Wander to wonder: 11 spectacular Queensland national parks you need to visit
When it comes to national parks, Queensland has a few. Over 1000, actually.
Stretching from the tropics to the outback, the coast to the country – our national parks offer more than just a pretty view.
It’s here you’ll find world-heritage listed ecosystems and rare wildlife encounters.
Maybe you’ll explore underground lava tubes, or fossil fields dating back millions of years.
Or find your own secluded spot on the sand at one of the world’s most famous beaches.
Or lace up your boots and hit the trails of our Great Walks.
Ready to dive in? Here are 11 Queensland national parks you should visit on your next adventure.
Wander through world-heritage Gondwana Rainforest: Lamington National Park
100km from Brisbane, or 45km from the Gold Coast.
Discover the green beyond the Gold Coast at Lamington National Park. Home to ancient sub-tropical rainforest (we’re talking here-before-the-dinosaurs old), raging waterfalls and countless hiking trails – Lamington is as sweet as its baked namesake.
Added bonus? You’re just a hop, skip and jump from more of Queensland’s best waterfalls at neighbouring Springbrook National Park. If you venture this way, Purlingbrook Falls, Twin Falls and Natural Bridge are must-sees.
Take it easy: Get a new perspective on the treetop Booyong Walk. Leaving from O’Reilly’s, this 1km boardwalk elevates walkers 16m above the forest floor, across a series of suspension bridges. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.
Get your sweat on: Box Forest Circuit is a stunning waterfall-laden 10km walk. For a real challenge, tackle three days backpacking on the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk.
Get up close and personal with the remains of the world’s longest lava tube: Undara Volcanic National Park
300km from Cairns.
The floor IS lava at Undara.
190,000 years ago, the lava that poured out of Kalkani Crater flowed down ancient river beds, travelled 164km and left behind the Undara Lava Tubes – the oldest standing lava tubes on earth today.
You really need to stand in the cave network to appreciate its size.
Then, take a hike at your own leisure to Rosella Plains Lookout Trail or along the short Kalkani Crater Rim Walk.
Take it easy: Undara Experience runs two-hour tours of the caves, offering easy and moderate level adventures (FYI you need to be on a tour to explore the lava tubes).
For something different: Take in a big sky sunset with Undara Experience, before a dusk visit to the caves to see thousands of micro-bats as they emerge each evening.
Rest your head: Spend the night in Undara’s unique railway carriage digs, or set up your tent at their campsite. There’s an onsite restaurant and pool to cool off after a day of exploring.
Island-hop your way through paradise: Whitsunday Islands National Park
Access via boat or air from Airlie Beach, 270km from Townsville.
It’s not just the locals who love it. Whitsunday Islands National Park is home to Whitehaven Beach – consistently voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches (and we think so too).
Get your sweat on: Hike the 5km to Whitsundays Peak for panoramic views of Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach and surrounding islands.
Visit an outdoor gallery of Aboriginal art: Carnarvon National Park
700km from Brisbane.
Stand back Grand Canyon: here in Queensland it’s all about our Green Canyon.
Towering sandstone cliffs, prehistoric cycads, 200+ species of birds and one of Australia’s most significant Indigenous rock art galleries meet at Carnarvon Gorge. From Boolimba Bluff’s sweeping views to the oasis-green gorge floor, the sights here will make lifetime memories.
Take it easy: Get a bird’s-eye view of Carnarvon Gorge with a 10-minute scenic tour with Heli-Central. You’ll spot the more remote parts of park, like the Three Sisters, Wool Pack and deep narrow gorges – places normally only viewed by the hardiest of hikers who conquer the five-day trek.
Get your sweat on: Set off on the Main Gorge Track (20km, allow 8 hours) that takes in the park’s biggest sights including Moss Gardens, the Amphitheatre and Art Gallery before reaching Big Bend. If you’re short on time, don’t stress – you can adapt the walk to suit the time you have (check out this full guide for all the details)
Rest your head: For nature lovers, Wallaroo Outback Retreat can’t be beat. Here you’ll find glamping tents set on a 72,000 acre cattle farm – about an hour’s drive from Carnarvon National Park.
For the ultimate coastal walk: Noosa National Park
150km from Brisbane
Only in Queensland can a spectacular coastal national park be found just steps away from a world-class dining hub.
