Lamington National park is not just a place of great beauty and lookouts, it is also the location of a legendary plane crash and rescue in 1937. While hiking to the crash site itself is a grueling 12 hour hike an easier option is to hike to Westray's Grave, the place where one of the initial survivors who later died before rescue is buried.
The stuff of Queensland legend, in 1937 a Stinson Airliner had crashed on a flight from Brisbane. With many people believing the plane had crashed somewhere over New South Wales no search had been conducted in the Lamington Area until Bernard O'Reilly heard the news one week after the crash and set off in search of the crash site based on a hunch.
He found two survivors at the crash site and was told another man, Jim Westray, had also survived and set off down the nearly sheer bluffs to Christmas Creek where his body was found. Jim Westray is buried by Christmas Creek. Visiting his grave lets you witness this incredibly rugged country where O'Reilly walked without tracks to rescue the plane crash survivors.
This hike takes you along the beautiful Christmas Creek on one of the few tougher hikes in Lamington National Park. It is also the start of much harder hikes such as Larapinta Falls, Stinson Crash Site and Point Lookout Peak.
The start of the hiking is easy to find, simply drive to the end of Christmas Creek Road where there is a small car park. You will walk through private property to the actual start of the track. Please make sure you shut the gate to the property behind you.
The first challenge is a creek crossing that is little difficult when the weather is dry but more difficult after there has been rain. There is also an option to cross a little further upstream using a fallen tree trunk.
Beyond Westray's Grave the path becomes much more difficult and harder to follow with many creek crossing and rock hopping, with little defined path. You should only consider continuing if you are well prepared for the tougher hiking.
Note: This is a Australian Hiking Standard AS5 hike. It is not particular difficult and much of the hike is flat on a well defined path but rugged path, however there is one difficult creek crossing, some scrambling and places where the path is hard to follow with no sign posts. However it is difficult to become lost because you are hiking along the bottom of a steep valley so it is impossible to actually take the wrong route without climbing up near vertical bluffs. Make sure though you are well prepared and have topographic maps. You can get topographic maps online for free from QTopo.
Roy I really enjoyed reading this article especially the pictures. I grew up walking to The Stinson as we called it, camping and taking the stretcher track home the next day. Great walk, beautiful history and as a child my mum was most disturbed when I asked if I could dig Westray up to see if he was really there haha. Thank you for the stroll down memory lane ;)
Last week I walked the Westray's grave track and clearly marked it with pink survey tape. Park in the small car-park at the end of Christmas Creek road and proceed through the gate down to the creek, follow the tape from the large log across the creek at the beginning of the track Look for the pink tape tied to the dead wood along the track especially at the creek crossings and you will not get lost.Through the tall trees and the palm forest at the start of the track the tapes are widely spaced. Just keep on the most obvious track with the creek to your left and you will soon pick up the makers. At the junction of the Stinson wreck track keep to the left of the two trees. The left tree has one tape the right tree has two. The right hand tree marks the track to the Stinson wreck. Take care climbing under the two large fallen trees. when you are almost at the grave the path is blocked be a fallen tree. you will have to climb over this to continue, it is marked by a pink tape. Take care on the last creek crossing as the rocks are very mossy and slippery, look for the marker on the other side to show where the track continues. There is a second junction to the Stinson track marked by a tin sign pointing up the very steep incline.
It should take you approx. 1.5 hours each way. Wear boots, long trousers and a neck scarf or sweat towel to keep the leaches at bay. Take a good torch,Bandage and first aid kit with salt sachets to detach any leaches that love the taste of you, also plenty of water and some snacks for the trail. Also wear some rubber gardening gloves, if a wait-a-while vine snags you they will save your hands while you untangle yourself. secateurs are your best friend in this case. From the Grave it is another 1.5 hours to the wreck up a steep ridge. Leave early to give yourself plenty of time to return. Have fun. this is a very enjoyable walk.