The are a wide range of amazing national parks in SEQ
South East Queensland is full of nature reserves and great National Parks. It includes rainforests that have been around since the days of the dinosaurs to spectacular rock formations and much more. You can live in the area for years and not visit them all. Here is the complete list, ordered roughly with the ones I most recommend at the top and the obscure or uninteresting parks at the bottom.
Get out into the many many national parks in South East Queensland
Note: There are a lot of national parks in South East Queensland. I have tried to make sure I list all the National Parks in the South East Queensland area and even snuck in a few in neighbouring areas that are often visited by people from South East Queensland. Ultimately, I found that different lists included different National Parks, but hopefully, I have managed to list everyone in South East Queensland, plus a few more.
Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park was one of the first protected areas in Queensland and in many ways set the model for National Parks in Queensland and Australia. It is the premium National Park in South East Queensland so it goes on the top of the list. The area is mostly lush rainforest on the Lamington Plateau and includes many walks, from easy to long, as well as 3 different entrances; (Binna Burra, O'Reilly's and Christmas Creek), cafes, accommodation and camping, including remote bush camping. If you can visit one national park in South East Queensland, then you should visit Lamington National Park, and if you can visit two, then the second National Park to visit is also Lamington, but at the other end.
Lamington National Park is 200 square kms of lush rainforest, waterfalls & creeks
This is the second park on the list because it includes K'gari (Fraser Island) though the mainland section includes the only other everglades system in the world. It is a great combination of easily accessible tourist attractions and rugged adventure. Some of the adventures in this National Park include four-wheel driving on K'gari. Cooloola Recreation Area or Inskip, multi-day hikes on the island or the Cooloola Great Walk, or canoeing or kayaking along the Noosa River. For the less adventurous, there are island tours and comfortable accommodation, as well as Noosa Everglades boat tours.
Burleigh Heads National Park
Bigger isn't always better and probably the most visited National Park in South East Queensland is Burleigh Heads National Park on the water's edge on the Gold Coast. In terms of being small, the walking circuit is only around 3 km long. If you are visiting Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, then a walk in the National Park is worth doing. If you are lucky, you can get a view of whales off the coast. You can also stop off at the little hidden Echo Beach on your walk.
Great walking tracks, ocean views & secret beaches in the tiny Burleigh Heads National Park
If I include Burleigh Heads National Park, I also need to include one of the Sunshine Coast's little but very popular National Parks for balance. Mount Coolum is a small nature reserve around Mount Coolum. It is a quick walk up the stairs to the top or if you are adventurous, you can also take the caves route up. From the summit, you get great views of the beach and surrounding suburbs.
When it comes to unique attractions, then the piles of giant granite boulders that make up Girraween National Park is the most unique in the area. You can hike around the various rock formations, scramble up a few and climb others. Girraween is a popular camping location and it can also make a good day trip from the coast or, better yet, if you are staying in the Stanthorpe area.
Granite rock formations are the main attraction at Girraween
Tamborine National Park is on Mt Tamborine. This mountain is a perfect tourist destination with shops, restaurants, wineries, breweries and a distillery, as well as the national park. There are lots of little walks with the longest being 5 km but most going through beautiful rainforest and many heading to waterfalls and even a swimming hole. There are also plenty of tourist attractions on the mountain as well. You can stay in accommodation within the rainforest or walk among the treetops with the Skywalk. It is also where film studios based on the Gold Coast come to film rainforests and other scenes. It has been King Kong's home as well as Asgard. Not bad for a humble mountain and small national park!
Lots of little walks, along with shops, restaurants, wineries & more on Mt Tamborine
Not every National Park is about nature and this national park's main feature is the Fort Lytton Historic Military Precinct, which was built in the late 19th century to protect both Brisbane and its port. The fort is open on Sundays only as well as on special commemorative occasions.
Naree Budjong Djara National Park
Minjerribah, also known as North Stradbroke Island, is a popular day trip or short stay from Brisbane. The control of the island's National Park areas and other public resources have been handed back to the traditional custodians of the island, the Quandamooka people, and the various parks and reserves have been incorporated under the name Naree Budjong Djara National Park. The main attractions are the beaches and the coastal gorges but there are also two lakes; Brown and Blue Lake.