Just beyond bustle of Hastings Street’s coffee-slinging cafes and hatted restaurants, you’ll find secluded beaches, secret swimming holes, coastal lookouts and 15km of trails to explore in Noosa National Park.
Lose yourself in the beauty of this coastal park – without any chance of getting lost (the trails here are well marked!)
Take it easy: Pack a feast and stroll to Picnic Cove to have one of your own, followed by a dip in nearby Fairy Pools.
Get your sweat on: Make your way along the 10km return coastal track to Lion Rock. Take the inland Tanglewood Walk on the way back – and keep your eyes out for koalas!
While you’re here, kayak the nearby Noosa Everglades – one of only two everglades on earth!
Step into the world’s oldest rainforest: Daintree National Park
20km from Port Douglas, 80km from Cairns.
Daintree National Park is the jewel of the world-heritage listed Wet Tropics eco-system. In fact, this rainforest is the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest in the world, thought to be 165 million years old – trumping even the Amazon.
With two distinct sections: Mossman and Cape Tribulation – you’ll find gorges, ancient plants, rare flora and the chance to see animals you can’t see anywhere else in the world (including the cassowary – but keep your distance!)
Whether you have one day or more, it’s certainly worth the trip.
Take it easy: For those who like their walks under a kilometre or require accessible paths, the Daintree is full of them. A guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk (led by the Kuku Yalanji people) is the best way to truly appreciate Mossman Gorge. Otherwise, our pick is the Baral Marrjanga track (270m) or the aerial walkway at Daintree Discovery Centre which offers views from the forest floor to neck-craning reaches of the rainforest canopy.
Get your sweat on: Serious climbers should make a beeline for the seven hour scenic hike winding from the lowlands of Cape Tribulation to the ridge of Mount Sorrow. Or kayak where the rainforest meets the reef with Paddletrek Kayak Adventures. They offer afternoon paddle tours of Cape Tribulation Bay, exploring pristine beaches, mangroves, fringing reef and marine wildlife.
Hike rugged granite peaks: Glasshouse Mountains National Park
60km from Brisbane, 40km from Sunshine Coast.
Skyscrapers look a little different on the Sunshine Coast.
The 11 iconic volcanic peaks of Glasshouse Mountains National Park tower above the Hinterland landscape – you can even see them from the beaches.
And it’s a bit of a family affair. The Dreaming by local Aboriginal people explains the ranges are home to Dad (Mt Tibrogargan), Mum (Mt Beerwah), and their many children.
At just an hour’s drive from Brisbane, it’s an easy day trip or weekend adventure.
Wind your windows down and zip through the 55km Blackall Range Tourist Drive. It’s one of the most scenic drives in the country, with views of the Glasshouse Mountains, as well as back to the beaches. This subtropical area is home to farms growing pineapples, strawberries, avocados and macadamias, so look out for roadside stalls selling produce along the roads in the area.
Get your sweat on: Summit Mt Ngungun and be rewarded with 360-degree sweeping views across the Hinterland, including Mount Beerwah, with eldest son Coonowrin sitting directly in front of her. There are plenty of hikes in this national park to keep busy all day – from circuit tracks to harder climbs.
Rest your head: Whether you’re here for a weekend or a while, our Sunshine Coast Hinterland accommodation guide has you sorted from cottages to lakeside treehouses and luxury estates
Swim under Australia’s highest single drop waterfall: Girringun National Park
160km from Townsville.
You might not have heard of her, but she’s worth a visit.
Girringun National Park is home to Wallaman Falls, Australia’s highest single drop waterfall, which cascades an impressive 268m into the pool below.
Part of world heritage listed Wet Tropics area, The park comprises six different sections from Cardwell down to Townsville.
Another top spot is the jacuzzi-like bright blue waters of Cardwell Spa Pools – the perfect spot for a post-hike dip.
Take it easy: Admire Wallaman Falls from the main lookout, then walk to the second lookout which provides stunning views of the gorge and the Herbert River Valley. There are a number of short scenic walking tracks near the falls too.
Get your sweat on: The 4km track from the road at the top of Wallaman Falls, winding through the steamy rainforest to the 20 metre deep pool below is worth the trek.
Girringun National Park is also the gateway to the Wet Tropics Great Walks. Discover plunging waterfalls, lush gorges and unbeatable views as you tackle one of the two-day walks that start from Wallaman Falls and trek down the Herbert River valley.
Rest your head: Base yourself one of these awesome Townsville hotels, or camp at one of the six camping areas within the park.
