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15 Lesser-Known National Parks in Queensland

Unearth new adventures in these amazing national parks

With more than 1,000 protected areas across the state, Queensland is bursting with enchanting and soul-nourishing national parks.

But while travellers are familiar with famous favourites like Noosa National Park and Lamington National Park, there’s a treasure trove of hidden gems that are sure to surprise and delight.

Discover these 15 lesser-known and under-the-radar Queensland national parks that are guaranteed to knock your socks (and hiking boots) off!

1. Blackdown Tableland National Park, Capricorn

A relatively undiscovered sanctuary tucked among the sprawling plains of Central Queensland, Blackdown Tableland National Park has some seriously Instagrammable scenery that’s worth a brag and a tag.

Think sloping sandstone escarpments, echoing gorges, plunging rockpools, and picturesque walking trails.

Visitors to the national park will also find Indigenous rock art on the Mimosa Creek Cultural Trail, sharing stories of the Ghungalu People.

Blackdown Tableland. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

 

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2. St Helena Island National Park, Brisbane

Sitting just 5 km off the coast of Queensland’s capital, St Helena Island was once a colonial penal settlement.

From 1867 until 1932 St Helena Island adopted the role of high-security prison and farm, where inmates helped plant crops, took on trades, and constructed buildings, the ruins of which can still be seen today.

Fast forward to 2023 and the island, now a national park, can be explored by day trippers from Brisbane on a River to Bay ‘Best of Moreton Bay’ cruise or a St Helena Island ‘Prison Life’ experience, led by St Helena Theatre Troupe performers.

Aerial view of St Helena Island. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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3. Mount Walsh National Park, Bundaberg

Mount Walsh National Park, an 80-minute drive southwest of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, is a beacon for seasoned bushwalkers and adventurers.

The park is characterised by imposing granite rock formations, creeks that drop into rockpools, and Mount Walsh itself protruding from the bedrock.

For experienced hikers, the 703m Mount Walsh Summit takes four hours to ascend and offers views from the peak across the countryside.

Meanwhile, the grade four Rockpool Walk winds through hoop pine forest before following the creek sprinkled with rockpools.

Rock pools at Mt Walsh Waterfall Creek (Utopia Falls). Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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4. Wooroonooran National Park, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Coooeee! If the summit hike of Mount Walsh isn’t challenging enough, a climb to the ‘top of Queensland’ is sure to get the legs pushing and the heart pumping.

Perched 1,622m above sea level, Mount Bartle Frere in Wooroonooran National Park, just south of Cairns, is Queensland’s highest peak.

It takes around six to eight hours to conquer, but the views across the Wet Tropics Rainforest and out to the coast are worth the grind.

Also making this national park a must-visit is the lineup of tumbling waterfalls, freshwater rivers, and lush rainforests that intertwine around the mountain.

National Parks - dawn view from a mountain top

Sunrise from the summit of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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5. Bunya Mountains National Park, Southern Queensland Country

The Bunya Mountains National Park, just over a three-hour drive from Brisbane, provides an alpine escape perfect for families and romantic getaways.

The mountains are lined with towering bunya pines and the area was once a ceremonial gathering place for a significant Aboriginal festival called the Bonye Bonye festival.

The Bunya Mountains feature more than 100 individual holiday cabins and cottages for rent, ranging from studios to multi-bedroom chalets.

The National Park is home to a large population of wallabies and offers a patchwork of walking trails through the bunya pine forest, including easy waterfall circuits and more intense hikes across the mountainside.

national parks - family on a hike

Walking past a waterfall in the Bunya Mountains National Park. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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6. Porcupine Gorge National Park, Outback Queensland

Winding through the arid savannah terrain, Porcupine Gorge National Park is an outback oasis.

Just over an hour’s drive from Hughenden, the waters of Porcupine Creek, surrounded by a green outline of rich vegetation that lines the gorge, pop against the orange and yellow of the Outback plains.

The most spectacular way to appreciate the vast canyon is with Fox Helicopters on a scenic flight to the upper section of the national park not accessible from the ground.

Camping is available at the Pyramid campsite and there are three marked walking tracks leading hikers to lookouts or down into the gorge.

national parks - outback gorge

Swimming at the Porcupine Gorge National Park. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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7. Conway National Park, Whitsundays

Leafy rainforest canopies, secret beaches, and sparkling views across the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef are all packaged up into 75km of refreshing rainforest coastline in Conway National Park.

Lining the peninsula beyond the hustle and bustle of Airlie Beach, Conway National Park packs a punch with waterfalls and swimming holes, uncrowded beaches, stunning lookouts, and a network of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Hit the dirt with Bike & Hike Whitsunday and experience the ancient rainforest in a guided mountain bike tour.

The national park is also home to six rare and threatened species like the endangered Proserpine Rock Wallaby.

national parks - cycling through a creek bed

Riding through a creek in the rainforest, while on a tour through Conway National Park. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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8. Mount Hypipamee National Park, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Mount Hypipamee National Park in Tropical North Queensland has other national parks green with envy thanks to an impressive crater that plunges 58m into the ground.

At the bottom of the volcanic pipe lies a 70m deep lake, coated by an eye-catching lime green blanket of native waterweed.

The crater is thought to have formed after a massive gas explosion ruptured through a crack in the earth’s surface and looks as if nature dropped a huge bowling ball into molten rock.

