There are over 1000 National Parks in Queensland, and all have their own unique attractions and draw cards. Most of the time, there will be lots of hiking, swimming spots, or areas you just need to see to believe.
Below we have 10 amazing National Parks in Queensland to visit and explore. Some will be far from civilization and phone service, and others will be close by plenty of facilities. Whatever kind of traveler you are, there will be at least one you will want to check out on your next visit to Queensland, Australia.
- Conondale National Park
- Welford National Park
- Springbrook National Park
- Porcupine Gorge National Park
- North Stradbroke Island (Naree Budjong Djara National Park)
- Carnarvon Gorge National Park
- Bribie Island National Park
- Cape Hillsborough National Park
- Girraween National Park
- Blackdown Tablelands National Park
Conondale National Park
The Sunshine Coast hinterland has many National Parks, but nothing compares to the variety of the Conondale National Park. You have a few options for visiting and swimming, along with bush camping. It’s located about 2 hours north of Brisbane and 1 hour inland of the Sunshine Coast.
Depending on the rainfall at the time, you might need a four-wheel drive to access the Conondale National Park. The road on your way in starts with a very wide creek crossing, and it can get too deep for a standard-size vehicle. Although, if the creek is low, I have seen standard-size cars make it through ok.
Once you’re in, there are two main sections to visit. The first is for bush camping and swimming in a small freshwater creek. The water is refreshing, crystal clear, and an amazing oasis away from the big city life. Take a few drinks, a group of friends, or the whole family – Everyone is going to love this wonderful spot.
Apart from that, you have a small hike and a waterfall for swimming at the Booloumba Creek Falls. This is about 10 kilometers away from the Camping section, but only a 30-minute hike one-way. There is a huge waterhole for swimming, and you can enjoy a natural massage with the water pressure coming down.
Welford National Park
The Welford National Park is one of your best tastes of Outback Queensland and the beautiful, bright red dirt roads. The Park is located about an hour outside of the small town of Windorah, and over 1200 square kilometers in size. All the areas are easy to explore by driving, but you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access.
There are three different roads to complete to delve into the Welford National Park – The River Drive, The Desert Drive, and Mulga Drive. There are no supplies available for the whole time you visit, but there is a drop toilet accessible within the camping grounds. It’s best to bring everything with you for the day, including a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water, a fly net, and food.
The River Drive is the shortest of the three, a scenic drive and where you will find the billabong and camping spot. While the driving path follows the river, you will see birds like cockatoos and crows and maybe other animals. If you’re keen, you can swim in the river or maybe better for kayaking or paddleboarding.
The Desert drive is 22 kilometers long and will take about 1.5 hours to complete. You will find the picturesque winding roads, red sand dunes, Oil Bore, Old Pastoral Stock, and don’t forget to look out for Australian Wildflowers on the ground.
Springbrook National Park
The Springbrook National Park is located in the South East section of the State and has easy access from Brisbane or the Gold Coast on a day trip. It’s over 6000 hectares in size and part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Transport back into the Jurassic age and explore areas that border on a prehistoric Volcano that once spewed lava and basalt across the landscape. Consequently, this created picturesque structures, waterfalls, and many different trails for beginner walkers, to expert hikers.
The park has four main sections: The Springbrook Plateau, Mount Cougal, Natural Bridge, and Numinbah. These contain walking tracks that range from 300 meters to 54 kilometers in size and visit beautiful locations like the Natural Bridge and Purling Brook Falls. There are breathtaking views, lush forests, lots of different wildlife to find, and relaxing rainforests sounds.
Accessing the Springbrook National park will only require a standard two-wheel drive vehicle. Most of the roads will have you winding around the countryside at low speed, and you need to take care of oncoming traffic. Conveniently, the more popular hikes will have purpose-built car parks and toilets facilities.
Porcupine Gorge National Park
The Porcupine Gorge National Park is 54 square kilometers in size and is located in the northern part of Outback Queensland. The Park itself is small but contains what is often referred to as Little Grand Canyon and a large Pyramid rock formation.
It’s about 25 kilometers in length, and the sandstone cliff landscape has been carved away over time by eroding water. Consequently, you will need to park in two different spots to explore Porcupine Gorge. There are limited trees and shaded areas, and therefore, best to visit in the mornings or late afternoon.
The first section is only a short walk but will gain access to the lookout point over a section of the deep canyon formation. It’s a formed path and will take about 5 minutes to get there.
The second section starts at the Camping area and has you walking down a rocky, uneven pathway into the gorge. In about 30 minutes, you will arrive at the river bed and witness the beautiful Pyramid. The eroding water has formed this, along with several holes and indentations on the gorge floor – This is often suitable for rock pool swimming.
In the wet season, it can become a raging cascade and the river bed is inaccessible. However, the view from above or the lookout point is still amazing, while you marvel at nature at its best.
North Stradbroke Island (Naree Budjong Djara National Park)
The lovely North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) is about 275 square Kilometres in size, located off the coast of Brisbane, and accessed by a short ferry ride. About fifty percent of the Island is allocated as the Naree Bujong Dajara National Park and belongs to the original aboriginal owners, the Quandamooka people.