Hop between granite rocks and cellar doors: Girraween National Park
With major sites like The Pyramid and The Sphinx, you might not guess this national park is in Southern Country Queensland.
But it’s here that vast wine-country (and cellar doors) rubs shoulders with the rugged landscapes and rocky granite outcrops of Girraween National Park. The park is best seen on foot, with three scenic short walks you can tackle individually, or combine into a sensational day of hiking.
In winter, this is the chilliest spot in Queensland. Come spring, it’s bursting with wildflowers.
Take it easy: Granite Arch is a straightforward 1.6km circuit that loops through open blackbutt and stringybark forests and passes right through a natural granite arch.
Get your sweat on: Scramble up The Pyramid for a bird’s-eye view of the park below (not for the faint of heart) and a quick snap at Balancing Rock.
A longer but less challenging hike is the 7km track to some of the park’s main attractions including The Sphinx, Turtle Rock and Castle Rock. Along the walk you may spot echidnas, lizards and red-neck wallabies.
Rest your head: Soak up Chalet vibes at Girraween Environmental Lodge or end your day by the fireplace at Alure. More accommodation options are available in nearby Stanthorpe (here’s just a few reasons why you should extend your visit and check out the area!)
Discover an outback oasis: Boodjamulla National Park
320km from Mt Isa, 1100km from Cairns.
Way out west near the Northern Territory border, this hidden gem has flown under the radar for years. But if your kind of escape is true no-wifi-no-worries solitude, it’s time you made your way here.
‘Boodjamulla’ (meaning Rainbow Serpent Country in the local indigenous language) proves Outback Queensland isn’t all red dust and dry plains. This national park is home to colourful waterways that weave silently through giant sandstone gorges teeming with wildlife.
Including Australian freshwater crocodiles. Don’t worry – these are the non-man-eating kind.
You’ll find fossils dating back 15-25 million years, which Sir David Attenborough describes as “one of the top four most important deposits in the world”.
Take it easy: Seven walking trails ranging from 600m to 7km take you along the length of the gorge’s cliffs, waterfalls and lookouts. Some may be short and sweet, but they are big on views.
Get your sweat on: Brace your buns for steep, hilly cliffside tracks – our pick is also the longest, 3.5km (one way) towards Upper Gorge, with views back down the entire canal. Go for a paddle in the gorge itself: it offers the best views of its red sandstone cliffs that drop into the emerald water.
Rest your head: Pitch your tent within Boodjamulla National Park at Lawn Hill Campgrounds or Miyumba Campgrounds. Prefer creature comforts over creatures? Book into one of the cabins at Adels Grove, the only private accommodation near the national park (10km from Lawn Hill).
Plan your Outback Queensland trip with this handy guide.
Explore the world’s largest sand island: Great Sandy National Park
Begins 160km from Brisbane, 40km from Noosa.
It’s all in the name. From the technicolour sands of Rainbow Beach to the world’s largest sand island – Fraser Island, Great Sandy National Park stretches from Noosa North Shore, along the coastline to encompass Fraser.
Take the ferry to Fraser Island to see why it’s known as K’Gari (or ‘paradise’) to the traditional Butchulla people. Find your spot on white silica sands of Lake McKenzie, visit wreck of S.S. Maheno, swim in the Champagne Pools, or lilo down the crystal clear waters of Eli Creek. You’ll probably get to see dingos too.
Take it easy: The Beerillbee Trail on Fraser Island runs along the ridge of an enormous sand dune above Kingfisher Bay Resort and offers gorgeous views of the Great Sandy Strait (4km or 90 min each way). Or see the sights in one day on a scenic flight, catamaran tour or guided 4WD adventure.
Get your sweat on: The journey is worth the reward if you hike from Central Station to Lake Birrabeen (12.8km return, allow 4.5–6.5hrs). It’s equally as gorgeous as Lake McKenzie, with far less people. This national park also home to two epic multi-day treks Cooloola Great Walk and Fraser Island Great Walk.
Rest your head: Rough it to wake up to the best views, with beach camping available along Fraser Island and Teewah Beach (you’ll need a 4WD to get here). Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser offers a touch of luxury (plus pools and Junior Rangers programs for the kids), or check into Rainbow Sea Resort if basing yourself at Rainbow Beach.
*Please note the temporary closure of all Queensland campgrounds in national parks, state forests and state-managed recreation and protected areas, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.