As I wrote in last month’s feature on Sundown National Park, southern Queensland’s Granite Belt is a great place to head for a real taste of winter. There’s no better place to experience ‘the big chill’ than amongst the natural highlights of the region.
Here you can see the awesome granite domes and balancing boulders of Girraween National Park and, just over the NSW border, Australia’s second largest monolith, Bald Rock. Over the millennia, sun, wind, water and ice have sculptured this striking granite landscape into incredible forms and created an oasis for many varieties of flora and fauna.
Located just off the New England Highway, 25km south of Stanthorpe, Girraween (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of flowers’) offers a comfortable, different and interesting wilderness experience suitable for all ages. The kids will love scrambling over the boulders and waterworn creek beds while adults interested in nature may spot some of the 146 bird species in the region, including the rare turquoise parrot, superb lyrebird and channel-billed cuckoo. The area is also home to iconic Australian animals including platypus, echidnas, kangaroos, koalas and even wombats, and 700 or so plant species.
The park, situated at the headwaters of the Murray-Darling River basin, has an average elevation of 900m and so has more in common with cooler southern areas than the rest of Southeast Queensland. Over 17km of defined walking tracks wind their way throughout the park and lead to most of the more interesting features, including The Pyramids, The Sphinx, Turtle Rock, Castle Rock, Dr Robert’s Waterhole, Underground Creek and Mt Norman. Over the border at Bald Rock, a marked trail leads up the smooth granite face to the summit where visitors can enjoy sweeping views all the way north to Mt Lindesay.
Both parks have excellent visitor information displays and good facilities (including hot showers at Girraween). The parks are surrounded by wineries and a good range of top quality accommodation is also available nearby for those reluctant to spend the night in an icy tent. Those who enjoy the cold can choose from camping areas at Castle Rock and Bald Rock Creek in Girraween and at Bald Rock camping area in its namesake national park.
Access into both parks is easy. A sealed road leads from the New England Highway into Girraween National Park, but past the camping areas the roads are decomposed granite with an easy 4WD-only track leading to Twin Peaks, the Mt Norman picnic area and eventually out of the park and into Wallangarra. Access to Bald Rock is via the old Mt Lindesay Highway, which is mostly decomposed granite.
A little further down the road from and 8km east of Bald Rock, Boonoo Boonoo National Park protects one of the district’s few remaining natural river landscapes and is home to Boonoo Boonoo Falls, the highest in the region. A lookout provides a great view of the 210m drop and camping is also available in the park at Cypress Pines. The three parks are popular all year round so bookings are essential. For more information and campsite bookings contact Girraween National Park on (07) 4684 5157 or Bald Rock National Park on (02) 6732 5133.
For more information on great 4WD destinations pick up the latest edition of Dirty Weekends SE Qld, Central Qld, Moreton Island or Fraser Island at
1) The smooth northern face of Bald Rock, Australia’s second largest monolith and the largest granite dome in the southern hemisphere. The walk, climb and descent (3km from the carpark return) take about three hours.
2) The balancing boulders atop The Pyramids, a relatively easy walk from the Girraween NP campgrounds. Bald Rock is in the distant background.
3) A mob of kangaroos graze in a clearing with Girraween’s highest peak, 1267m Mt Norman in the background.
4) Looking up at one of The Pyramids from the Girraween National Park access road.
5) The view south from the Pyramids is over the Girraween National Park camping areas.
6) Picturesque Paling Yard Creek is one of two you will cross along the Mt Norman 4WD track.Reads: 2714