The Island itself has around 2000 permanent residents and is built up like a small country town. There are plenty of different facilities available including local arts and crafts sales, beachside accommodation options, groceries, and many restaurants/cafés.
Many will visit North Stradbroke Island for heaps of swimming, caravan parks, beach camping, fishing, surfing, and hiking. If you’re traveling as a couple, family, or a group of friends, there will be something for you to enjoy.
Most of the National Park is accessed by four-wheel drive, but organized tours are available for those that don’t own those vehicles. Sandy tracks are in abundance, and you can spend a couple of days admiring the kangaroos, birdlife, and other local wildlife.
Carnarvon Gorge National Park
The Carnarvon Gorge National Park is a definite must for the avid Hiker. It’s located just less than 5 hours inland from Rockhampton, and most will stay for a few days to a week. Furthermore, it features an easy main hike, with several smaller walks branching out from the visitor information center.
There are two different caravan parks just on the outskirts of this National Park in Queensland. This makes it very convenient for off-grid campers, powered sites, or even those who require cabin accommodation. Please note that the fixed housing can be a little expensive, but well worth it after a long day of hiking.
The main gorge hike is about 20 kilometers return, follows the gorge, and crosses the river bed several times. There are many different tracks that via off the main one to more specific sites. This includes the Moss Garden, The Ampitheatre, Wards Canyon, Boolimba Bluff, and the Cathedral. The more tracks you complete, the more time and distance it will take, and sometimes better to be split into a couple of days.
The best time to visit is during the winter season, from April to October each year. This will ensure a lower water level and creek crossings easier to manage. Additionally, hiking poles are recommended for the distance, rock hopping, and some of the stairs.
Bribie Island National Park
Located about one hour from the Queensland capital of Brisbane, you have the small Island of Bribie. What’s great about this island is you can actually drive there yourself from the Mainland coast, crossing over the short Pumicestone passage. This makes Bribie Island and the National Park/Recreation area easy to visit and explore.
There are over 55 square kilometers of Bribie Island that’s uninhabited, full of birds, four-wheel driving areas, and camping spots. Consequently, this covers nearly one-third of the Island and is a popular National Park in Queensland to visit.
The Best activities are associated on land with exploring the beaches, fishing the waterways, camping on the beach, and hiking through the tracks. However, many will bring water devices for fun, including Kayaks, paddleboards, and even Jet Skis.
To access the National Park, you will need a four-wheel-Drive vehicle, but the rest of the Island, shops, and many beaches can be visited with a standard two-wheel drive.
Cape Hillsborough National Park
The Cape Hillsborough National Park is located along the coast of Queensland, about 40 mins north of Mackay. This National Park in Queensland contains off-grid beach camping, caravan parks, and hikes through the bush to viewpoints up high. However, the biggest drawcard would be to see native Kangaroos feeding on the beach at sunrise every morning.
The high tide brings sea pods and kelp to the Cape Hillsborough beach every day. This is a delectable feed for the kangaroos, and the early mornings are when they like to rummage around for something to eat.
You have to be an early riser for this one, and quickly after the sun rises, the wallabies/kangaroos will retreat into the surrounding bushland. Therefore, it’s best to get to the beach at least 30 minutes before the sun is supposed to rise.
These animals are used to humans and can get very close to you. However, they are wild and spook easily, so it’s best to keep your distance. Due to popularity, the morning feeding is now managed by Mackay Tourism and helps control the visitors to this amazing National Park in Queensland.
Keep in mind that it’s free to watch and you can take as many photos as you like.
Girraween National Park
The Girraween National Park is located in southern Queensland, about 3 hours from Brisbane and 30 minutes from Stanthorpe. It contains the famous Pyramid hiking track, finishing 1100 meters above sea level, and a large, balancing rock up the top.
The Pyramid Track is only a 3.6 kilometers return but will take 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. Most of the track is dirt, but well-formed and easy to walk. The last few hundred meters require scaling the side of a mountain and sometimes crawling with your hands.
Once at the top, you’re brought to the most unimaginable, 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. In addition, the miraculous 10 tonne and 7.5 meters high rock formation, balancing on its own.
You do have many more options to enjoy in this National Park in Queensland, along with swimming, bush camping, and many other hikes. The Sphinx and Turtle Hike is probably the second favorite and should not be missed in your time there.
Blackdown Tablelands National Park
About 2 hours inland from Rockhampton, you will come to the Blackdown Tablelands National Park. It’s 47 thousand square kilometers in size and popular for its rock pool swimming locations.
Accessing the Park is by four-wheel drive only, but it’s a flat, a little elevation, and easy dirt track to drive. You have a bush camping spot with toilet facilities and many different hiking trails.
One of the more popular hikes is the Rainbow Falls (Guddo Gamoo) and a beautiful swimming hole to cool off. It’s about 4 kilometers return to complete but requires going up and down 240 steps into the gorge. You’re surrounded by amazing palms, listening to different animals, and best visited between December and April.
Apart from that, there is an alternate route off this track to other rock pools, which happens to be one of Queensland’s most instagrammable locations.
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Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys, provides valuable information and inspiration for your land and underwater travels. She lives in Australia and has traveled to 36 countries and across Australia.