Rathdowney is a lovely little country town in the Scenic Rim
Rathdowney is a little town in South East Queensland's Scenic Rim Area and it isn't really on the way to anywhere other than Mount Barney National Park. But it is a little town worth visiting if you are in the area or even making a trip to visit.
The first European settlements started in the 1840s, but the town of Rathdowney was built up around the timber industry and the path to Cronan Creek Falls is an old timber road. The name of the town comes from the main cattle station in the area, which took its name from Rathdowney in Ireland. These days the main industries are cattle and dairy farms, along with a population of around 300 people.
Yes, it is fairly out of the way with the main reason to head out here is to visit Mt Barney National Park. But it is also a stop on the back route to NSW. Most people stick to the highway though.
Should you find yourself in town, then the Rathdowney Information Centre & Historical Museum is the main attraction. You can't miss the buildings off to the side of the main road. The main museum building has a combination of arts and crafts for sale, along with lots of little historical artefacts. There is usually a friendly local happy to give you some advice on other local attractions as well.
The historical museum also includes a number of other buildings and signs that provide more information about the area. There is nothing spectacular about any of it, but worth a look while you are in town.
One of the buildings that make up the Rathdowney Historical Museum
The other attraction in town is the Captain Logan Lookout Park, which, as the name suggests, gives you a view of the town. If you need a place for a picnic, you can just stay in town where there are picnic tables, but if you want a little bit of a view, then it is only a 200-metre walk across the oval up to the lookout. You can also drive up if you prefer.
Rathdowney seen from Captain Logan Lookout Park (image courtesy of Mattinbgn at Wikimedia)
The heart of Rathdowney is the Rathdowney Hotel, generally referred to as the Rathy. Over the last few years, they have modernised enough to add XXXX Gold to their taps, even though not that long ago it was just XXXX Bitter. They do good classic pub meals, including of course great local steaks, chicken parma and pizzas. Often though we have arrived here between lunch and dinner service after a hike in the area, so plan your schedule if you want a meal. You can join the locals at the bar or sit out the back in the beer garden.
There is also the General Store. The coffee here is okay and they do food.
A little out of town is the Rathlogan Olive Grove & Shed Cafe. Open from 8 am to 4 pm on weekends, they do great breakfasts, lunches, along with coffee, tea, cakes and other bakery items. They also sell lots of locally made crafts and products.
The main attraction in the area in the Mt Barney National Park, home to the prominent peaks of Mt Barney, Mt Maroon and Mount Lindesay among others. There are numerous walks in the area, from the relatively easy to the extremely challenging.
The most popular walk in the area is to the Lower Portals. While not an easy walk with a few ridges to walk over and creek crossing, this 7.4 km return walk is something anyone with a little bit of fitness can do. The reason to do the walk is the Lower Portals swimming hole. The name comes from the fact the last part of the path requires that you scramble through a hole in some rocks to get to the swimming hole.
The famous & ever popular Lower Portals Swimming Holes near Rathdowney
Another short walk is the Yellow Pinch Lookout at the Yellow Pinch car park. It is only 2 kms but requires walking up a rough and ready steep track. But the effort is worth it for the great views of Mt Barney.
The Yellow Pinch Lookout in Mt Barney National Park is a nice short walk with great views
Also from the Yellow Pinch car park, there is the lovely Cronan Creek Falls Track. This 12 km return walk follows the creek with plenty of creek crossings. You can keep your feet dry with a bit of effort on all the crossings though. The last part of the waterfall requires either rock hopping and a scramble or walking through the creek. It is well worth it for the great little falls and its perfect swimming hole.
For a more difficult walk, Mt Maroon is a steep 6 km return walk with a scramble up a gorge. While difficult, it is not beyond most people's capabilities. It is well worth it for the views on the way up and at the top.
The walk up Mt Maroon is tough but worth it for the views
You can also hike up Mt Barney. By hiking I mean, it is a very difficult 10-hour return walk, scramble and climb even if you are taking the shortest way up the mountain. In other words, don't attempt this unless you have the experience or skill to do it, as emergency services are sick of rescuing ill prepared people attempting the summit.
Mt Barney is worth hiking for the very fit, experienced & well prepared hikers
With Mt Barney National Park near Rathdowney, one option is camping. Unfortunately there are no national park car camping areas there, but there are bush campsites for hikers at the Lower Portals and on the Cronan Creek track.
The premium place for camping is Mt Barney Lodge with homesteads, cabins, trailers and camping. This has to be the most popular place to stay in the area. There is a swimming hole on the grounds, and they organise activities like rock climbing and abseiling.
You can also stay in town at the Rathdowney Hotel and Motel, for your basic motel style accommodation. It might not be fancy, but it is the heart of town.
There are a number of cottages, BnBs, retreats and even a vineyard in the area as well. It is well worth looking around the area for the perfect stay that suits your budget and style.
I probably wouldn't recommend Rathdowney as a destination in its own right unless you are looking for a relaxing stay in a nearby BnB. But the nearby national park is a popular stop for hikers of all levels. People taking the back route to NSW may also schedule a stop here.