The misty Bunya Mountains have been a refuge from the Queensland heat for thousands of years. Rare rainforest species, including the impressive Bunya Pine, host an obscene amount of bird life a full kilometre above sea level. Oh and it’s only a 3 hour drive from Brisbane, let’s go!
The instantly recognisable peaks of the Bunya Mountains are the remains of a shield volcano from 24 million years back and form part of the Great Dividing Range. Now the subtropical peaks are coated with trees – luckily for the rainforest, most of the terrain was too steep for early logging efforts.
The mountains are home to the largest stand of Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwillii) in the world. These round pines date back to the mesozoic era and share lineage with the famous Wollemi Pine from the Blue Mountains. In fact, Aboriginal tribes used to gather from hundreds of kilometres away to feast on the large, edible bunya nuts – every 3 or 4 years the crop was feast-worthy!
Nowadays it’s a tranquil getaway for hikers and campers, with a few cheeky luxuries thrown in. The Bunya Mountains has been a national park since 1908, so they’ve had some time to get it right.
Hikes In The Bunya Mountains
First thing you’re gonna want to do when you pile out of the car is stretch your legs. Luckily the Bunya Mountains has ten great hikes, from casual strolls through strangler figs to mountain summits! Here are our picks:
Bunya Bunya Track
500m return / 10 mins
Can’t wait to see the Bunya Pines? Pump out this quick stroll for your first glimpse of stunning trees. Perfect for a sunset photo shoot.
4km return / 1 hour 20 mins
Hit this trail for a full rainforest immersion. You’ll pass beneath Bunya Pines (classic) and strangler figs on your way to the cute, tumbling Festoon Falls. The walk then hits Pine Gorge Lookout before backing it up with Tim Shea Falls. Check out the greenery around the cascades!
Westcott to Cherry Plain
4.8km one way / 1.5-2 hours
This longer hike is well worth the effort. It rambles along the edge of the escarpment through a totally new environment. As you near the cliffline the rainforest turns to eucalypts and king orchids, thanks to the extra sunlight and drainage. If you can get dropped off at Cherry Plain you can walk back to the main area of Dandabah and hook into a range of other walks.
2.3km return / 1 hour
C’mon, you knew you were going up the mountain! The 1100m summit of Mt Kiangarow is the highest peak in the Bunya Mountains. From the top you’ll be able to gaze over the park and down to the plains, half a world away. Shh, listen out for the myriad of bird calls wafting up from the rainforest below. Got the guts to be here for sunrise?
A full list of the hikes and further information about the Bunya Mountains can be found in this brochure.
Where To Stay
Like your camping a bit de-luxe? Hit up Dandabah campground for heaps of facilities, even a few local shops and restaurants. You can park up right at your campsite to set up your kitchen sink/hot tub/brisket smoker combo if that’s your vibe.
For those with a more bare-bones approach, Burtons Well is a delightful spot to pitch up. About 8.5 clicks north of the information centre you’ll be totally immersed in the ridgetop environment. There are grass trees hundreds of years old, countless bird species including whipbirds and honeyeaters, and gliders in the nighttime. Camping is a short walk from your car.
A Little Bit Fancy
Got a taste for the finer things? Keen to escape the winter chills in a cabin? Check out The Bunyas. There’s everything from chalets to log cabins for a well-deserved bit of relaxin’. Some people just can’t enjoy the mountain life without cosying up near the fire with a shiraz or whisky at the end of the day. And to be honest, we totally get that!
Check out the Bunya Mountains Accomodation Centre for a full list of wholesome places to stay in the Bunya Mountains.
Activities In The Bunya Mountains
Visit Australia’s Highest Whisky Bar
Speaking of whisky, any decent visit to the Bunya Mountains isn’t complete without a visit to Shackleton’s Whisky Bar. Choose from 116 excellent drops then decide whether you’ll sit by the fire or out on the deck – sitting under the stars is our pick!
Wild Bird Feeding
Usually you’re not supposed to feed wild animals, but The Bunyas has a license that lets them facilitate wild bird feeding. You’ll get to feed King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas guilt-free – the native seeds they’re eating go on to strengthen the forest. The process is strictly controlled though, so make sure you book a place.
Grab A Feed Yourself
If you’re fangin’ for a feed after watching the native birds gobble up their seeds there are two great options. Poppies on the Hill Cafe is a great choice for a caffeine fix, accompanied by their famous Bunya Nut cake. For the famished, check out The Bunyas Tavern. There’s a full bistro up in these mountains – how civilised!
Ride The Kilkivan To Kingaroy Rail Trail
This excellent bike track is only a short drive north of the Bunya Mountains. You’ll take in the beautiful variety of pastoral landscapes that make up regional Queensland over up to 88km of track.
From Kilkivan to Murgon you’ll want a mountain bike (you can hike, run or ride a horse if you want!) whereas Murgon to Kingaroy is sealed, allowing you to get a fair clip up on your road bike, Onewheel or scooter.
However you tackle it, a feast at the The Grand Hotel in Wooroolin is a must at the end of your journey.
Photos by Rob Mulally
Mountain culture in Queensland