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Sunshine Coast Hinterland National Parks and Guided Tours

25 Jul 2018

With lush green rainforest, picture perfect waterfalls, crystal clear rock pools to swim in, and national parks packed full of wildlife, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is a nature lovers’ paradise. 

Forest bathing. It's a thing. The practice originated in Japan where it is called "shinrin-yoku" and is embraced by those seeking to de-stress by connecting with the naturally rejuvenating power of nature. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland has a myriad of places for 'forest bathing' - and the bushland areas are packed full of idyllic scenic spots to relax and enjoy a picnic. 

Glass House Mountains National Park

The Glass House Mountains were named by Captain Cook as he mapped the Queensland coast in 1770. The “Glass Houses” are distinctive volcanic plugs that rise abruptly from the surrounding countryside. These 20 million year-old monoliths are part of the Aboriginal ‘songlines’ navigational landmarks once used by Aborigines to find their way and are a prominent feature of local Aboriginal legend. Let the awe-inspiring landscape wash over you as you take a leisurely drive through the Glass House Mountains National Park, stopping at picturesque lookouts along the way, or get your blood pumping with some hiking, rock climbing or abseiling on an adventure tour with the team from Experientia. Make some time to visit the Glass House Mountains Lookout where you'll enjoy panoramic views of the mountains as they tower over a scenic patchwork of national parks, plantations and cultivated farmland.

Glass House Mountains Visitor & Interpretive Centre
Corner Reed St and Bruce Parade, Glasshouse Mountains
Open: 9 am to 4 pm seven days
Closed: Christmas and Good Friday
T: +61 07 5458 8848
F: +61 07 5438 7296 
Free Call: +61 1300 847 481

Mount Ngungun. Glass House Mountains National Park.
Mount Ngungun. Glass House Mountains National Park.

Kondalilla National Park

A refuge for many species of native animals and plants, Kondalilla National Park is a magnet for birdwatchers and nature photographers as well as bushwalkers. With a stunning waterfall that drops 90 metres into a rainforest valley, rocky pools and freshwater creeks - is it clear why the park gets its name from an Aboriginal word meaning 'rushing waters'. Five rare and threatened frog species - as well as the Bopple Nut, a rare macadamia species - can be found in the park. There is a wonderful day-use area which is ideal for picnics and can be reached on an easy 1.7 kilometre circuit track. For more of a challenge, tackle the 300 stairs on the 4.6 kilometre Kondalilla Falls Circuit or explore the Kondalilla leg of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk which winds its way through this park on the way to Lake Baroon, Mapleton and Gheerulla.

Kondalilla National Park
Kondalilla Falls Road
4 kilometres north of Montville
Montville, 4560
Free Call: +61 13 7468

Kondalilla Falls National Park (image courtesy of NPSR).
Kondalilla Falls National Park (image courtesy of NPSR).

Conondale National Park

Conondale National Park forms the heart of an extensive area of unspoilt mountain scenery in the Conondale Range. With magnificent forests, deep gorges and spectacular views, this park and the adjacent state forest offer scenic drives, picnic areas and a choice of four grassy camp sites that sit alongside native rainforests and cool mountain streams. Walks range from a short stroll beside crystal clear creeks, to challenging hikes including to a hike to the Mount Allan fire tower or a trek along the four-day 56 kilometre Conondale Range Great Walk. It is a picturesque and ecologically important area, protecting the habitats of many rare and threatened animals, including several species of frogs and the seldom-seen Yellow-Bellied Glider. Access is via gravel roads suitable for conventional vehicles with care. In wet weather, roads may be closed. The scenic drive that starts on Booloumba Creek Road and travels through the Kenilworth Forest Reserve, has several creek crossings that are only accessible by high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles. Allow at least 90 minutes for the scenic drive and extra time for picnics and bushwalks. Birdwatchers will enjoy Little Yabba Creek, while mountain bike and horse riders can explore the park and forest along vehicle tracks. And for the real adventurers, take the Booloumba Creek turn-off and head to Booloumba Falls for a swim in the hidden rock pools.

Conondale National Park
Conondale, 4552
Free Call: +61 13 74 68

Booloumba Falls - Conondale National Park.
Booloumba Falls - Conondale National Park.

