Ships Stern Circuit is an epic 21km hike at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park with lots of detours along the way for keen beans who want to extend the walk. Roz takes us through why Ships Stern Circuit is one of her favourite hikes in South East Queensland.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Bundjalung Nation, the traditional Country of the Bundjalung people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Fantastic views from numerous lookouts
- Beautiful high waterfall
- Gondwana World Heritage Rainforest
- Wildflowers and colourful fungi
- Native birds and wildlife
Point Your Sail to Ships Stern Circuit
There are interesting rock overhangs, waterfalls, creek crossings, stunning views, rainforest, open eucalypt forest, stands of piccabeen palms, red cedar, scribbly gum, and flooded gum trees.
The hike begins on the Bluebird Track and wanders past the Koolanbilba and Yangahla lookouts before branching off onto the Ships Stern Circuit. There’s a good view of Ships Stern from the lookouts and with a bit of imagination, it certainly looks like the stern of a ship.
I’ve done the walk three times, always in a clockwise direction including the short 1.2km return detour to Lower Ballanjui Falls. It’s a magnificent waterfall, especially after heavy rain, and a great place for a short rest and snack 5.3km into the walk.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
The pool at the base of the waterfall saved me once, when my water bladder leaked and I ran out of water. After a repair job and water treatment with purification tablets, I was able to fill up with water to continue the long trek on a very hot day.
There are different things to see depending on the season. I’ve walked the track in hot weather and pouring rain, and seen beautiful coloured fungi and wildflowers in spring. I’ve seen rare snakes and lizards and lots of native birds. On my most recent walk in early spring it was much cooler and we walked in heavy rain for the last hour.
There are terrific views on this walk over Numinbah Valley with views of Egg Rock, Turtle Rock, and Ships Stern. Further around the trail, there are views all the way to Wollumbin (Mt Warning) in NSW.
There’s another detour to Upper Ballunjui Falls further along the walk, which I’m yet to wander down myself.
The track crosses Nixon Creek and goes up through Hidden Valley past Charraboomba Rock to the top of Ships Stern Range. There’s the option of climbing the 680m Charraboomba Rock that has beautiful views. There are also views from Eastern Milleribah and Gorooburra lookouts.
The walk takes around eight hours, depending on stops and detours. Some people extend the walk by adding on Daves Creek Circuit.
It’s a wonderful hike in beautiful Lamington National Park, perfect for those looking for an all-day trek.
Be Sure to Come Prepared
The first two times I took on this hike, other walkers suffered from heat stress and leg cramps. There’s no phone reception along parts of the track so it’s important to carry a PLB in case of an emergency.
Read more: How To Use a PLB
I’ve also seen venomous and non-venomous snakes along the track. One time we had to jump over a large python on a very narrow part of the track, and on another trip some walkers almost trod on a rare deadly Stephens’ Banded snake.
You also need a good first aid kit with some snake bandages and knowledge of how to use them.
Read more: How To Survive a Snake Bite
The Ships Stern Circuit is a beautiful walk, but it can get very hot, so it’s probably best to do it in the cooler months. Take plenty of water and electrolytes and wear cool clothes if going on a hot day, as there are sections of the walk out in the open.
Some of the creek crossings are slippery, so you need boots or shoes with good grip.
- Day pack
- Sun protection – hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt and long trousers or shorts
- Hiking boots or shoes with good grip for slippery creek crossings
- Water (at least 3 litres)
- Lunch and snacks
- First aid kit, including snake bite bandages, leech and tick repellant, electrolytes
- Rain jacket
- Walking poles (optional, but very useful)
- Head torch just in case
How To Get There
The Ships Stern Circuit is in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park, 110km south of Brisbane. Drive from Brisbane to Canungra, and then take Beechmont Road to Binna Burra. The circuit starts at the Saddle trailhead opposite the road entrance to where the Binna Burra Lodge used to be, before it burnt down.
This is a long day hike and rated a level 4 difficulty by Queensland National Parks. The track is well marked, but you do need to take a map.
Distance Covered / Duration
21km including the sidetrack to Lower Ballunjui Falls / 8 hours