Australia is a continent of extremes with Queensland generally going through two types of weather per year; dry, clear and cool or wet, muggy and hot. The recent bout of arid conditions, coupled with crystal-clear sunshine days means that the national parks in Queensland, Australia are in top condition for discovery through camping, hiking and four-wheel driving.
We took advantage of the 25+ days of no rain to head out and explore a spot we had not visited previously: Conondale National Park. Approximately 130km North West of Brisbane in South East Queensland, the reserve spans an enormous 35,000+ hectares. To gain access we had two creek crossings to make. The waters at this time of year were less than half a metre deep, but it was still a thrill to take the vehicle pummeling into the glassy, ice-cold streams.
We were at once surrounded by trees, hundreds of years’ old, rainforest with towering palms and other native plant life of every shade of green ever conceived. With our windows down, crisp country air rich with the scent of earth began filling our nostrils and immediately grabbing our attention, its’ coolness like a slap in the face.
We parked up at the first campsite which was a wide-spanning grassy area in amongst trees and flanked by thicker forest and bordered at one side by the pristine creek, glistening in the sunshine. Soon we discovered there are four separate campsites. These are some of the best maintained areas we’ve seen, including toilets, running water, creek views, rainforest surrounds and fire rings. Campsite #1 even includes shower facilities. Families, couples and individual adventurers have plenty of privacy and space between each site.
Here are our top 10 tips for a safe and rewarding camping trip to this unique area:
- Log on to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service website to check current conditions, closures and any current warnings derm.qld.gov.au
- Choose your preferred spot and pre-book your campsite qld.gov.au/camping or ph 13 74 68 (within Australia)
- Hire a 4×4 vehicle. Shop around for the best deals with Sunshine Coast or Brisbane companies. They will generally be willing to beat the last quote you receive.
- If you’re not into camping, there are plenty of B&B options in nearby Maleny, Montville or Kenilworth.
- For hiking, pack plenty of water and food – take more than you think you’ll need. Make sure you take a map of the trails with you.
- Whatever you bring in, you must bring out with you. Don’t leave anything behind, including food that could be consumed by animals and encourage them to become reliant on humans. Instead pack all refuse and dispose of when you return to town.
- Plan ahead. For those using the mountain bike trails as well as hiking trails – only walk/ride within your ability.
- Be aware that there is no mobile phone signal, so ensure you are well-prepared and exercise caution at creek crossings, on slippery trails and so forth. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
- Allow yourself enough time to walk back to camp before dark.
- Look up, look down and look around. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your noise to a minimum and you’ll come upon wildlife in its’ natural habitat. Enjoy the scenery and the stillness of your surroundings.
Australia is ever-teetering on the knife-edge of extremes. Severe drought crippled much of the continent for many years before 2011 brought the heart-breaking flood disaster. Ever in the forefront of our minds are how much we depend on the fragile weather system and how important it is for us to get out and enjoy the national parks when that system is in balance, remembering to never take it for granted.