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Main Range National Park

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published August 30th 2022
Attractions & activities for everyone in the Main Range
Visiting the Main Range National Park

One of the great natural treasures in South East Queensland is the Main Range National Park. This guide provides information about how to best visit the Main Range and its many different sections, from drives, lovely short walks, waterfalls, peaks and multi-day hikes.

Part of the Main Range seen from Lake Moogerah
Part of the Main Range seen from Lake Moogerah


About the Main Range National Park

Lying to the west of Brisbane and running from the border of NSW up Kangaroo Mountain, it is part of the Great Dividing Range that separates the green east coast of Australia from the dryer inland regions. This long thing range has plenty of attractions for hikers, campers, scenic drivers and other visitors.

The rugged Main Range National Park
The rugged Main Range National Park


One of the big confusions is that there is access from many different points, often not connected directly by one road, which confuses many first time visitors. Rather visitors need to realise the park is divided into sections and most people will talk about visiting those sections rather than the Main Range National Park.

Cunninghams Gap

Probably the most popular location for hikers is Cunninghams Gap. Just an hour and a half drive from Brisbane, this section has 3 main hikes. On one side of the Cunningham Highway is Mt Mitchell, famous for its little grass tree filled plateau at the top with 270-degree views of the area.

On top of Mt Mitchell
On top of Mt Mitchell


Most of the walks are on the other side of the highway where the car park is. It is just a quick stroll to the Fassifern Valley Lookout, and then 3.4 km up to Mt Cordeaux, but most people keep going on up to Bare Rock with the total walk being a bit over 12 km return. The track continues past this now as part of the Scenic Rim Trail.

The view from Bare Rock at Cunninghams Gap
The view from Bare Rock at Cunninghams Gap


The other walk is Gap Creek Falls. The official walk stops at the top of the falls, but unofficially people scramble down to the base of the falls. Overall though, this 10 km walk is the least popular in the area.

There is no camping here, but if you are looking for a place to camp, then Lake Moogerah has both private and national park camping and caravan locations. There is also camping behind the Aratula Hotel.

Lake Moogerah, seen from Mt Cordeaux, is the nearest place for camping
Lake Moogerah, seen from Mt Cordeaux, is the nearest place for camping


Speaking of Aratula, it is a good place to stop before or after a hike. Whether it is cheap steaks at the hotel, country cafe food at one of the two cafes in town, or a cup of coffee from the Shell Service Station, it is a welcome stop nearby.

Steaks at the Aratula Hotel
Steaks at the Aratula Hotel


Goomburra

While not as popular as some of the other sections, the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park is still one of the loveliest. About a 2 1/2 hours drive from Brisbane, people tend to skip this section as a day trip, but it is very popular as a camping destination, with two large leafy national park camping areas, plus additional nearby private camping and glamping options.

Camping at the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park
Camping at the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park


The main walk is the Cascades Circuit. It actually starts with a walk along the short but lovely Dalrymple Circuit, which is great for kids. It takes about 3 hours, because of the huge number of creek crossings. I tried to count them, but in the end, I just gave up. Plus of course, the tendency to stop and take photos of each cascade and falls also slows you down. If you want a longer walk, then divert onto the Ridges Track, which is worth doing as the last part of the Cascades Circuit is just along a forest trail.

A waterfall on the Cascades Circuit at Goomburra
A waterfall on the Cascades Circuit at Goomburra


There are a number of shorter walks in Goomburra worth doing, including the Araucaria Falls track, Sylvesters Lookout and Mount Castle Lookout. The Winder Track is a 12 km return walk named after the fact that basically ends at some abandoned forestry equipment, a winder, from when logging was done in this area. The scenic rim trail now links the 2 lookouts with the Winder Track. There is also the North Branch Track, again, which is essentially a walk in the forest without any spectacular features.

Falls Drive over The Head (Queen Mary Falls)

There is another great way to visit the Main Range National Park, and that is the Falls Drive over The Head between Boonah and Killarney, which many people refer to as the Queen Mary Falls section. There are 4 falls on the drive, with 2 that you don't have to walk to.

The most famous falls here is Queen Mary Falls. You don't have to walk far to see it as there is a lookout just past the day-use area down a very short path. You can also do the 2 km circuit around the falls area, which is well worth doing.

The beautiful Queen Mary Falls in the Main Range National Park
The beautiful Queen Mary Falls in the Main Range National Park


There is also Browns Falls which is at the end of a rough 600-metre track. While it is the smallest falls there, it is worth the short walk.

Following the trail markers on the Brownes Falls walk
Following the trail markers on the Brownes Falls walk


Daggs Falls has a lookout just beside the carpark and Teviot Falls is viewable from where you park your car. While you can't walk at Daggs Falls, there is a non-marked trail to the top of Teviot Falls and some people rock hop the 1 km up the creek to the base of the falls.

