When you think of world-class hiking destinations, you might picture the snowy peaks of the Himalayas or the thru-hikes of the US. But Saphira reckons Queensland is an undiscovered hiking gem.
The Sunshine State hits an almighty trifecta with quite possibly the world’s best weather, internationally renowned and diverse natural beauty, and truly remote experiences. For the traditional hiker looking for solitude and pristine wilderness, Queensland is a veritable smorgasbord of authentic hiking experiences. Here’s why Queensland should be on your hiking hit list.
1. Queensland has all kinds of landscapes
There’s a world of hiking in Queensland, from bush and rainforests to islands and mountains. In the south, a family of iconic peaks called the Glasshouse Mountains adorn the horizon just an hour from the capital city. Two hours’ drive from Brisbane, verdant Jurassic rainforests engulf the land. Then there’s the Scenic Rim, which has one mountain after another, perfect for those endless summer days.
For something completely different, mountains and forests give way to strange granite landscapes in Girraween, and red rugged lands in Sundown (both are west of Brisbane). Or perhaps you’re looking for something totally one-of-a-kind? How does hiking the world’s largest sand island sound, or a week on a Jurassic Park-style jungle island sound? Or what about an overnighter to a rocky juggernaut that looks like the Titanic?
2. Queensland has one of the least crowded hiking experiences in the world
There’s a great tradition of going to the wild to think and be alone. John Muir, a pioneering conservationist, wrote:
‘To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness.’
Muir worried about ‘degenerating into a machine for making money’ and sought out the mountains as a solution. Like Muir, many of us, hiked to escape modern life and to seek solitude but, ironically, many hikes around the world have a bad case of overcrowding. Whether it’s the 500 yearly thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, or the swarms of hikers during peak season on the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Annapurna Circuit (and even Everest!), overcrowding is a problem almost everywhere. But the gargantuan size of Queensland coupled with its scanty population makes it perfect for the hiker seeking solitude. Plus, traditional pack-and-tent hiking is the norm here, with no refugios or huts to disturb your wilderness experience. For maximum solitude, try Sundown National Park or Lizard Point, which are both southwest of Brisbane.
3. You can hike year-round
Hiking is essentially a year-round pursuit in Queensland, which is not a claim many places can make. Winter rarely requires more than a puffer jacket and a beanie; and although our summers can be sweltering, this is easily forgotten in our tranquil and cool rainforests.
In Queensland, you can sleep under the stars without a tent in the middle of winter. Summer brings rock hopping in places like Obi Obi Gorge and Stairway Falls, as well as waterhole swimming in Kondalilla. You can even sit back in the otherworldly Fairy Pools in Noosa. With 283 sunny days a year in Brisbane (245 in the Gold Coast and 320 in Townsville), Queensland is truly the sunny state. These mild temperatures and blue skies are one of the biggest reasons Queensland is a premier hiking location.
4. Queensland has world-renowned natural sights
Queensland’s natural beauty is internationally renowned. Five of the 16 natural World Heritage Sites of Australia are in Queensland – tying with NSW for the most in any state. Rainforests are perhaps the crown jewel of Queensland’s natural riches. Queensland’s rainforests make Australia the only developed country with tropical or subtropical rainforests (they only grow near the equator), and Queensland actually has the world’s largest protected region of subtropical rainforest – the ancient Gondwanan rainforest of the southeast.
Up north, we have even more several hundred million-year-old tropical rainforests. Our Gondwanan rainforests are best experienced on the Daves Creek Circuit or Box Forest Circuit in Lamington, and the mighty Daintree is perhaps best enjoyed in Mossman Gorge or Millaa Millaa Falls. Of course, there’s always the world-famous Thorsborne Track on Hinchinbrook, whose ancient rainforests make this Queensland’s most renowned multi-day hike.
5. Queensland has more plant and animal types than any other Australian state
Did you know that Queensland has more plants and animals than any other state? Of our 14,500 native plants, one third are found nowhere else in the world. How incredible is that?!
Queensland is also home to more animals than any other Australian state. You can see the quirky cassowary or the azure Ulysses butterfly up north, where you’ll also find the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, established in memory of the great conservationist and all-round national treasure Steve Irwin. There’s no greater honour than that, in my opinion.
But any commentary on Queensland’s natural diversity would be incomplete without mention of the legendary gumtree. With almost half of Australia’s forests, Queensland is the place to be for lovers of the great Australian bush. If you want to immerse yourself in gumtree forests for a week look no further than the Carnarvon Gorge Great Walk – it might just be Australia’s best bushwalk.
Photos by Miranda Fittock