The best vantage point to take in this geological wonder is from the viewing platform on the Crater Track walk.

national parks - aerial view of a rock pool

Mt Hypipamee National Park. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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9. Girringun National Park, Townsville / Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Home to Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall, Wallaman Falls, Girringun National Park in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is a heavy hitter when it comes to wonderous waterfalls.

While many flock to watch the waterfall and then dissipate into mist at the bottom of the 268m Wallaman Falls, the dramatic Blencoe Falls in the upper section of the national park are just as remarkable with two levels of waterfall cascading down the gorge.

Closer to the coast, Attie Creek Falls and the Cardwell Spa Pools offer two superb swimming holes.

national parks - waterfall

Wallaman Falls is the highest, permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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10. Eungella National Park, Mackay

The rainforest refuge that is Eungella National Park is one of the most ecologically diverse pockets of rainforest in Australia, with both tropical and sub-tropical species flourishing under the canopy.

Ever wanted to spot an elusive platypus in the wild? Stay quiet long enough and chances are one will pop its head from the surface of Broken River.

A fan of waterfalls? Check out Araluen Waterfall and the Wheel of Fire Cascades in the Finch Hatton Gorge section of Eungella National Park – both popular with locals.

national parks - lady swimming in a rook pool

Lady swimming in a rock pool at Finch Hatton Gorge. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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11. Kroombit Tops National Park, Gladstone

For history buffs, the little-known Kroombit Tops National Park, southwest of Gladstone, is a destination with a hint of history mixed with a little bit of mystery.

It is the final resting place of the American Liberator WWII bomber, Beautiful Betsy, which vanished over Queensland in 1945 during a flight from Darwin to Brisbane.

The wreckage lay undiscovered for 49 years until a park ranger stumbled on it in 1994 where it remains as a monument to the servicemen onboard who passed away. Kroombit Tops National Park is also home to the critically endangered Kroombit Tinkerfrog of which there are thought to be less than 150 in existence.

B-24D Liberator Bomer, Beautiful Betsy, Kroombit Tops National Park, Gladstone. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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12. Main Range National Park, Brisbane

Main Range National Park stands high and mighty just a 90-minute’ drive from Brisbane and lies within the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest.

While many national parks boast outstanding walking tracks, Main Range National Park takes the cake thanks to the luxe Scenic Rim Trail experience.

The six-day all-inclusive guided trek winds through the Scenic Rim and parts of Main Range National Park stopping overnight at a number of Spicers lodge and cabin accommodation including Spicers Hidden Vale and Spicers Peak Lodge.

For those wanting to tackle just a section of the trail, shorter walks are available.

national parks - aerial view of mountain range and accommodation

Aerial view of Spicers Peak Lodge, Main Range National Park, Scenic Rim Trail. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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13. Chillagoe-Mungo National Park, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Created more than 400 million years, the extraordinary limestone rock formations and caves of Chillagoe-Mungo National Park hold important natural and cultural significance.

Ranger-guided tours inside the caves showcase the magnificent hanging stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones that have formed due to dissolving limestone.

The National Park is also home to Aboriginal rock art galleries that can be accessed on various walking trails.

The site was visited by Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron during the filming of the Netflix series, Down to Earth with Zac Efron.

national parks - family exploring a cave

Family exploring a cave on a ranger-guided Trezkinn Cave Tour at Chillagoe. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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14. Conondale National Park, Sunshine Coast

Take a drive over the hinterland range of the Sunshine Coast to find an effervescent swimming hole the locals have been keeping secret for years.

Booloumba Creek in the Conondale National Park takes natural colour palettes to a whole new level as the freshwater creek blends bright turquoise with deep emerald.

There are a number of camping spots throughout the national park (permit required) and a network of walking trails, of which the Booloumba Falls walk leads to a cascading waterfall and swimming spot.

National parks - huge tree trunk

Figtree Walk, Conondale National Park, Sunshine Coast. Photo: Janelle Lugge/Shutterstock.

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15. Paluma Range National Park, Townsville

Paluma Range National Park sits in the mountain range north of Townsville and is considered the southern entrance to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

The traditional owners of the Paluma Ranges are the Nywaigi Aboriginal People and the Indigenous name for the area is Munan Gumburu, meaning ‘misty mountain’, an appropriate name given the area is often blanketed in a soft cloud of mist.

Take some time to explore this national park by staying overnight at Hidden Valley Cabins.

Walkers and hikers can hit various hiking trails through the rainforest to streams and waterfalls, while peddlers looking to push the limits can enter the Paluma Push, an action-packed event combining the thrill of mountain bike racing with a vibrant festival atmosphere.

national parks - woman sitting beside a waterfall

Small Crystal Creek, Paluma Range National Park. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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Other notable lesser-known national parks:

Log onto queensland.com and start planning your next Queensland national park adventure today.

Content submitted by Tourism and Events Queensland.

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2 replies
  1. Mike Champkin
    Mike Champkin says:

    Unless Mount Walsh has suddenly joined the Himalaya, you will probably find it’s 653m high, not 4622m high!

    Reply
    • Jocelyn Watts
      Jocelyn Watts says:

      Hi Mike, Thank you for bringing that error to our attention. According to several other sources, however, Mt Walsh is 703m high, so I’ve changed it to that in the post. If your figure of 653m is in fact, correct. Please advise your source to confirm, and I’ll be happy to change it again. Cheers, J

      Reply

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