outside. Just look for the building with a string of little triangular flags on the stairs at the front.
The Killarney Co-op is where you go for your grocery shopping. They are also sell gifts and handcrafts as well. Unfortunately they don't trade on Sundays.
The Killarney Butcher is a must visit place for meat lovers. The steep hills and rich black soil of Killarney makes this cattle country. Take an esky and some ice and pick up some fresh steaks and sausages.
Keep a look out for local fruit and vegetables stalls on the side of the road. These are usually unattended, relying on your honour to put some money in the tin for the fruit and vegetables you take. It is a good idea to bring plenty of change with you as most items only cost $1 or $2.
These friendly dogs were looking after this vegetable stall
Killarney is one of the best places in South East Queensland to find proper country cooking. The emphasis is on using fresh ingredients and they are usually prepared simply. For people who are used to a little spice or flavour in their meals, it can be a little bland. However the saving grace is usually the accompanying sauces, relishes and chutneys.
The Spring Creek Mountain Cafe is a perfect example of this. While serving high quality food, they don't mind letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Here is a place to have a nice steak or enjoy a beautiful antipasto platter. You can just taste the rich soil and fresh air in all the food. The coffee, desserts and view down the mountain make this a popular stop on the drive over the head.
Another cafe on the scenic drive is the Falls Cafe across the road from Queen Mary Falls. They serve really filling breakfasts that emphasise bacon and eggs. The lunch menu has plenty of hamburgers along with other dishes. Nothing fancy here, but everything is delicious.
The Falls Cafe is across the road from the Queen Mary Falls
Eating in town is an option and other than self catering is often the only local choice for dinner. The Killarney Hotel is the main option, but there are also a couple of lovely country cafes. All doing nice country cooking with friendly local service.
Killarney is a great place to stay for a while. There are also a number of places around the area you can visit. The nearest towns are Warwick and Stanthorpe. There are also some little villages worth popping in to, such as Tannymorel.
Not that far away are other attractions such as the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park, Undercliffe Falls and Girraween. Across the border in New South Wales you will find Boonoo Boonoo and Bald Rock National Parks.