The Daggs Falls lookout is right next to the carpark
The Daggs Falls lookout is right next to the carpark


The joy of this area though is really just the scenic drive through the rainforest along the narrow road where everyone gives way to each other with a friendly wave. If you have a 4-wheel drive you can also do the Condamine River Drive, making it a circuit drive between Boonah and Killarney.

Condamine River Road is a good 4 wheel drive scenic route through the Main Range National Park
Condamine River Road is a good 4 wheel drive scenic route through the Main Range National Park


There is no national park camping, but there is convenient camping at Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park opposite Queen Mary Falls. Even if you are not camping, it is worth popping into their cafe for some country cafe cuisine.

Open camping area at Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park
Open camping area at Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park


Spicers Gap

Spicers Gap used to be the main way over the Main Range dating back to before European settlement and remained so until the increasing use of Cunninghams Gap. Now there isn't even a road over this gap. There is essentially 1 walking circuit, made of several parts, one main lookout and a small camping area.

Governors Chair Lookout gets its name from the fact this was the route the Governor of Queensland would follow on the way west
Governors Chair Lookout gets its name from the fact this was the route the Governor of Queensland would follow on the way west


The campground is a small shaded area and is pretty basic. It is good for an overnight stay. There is also a monument for the pioneers there.

A bit of history on a walk at Spicers Gap
A bit of history on a walk at Spicers Gap


The main walk is the Mount Mathieson Trail which, when combined with the road, forms an 8 km circuit, plus a short walk out to Governor's Chair. This lookout is so named because when Queensland governors would walk across the range to the west, they would usually rest and have lunch at this very spot. Other historic items on the trail include an old cart, the remains of an old road and a well.

The view on the Mount Mathieson Trail at Spicers Gap
The view on the Mount Mathieson Trail at Spicers Gap


Scenic Rim Trail

Created by Spicer's Retreat, this walk runs from the retreat through private land down to the Cunninghams Gap Car Park. Basically, it was created for guests of Spicer's Retreat to go on guided walks and stay at luxury cabins built in the middle of the rainforest. The national parks service only provides very basic information on their website about this walk and no detailed maps published there. But there are a small number of public campsites, but you are only supposed to walk the trail in one direction and do it as a 4-day walk, even though it would be a great walk to do over 2 nights for fast walkers or as a there and back overnight walk from Cunninghams Gap, or other areas. But this is what happens when private companies are allowed to do exclusive commercial activities in national parks (write a letter to the Queensland Minister for Tourism and the Queensland Minister for the environment if you find this sort of thing objectionable).

Image from the Mount Castle Lookout on the Scenic Rim Trail courtesy of Michael Jefferies @ Flickr
Image from the Mount Castle Lookout on the Scenic Rim Trail courtesy of Michael Jefferies @ Flickr


Politics aside, The Scenic Rim Trail is a lovely walk that takes in some of the best parts of the area, especially on the 3 and 4th days of the walk. It can be accessed from a number of different points, including I am told, through trails in the Glen Rock National Park, and the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park and at Cunninghams Gap. Which means you easily have the choice of walking it according to the way Spicer's Retreat wants you to do the walk or making your own choices.

Obviously many people will want to do the walk quicker or just do a single night's walk, so there are a few options. One is to book for the 3 nights but just stay in one of the sections. Alternatively, you can hike from Cunningham's Gap north, but instead of staying at the walker's camp, head on up the road to the Manna Gum camping area and then walk back the next day. After all, it is a national park, not a private walk, so do it the way that suits you.

Remote Area hikes: The Steamer, Lizard Point and Mount Superbus

The southern section of the Main Range National park is home to some great rugged hiking. This is really for experienced hikes using GPS or topographic maps (or better yet both), but is among many people's favourite hikes in the area.

Mount Superbus is the highest peak in South East Queensland and a popular walk, though there are much more fun peaks to do in the area. Most people pronounce it as Superb-us, and it should never be pronounced Super-Bus, but the name comes from Latin, and should be pronounce Su-per-bus, making sure you pronounce the "u"s more like "oo", as they do in the Latin language.

Many people love the Lizard Point Walk which goes from Spring Creek Road, past the top of Teviot falls. While another great walk is to the very iconic Steamers. This mountain formation is named because it looks like the smokestacks of steamer ships.
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Why? There are attractions & activities for everyone in the Main Range National Park
Your Comment
Sorry but there's no way that Mt Superbus is Queensland's highest peak. There are several higher.
Good article though. Thank you.
by graeme (score: 0|5) 28 days ago
Great article Roy. It sounds like a few days would be needed to see it all, but what a holiday.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4373) 28 days ago
Nature at its best Roy
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|5378) 28 days ago
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