Bribie Island National Park and Recreation Area
Bribie Island is the most easily accessible island on Moreton Bay as there is a bridge and even a regular bus service. While most people focus their visit on the beaches on the southern end of the Island, if you have a four-wheel drive or boat, then you can explore more of the island, including the areas that are National Park. One attraction is the historic WWII forts along Woorim Beach. You can also easily kayak across Pumicestone Passage, which I have done on numerous occasions.
The national park covers 1/3 of Bribie Island, and includes historic WW2 bunkers
This is a lovely heavily rainforested national park. Most people only visit the area around Booloumba Creek, which includes a historic gold mine, artist installation in the rainforest, and two great waterfalls. The more adventurous will do the Conondale Great Walk over several days but the best parts of Conondale can be easily done in a day. Access is best with a four-wheel-drive but you can also park near the entrance to the national park and walk in if you have a conventional car.
The most interesting part of Conondale National Park is around Booloumba Creek
Mulgumpin, also known as Moreton Island, is 98%, National Park. Most people visit this island as part of a tour or by going to the Tangalooma Resort. However, it is easy enough to visit the island on an independent day trip on the ferry or if you have your own boat. For longer trips or to see more, you usually need a four-wheel drive to get around the island, though some people choose to hike. There are two little townships with cafes and shops as well as accommodation. Given its proximity to Brisbane, it is well worth visiting.
Noosa National Park
This national park covers Noosa Heads, with an entrance in the north in Noosa and another in the south from Sunshine Beach. For hikers, the Coastal Track follows the cliff line down to Hell's Gate, for swimmers, then it is just a short walk down to Tea Tree Bay. Meanwhile, surfers can be spotted in a wide range of different places, seeking the best waves. Nudists head to Alexandria Bay, which is an unofficial nude beach (so don't be shocked if you see people without clothes here!). There is also a small population of koalas in the national park. Often they will be close to the inland pathways and many people report spotting them during a walk through the parks.
Walk along the cliffs at Noosa Heads National Park
The Main Range extends from the New South Wales border up into the Lockyer Valley. It can be accessed from a number of different points, each with its own attractions. For many people, Cunningham's Gap is the main area that they visit, with walks to Mount Mitchell, Mount Cordeaux and Bare Rock. Others will do the Falls Drive over The Head and visit the four waterfalls, including Queen Mary Falls. Spicers Gap also has the nice Mount Mathieson Trail. For camping, the Goomburra Section has 2 large open campsites with short walks, waterfalls and lookouts in that section. Keen walkers do the multi-day hike along the length of the range.
The rugged main range national park has lots of accessible hikes, as well as a great multiday hike
This tiny little National Park is centred around the spectacular Mapleton Falls. Well, at least I think it is spectacular, because the lookout only lets you glimpse a little of the falls from a sharp angle, but that is okay, you still get great views down the valley from the lookout.
With walking distance of the town of Mapleton and centred around the Gheerulla Valley, this National Park features rainforest down by the creek and bushland and views into the valley from up on the ridge. There are also three camping spots, two specifically for hikers, in the park, and one is part of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk.
On the ridge looking down at Gheerulla Valley in Mapleton National Park
This national park actually has four separate sections around Lake Moogerah and includes Mount French, Mount Edwards, Mount Moon and Mount Greville. Mt French is a nice short walk, while Mount Edwards is a bit more of a challenge and Mount Greville is for more experienced hikers who enjoy walking or scrambling up and down the gorges to the summit. Mt Moon is surrounded by private property but if you ask nicely, they will let you enter to walk up the mountain.
Moogerah Peaks National Park includes 4 separate protected arounds Moogerah Dam
The Mount Barney National Park is more than just Mount Barney but includes Mount Maroon, Mount May and Mount Lindesay. These are all tough hikes with plenty of options for scrambles and rock climbing. For the less fit or adventurous, there are a couple of easy walks on the lower slopes of Mount Barney, including the Lower Portals swimming hole and Cronan Creek Falls.
Mountain Barney National Park has several mountains, with the most famous being Mount Barney
Characterised by its cliffs, Springbrook National Park is a place that can be easily enjoyed by families and casual visitors, who walk along the cliff top for great views or visit the Natural Bridge. There are longer hikes that head down the cliffs on the Warrie Circuit and Springbrook is the start of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk.