Mapleton Falls National Park

Mapleton Falls National Park marks the point just west of Mapleton where Pencil Creek spectacularly cascades 120 metres over an escarpment into the rock pools below. This small, day-use-only park shelters many bird species, including the Peregrine Falcon, Eastern Whipbird and Wompoo Fruit Dove. From the carpark, enjoy a short walk to Mapleton Falls Lookout which has wheelchair access. This viewing platform, high above the Obi Obi Gorge and Mary River Valley, takes in endless views of luxuriant green rainforests, piccabeen groves and the very top of Mapleton Falls. Look for Peregrine Falcons soaring above - in early spring they roost on the edges of the falls. From the open, grassy picnic area, the Wompoo Circuit winds through eucalypts and rainforest. Listen for the Fruit Dove’s booming calls, 'wallock-a-woo' and 'book-a-roo'. Near the causeway pool, listen for frogs and marvel at the distinctive hexagonal volcanic rocks.

Mapleton Falls National Park
Mapleton, 4560
T: +61 13 0013 0372
Free Call: +61 13 7468

Mapleton Falls National ParkMapleton Falls National Park

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

The enchanting Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is located a few minutes from Maleny. The 55 hectare National Estate subtropical rainforest features remnants of the ancient forests that once covered the Blackall Range and is a living natural museum of diverse Australian plant and animal life. For a gold coin donation you can stroll on the wide boardwalks and easy-access bush tracks through the sub-tropical rainforest be delighted with the tranquillity and beauty of this special place. The reserve is home to the Mountain Crayfish, Great Barred Frog, Marbled Frogmouth and the Red-Necked Pademelon. TIP: If you'd like to see the Pademelons, head along at dusk as this is when they come out to feed. 

If you fancy a coffee or a bite to eat while you’re exploring, head into the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reservice Rainforest Discovery Centre which offers spectacular views of the heritage listed Glass House Mountains. The centre also features interactive displays, multi-sensory experiences and exhibits, a conservation research area and modern amenities.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
41 Mountain View Road Maleny, 4552
T: + 61 07 5429 6122

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reservice Rainforest Discovery Centre
Open 9.00am to 4.30pm every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Rainforest walk: Open 7.00am to 6.00pm daily

Mary Cairncross Scenic Resort and rainforest walk.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Resort and rainforest walk.

Mooloolah River National Park

This park on the banks of the Mooloolah River, protects one of the few remaining coastal rainforest areas in this region. Also known as Jowarra, this is an important home for wildlife, including the Wompoo Fruit Dove, Eastern Yellow Robin and the vulnerable Richmond Birdwing butterfly. The river is home to platypus, which may be seen at dawn and dusk. Two short, easy walks lead from the rest area - the Mooloolah River Circuit, a 500 metre walk, and the 1.3 kilometre Melaleuca Walk. The tracks are not sealed but in dry weather they are wheelchair accessible. Use insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and leeches.

Mooloolah River National Park
Jowarra Section 
Beerwah, 4519
T: +61 13 0013 0372
Free Call: +61 13 7468

Take a guided tour

If you're short on time, don't feel like driving, or you'd like some company on your forest ramblings, consider joining a guided tour. 

Experientia Sunshine Coast offer tours from the Glass House Mountains to the sun-kissed beaches of the Gympie region. Experientia has a range of experiences including the "H30 - Three Waterfalls, One Day" tour that includes a swim in the rock pools at Buderim Falls, Mapleton Falls, and Kondalilla National Park. Experientia will pick you up from your hotel and drop you back once you’ve experienced the magic of the coast’s magnificent waterfalls.

Tropical Treks Guided Bushwalks and Birdwatching are specialists in small group, personalised guided bush walks and birdwatching and wildlife tours. The Treks team offer half-day and full day adventures locations throughout the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Hinterland. Designed to showcase the region’s landscape, flora, fauna and culture, the walks are interactive, fun and informative. They also offer an 88 kilometre, 5-day 4-night, fully guided walk along the Cooloola Great Walk from Noosa North Shore to the Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach.  

Or if you’d prefer to enjoy the Sunshine Coast’s natural wonders in style, spoil yourself at Montville’s Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat where you can try their simple Obi Boardwalk or Narrows Nature Trail or get a little more active with organised walks from Kondalilla Falls to Lake Baroon and the Baroon Lookout.


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