The Glass House Mountains is a series of volcanic plugs, that is the volcanic rock that is formed by lava cooling in a volcano's throat. Over time, the surrounding softer rock and soil has been eroded, leaving only the plugs. You can simply view these from various lookouts and vantage points, hike up some of the hills, such as Ngungun, scramble up others, such as Tibrogargan and Tibberoowuccum, or climb others such as Beerwah. There are also walks around the area, including Trachyte Circuit, Tibrogargan Circuit and Yul-yan-man Track.
The Glass House Mountains has easy to access lookouts, hikes, scrambles & climbs
D'Aguilar National Park is really two or perhaps three parks joined together. South D'Aguilar National Park combines the bushland of the former Brisbane Forest Park and the rainforest of Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious. There is a lot of variety here, from walks around lakes, like Enoggera, Gold Creek and Manchester (which are not actually in the national park proper, but run by SEQWater), through to rainforest walks on the mountains. It is so near Brisbane, you can take a bus to the start of some walks, and it is so big, you could walk and camp for a couple of days.
South D'Aguilar National Park ranges from bushland around reservoirs up to the rainforest of Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious
This part of the D'Aguilar National Park was the original part of the National Park. The main area of interest here is Mt Mee with its lookouts over Somerset Valley. Picnic at The Gantry or do a nice easy hike to the lookout.
Somerset Lookout, Mt Mee in North D'Aguilar National Park
Back in Brisbane's convict days, some convicts were worse than others, and they were sent to St Helena Island (also referred to as Noogoon by the local indigenous population). Its name comes from an Aboriginal person who went by the name Napoleon who was exiled to the island and the name of the island was changed to St Helena Island as this was where the more famous Napoleon was also exiled. The treatment was harsh and escape was nearly impossible. It remained in operation as a prison until 1933. Now you can visit the island privately or on a tour. Private visitors are limited in where they can go on the island, while tours take in the historic buildings on the island.
Dularcha National Park
Lying between the townships of Mooloolah and Landsborough, this former forest reserve has one interesting feature, a train tunnel built in 1891 that fell into disuse when the train line was moved in 1932. Now you can walk through the tunnel. An interesting walk to do is to take the train to one train station then walk through to the other train station. Though there are also circuits you can hike in the National Park.
Walk through an abandoned train tunnel in the Dularcha National Park
Bunya pines and their nuts were an important part of indigenous culture. In some areas of Australia, when bunya nuts were in season, it was time for large gatherings of the tribes to occur. As part of the destruction of indigenous culture and society, bunya pines were systematically cut down to disrupt these meetings. One of the few places where there are still a collection of bunya pines is the Bunya Mountains National Park. More than just a nature reserve, the trees and even the landscape preserves indigenous history. You can still see the cuts made in the pine trees used to climb the trees and collect the nuts. These days- there is something for everyone at the Bunya Mountains. Families can enjoy the short walks around Dandabah, while others might choose the hike the 20 km combination of trails through the park from one end to the other. Don't forget to try some bunya nuts while you are there.
Bunya and Hoop Pines in the Bunya Mountains National Park
This National Park is a little island in Moreton Bay that can only be visited by private boat or tour (or kayak if you are fit). Its sheltered bay is a great place to park your boat. The beaches have attracted filmed crews, including one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The island was also used as a quarantine station, asylum for vagrants and sisal plantation.
Crows Nest National Park
This small but rugged national park 40 km from Esk is famous for the domed granite outcrops and the Valley of Diamonds gorge. While you can camp and do short walks here, it is popular among off-trail hikers and rockhoppers.
Nerang National Park
This National Park in the Gold Coast suburb of Nerang features lots of shared trails for hiking, mountain biking and horse riding. It is a popular place among locals.
Tuchekoi National Park
Lying west of Noosa, this National Park features the 439 metre Mount Cooroora which is what people have to run up in the annual King of the Mountain race. On other days, you can walk up the steep track to the summit of Mount Cooroora or walk mountain bike or ride horses in the shared trails around the area.
Woondum National Park
With rainforest and densely packed eucalypt forest, this park north west of Noosa has a 4WD drive trail through it and numerous shared trails. Hikers will want to walk the 1.6 km up Mount Boulder or seek out the various rocky creeks in the area.
Southern Moreton Bay Islands National Park
This National Park consists of 5 islands or parts of those islands. These are Willes, Cobby Cobby, Kangaroo, Woogoompah and Coomera. These are all mangrove rich islands, which form a very important part of the marine ecosystem, in particular as a hatchery for fish, as well as a habitat for migratory birds. The main interest in this area is boating and kayaking, including fishing.
Venman Bushland National Park
This little pocket of bushland forms part of the Brisbane Koala Bushlands (which Google Maps incorrectly labels as a National Park, though it is a joint state and local council conservation area, and not a National Park). It is also just across the road from the more famous Daisy Hill Conservation Park. Most people would visit this National Park when visiting the Koala Bushlands.
Bellthorpe National Park
This 4-wheel-drive accessible only National Park was once a forestry reserve. Today there are remnants of the forestry industry left, including gantries used for timber processing. Other than exploring the forest trails in your four-wheel drive, trail bike, mountain bike or on horseback, you can take a dip at Stony Creek Rock Pool on a hot day.
Lockyer National Park
This rugged National Park is in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and shouldn't be confused with the much more interesting Glen Rock State Forest which isn't a National Park. There are no official tracks but plenty of unofficial ones that attract hikers and mountain bikers who are looking for a rugged location to explore.
Tewantin National Park
With rainforests, eucalypts and wallum heath, this national park just past Noosa is popular for its mountain biking tracks as well as the Mount Tinbeerwah Lookout which is a 500-metre walk to 360-degree views from the top.
Amamoor State Forest and National Park
The Amamoor State Forest lies between Kenilworth and Gympie and includes two campgrounds a day-use area with swimming holes and walking tracks. Being a state forest, you can also mountain bike, ride horses and bring your dog to the campgrounds. Why is it being mentioned in a list of National Parks? Well, it turns one little corner of the Amamoor State Forest is actually the Amamoor National Park. Obviously, it should be taken as a whole so it is included in this list.
Mooloolah River National Park
Established to protect low lying coastal habitat on the Sunshine Coast, the Mooloolah River National Park features a number of short walking tracks and is well worth visiting for a stroll if you are in the area.
Mudlo National Park
This little National Park out past Gympie is interesting because it is one of the few remaining native hoop pine vine forest. The park includes a picnic area for day visitors and a 1 km hiking circuit.
Wrattens National Park
Wrattens National Park, west of Gympie, is rarely visited except by people driving through the forest on the dirt trails or the adventurous exploring off-trail. I know plenty of people who would love to rock hop up the rocky creeks or bush bash their way through this area. For everyone else, they might wait until paths and other facilities are added to this National Park.
Wickham National Park
Basically the neighbour of Plunkett Conservation Park on the slopes of Mount Tamborine. That area has walking, horse riding and cycling trails through open eucalypt forest land and some maybe venture into the National Park as well.
Mount Chinghee National Park
Another national park that is really just a protected area but one which is dominated by the eponymous mountain. There are no trails or visitor facilities in this national park and I can't even find any information about anyone who walked in this National Park. I am sure some people do though.
Ravensbourne National Park
33 km from Esky, this pocket of rainforest is a lovely place for a walk. The longest walking trail is 6 km return, so it is a good place for a stroll and picnic.
Nicoll Scrub National Park
This little National Park in the Currumbin Valley and is home to remnants of rainforest vegetation. It is one of those National Parks that are probably not worth visiting but are good to know exist as a nature preserve.
Freshwater National Park
There are small little National Parks and then there is Freshwater National Park. It is basically a protected area surrounded by major roads and development. The small area teems with wildlife, especially birds. It is not exactly visitor-friendly but I believe there are a few rough tracks through the area.
Sarabah National Park
If you are following the Lamington National Park Road up to O'Reilly's, you will pass this tiny little National Park, which is probably the smallest on this list. You can't really visit this National Park and I am not sure if stopping is worth it anyway. But it is nice to know it is there on the way to much better National Park.